Located at the crossroads of East and Central Africa, Uganda is a wonderfully diverse country. As you can see from our list, you can do almost anything you can do anywhere else in Africa in Uganda – it’s almost as if all the best parts of the continent have been combined into one. So let’s dive into the best things to do in Uganda!
Uganda is blessed with many pristine lakes. If you enjoy being in or on the water, Kyaninga Lodge should be on your list – the nearby lake is rated as the cleanest in all of East Africa. For a more down-to-earth experience, check out Ndali Lodge, where local guides lead you on walks around the edges of extinct volcanoes and through local farms and villages. This will give you the chance to see how Ugandans live in the countryside and their ingenuity in solving the challenges that come with being a farmer.
Tree climbing lion
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of only a handful of places in Africa where you can see a lion in a tree. Yes, you read that right – a lion, not a leopard! While lions may not have quite the agility of their spotted cousins, they can actually climb branches. It is believed that they do this to find extra shade and cool breezes on hot days, or to escape from insects that might bother them. It also gives lions a great vantage point and means that, in Ishasha at least, the old advice about climbing a tree if you come across a lion might not be too helpful!
Discover waterfalls and rainforests
Much of Uganda is very lush, and you will find that you are often close to water. Uganda is home to some of Africa’s oldest rainforests, and it’s worth spending an extra day in Bwindi to check out some of the smaller details that make the forest so fascinating, including the multicolored butterflies and orchids. Uganda is also famous for its waterfalls – including Murchison Falls, where the entire Nile squeezes through a gap in the rocks just 7 meters wide. For a quieter, but equally beautiful, waterfall experience, try the Buhoma Falls Trail in Bwindi, which connects three wonderfully peaceful falls.
Experience Batwa culture
The indigenous Batwa people have lived in and around Bwindi for millennia and are known as the ’keepers of the forest’. They practiced sustainable living long before it was popularized. Their deep knowledge of the plants, trees and animals allows them to see the forest as a pantry and as a medicine chest – all without harming the ecosystem on which they depend. A Batwa cultural experience lets you learn some of their secrets, including traditional hunting techniques (with bow and arrows) and hearing from a traditional healer about the medicinal properties of forest plants. Very few people still have such a close connection to their surroundings – the Batwa may just hold the key to survival for us all.
Cruise on a boat safari
Boat safaris are a wonderful way to spot wildlife while relaxing in a comfortable chair and not having to worry about bumps in the road. Nowhere is this truer than on the Kazinga Canal, a natural waterway that connects two of Uganda’s westernmost lakes – Edward and George.
It also happens to flow through Queen Elizabeth National Park, arguably Uganda’s premier wildlife destination. Kyambura Gorge Lodge is a popular lodge to choose from near Queen Elizabeth National Park. If you have yet to see hippo or elephant, this water lily-lined canal is the closest guarantee you can find to seeing them.
White water rafting or kayaking
After years of debate, explorers eventually discovered that the source of the White Nile is at Jinja on the shores of Lake Victoria (the river flows from here into Egypt, and finally into the Mediterranean). This fact has fueled tourism in the area, which is now firmly on the map as the adrenaline capital of East Africa. You may not see any pyramids at this end of the Nile, but you can enjoy some of the region’s best rafting and kayaking. Luckily, there are calmer stretches of water between each set of rapids so you can catch your breath and admire the scenery.
See rare bird species
If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Uganda – and you’re sure to add some exciting new species to your list. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is a hotspot for bird watching, with around 138 species recorded there. The star of the show is the unmistakable great blue turacon, but you can also spot flufftails, nicators, chagras and sunbirds from carefully placed boardwalks and viewing platforms. Don’t forget your binoculars!
Meet chimpanzees in the wild
This is a completely different experience than trekking to see mountain gorillas (which you can also do in Uganda). While gorillas tend to be quite chill and almost contemplative, chimpanzees are more active and vocal. A guided walk through Kibale Forest is a great way to see familiar troupes of our closest animal relatives – and you’ll almost certainly come across all manner of chimpanzee behavior from playing to feeding to grooming to mating – plus all the incredible sounds that accompany these pastimes !
Explore traditional Ugandan cuisine
One of the most interesting things about visiting a new country is getting to try the traditional food that the people there enjoy. It’s also a great way to break down barriers and become a friend rather than just a visitor. Tinka’s Homestead, near Kibale, offers not only delicious meals (think plantain – a less sweet type of banana that is a Ugandan staple, greens, beans, lentils and spicy beef curry) but also the stories behind each recipe – and the chance to try recreate some of the dishes. Uganda will steal your heart – especially if the way there goes through your stomach!
Visit Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Located in Lake Victoria, the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary offers a safe haven for orphaned chimpanzees rescued from across East Africa. Here, the chimps can recover from past trauma and learn to simply be chimps again in a natural environment, alongside other orphans and workers dedicated to their well-being. If you want to see chimpanzees up close and contribute to chimpanzee conservation, this is the place to come.
Relax from the outside world
Kidepo Valley National Park is the place to go if you want to escape from your inbox or social media. This remote wilderness is definitely off the grid – you can turn off your phone, because you definitely won’t have Wi-Fi. What you will have, however, is the privilege of spending time in a pristine natural environment, with excellent opportunities to spot lots of exciting animals.
Discover mountain gorillas
We’ve saved what is arguably Uganda’s best experience for last. The mountain gorillas of Bwindi and Mgahinga are perhaps Uganda’s biggest draw for ecotourism, and it’s not hard to see why. Many people find spending time with these giants a life-changing experience – the slow pace of their lives and the obvious bonds between family members might just make you wish for a simpler, less hectic life when you get home…