Uganda Safari, Gorilla Tours, & Vacations
Uganda is an Eden of rainforest and lush vegetation, balanced by vast stretches of grassland, lakes and rivers. This diversity of habitats and environments is ideal for a variety of wildlife from primates to big cats, abundant plains game, and prolific bird species.
Most notably, Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s mountain gorilla population and is one of the few countries where you can encounter them in their natural environment. In addition to mountain gorillas, Uganda boasts a dozen other primate species including chimpanzees. Once you have had your fill of forests, move on to the savannah grasslands, lakes and rivers of Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Murchison Falls, where you can enjoy both traditional vehicle game drives and game-viewing by boat, which is rarely found in other East African countries.
We love Uganda for its diversity. One day you find yourself kneeling in awe before a gorilla family with your camera at the ready, and the next day you could be floating in a boat and watching the Nile River cascade over Murchison Falls. All the while, the local people and culture will touch your heart.
Explore what a Uganda safari has to offer
Gorilla trekking in either Bwindi or Mgahinga is at the top of everyone’s list, but don’t forget about the exclusive gorilla habituation option, as well. Chimpanzee trekking rivals the gorilla experience and the cheeky chimps will keep you on your toes. Golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga rounds out your ultimate primate experience.
Beyond primates, there is an amazing diversity of activities to enjoy: game drives, boat safaris of varying lengths (one hour to full day), forest walks and hikes, horseback riding, white water rafting, and immersive cultural interactions.
Driving safari across the country can help to keep costs down, especially when shared between 2 to 4 guests; however, the internal bush flights add up quickly, especially because some sectors require a minimum of 4 guests. For a quick gorilla trekking extension to a Kenyan or Tanzanian safari, you’ll need to fly to/from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest plus factor in your gorilla permits, so that moderately priced safari lodge option can price out higher than anticipated. We, of course, think those gorillas and the other hidden gems of Uganda are worth every penny.
- Hop on a scheduled charter flight to Bwindi for gorillas if you are tight on time; or if you want to take in the sights and travel by road in a comfy 4×4 vehicle, then visit Queen Elizabeth National Park or Lake Mburo en route.
- If you want remote and off-the-beaten path, then consider a safari to either Kidepo Valley or to Semliki Safari Lodge.
- Consider booking a gorilla habituation permit for an exclusive and unique experience offering extended time limits with the gorillas.
- Hike through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest staying at lodges on either end to fully experience the forest.
- Fly directly from Entebbe to the Maasai Mara in Kenya for an epic primate and migration safari.
Where to go on a Uganda Safari
Visiting the mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is at the top of the list, but it’s worth building in some extra time for two treks, some cultural visits and extra hiking in this remarkably beautiful forest. For another primate-fix, we recommend chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park, where you can also spot a handful of other monkeys and varied wildlife. We love off-the-beaten-path destinations, and Kidepo Valley National Park fits the bill for Uganda. This oasis in the semi-desert area in the far north of the country offers an extreme diversity of flora and fauna which you will essentially have all to yourself! Its boasts buffalo herds, cheetah and Rothschild/Nubian giraffe.
When to visit Uganda
Straddling the equator, Uganda is a year-round destination, as there is little fluctuation in temperature (average temps in the 80’s, although cooler at night in the higher altitudes – which can be up to 7,500 feet above sea level). It can be quite humid, especially in the mountainous areas where you do your gorilla and chimp trekking. Peak season in terms of best weather and popularity is July through early September and again in late December through February. During peak season, gorilla permits can sell out, so it’s best to plan in advance. October is a “secret season” with great rates at select lodges and lovely weather.
Like other parts of East Africa there are two rainy periods: March to May (long rains) and late September to November (short rains). It will be rainier during these months for gorilla trekking, but the gorillas live in a rainforest so any time of year will be wet. Some roads do become impassible in the rainy season, but the local guides know the best ways to get around. Despite the rain, October and November are actually good months to be in Uganda, especially for birding.
How much should I budget for a safari to Uganda?
Wildlife you will see
The highlight on a trip to Uganda is spending that precious hour with the endangered mountain gorillas, but you can also spend equally rewarding time with chimpanzees. On a safari across Uganda’s national parks, you can also spot four of the Big 5 (rhino are found only in a private sanctuary and have not yet been released into national parks), boundless plains game including zebra, giraffe and various antelope, and prolific bird life. Other rare species you may encounter include the elusive forest elephant, giant forest hog, and shoebill. In Murchison Falls National Park, you can see the rare Nubian giraffe and learn more about the influential conservation efforts to save this endangered species. Please note that not all parks in Uganda have all of these species, but we’re here to help make a plan for your priorities.