Memorable Wildlife Safaris in Uganda

written by local expert Laura Byrne

After losing her office job at the start of the pandemic and unable to travel, Laura decided to Get Serious. While locked down she wrote more, hiked the mountains near her home, and learned how to make the best garlic and coriander naan bread in Ireland. She is still trying to work out which is her best achievement (probably the bread, it's awesome).

Landlocked in East Africa and crossed by the equator, Uganda is a special kind of place. This country may be small in size but delivers big on adventure, natural wonders and once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Discovering them during a safari is our recommendation, so let’s look at the best wildlife safaris Uganda has to offer.

Best known for its population of mountain gorillas (the largest number in the world), Uganda is also the source of the River Nile and is home to hundreds of bird and animal species. These include The Big 5 (lions, leopards, rhino, buffalo and elephants).

In western Uganda, the Kibale Forest National Park is one of the last places on our planet where you can discover chimpanzees in their natural habitat. In fact, this rainforest is home to 12 other primate types, and over 350 bird species!

Uganda simply bursts with rainforests. Bwindi Forest’s ancient ecosystem is a perfect place for those much-loved mountain gorillas to live. Other natural gifts include the Kazinga Channel, a great hippo-spotting location, and Murchison Falls, a waterfall so powerful you’ll feel the ground tremble beneath your feet.

With so much on offer, it can be difficult to know how to plan a trip here. But don’t worry, because we’ve done the homework for you. Here are our tips on the best wildlife safaris in Uganda.

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi

Majestic, awe-inspiring, humbling―just some of the words used to describe being in the presence of Uganda’s mountain gorillas.

Home for them is the 25,000 year old rainforest of Bwindi, and no trip to Uganda is even NEAR complete without seeing them here! Navigating Bwindi’s natural and animal-made trails to find mountain gorillas requires a ranger and a permit, and this 6-day wildlife safari tours include both.

The particular tour above provides a local ranger to brief you on mountain gorilla etiquette (yes there is some!) and guidance through the thick forest to find these precious primates. Once you do, relax, because you’ve got a whole hour to sit in their presence and have your mind blown.

Post trek, a stay in Lake Bunyoni (translated as ‘place of many little birds’) is a must. Sigh-inducing sights here include 200 bird species and 29 surrounding islands. The hills on view are beautifully terraced, thanks to cultivation by the local Bakiga tribe.

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Wildlife Safari in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls

Where can you find the world’s longest river creating the world’s most powerful waterfall? Only in Uganda of course! This safari takes you on an 8-day trip to Murchison Falls, located between Lakes Kyoga and Albert.

This is Big 5 time so think lions, giraffes, hippos, elephants and buffaloes, as well as hundreds of bird species and (maybe!) leopards.

Once you get there, you can feel (and hear) the humbling soundtrack of Murchison Falls National Park. You can look up and see the Nile propelling itself through a 7m wide gap in the rocks, crashing down into Lake Albert with the equivalent of 200 bathtubs of water a second!

If you’re moderately fit, don’t miss your chance to hike to the top of the falls to view ‘the Devil’s Cauldron’. Standing here gives you the chance to see, taste and experience the Nile in a truly astonishing way. You’ll also be able to nod a hello at rare (and positively prehistoric looking) kingfisher shoebills, waterbirds who pop by for a nurturing drink.

Almost every Uganda Itinerary includes Murchison Falls so this is definitely a must visit!

Chimpanzee Trekking in Kibale National Park

Chimpanzee sitting on the branch of tree

There aren’t many places left on Earth to view chimpanzees in the wild, but you’ll find 1,500 of them perfectly at home in western Uganda’s Kibale National Park.

An experienced ranger will guide you deep into the Kibale rainforest to find these extraordinary creatures, and your trek will allow a whole hour to observe them. You’ll learn that several chimp communities have been established here, four of which are used to completely star-struck humans.

At Kibale, you’re not just treading through primate home turf. This area is also the (literal!) stomping ground of mammals such as elephants and antelopes, and hundreds of different bird species.

A ranger can be found on a well organized safari like this one. This tour also incorporates our other Ugandan favorites like gorilla trekking and those thunderous Murchison Falls!

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The Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Herd of impala antelopes resting on the bank of Kazinga Channel and hippos having a bath

The freshwater Kazinga is a natural channel that links Lake Edward to George. It’s also where hippos and crocodiles hang out, so what are you waiting for? Grab a seat on a boat cruise and watch this popular drinking spot come alive. This is a popular tourist attraction in Uganda, and for a good reason too!

Thirsty visitors include birds, elephants, buffaloes and even lions and leopards. You’ll also get an opportunity to pass by local fishing villages, giving you an insight into daily Kazinga life. Fishermen work the channel too, but only at night, when their rhino neighbors pop out for a land-based grazing snack!

Afterwards, a game drive in the Kasenyi Plains section of the Park is a perfect way to view the roaming spots of buffaloes, elephants and lions. However, it’s at the Ishasha section of the Park where things get fantastical, Ugandan-style.

Here, the savannah woodland is one of only two places on Earth where tree-climbing lions have been found! You see, lions…don’t climb trees. But they do it here, it’s believed, to escape the ground’s heat and biting insects, and watch over potential prey. Whatever the reason, it’s super-rare and a Ugandan speciality.

Adventurous Jinja – Source of the Nile

Flowing out of Lake Victoria in southern Uganda is the source of the mighty River Nile. Yes, THAT River Nile. Nearby is Jinga―a little city that started as a quiet fishing village but now rates as East Africa’s adrenaline hotspot, and which doubles as a great add-on trip to any wildlife safari.

This is premium white water rafting territory, whether you’re a total newbie or a seasoned rafter looking for a challenge (and then some). Kayakers can also avail of the same rapids, or take a more chilled approach and canoe or try stand-up paddleboarding instead.

Slowing down might give you a better chance at finding the local Mahatma Gandhi monument, which commemorates his activism and 21 years on the continent. Some of his ashes were scattered here, and the shrine is a quiet place in an otherwise buzzing city.

Nearby, falls such as those at Bujagali and Itanda are great hiking and bird watching spots. Back in town, there’s more fun to be had by squad biking and horseback riding. Or go airborne, jumping off a 44 meter high bungee to drift over (or even touch) the Nile!

Recommended Uganda Safari Operator

Let’s be honest, the safari company that you choose to adventure with can make or break your trip. After collaborating together, we are happy to share more about Home to Africa Tours and Travel. They are specialists when it comes to creating tailored tours and travels in Uganda and East Africa.

They have a stellar reputation as experienced tour operators and are more than happy to tailor fit itineraries to help you go on the best Ugandan safari experience. You can find out more about Home to Africa on their website or check out the reviews that previous customers have left them.

Overall, Uganda is one of those places that are teeming with life and incredible experiences. No matter what you do, you can’t go wrong planning a once in a lifetime wildlife safari here.

I hope this article gave you an overview on the best safaris to choose from while giving you insight on possible safari itineraries.

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Best Wildlife Safaris in Uganda

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