10 Interesting Things to do in Uganda

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Uganda is famously referred to as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ for its breathtaking scenic beauty, rich culture, and ability to create great amazing experiences for its tourists. If you are planning to visit Uganda here are a few things you should schedule for your trip.

1. Gorilla trekking

This activity involves trekking up the Ugandan mountains to see gorillas. Mountain gorillas are a rare species with only 800 or so of them still alive today. In fact, gorillas can only be seen in the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. Uganda is the best place to do so owing to its stability and relatively cheaper costs of up to $500 (gorilla trekking is naturally a costly affair).

The Ugandan government has built protected parks for the gorillas to freely and naturally roam within; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the most popular for gorilla trekking. A permit is required beforehand to see and interact with the mountain gorillas for an hour a day. Being nomadic animals, a hefty deal of trekking is required to find mountain gorillas. However, there are experienced guides assigned to assist in tracking these magnificent creatures through the jungle. Additionally, there are porters for hire at a small fee for those who cannot withstand the trek.

Gorilla trekking is simply a fun surreal activity that one must indulge in while in Uganda. Seeing our distant cousins up close is worth every penny, pain or effort incurred during the trip. What’s more? The proceeds from gorilla trekking also go into the protection and conservation of the last remaining mountain gorillas.

It is definitely a worthy trek if this is what you get to see! Photo via wikicommons, author; Unclenico2014

2. Chimpanzee watching and hiking

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda is definitely something worth checking out. The unpredictable and swift movement of these primates can make the experience challenging but also very rewarding. Incredibly, tourists are allowed up to a day in the forest to view chimpanzees in their natural habitat.

Kibale forest in South West Uganda is arguably the top destination when it comes to chimpanzee trekking. Catching up with the primates means a lot of trekking up and down the mountain depending on their movements. It is interesting to peek into a day in the life of chimpanzees which are extremely nomadic animals. Other animals can also be seen during the hike; elephants, baboons, birds, and buffaloes. Chimpanzee trekking is a worthwhile and cheap thrill for any visitor of Uganda.

What a pose!

3. Bird watching

Uganda is arguably one of the most attractive destinations in the world for bird watchers. This is due to the country’s richness and variety of avian species hard to find in any other place. Uganda’s climate ranges from lowland savannas to arid/ semi-arid and, mountain rain forests, offering various habitats for birds of all kinds.

Uganda offers bird watchers a unique opportunity to view birds that would not be found anywhere else in the East Africa region. Indeed Ugandan rain forests host birds that are naturally found in Congo and West African regions which do not have the necessary tourism infrastructure. Bird species to be seen in Uganda include herons, pigeons, kingfishers, weavers, cuckoos, honeyguides, warblers, ostriches, and nightjars among many others.

Top bird watching destinations include (but are not limited to) Semliki, Bwindi Forest, Kibale forest, Kidepo, Entebbe, and, Murchison Falls. For bird watchers, Uganda is a country that offers the chance to view birds of all kinds in their natural habitats.

A male Weaver building a nest with its beak. Photo via wikicommons, Author; Sharp Photography

4. Golden Monkey tracking

Uganda boasts a sizeable number of primates in its diverse ecosystem. However, the stand-out species in that regard is the rare and endangered Golden Monkey. The Golden Monkey is a descendant of the old-world monkey and resides in bamboo highland forests.

In Uganda, Golden Monkeys can be found in Mgahinga National Forest. These primates are rare and largely elusive so tracking them is adventurous and highly interesting. Golden Monkey tracking is offered at a good rate of up to $100. Golden Monkeys are beautiful animals with striking colors and playful tendencies that vindicate the tracking efforts. However, they are slick and fast movers making it difficult to take pictures of or with them. They are used to human presence and will not scare away at the sight of people.

Golden Monkey tracking in Uganda is a standout experience that can be so fulfilling. Furthermore, Golden Monkey tracking can be intertwined with other amazing activities in Uganda like water rafting, mountain climbing, and gorilla trekking.

Aren't monkeys the best!

5. Murchison Falls

A visit to the Murchison Falls is sure to carry away any individual. Located along the Nile River, Murchison Falls is characterized by a massive fall (about 43 meters) of water that results in an almost musical sound.

The fall of water is due to the small rock space of about seven meters coupled with the immense pressure of the White Nile from Lake Victoria. Apart from scenic viewing, Murchison Falls offers other activities managed by the Murchison Falls National Park. These activities include boat rides to the bottom of the falls, game rides, and sports fishing.

A wealth of wildlife can be found in Murchison Falls including crocodiles, hippos, and various bird types. Additionally, Murchison Falls National Park offers hiking experiences and mountain treks to find chimpanzees. Other game like elephants can also be spotted in their full glory during the game ride. A safari to Uganda is incomplete if one fails to visit the great Murchison Falls.

6. Jinja rafting

There are few experiences more fulfilling than white water rafting in the River Nile in Uganda. White water rafting takes place in Jinja, a city 100 km east of Kampala, the Ugandan capital. Jinja is popular for water rafting due to it being the start of the River Nile from Lake Victoria.

The rafting is an exhilarating experience even for seasoned rafters. At Jinja, the Nile is fast and wide but altogether scenic making it perfect for white water rafting. There are countless rapids both big and small that allow for a fluctuating and even scary experience. Some sections are quite calm but others are rough as can be. The kayaks provided are safe and extremely competent guides will accompany you during the trip. As such, the whole Jinja rafting activity is relatively safe.

White water rafting is also pretty cheap at just over $100 per person. Other activities like fishing and kayaking can be included to make for a more wholesome experience. The experience of white water rafting on the Nile is certainly an unforgettable one.

7. Party in Kampala

Kampala is the capital city of Uganda in more ways than one. The nightlife is epic in this city and it can be argued that it is one of the wildest in the region. During the day Kampala gives off a serene and quiet vibe that could not be more misleading. Kampala is a different proposition in the nighttime with bustling activity and large youthful masses looking to party.

Popular party sites in Kampala include The Industrial Avenue, Acacia Avenue, Ntinda, and Centenary Park. Glitzy and glamorous clubs include Casablanca, Big Mike’s, Cayenne, Koko bar, and Club Silk among others. The good thing with Kampala is that there is something for everyone; from laid-back relaxing spots, and vibrant joints with great parties to musical and dance-themed spots.

In addition, Ugandan people are super friendly and sociable to foreigners, so safety is not a major concern. Nonetheless, it is important to stay in one’s lane and avoid any kind of confrontations. Kampala is definitely the best when it comes to partying and nightlife but there is only one way to find out.

Ugandans know how to turn up and make every party lit!

8. Start of the Nile

The majestic Nile river begins its long meandering journey into the Mediterranean from Lake Victoria in Uganda. Specifically, the White Nile begins at Jinja, a popular tourist destination. Most people visit Jinja to witness the start of this historic river and to learn more about its history and impact.

The Nile is a source of livelihood for Ugandans and many other countries providing power, water, and food on a daily basis. It is also a tourist destination with activities such as rafting, bungee jumping and kayaking providing a thrill to visitors. Taking a Nile cruise is the best way to learn about the river and its story.

The Nile is truly a thing of beauty that cannot be experienced elsewhere; scenic sites and various flora and fauna are guaranteed rewards. Hydroelectric dams have been constructed in Uganda along the Nile to take advantage of its waters and to regulate its flow. Therefore, a visit to the Nile is not much influenced by seasons.

9. Batwa Pygmies

The Batwa Pygmies are an endangered human species found in Uganda. Also known as Echuya Batwa, they are located in South Western Uganda in the forest reserve of Echuya in Kisoro and Kibale.

The Batwa are one of the indigenous people in Uganda but were pushed out of their land by the government in the 1990s. The Batwa are the original inhabitants of the rain forests in Uganda and Rwanda which they considered to be their livelihoods. In the forests they once called home, the Batwa have been replaced by conservation parks with little or no compensation forthcoming. This has reduced the community to a shadow of its former self with the Batwa people segregated, shunned and cut off both from the rain forests and the outside modern world.

Visiting the Batwa pygmies contributes to their preservation and survival. Extinction is a real possibility with only around 3000 of them remaining today. A visit to the Batwa people entails a foray into the rain forest where they guide and illustrate their ways of life and cultures visitors.

Batwa women outside one of their homes

10. Ndere Center

Ndere cultural center in Kampala is a spot filled with nightlife and activities. Music, drama, festivals, and poetry are headline features at the center. The activities are aimed to promote and showcase African culture which is exactly what they do.

Ndere Center is highly popular with tourists who seek to have a taste of true African culture. The nine-acre center is located in Kisasi area with well-kept botanical gardens filled with monkeys, birds, and small animals. Unique and wondrous are some of the words that would best describe the Ndere Centre. African colors, themes, and cultures have been artistically blended to produce a superb experience.

A variety of African dances, cuisines, and languages are offered at Ndere Centre. Oral literature is a common activity at the center that wows and often takes away the breath of visitors. Colorful costumes, great food, and vigorous dance moves are just some of the treats to be found at Ndere. Ndere Centre represents all that is good about Uganda and Africa in general; it is a must-see for any tourist visiting Uganda.

Traditional dancers at the Ndere Cultural Center
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Christine Kinori

Life is but a dream, dare to dream

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