Why Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, should be on your bucket list

Ah, Uganda!

The prized mountain gorillas roam the dense jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park; tree-climbing lions of Ishasha balance atop fig trees in Queen Elizabeth National Park; and herds of elephants, giraffes, buffalos and hordes of wildlife fill Murchison Falls National Park.

In the eastern part of the country lies Jinja, East Africa’s Adventure Capital and source of the longest river on the planet. Welcome to Uganda – the Pearl of Africa!

A little bit more on the phrase Pearl of Africa: Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa for different reasons, particularly because of its A-Class natural features and its people’s astounding friendliness (in fact, Ugandans were recently recognised by the BBC as the friendliest people on Earth!)

What’s more, at the beginning of 2019, the country topped CNN’s list of the world’s most beautiful places to visit this year courtesy of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, home to the endangered mountain gorillas (only about 1,000 individuals are still alive worldwide).

These majestic apes reside in only three places in the world: Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but an estimated 53 per cent of them are residents of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Since 2007, Uganda has seen an unprecedented surge in international arrivals, thanks partly to the end of the civil war that had hitherto ravaged the northern part of the country.

If you’re planning a trip to Uganda, make sure you add these five otherworldly destinations to your bucket list.

Let’s dive in…

Jinja, East Africa’s Adventure Capital

About two decades ago, Jinja was Uganda’s industrial capital, playing host to numerous factories. Fast forward to today, the country’s second-largest city has been transformed into a top tourist destination, offering adrenaline-filled adventure activities such as whitewater rafting right at the source of River Nile – the world’s longest river – as well as kayaking and bungee jumping, among many others. Other options for travellers to Jinja include visiting the spot where the River Nile begins its 6,650-kilometre journey to the Mediterranean Sea, the Gandhi Monument, as well as the famed Bujagali Falls.

Murchison Falls National Park, the animal kingdom

Quiet and serene, Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s oldest protected area for African wildlife. Visitors to the park can drift peacefully down the River Nile as hippos, elephants, buffalos, crocodiles and a wide range of wildlife glide into view. Here you will also get a chance to see iconic big cats such as lions and leopards.

Some of the other sightings you can anticipate on your memorable visit to Murchison Falls National Park include bohor reedbucks, hyenas, Cape buffaloes, the endangered Rothschild’s giraffes (only about 1,000 are remaining worldwide and about 75 per cent of them reside here), bushbucks, hartebeests, oribi, and over 400 bird species – including the famous shoebill stork, goliath herons, Egyptian geese, Hombills, cormorants, pelicans, kingfishers and bee-eaters, among many others.

While in the park, also make sure to take a hike to the peak of the falls for a clear view of the majestic flow of River Nile as it hammers its way to the Mediterranean Sea. Here you will get to see how the waters of the world’s longest river squeeze through a petite gorge, a mere 7m wide, before dropping down several metres below with an earsplitting roar to create what is known to mankind as the world’s most powerful waterfalls – Murchison Falls.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Now, this is Uganda’s wildlife Holy Grail! Famous for being home to the tree-climbing lions of Ishasha, Queen Elizabeth National Park also plays host to up to 95 species of mammals, including over 10,000 Cape buffaloes, 5,000 hippos as well as 3,000 elephants. In addition, the park is home to eastern Africa’s biggest concentration of bird species in a single protected area – totaling a whopping 619! In fact, Queen Elizabeth National Park is not only a wildlife enthusiast’s dream destination, but also a birder’s paradise.

Game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park usually produce sightings of small and big animals such as cape buffalos, lions, topis, elephants, Uganda kobs, spotted hyenas, waterbucks, mongooses and warthogs, to name but a few.  

Visitors to the park can also enjoy boat rides, forest walks and chimpanzee trekking in the famed Kyambura, a 16-kilometre long, 100-metre deep gorge on the Eastern Rift Valley.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The lush Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is Uganda’s premier destination thanks to its world-famous residents: the endangered mountain gorillas that are currently numbering only about 1,000 individuals worldwide – 50 per cent of which can be found in this forest.

Gorilla trekking in the forest commenced nearly 30 years ago when Uganda habituated it’s very first gorilla family, setting in motion what has since become Africa’s most sought-after wildlife experience. In fact, gorilla trekking in Uganda is so popular that you’ll have to book your trekking permit (at $600 per person and at least six months earlier).

There are only 14 habituated gorilla families in Bwindi and only 10 tourists are allowed to trek each family per day – meaning that only 140 people can trek these iconic primates each day. What’s more, your $600 only allows you to be in the vicinity of these iconic apes for not more than 60 minutes, according to park rules.

Let’s move on to our final recommendation for visitors to Uganda…

Kibale Forest National Park

Ever dreamt of trekking human’s closest relatives? Well, we all have, and there is no place in the world that offers the best chimpanzee trekking experience like Uganda’s Kibale Forest National Park!

For starters, the park is home to the world’s largest concentration of chimpanzees – over 5,000 in total – meaning that you don’t have to scour the forest for long hours before you finally encounter these famous apes.

Chimp trekking in Kibale Forest National Park, which will set you back $150, is an extremely poignant experience that also produces sightings of numerous other primates that call this lush forest home, such as grey-cheeked mangabeys, red-tailed monkeys and colobus monkeys – an experience that is guaranteed to be etched in your medulla oblongata for a very, very long time.

Well, what else do you love about Uganda? Let’s know in the comments section below…