Uganda Highlights – Victoria’s Trip Report
I’m fortunate to travel widely in order to keep my Africa knowledge up to date. It’s always exciting, but even more so to visit a country I’ve not spent time in before. From the minute I landed for a Uganda safari I knew I was in for a treat.
Uganda Safari Highlights
Dramatic scenery, hospitable people, diverse wildlife, and stunning safari lodges, make Uganda a fascinating holiday destination. There are the extraordinary numbers of primates that make their home here. I had great viewings of chimps, baboons, hundreds of monkeys, and bush babies, as well as the mountain gorillas.
The birds are incredible too. Watching a couple of statuesque shoebill storks up to their knees in water waiting to strike at passing fish left me just as buzzy as seeing the gorillas. There are some big animals – we saw one of the famous tree climbing lions in Ishasha – but there’s definitely less of the big wildlife here than in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania. In my view though, a Uganda safari offers so much more than just game. I was charmed by road trips passing through simple dusty towns; most of which were complete with a mobile phone shop! Herds of the graceful, long horned Ankole cattle, colourful markets, bicycles piled high with charcoal or bananas, and chubby babies strapped to their mothers’ backs are common sights.
The scenery is jaw dropping. I saw lakes, soaring hills, trickling waterfalls, tea plantations, open savannah plains, towering mountains, lush terraced valleys, dense forest and banana plantations. One minute I could have been in the foothills of the Himalayas, the next on the south downs of England. How amazing is that?
All in all, an utter gem and a wildlife lover’s and photographer’s dream. I’m completely hooked and can’t wait to return.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi has to be the epitome of a tropical rain forest. It has steep, densely forested hillsides, lush vegetation, exotic birds, and colourful butterflies. The mountain gorillas are a big draw here and currently there are nine habituated families. An hour with these amazing animals was well worth the effort. Gorilla tracking here is often a tough romp – thick forest and steep slopes make walking here difficult.
Bwindi Lodge or Gorilla Forest Camp are both lovely places to stay. Activities besides the gorilla tracking include: nature walks to see birds, monkeys and orchids. I also spent a lovely afternoon on a community village walk meeting the traditional healer, the local tea plantation farmers, the local brewer, and the Batwa pygmy tribe.
Lake Mburo National Park
Beautiful Lake Mburo, with its forest-fringed shores and rolling green hills, is a wonderful place to relax for a couple of nights. Among animals in the park are zebra, eland, and impala. Most of these are unique to this part of Uganda and wildlife viewing is possible by vehicle, boat, foot and on horseback.
As far as accommodation goes, one of my finds of the trip was Mihingo Lodge, a small, pretty and privately owned lodge, close to the lake. Set high on a hill, with glorious views, this would be a perfect stop for a night or two.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
This is Uganda’s most visited national park. With elephant, lion, buffalo, hippo and leopard, it is the Uganda park most like those in the neighbouring East Africa countries of Kenya and Tanzania, though without quite the same high density of game. Some 610 bird species – possibly the most in any African park – mean it’s also a bird watching paradise. The Ishasha region, to the south of the park, has tree climbing lions.
Ishaha Tree Climbing Lion, Queen Elizabeth National Park
I found a couple of nights at Ishasha Tented Camp – a pretty lodge set on the river bank – a good base from which to explore.
Kibale Forest National Park
Thirteen species of primate including chimpanzee, vervet monkey and red colobus make this a must for primate lovers. Tracking noisy chimpanzee families racing through the verdant undergrowth was a thrilling experience. One I will remember for a long time. Just walking in the forest, hearing the sounds and seeing the butterflies and birds was exciting enough. But primates were the icing on the cake. For accommodation, Ndali Lodge is one of our favourites.
Privately owned, with a breath-taking location on the crest of a hill overlooking two crater lakes, Ndali is an amazing place to unwind, sit by the pool and enjoy great food and wine. It was here that I had a wonderful afternoon at a vanilla farm learning how to process vanilla pods into vanilla essence.
Semliki Wildlife Game Reserve
This amazing reserve has a variety of habitat from wetland and swamp to grassy plain and forest. Likely game encounters include Uganda kob (an antelope unique to Uganda), waterbuck, black and white colobus monkeys, and sometimes elephant, lion and leopard.
The very stylish Semliki Safari Lodge is the only property in the reserve, so game viewing in glorious isolation is virtually guaranteed.
The boat trip on Lake Albert was one of my best mornings ever in Africa. We floated past local fishermen to the edge of the wetlands where, in the peaceful early morning, we watched storks, herons, jacanas, pelicans and other waterfowl feeding. It was the shoebill though, just standing nearby waiting for a fishy snack to pass by that made my day. An extraordinary prehistoric looking bird which I’ve always wanted to see. Perfect.
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