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Great Reasons Why Uganda Should Be on Your Safari Bucket List

by Cris Puscas

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The “Pearl of Africa”, as Winston Churchill referred to Uganda, is essentially a representation of the whole continent of Africa condensed into one country.

There is definitely something magical about this country in East Africa – it often leaves a lasting impression on travelers who had the privilege of experiencing all that it has to offer.

From the lush forests that are home to the endangered mountain gorillas to the arid savannahs where the big safari animals roam, below are some insights as to why a safari in Uganda should be high on your travel bucket list.

It’s THE place to observe primates in their natural habitat

Uganda is home to half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population and there are only about 5,000 chimpanzees left in the country.

Having a chance to see these magnificent primates in their natural habitat will make for a life-changing experience.

However, planning a safari to make this happen can be quite a challenge as permits are required for trekking and this must be done well in advance.

Gorilla trekking 

gorilla in uganda

One of the most unique and popular ways to explore Uganda is during a gorilla trekking safari.

In fact, most travelers travel here only for this activity. Note in order to have smooth sailing experience, ensure that you have all the necessary (and accurate) information in hand.

Where can I see the gorillas?

There are two places where you can trek gorillas in Uganda: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

While Bwindi covers 321 sq km/124 sq mi, Mgahinga is Uganda’s smallest national park, covering only 33.7 sq km/13 sq mi.

How do I get the gorilla trekking permit?

Because of the inconsistency of the gorillas in Mgahinga, most gorilla trekking permits are sold for Bwindi.

As only 8 people get to see the gorillas daily, we strongly encourage you to book the gorilla permits with a safari operator well in advance.

The permit costs 600 USD per person and is typically included in the safari cost.  Make sure to let your safari operator know the desired dates for traveling as they need to check them against availability. A number of documents will be required (including a copy of your passport) so be sure to have them ready before you leave on your trip to Uganda.  

What’s the best time to go gorilla trekking?

While Bwindi is open for gorilla trekking year-round, it’s always best to plan your trip during the drier months when it’s easier to spot these magnificent creatures.

June to August, as well as December to February, are the best times to go.

Want to get up & personal with these magnificent primates in Uganda? Be sure to check out our article: All you need to know about mountain gorilla trekking in Uganda.

Chimpanzee Trekking

chimp in uganda

Chimpanzee trekking is another activity that makes a safari in Uganda unique. Just like trekking gorillas, you need a permit to see the chimps.

Where can I see the chimps?

Chimpanzee tracking is best in Kibale National Park. There are 13 species of primates recorded here, the highest number in Uganda.

How do I get the chimpanzee trekking permit?

Just like the gorilla permits, a limited number of people (6) can trek per group, so make sure to book your permits well in advance via your safari operator. They cost 150 USD per person and are typically included in the safari cost.

The chimp trekking tour starts at Kanyanchu Visitor Center at 8 AM local time. Please note that children under 12 years old are not allowed in the park.

What is the best time to go chimp trekking?

While Kibale is open for chimp trekking year-round, it’s best to choose the drier months for a safari. The walking trails are easier to tackle, and your experience will be more enjoyable.

December to February, as well as June and July, are great choices for a chimpanzee trekking safari.


It’s home to other rare wildlife: Tree-climbing lions, the Shoebill & the Big Five (soon)

tree-climbing lion in uganda

While Uganda is definitely popular for the gorilla and chimpanzee safaris, plenty of other amazing wildlife can be seen in its 10 national parks.

Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Parks offer excellent wildlife viewing. However, the number of animals is not as abundant compared to Kenya or Tanzania.

Safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is the country’s most popular savannah reserve and has the widest variety of wildlife in Uganda.

You can see elephants, hippos, buffalos, cheetahs, and even chimpanzees. Queen Elizabeth National Park is also home to the black-maned tree-climbing lions, one of only a few lion populations that are known to constantly climb trees.

Also in this park, you can find the interesting (and weird) looking shoebill or shoe-billed stork. Its prehistoric appearance sets it apart from any bird species that you’ve ever encountered. They are mostly solitary birds and tend to be nocturnal so it may be difficult to spot them during the day.

Wildlife viewing is at its best here in January, February, June, and July.

Safaris in Murchison Falls National Park

shoebill in uganda

Murchison Falls National Park is where most of the big safari animals can be seen, including four of the Big Five animals. There is hope that soon, the rhino will be reintroduced to Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks as a privately own sanctuary where you can find 15 white rhinos.

Here, you’ll be able to spot elephants, giraffes, hippos, buffalos, lions, and leopards. The park includes Kaniyo Pabidi Forest, which is great for chimpanzees trekking.  And you can spot rare shoebill here as well.

Murchison Falls National Park can be visited year-round but choosing the best time to visit depends on what you want to see and experience here.

For example, wildlife viewing is best during the dry season, from December to February. The scenery is most beautiful during the wet season, from June to November.


Experience an incredible African culture

ugandan dish

Photo credit: Mark Skipper via Flickr

Though you may be visiting Uganda primarily because of its stunning wildlife, you’ll be happy to hear that Uganda is a welcoming country, full of hospitable people, delicious food, and a culture worth knowing more about.

Being one of the oldest countries in Africa, Uganda has an old indigenous culture and civilization. The museums and cultural centers give you a close look into their traditions and history.

No matter which part of the country you visit, you’ll be happy to see that Ugandans are some of the most welcoming and friendliest people you will ever meet. Although they experienced hardship in the past, their spirit remains unchanged. They are grateful for life, political stability, and will always welcome you with a giant smile.

Featuring simple yet hearty and delicious food, the Ugandan cuisine is something you must taste when you visit the country. There are a lot of local, authentic dishes to try, making the country a great destination for any food lover.

Matoke – a variety of bananas – is normally used as a cooking banana. When boiled and mashed or as a stew, it is part of the national dish. Most often it is accompanied by binyebwa, a groundnut sauce. Ugali is a thick cornmeal porridge, similar to polenta. Meals are served with a flatbread resembling roti, called chapati.



Uganda is a dream destination for those in search of the perfect primate safaris. Chimpanzees and gorillas are the most well-known primates roaming the Ugandan forests, but colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, and a host of other species are also present here.

The country is also a paradise for those who enjoy birding. Seeing the unforgettable shoebill is an experience you won’t forget that easily.

Due to the restrictions for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, Uganda is not recommended as a family safari destination. And you may want to skip that self-drive safari, as well, due to poor roads.

However, accommodation options are available for any budget and style, as you can choose among campsites, budget places to stay, mid-range, as well as luxury lodges.

Ready to tick this Eastern African country off your safari bucket list? A primate trekking safari in Uganda will certainly be a holiday you won’t soon forget! 

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