BIRD WATCHING IN UGANDA

Uganda Boasts of a huge birding lists which counts to about 1073 species of birds that have been recorded and makes 50% of all the bird species in Africa and 11% species of birds in the world. Uganda has thus become a birding paradise for keen birders.

Being a small country of only 90041 square miles (about the size of Britain) Uganda has been considered as one of the countries with the highest concentration of birds particularly in Africa. The birds of Uganda are easy to spot by covering a small area or birding for a short period of time. This has made Uganda a number one destination for keen birders from many corners of the world.

One of the reasons behind the rewarding birding in Uganda is the unmatched diversity of habitats that is not found anywhere in Africa. Being the Pearl of Africa, Uganda collects many counts of seasonal migrant bird species that come from different places during the year for example from far in Brazil and come to make Uganda their darling destination.

Uganda lies in a strategic area of Africa’s major ecological zones each with associated bird species, including those that are range restricted.

Key Birding Spots in Uganda

Uganda boasts of at least 34 important birding spots most of which have been designed as complete bird watching destinations and reliable areas for birding safaris and bird watching in Uganda. Uganda has birding communities that have put effort in identifying other new birding spots all over the country and establish birding trails in those areas. Local guides have also been trained at almost every birding spot to identify the resident species and new species of birds in an area.

A list of birding spots in Uganda include; Mabamba Wetland which is the best site for the famous shoebill stock, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National park which is the number one birding spot in Uganda according to African Bird Club, Kibale Forest National Park, The Entebbe Peninsular, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Murchison Falls National park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Semuliki National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Budongo Forest_ the Royal Mile train and Busingiro, Mpanga Forest Reserve and Mabira Forest Reserve among others.

 Top Ten Birds of Uganda

A list of the most sought after top ten birds on a Uganda birding safari include; Shoebill stock, Green Breasted Pitta, African Green Broadbill, Nahan’s Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Jameson’s Antpecker, Brown-chested Lapwing, Karamoja Apalis, Black Bee-eater and Puvel’s Illadopsis.

GAME DRIVES IN UGANDA

The People, The Wildlife & The Love for Tourism in Uganda are what you deserve!

Uganda is unshaped with lots of concealed environment and nature. This is what we preserve because it is what belongs to usJ

Today I felt I should let the world to not only know that I have been to all the national parks and game reserves in Uganda but to also share with you about my experience for Uganda`s wild life!

The first experience on a game drive in Africa and Uganda in particular is unbelievable, it is totally a new world that is far away from your usual home. The most important thing on Uganda`s game drive is that “Uganda never disappoints”

The Game Drive Experience in Uganda

You could have read “game drive” on internet, heard about it on various occasions or in a dialogue with someone and you are really curious about what is a game drive.

Allow me to take you through the details of what a game drive means. To me, a game drive is a tourism activity that takes place in a game park where people (Tourists) move around in a 4×4 safari vehicle with a pop up viewing wild animals.

It is basically a “VIEW, ADMIRE and CAPTURE” tourism activity.

Morning & Evening Game Drives 

Early morning game drive in Uganda is a very rewarding experience to tourists. You first of all get to see the breath-taking sunrise and feel that sweetness of the healing sunshine warming your body slowly by slowly.

In an evening game drive, you will not only see the animals enjoying dinner but also experience the African skies turning into an imaginable colour that can never leave you the same at the time of sunset.

If you any of these game drives or both on a particular date, you will never forget it! You will be rewarded with splendid views of the vast plains of Uganda`s game parks occupied by a variety of animals and birds which you will see on a close range.

Imagine stretching your eyes in an evergreen environment, looking at beautiful animals and birds singing for you in different melodies!

Game Drive in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National park is the biggest and one of the oldest parks in Uganda; it is a home to over 70 species of mammals including elephants, lions, buffaloes, leopard, hyenas, giraffes and so many others most of which can be seen at close range during the game drives on a safari in Murchison falls national park.

Game Drive in Murchison Falls National Park

Game driving is the most interesting activity to many tourists who have managed to make it to this park. Queen Elizabeth National park is home to over 80 species of mammals which include the surprising tree climbing lions in the Ishasha Sector of the park. Queen Elizabeth National Park has major distinctive places with high concentration of wildlife such as Kasenyi area and the North Kazinga Plains. During your game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park, expect to encounter animals such as buffaloes, leopards, elephants, Uganda Kobs, and so many others including the rare tree climbing lions that are seen hovering on the big branches of fig trees.

Game Drive in Kidepo Valley National Park 

This is Uganda’s most beautiful savannah park; it allows the best views of wildlife in the whole of Uganda and beyond the vast plains of Kidepo Valley National park can best be enjoyed on a game drive where visitors have the great opportunity to see multitudes wildlife from a close range. The park is a pride home for over 80 species which include lions, cheetah, leopards, giraffes, hyenas, herds of buffaloes, elephants, Zebras, Uganda Kobs and so many other species.

Game Drive in Lake Mburo National Park

For those travelling from Kampala, Lake Mburo National park is the closed game park where one can easily experience various species of Wild game of a game drive. Look out for herds of impalas, zebras, Uganda Kobs, buffaloes, elands and so many others. During your game drive, the guide is always available to give you the relevant information and well as in spotting animals.

Golden Monkey Trekking in Uganda

Trekking Golden monkeys in another adventurous activity that one can add on the Uganda adventure and wildlife safari. Golden Monkeys are only found in Mgahinga National park which is also a proud home of the rare mountain gorillas. Golden monkeys are only found in the Virunga mountain ranges which separate 3 distinctive countries namely Uganda Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Golden monkeys are the most beautiful of all the monkey species with the most striking golden fur coats, from which the name `Golden Monkey` was derived. Golden Monkeys inhabit in lower areas of the mountains which are mainly covered with the bamboo forest because they like feeding on bamboo shoot.

A group of golden monkeys is called a troop and golden monkeys live in troops with a relatively large number of members in each troop. In Uganda, only one troop of Golden monkeys has been habituated and is available for trekking and research purposes in Mgahinga National park.

A permit for golden monkey trekking in Uganda costs USD50 and only persons from 15years and above are allowed to engage in the golden monkey trekking activity in Uganda.

The golden monkeys spend most of their time in the bamboo nearer to the base of the mountain, they do not veer off up in the mountains. The session for golden monkey trekking in Uganda begins with a briefing at the park headquarters at 0730hours and the actual trek begins at 0800hours. There are very high chances of encountering the golden monkeys because they live in large numbers close to 50s plus members spending most of the time on the canopies of the bamboo trees from which they pick shoot at the tops, sometimes they can be seen on the ground.

They good thing with golden monkey trekking is that they are photogenic and they do not feel so shy to move within a short distance from people. The exact encounter with the golden monkeys lasts for an hour and this time is limited because of the need to conserve these beautiful creatures.

Most visitors in Uganda have done golden monkey trekking as an additional experience to mountain gorilla trekking which is the most popular tourism activity in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National park respectively. Other activities in Mgahinga National Park include the Batwa Pygmy community visit experience, volcano hiking, nature walks and birding safaris in Uganda among others.

MOUNTAIN CLIMBING & HIKING IN UGANDA

Uganda is the true pearl of Africa, endowed with hills, picturesque, valleys, plains and mountains which offer the memorable hiking experiences in Uganda. The volcanic mountains of Mgahinga Gorilla National park are not just rocks for climbing but rather a charming hike traverse the dense forests which are located on the lowers of the mountain, a peek at the endemic birds of East Africa that will entertain you with their chanting songs and have made these highlands a paradise for birders. On a lucky day, you may also glance at the mountain gorillas that treat the bamboo in the Virunga massif. In the east of Uganda are Mount Elgon which is about 4,321 meters high and has the largest caldera in the world and Mount Moroto. To the west are the Rwenzori Mountains and to the south west are the mighty Virunga ranges which include Mount Sabinyo (3,645 metres), Muhavura (4,127metres) and Mount Mgahinga (3,474 metres)

Hiking the mountains of Uganda is a test of strength, character and an accomplishment that will leave prouder that before the hike.

Below are the top places for mountain climbing in Uganda.

Rwenzori Mountains “Mountains of the Moon”

The Rwenzori Mountains have one of the three top highest mountains in Africa which is Mount Stanley standing at 5109m and the Rwenzori Mountains are also one of the only three Mountains in Africa with snow-caped peaks.

The Rwenzori mountains make up Rwenzori Mountains national Park in Uganda which is located at the boarder of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, covering a width of a approximately 70km and a length of 150km.

These mountains are a home to the stunning glaciers, rare wildlife, scenic waterfalls, lakes and rivers. These block Rwenzori are ranked the best 9th in the world and of course the best in Africa for mountain hiking and climbing adventures.

There are various trails that climbing adventurers can take to trek to the peaks of the Rwenzori mountains. These include; the central circuit which allows trekkers to reach the highest Margherita peak. This is the longest trail which takes about 8 days and 7 nights to reach Margherita peak. There is also Mahoma loop which is a 3 day hiking trail, among others.

The Rwenzori Mountains make a prime destination for mountain climbing in Uganda.

Mountain Elgon

Mountain Elgon is located in eastern Uganda bordering with Kenya. Its highest peak is Wagagi at 4321m was once Africa`s highest peak but it gradually eroded to its current height 4321m making it the 8th highest mountain in Africa and 4th in East Africa.

Mount Elgon also has the largest caldera in the world measuring 50km by 80km. the slopes of mountain Elgon.

Climbing Mount Elgon is not only intended to reach the summit but also experiencing the varied vegetation zones which house plenty of wildlife along the slopes that you are likely to encounter during the trek. Some other interesting features you will encounter include water pools, caves, falls, and the splendid scenery. There are mainly two trails that lead you to the peak on Mount Elgon namely Sasa trails which is accessible from Mbale and takes about 4 to 5days for trekkers to reach the summit and Piswa trail which is more easier than the Sasa trail.

The Sipi Falls; this consists of 3 waterfalls (85m, 75m and 100m) strategically located along the slopes of mountain Elgon. They are argued to be the most beautiful waterfalls in Uganda and the most tourism attraction in the eastern region of Uganda. Mount Elgon and Sipi Falls have become very popular for day hikers from Kampala because they are very accessible.

There are also volcanic Virunga Mountains that are available for hiking namely; Mount Muhabura which is 4127m high, Mgahinga (3474m) and Sabinyo (3645m)

MOUNTAIN GORILLA TREKKING IN UGANDA

Tips for Tourists Interested in Uganda Gorilla Trekking

Uganda is a paradise in all senses from the Chimpanzees which are the closest cousins of man to the mighty King Kong that rule Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Gorilla tracking is such an amazing experience that whoever plans to visit Uganda should include it on his or her own itinerary.

It is definite that gorilla trekking is a very charming and unforgettable activity however; you should plan your trip to Uganda with Arlanda Tours and Travel a local tourism company that has hands on expertise to plan for you this once in a lifetime experience.

While you are planning to trek gorillas in Uganda, you need to know something and that is why we have provided you with the below tips to guide you well before your gorilla trekking encounter in Uganda “The Pearl of Africa”

Where to Trek Gorillas in Uganda

With less than 100 mountain gorillas that still thrive in the world today, Uganda is home to more than a half of the world`s total population of mountain gorillas and Uganda is number one on the list of the only 3 countries in the world where Mountain gorilla trekking can be done. In Uganda, Mountain Gorilla Trekking is done in two national parks.

Currently, 22 mountain gorilla families have been habituated and are already available for tourism purposes. Out of 21 gorilla families, 19 are found in Bwindi Impenetrable National park while the remaining two families are found in Mgahinga National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi National park is a splendid luxurious swathe which lies across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley. Bwindi is home to close to a half of the total population of mountain gorillas. It is one of the ancient forests that have thrived through the last ice age. Bwindi is a home to 11 species of primates and 90 species of mammals.

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can be done in any of the 4 trekking sectors of this magnificent park namely.

Buhoma sector in the north comprise of 4 habituated gorilla families that are available tourism purposes and these include; Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare and Katwe.

Ruhija region is in the east and it comprises of gorilla families such as Oruzogo, Kyaguliro, Mukizaand and Bitukura.

Rushaga area comprise of habituated gorilla families namely; Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, Busingye, Kutu, Bweza, Mucunguzi, Bikingi, and Rwigi gorilla group.

Nkuringo sector is located in the southern part of the park and has gorilla families such as Nkuringo, Christmas and Bushaho gorilla families.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park lies at the extreme end of Uganda in the south west covering the northern slopes of the greater Virunga massif which include; Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m).

The park is bordered by the Republic of Rwanda to the South and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is therefore possible to trek in Uganda through Rwanda and trekking gorilla in Mgahinga National park is the ideal option for those entering through Rwanda.

Best time for Gorilla trekking in Uganda.

Being the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is indeed beautiful and therefore it can be visited any time of the year. Gorilla trekking in Uganda can therefore be done any day of the year. Annually, Uganda experiences mainly dry and wet season and these cannot really limit anyone from trekking the gorillas. It is however important to note that gorilla trekking is an intensive experience and that one can spend a full day trekking gorillas. The ranger guides are always available to lead you through the world of gorillas while they explain to you the ecology and behaviour of the gorilla.

 The best time for gorilla trekking in Uganda is when the ground is relatively dry and so it is more rewarding to trek gorillas during the dry season which starts in June, July and August, December, January and February respectively. Bwindi is a misty forest that can never be completely dry and being a tropical rain forest, there can be rain at any time of the day but in the dry season, the forest is a bit drier which make it quite easier for the gorilla trekkers to undertake the steep slopes and dense vegetation in search for mountain gorillas. During the rainy season rainfall can sometimes be too much and this makes the forest muddy and slippery.

The low season for gorilla trekking in Uganda is usually the rainy season and this start in March, April, May, October and November respectively. The main advantage for trekking gorillas in the rainy season is that there`s plenty of forage which the gentle giants tend to feed on. Because of this, the mountain gorillas do not have to go far in the dense areas and so the visitors take a relatively lesser time to track gorillas.

Get yourself a gorilla permit in time!

It is very important to keep in mind that gorilla permits are on a very high demand and therefore one should plan early enough and purchase a gorilla permit. I would advise that you at least plan to purchase a gorilla permit 6 months before the trekking date. The competition for gorilla permits in Uganda becomes stiff especially if you are planning to come to Uganda for gorilla trekking in June, July, August, and September and from mid-December to the end of January. To be on a safer side, purchase a gorilla permit a year in advance!

Uganda has been selling permits through the Uganda Wildlife Authority at a relative fee of USD600 to foreign non-residents, USD500 to foreign residents and Uganda shillings 250,000 for East African residents. But because of the need to conserve the mountain gorillas, the price of the gorilla permit has been slightly increased especially for foreign non-residents from USD600 to USD700 and this increase will be effective from 1st July 2020.

It is advisable that you secure a Uganda gorilla trekking permit through your trusted ground tour operator.

For those who wish to do gorilla habituation where you allowed to spend 4hours of mystical encounter with the Mountain gorillas you will be required to pay USD1500.

Have your Luggage well Equipped but Light

Packing for gorilla trekking in Uganda should be done appropriately. Priority should be given to essential items like waterproof hiking boots, insect repellent, rain Jacket/poncho, drinking water and energy giving snacks, first aid kit and long-sleeved clothes. Do not forget a camera to help take good pictures as well as binoculars.

Physical fitness

Gorilla trekking is sometimes straining and it requires that you to be physically fit before embarking on the trek.  The actual gorilla trekking can last for about 2-8hours depending on the movement of the gorillas and you may include negotiating path through the stiff vegetation and steep slopes while searching for the mountain gorillas.

Upon sighting of the gorillas, they guide will begin to count your time and you will be allowed to spend 1hour of direct interaction with the gorillas while the play and feed on tree leaves and fruits.

You need to know that since they are mountain gorillas, they live in a high elevation and so you adequate drinking water and energy drinking snacks to keep you well with the stamina. Do not also forget the hiking stick which will help you in the slippery ground. You can get the walking from the park headquarters or lodge at no extra cost.

If you have heavy luggage, it is advisable that you hire a porter to help you carry the luggage. Porters are always available at the park headquarters and they can be hired at $10-$20.

Dressing code

It is good to wear clothes that are environmentally friendly to keep you confortable and at the same time to make you fit in the ecosystem. Wear colours which are not shouting, have long-sleeved shirts and trousers, rain jacket to help you in the tropical rain forest.

Be attentive during the briefing

Every morning before tourist embark on the gorilla trekking activity, the Uganda Wildlife Authority takes the initiative to brief visitors on the set rules and regulations that you must observe during the gorilla trekking. Some of them include;

  • At all time; keep away from the gorillas for at least 7meters. Mountain gorillas share 98% of the human DNA which qualifies them to be one of our closest relatives. They are therefore very susceptible to human infectious diseases.
  • In case the gorilla charges at you, stand still and avoid direct eye contact with the mountain gorillas.
  • Avoid using flash cameras and always make sure to turn off your flash camera before you begin to take photos of these creatures.
  • The minimum age limit is 15years of age and anyone below this age is strictly not allowed to trek gorillas. There’s no maximum age for the aged people.
  • You will only enjoy one hour of magical encounter with the mountain gorillas
  • In case of a cough and sneezing, please close your mouth and nose so that the gorillas are not affected and avoid trekking gorillas when you are sick.
  • Do not litre in the pack and in case you want to help yourself, (defecate) please burry human wastes at 30 centimetres deep.

We would like to wish you an amazing visit to Uganda to trek mountain gorillas putting the above tips into consideration while you plan to visit the Pearl of Africa and enjoy a once in lifetime experience. Uganda does not only have mountain gorillas as the only tourist attraction. You can spice your Uganda safari adventure by including other attractions in your itinerary like the game viewing safaris in savannah national park, bird watching, mountaineering, sport fishing, chimpanzee trekking, culture among other activities that will make your realise the unmatchable beauty of Uganda “the Pearl of Africa”

THE PEOPLE & CULTURES OF UGANDA

Uganda “the Pearl of Africa” is one of those few countries in the world and particularly in Africa that are still virgin and filled with various tourism natural resources like the beautiful s chanting birds of about 1100 species, the famous mountain Gorillas and chimpanzees, the “Big Five” animals (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Buffalo) the most serene climate in Africa among others.

What people should never forget is that Uganda is a country you will visit in the morning and get ten plus friends by the end of the day! We are proud of or darling, hospital peopleJ. Uganda`s culture and heritage is one of the best in Africa!

Small as it with almost the same size to that of Britain, Uganda has more than 360 tribes which make her a number one priority destination for people who love culture.

A combination of cultural mosaics were traditionally discovered and enforced to make Uganda an unmatched multicultural destination. These include traditional music, dance, drama, handcrafts, are, norms, culture, regalia, food and traditional customs among others.

Uganda has a count of three distinguished linguistic groups i.e. the Bantu, the Nilotics and the immigrants from central Sudan. These groups are very different from one another and each of the groups has its own unique beliefs and day today practices that are known to every member and all Ugandans in general are much willing and ready to share their culture with the visitors.

The Nilotics inhabit the northern region of Uganda and these comprise of various groups of people including the Acholis, Itesots, Langis and Alur. Majority of the members in these groups are cattle keepers but they have recently adopted crop growing to help facilitate their livelihood.

The Bantu comprise of tribes like Baganda, Banyankole, Batooro, Banyoro, Bakiga, Bagisu, Basonga, Bagwere, Basamya, and many others. The central region is mostly inhabited by the Baganda whose history is much attached to that of Uganda as a country. Because of urbanization especially in the central, like the capital city Kampala, the central region is no longer the place for the Baganda but for all and currently “Luganda” the language spoken by the traditional Baganda is now known by almost everyone who has lived in central Uganda.

The western region is mainly occupied by the Banyankole, Batooro, Banyoro, Bakonjo and Bakiga while the Eastern part of the country is a traditional home to the Basoga, Bagisu, Basamya among other tribes.

Most Ugandans especially the young generation are educated and now, English is not only an official language but also known to most of the people especially the youths. Swahili has also started coming up and an East African regional language.

What describes every culture is mostly their unique dances and drama along with songs which are the most components of cultural ceremonies in Uganda. There are other ceremonies which identify each tribe in Uganda such as marriage and birth rites which are performed differently by every tribe.

Uganda also has diverse Archaeological, religious and historical sites that allow an amazing memorable experience to visitors in Uganda. Please contact us to tailor you a remarkable cultural tour in Uganda.