When it comes to adventurous African travel that feels off the grid without being dangerous, consider Uganda. From wild white water rafting to trekking with gorillas, this East African nation offers travelers plenty of options. Here are 15 reasons to visit Uganda before it becomes too touristy.
1. Gorillas, gorillas, gorillas
As one of only three African countries where mountain gorillas still roam free, many people visit Uganda solely for the experience of trekking to see the endangered apes. It is well worth the effort as there are less than one thousand of these animals left on the planet — seeing one is a soulful experience you won’t soon forget.
2. Rafting the White Nile
Trips down Uganda’s raging White Nile range from half-day to three day excursions and the rapids gets wilder the further downstream you go. Try the full day adventure from Nile River Explorers, which takes you down a 25-kilometer stretch of mostly Class V whitewater just upstream from Lake Victoria and the town of Jinja that includes a 12-foot waterfall drop.
Uganda is home to chimps as well as gorillas. Accordingly, travelers can also trek to see chimps, which is a totally different experience. Head to Kibale National Park to catch a glimpse of the earth’s largest chimp population.
4. Murchison Falls National Park
This is Uganda’s largest national park. The reason to visit is to see the falls, which are tremendous and powerful — the normally 50-meter-wide Nile is crammed into a 6-meter-wide rock gap at the top of the falls. The entire place feels like something out of Jurassic Park. The highlight here is taking a boat up river to the base of the falls.
East Africa’s adventure capital, Jinja, is where you can hook-up with rafting trips down the Nile among other adrenaline sports, but it’s also a buzzing place to just chill out and meet other travelers for a few days.
Uganda’s capital city provides an easy intro to East African capital cities — it isn’t as chaotic or dangerous as say Nairobi — and is a progressive and interesting city to explore.
7. Lake Bunyonyi
The steep hills surrounding this lake look more like East Asia than East Africa, as they are intensively terraced. The lake itself is home to 29 islands and one of Uganda’s most beautiful destinations.
8. Ssese Islands
Located along Lake Victoria’s northwestern shore, the 84 islands making up the Ssese archipelago are perfect for those looking to really get off the tourist grid. They also have some really gorgeous white sandy beaches. There is a ferry from Entebbe.
9. Queen Elizabeth National Park
One of Uganda’s most popular parks, this is where to head for a more traditional safari experience. The park is famous for its tree-climbing lions.
10. Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Africa’s tallest mountain range, this national park is protected as a Unesco World Heritage site and has stunning scenery and some great hikes.
11. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Half of the world’s mountain gorillas are found in this park, but even if you don’t do a gorilla trek, this UNESCO World Heritage listed site is also a visually stunning rainforest and jungle park.
12. Diverse scenery
Uganda has a more jungle feel than neighboring countries, and much of the places you visit will appear intensely lush and green, which is quite different than the semi-arid dessert or savannah landscapes often experienced in sub Saharan Africa. At the same time, the country also has the highest mountain range in Africa.
13. Friendly people
Uganda had a dark and brutal past, but the people here remain friendly and many are happy to meet foreigners and chat with them about their life and culture.
14. Kidepo Valley National Park
Located in Uganda’s far northeast in a forgotten valley, this park is off the beaten path and home to some of the most stunning scenery in the country.
15. Lake Mburo National Park
Explore around Lake Mburo National park that is home to plenty of wildlife which can be seen on safari. It’s also connected to 13 other lakes in the area.