Known as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is a wonderland of majestic mountains, incredible lakes, outstanding national parks and striking mountain scenery. It’s renowned for its ecological diversity as well as its cultural diversity.
Whether you’re in Uganda to find gorillas, birds or butterflies or hiking and kayaking or on a tour of its cultural sites; the country is bound to cast its magical spell over you and make you fall in love with it over and over again.
It’s a year-round safari destination with a tropical climate and no distinct summer or winter season due to its location to the equator. However, it’s best to visit Uganda in the dry season; particularly if you are hiking through an impenetrable forest to find gorillas.
The people of Uganda are friendly and welcoming and known for their warm hospitality. With a population made up of 52 ethnic groups, everything from the cuisine to the traditional clothing, tribal customs and cultural beliefs of its people are fascinating.
Places to visit in Uganda range from outstanding national parks and forest reserves to the Great Lakes of the region and their famous islands as well as ancient cultural sites the likes of Kasubi Tombs. There is so much to see and do on a Uganda tour; it’s just a question of what you can squeeze into your Uganda holiday and whether you’ll need to return to visit again to see the rest of the country’s natural wonders.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Uganda with the main attraction being gorilla trekking. For a pretty steep cost, visitors have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend precious time sitting just a few metres away from mountain gorillas.
There are over 300 mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of which 9 groups (about 116 gorillas) are habituated for tourism and research. The dense forest is also home to an array of animals, over 350 recorded species of birds and unique tribes such as the Batwa and Bakiga pygmies who live on the fringes of the protected forest area.
Spanning some 321 square kilometres and lying at an altitude of between 1 200 and 2 600 meters above sea level, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. It was proclaimed a national park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994.
There are five major rivers which run through a series of steep ridges and valleys in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and flow on into Lake Edward. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most ecologically diverse rain forests which dates back some 25 000 years. The dense forest is rich in fauna and flora, including over 400 plant species.
Luxury hotels and safari lodges in Uganda that provide visitors easy access to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest are found in the neighbouring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo. Something to do on a trip to Uganda is a village walking tour which introduces you to the Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through dance performances, workshops and village walks.
What to do on a Uganda tour to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
There are two reasons to include the Bwindi Impenetrable Forests on a visit to Uganda; the first is for mountain gorilla trekking and the second is for a birding safari. The Bwindi mountain gorillas are a highlight of a Uganda tour and for birders; the Ruhija sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the leading birding destinations in Africa.
If the cost of gorilla trekking is too steep for your Uganda holiday budget; you can enjoy a guided walk in the Bwindi rainforest. You should catch a glimpse of the northern double-collared sunbird or the highly threatened Shelly’s crimsonwing as well as the Chapin’s flycatcher, African green broadbill and Uganda’s national bird, the grey crowned crane.
The more adventurous traveller can join the Munyaga river trail which starts in the Buhoma sector at the north gate. The river trail is a wonderful way to get closer to the fauna and flora in the impenetrable forest and the chance to catch sight of the rare and endangered colobus monkeys and blue monkeys.
The Munyaga river trail leads to more than one waterfall and you’ll find along the route a fine selection of butterflies, orchids, tree ferns and epiphytic ferns.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is also where you’ll find the Ankole long-horned cow which has a massive unmistakable cream-white horn that curves elegantly from its base to above the head; forming a sharp pointed end. The Ankole long-horned cows have horns that grow up to 2.5 metres.
The Bwindi region is dominated by ancient volcanic craters that have formed into stunning lakes. One beautiful lake to visit on your Uganda holiday if you’re in the Bwindi area is Lake Bunyonyi. The lava-dammed lake is a beautiful stretch of water with 29 small Uganda islands scattered through the watery region.
One of the islands is ‘Akampene Island’ meaning the ‘Punishment Island’. In the 1940s, unmarried pregnant girls were unceremoniously banished to Akampene Island and left there to either die of starvation or drown trying to swim ashore. They were often saved by poor men who couldn’t afford the price of a virgin bride.
Lake Bunyonyi is one of the safest lakes in Africa so it’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Swimming, canoeing and boat rides are popular activities if you’re staying in safari lodge or hotel on Lake Bunyonyi.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park is an iconic conservation area in Uganda and one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. It stretches from the crater-dotted foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in the north, along the shores of Lake Edward to the remote Ishasha River in the south.
Spanning almost 2 000 square kilometres, Queen Elizabeth National Park extends from Lake George in the north-east to Lake Edward in the south-west and includes the Kazinga Channel which connects the two lakes. It was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park and renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.
The national park boasts a diverse ecosystem ranging from sprawling savanna plains to humid forests, lush wetlands and crystal-clear lakes. It’s also famous for its ‘tree-climbing lions’.
Highlights of a safari tour of the Queen Elizabeth National Park include the Mweya Peninsula, Kazinga Channel and the Ishasha sector in the southern region.
The Mweya Peninsula is located on the northern bank of the Kazinga Channel where it converges with Lake Edward. The area also includes the Channel Track which stretches all the way down to Katunguru gate and across to Kabatoro gate. The dense vegetation is hard to navigate and it’s wise to explore this area with a professional guide.
Kazinga Channel is a 40 metre stretch of land that adjoins Lake George to Lake Edward. You’ll see large numbers of animals, birds and reptiles on the lake shores if you book a Nile cruise. Lake George drains to the southwest into Lake Edward through the Kazinga Channel.
Lake George is part of the Great Lakes system although it’s not one of the Great Lakes. Like other lakes and national parks in Uganda, it was named after a member of the British royal family when the country fell under British colonial rule.
The Queen’s Pavilion is a popular tourist stopover where you’ll find an information centre, restaurant-cum-café and internet connectivity. It’s located near the equator monument, close to the northern entrance to the Crater Drive.
The Queen’s Pavilion was constructed in 1954 for the purpose of providing shelter during the Queen’s visit to Uganda. It’s been refurbished over the years and more recently renovated in 2007 for a visit by the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Uganda Equator Monument is a well-known landmark in Uganda and marks the imaginary line that passes through the Queen Elizabeth National Park and divides the world into two halves; the southern and northern hemisphere. You’ll find markers of the equator in Kasese District south-west of the capital city of Kampala within the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
What to do on a Uganda tour to Queen Elizabeth National Park?
Most travellers think of gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking when planning a holiday in Uganda and tend to forget how incredible the country is for a Big 5 safari tour. The game viewing in the Queen Elizabeth National Park is particularly good with large numbers of elephant (up to 3 000) and Cape buffalo (up to 10 000). You’ll also see plenty of hippos and small game such as warthogs, waterbuck, Uganda kob, top and even the rare Sitatunga antelope.
There are two ways to enjoy a Uganda safari tour in the Queen Elizabeth National Park; on a classic game drive with a professional ranger that takes you through the Kasenyi sector, the North Kazinga Plains and the Ishasha sector which is famous for its tree-climbing lions or you can book a once-in-a-lifetime safari tour in a hot air balloon.
Hot air balloon safari tours have become more popular over the years and offer wildlife visitors a bird’s eye view of the incredible scenery as well as diverse fauna and flora.
Other popular activities in the Queen Elizabeth National Park include chimpanzee tracking in the Kaymbura and Kalinju forests, a tour of the neighbouring coffee plantations, tour of the Katwe salt works, hiking and guided bush walks, bird watching and a leisurely boat cruise.
MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest and oldest conservation area in Uganda and possibly one of the most spectacular. It’s bisected by the Victoria Nile River which dramatically plunges 45 meters over the remnant rift valley wall to create the magnificent Murchison Falls.
The waterfall is the focal landmark of the national park and ends with a 80 kilometre stretch of rapids. It’s a great place to visit in Uganda if you’re an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover; offering visitors everything from boat cruises on the Nile River to guided nature walks, sport fishing and white-water rafting.
The Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) incorporates the Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu and Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserves. You’ll find an abundance of animals and bird species in the lush vegetation which flanks the main river running through the national park including the Big 5, an abundance of antelope such as hartebeest, oribi and Uganda kobs as well as large groups of chimpanzees found in the riverine forests and woodlands.
Also known as Kabarega Falls, the waterfall actually splits the Nile River at a point where it’s forced to push through a narrow gorge, cascades down the escarpment and becomes a mild river further down. About 300 cubic metres per second explodes through a narrow gorge which is less than 10 metres wide.
The water that flows over the Murchison Falls originates from the vast Lake Victoria; travelling to the deep Lake Kyoga and on to the northern tip of Lake Albert which falls within the western arm of the great East African Rift.
The Murchison Falls National Park is located in the northern region of the Albertine Rift Valley in an area where the vast Bunyoro escarpment adjoins the expansive Acholi plains. The national park is regarded as one of the best national parks in the country and is always included as part of a Uganda safari tour.
When Winston Churchill infamously referred to Uganda as being the Pearl of Africa, it’s believed he was referring to the natural wonders of what is now the Murchison Conservation Area.
What to do on a Uganda tour to Murchison Falls National Park?
On your way from Kampala to Murchison Falls National Park, stop off at Luweero which is a fruit market selling the best tropical fruit in the country. Try the freshly-squeezed organic pineapple juice.
Your first stop will be at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary which is the only place in Uganda where you can see rhino. The species has been decimated in the region and the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is making every effort to re-introduce rhinos back to the area. The sanctuary is 7 000 hectares in size and located just south of Murchison Falls National Park.
Then it’s time to explore Murchison Falls National Park on a safari boat. Enjoy a different type of safari tour of Uganda with wonderful sightings of animals and reptiles on the banks of the Nile River which flows on from Murchison Falls to South Sudan.
Game viewing in Murchison Falls National Park is magical but even more enjoyable as part of a safari boat cruise. You should see elephants, buffalo, lions and leopards as well as the Ugandan kob, oribi, Jackson hartebeest and the Rothschild giraffe as part of your Uganda safari tour in the Murchison area.
Kidepo Valley National Park and Murchison Falls National Park is the only place on a trip to Uganda where you’ll see the Rothschild giraffe.
Lastly, Budongo Forest which is located close to Murchison Falls is a good place to visit in Uganda for chimpanzee trekking. You can spend a few hours with man’s closest living relative and enjoy watching their feisty antics in the dense forest area.
KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
Kibale Forest National Park is described as one of the most magnificent and varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. It’s the ‘Primate Capital of Uganda’ and home to the largest population of the endangered chimpanzee in Uganda; about 1 450 of these quirky and adorable primates have made Kibale their home.
Other vulnerable primate species you’ll find in Kibale Forest National Park is the threatened red colobus and the rare l’Hoest as well as the black-and-white colobus, red-tailed and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabey, olive baboon, bush baby and potto. A potto is a small, slow-moving nocturnal primate with a short tail that lives in the dense tropical forests of Africa.
Chimpanzee trekking is a popular activity at Kibale Forest National Park. It’s also well known as an outstanding birding destination in Uganda and for wonderful guided forest walks.
What to do on a Uganda tour to Kibale Forest National Park?
The most popular thing to do in Uganda if you’re staying in the Kibale Forest National Park is the Kanyanchu Primate Walk. You’ll encounter 13 primate species on the Kanyanchu guided walk as well as a selection of diurnal monkeys.
The Kanyanchu chimpanzees have been tracked since 1993 and are well habituated. You’re guaranteed to find them on a guided walk which starts at 8am and ends at 2pm.
The chimps have been habituated through the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience and you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to watch them leaving their overnight nests, feeding, copulating, hunting, breastfeeding, resting, patrolling and re-settling in their nests for the evening at around 7pm.
MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest national park in Uganda, spanning some 34 square kilometres. It sits high in the clouds at an altitude of between 2 227 metres and 4 127 metres.
The small national park was declared a protected wilderness area in 1930 and gazetted as a national park in 1991. Its purpose is to provide a place of safety for one habituated trans-boundary mountain gorilla group. It’s also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park gets its name from the local word for piles of volcanic stones – “Gahinga” – which were cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes. The most striking feature of the national park is three conical hills which are extinct volcanoes.
These volcano landmarks are part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area or Virunga Range which lies along the borders of Uganda, the DRC and Rwanda. The volcano slopes are made up of a variety of ecosystems and are biologically diverse.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in a region which is home to the indigenous Batwa Pygmies. This is a hunter-gatherer tribe and one of the first to inhabitant the impenetrable forests of Uganda. Their ancient knowledge and survival secrets remain a mystery.
KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Kidepo Valley National Park is an isolated conservation area located in the remote Karamoja region. It’s renowned for its spectacular scenery with a magnificent mountain range creating a spectacular backdrop to the nature reserve.
The small national park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya; some 700 kilometres from the capital city of Kampala. It was gazetted a national park in 1962 and today is home to an abundance of animals as well as over 475 recorded bird species. Common wildlife sightings include lions, Jackson’s hartebeest, Cape buffalo, giraffes, oribis and reedbuck.
Kidepo Valley National Park isn’t one of the more popular safari destination in even though it ranks up there with the likes of the Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania in terms of biodiversity and outstanding wildlife sightings. Kidepo Valley National Park was nominated in the World Travel Awards 2017 in the category of Africa’s leading national parks.
The Kidepo River and Narus River are the two main rivers in the Kidepo Valley. They disappear in the dry season, leaving wetlands and isolated pools for the wildlife. The oasis-like water sources are ideal for game viewing and bird watching.
Mount Morungole is located in Kidepo Valley National Park and is a striking landmark; standing 2 750 metres high. It’s crossed by the Kidepo and Narus rivers which are the main water source for the region.
The neighbouring communities are similar to the Maasai of Kenya. The pastoral Karamojong people are a hunter-gather tribe and their traditional survival is threatened. A Uganda tour could include a community village to learn more about the Karamojong tribe and their ancient way of life.
What to do on a Uganda tour to Kidepo Valley National Park?
The Kanagorok Hot Springs are located about 11 kilometres beyond the Kidepo River, near the South Sudan border. The drive to the Kanagorok Hot Springs cuts through the two main biomes of the Kidepo Valley National Park and you can look forward to sightings of elephants, lions and cheetah as well as zebras, giraffe and kudu.
Kanagorok means ‘the place of black stones’.
Another reason to visit the dry, semi-arid region is for its incredible birds. The Kidepo Valley National Park has over 475 species of birds and comes second only to the Queen Elizabeth National Park which as about 625 recorded bird species.
Apart from rare sightings of the red-throated bee-eater and the Abyssinian ground hornbill, you’ll love the Kidepo Valley for its fine selection of birds of prey which includes the Verreaux eagle, Egyptian vulture and pygmy falcon.
RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Previously known as the Ruwenzori Range, the magnificent mountain range is located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Rwenzori Mountains reach heights of up to 5 109 meters; the highest peaks are snow-capped and support a complex network of glaciers.
The Rwenzori Mountains were Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its incredible biodiversity which
The mountain range is steeped in mystery and known as the fabled ‘Mountains of the Moon. It’s Africa’s largest range of mountains and the source of the White Nile. Both the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the Virunga National Park are located in the Rwenzori Mountains.
What makes the Rwenzori Mountains a major tourist attraction in Uganda is its incredible biodiversity which ranges from dense tropical rainforests to bamboo forests, montane cloud forests and alpine vegetation. At the base of the Rwenzori Mountains you’ll find banana and potato plantations which cling to the near-vertical mountain slopes.
The high annual rainfall means the Rwenzori region is a wonderland of lush vegetation and spectacular scenery. Massive tree-heathers, colourful moss, giant lobelias and ‘everlasting flowers’ drape the mountain sides to create a magnificent floral wonderland.
The Rwenzori Mountains are also world-famous for containing 6 of the 10 highest mountain peaks in Africa. Most of them are higher than the Alps in Europe and are on par with the likes of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya as extreme hiking destinations.
The three mountain peaks the Rwenzori region is famous for include Mount Stanley (5 109 metres), Mount Speke (4 890 metres) and Mount Baker (4 844 metres).
What to do on a Uganda tour to the Rwenzori Mountains?
The Rwenzori mountain range is Africa’s top hiking destination; rivalling Mount Kilimanjaro because it contains three of the five highest peaks on the continent. Only about a 1 000 hikers venture into the Rwenzori Mountains National Park to tackle the major peaks which is significantly less than Mount Kilimanjaro with about 100 people each day attempting to reach the summit.
The tallest peak in the Rwenzori Mountains is the infamous Margherita Peak. It’s not as high as Mount Kilimanjaro and not a popular as a hiking destination; but it’s still an extreme challenge. The beauty of the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda is you can tackle multiple peaks in one hiking expedition.
Hikes in the Rwenzori Mountains range from 3 to 9 days and can last up to 2 weeks for the few who attempt to summit all the major peaks on one Uganda trip.
Lake Victoria is one of the African Great Lakes. It’s the largest by area in Africa, the world’s largest tropical lake and the world’s second-largest fresh water lake by surface area after Lake Superior in North America.
It’s also the world’s 9th largest continental lake in terms of volume, containing about 2.4 cubic kilometres of water. It’s not a deep lake as it lies in a shallow depression. Its maximum depth is between 80 and 84 metres and has an average depth of 40 metres.
Lake Victoria is spread across three countries; Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. It was named in honour of Queen Victoria in 1858 by the British explorer, John Speke, who was the first Briton to document its existence. Speke and his expedition partner, Richard Francis Burton, “discovered” Lake Victoria while on a mission to locate the source of the Nile River.
The great African lake receives 80 percent of its water from direct rainfall and the rest from thousands of streams and rivers. The Kagera River is the largest river flowing into the lake with its mouth on the lake’s western shore. The Nile River is the only river to drain Lake Victoria; draining on the lakes northern shore near Jinja in Uganda.
Lake Victoria is estimated to be over 400 000 years old which in geological terms is quite young. Arab traders used Lake Victoria hundreds of years ago before its discovery was recorded by the Brits. It’s a shallow lake and highly sensitive to weather and climate change. Geologists say Lake Victoria has lost all of its water multiple times throughout history. The most recent was over 17 000 years ago.
Lake Victoria is spread across three African countries and of the three, Uganda is the most significant when it comes to laying claim to the source of the Nile River. It’s in Uganda that Lake Victoria flows into the Nile River which is the longest and one of the most important rivers in the world. It makes its way north from Lake Victoria, flowing thousands of kilometres north through eastern Africa into Egypt and eventually out into the Mediterranean Sea.
Lake Victoria in Uganda supports Africa’s largest inland fishery which was first established in the late 1990s. Fish species which are ‘farmed’ in the region include tilapia and haplochromine cichlids as well as catfish, elephantfish, ningu and marbled lungfish.
At its peak in the early 1990s, about 500 000 metric tons of Nile perch were caught annually in Lake Victoria but this number has declined significantly. Environmental issues such as overfishing, the introduction of invasive species, suffocating hyacinth and agricultural pollution have plagued Lake Victoria for decades, including the complete disappearance of many endemic cichlid species.
Ferries operating on Lake Victoria have been an important means of transport between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya since the 1900s. The main ports on the great lake are Kisumu, Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Port Bell and Jinja. Africa’s worst maritime disaster happened in May 1996 when close to 1 000 people lost their lives when the ferry MV Bukoba sank in Lake Victoria.
The abundant waters of Lake Victoria are used to generate electricity for the East Africa region. Uganda operates multiple hydroelectric plants based at Lake Victoria including the Nalubaale Hydroelectric Power Station and Kiira Power Station.
What to do on a Uganda tour to Lake Victoria?
Apart from fishing trips and bird safaris in the Lake Victoria region, a holiday in Uganda Lake Victoria on the itinerary usually revolves around beautiful days at tranquil resorts enjoying a range of watersports and other fun outdoor activities.
The islands worth visiting in Lake Victoria are Rusinga Island, Mfangano Island, Rubondo Island, Ukerewe Island and the Ssese Islands. They’re geared for international tourists and offer a range of Uganda accommodation and a host of activities such as fishing for Nile perch and tilapia, birding safaris, cultural walks , watersports, trail walking and caving. There are no vehicles on the island and you go everywhere on colourful canoes.
A tour of the Ssese Islands is one of the favourite things to do in Uganda. The Ssese Archipelago is made up of 84 islands of which 43 are inhabited. You can take a boat ride from Kasenyi to any of the tourist islands in the Ssese Archipelago including the islands of Banda, Bugala and Bukasa.
Bugala Island is the second largest island in Lake Victoria after Ukerewe Island. It’s a 3-hour journey from the capital city of Kampala to Bugala Island where you’ll find a wide range of hotels and guest lodges and loads of things to do; ranging from relaxing on the “beach” to enjoying romantic boat cruises. Bugala Island is more popular with the local people than it is amongst foreign tourists.
It’s a bit strange going on a beach holiday to a landlocked country but that’s exactly what you’ll experience on a Uganda holiday if Lake Victoria is included in your itinerary. The island beaches are strikingly-beautiful and the island itself is home to a rich array of fauna and flora including endemic bird species.
Lake Bunyonyi is described as “devastatingly striking” and “should be on everyone’s list of places to see before they die”. It’s a popular place to visit in Uganda if you’re in the country for gorilla trekking as it’s located fairly close to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The beautiful island is located in southwestern Uganda between the two districts of Kisoro and Babale, close to the Rwanda border post. It’s the second deepest lake on the continent and one of the African Great Lakes.
There are a number of impressive islands scattered within Lake Bunyonyi with the most famous being Akampene Island, otherwise known as Punishment Island; Bwama Island, otherwise known as Sharp’s Island and Njuyeera Island (njuyeera meaning ‘white cottage’).
Punishment Island in Lake Bunyonyi was where unmarried pregnant girls were sent at a time when sex before marriage was a punishable crime. These young girls had no way of surviving on the island and faced an agonizing death by starvation.
They could try to swim to the mainland but most of the young girls could not swim or they were picked up off the island by poor men who could not pay the price for a virgin bride. Thankfully the practice of banishing the pregnant girls on Punishment Island in Lake Bunyonyi was abolished in the first half of the 20th century.
Bwama Island was no less attractive as a island destination in it is early days. In 1931, an English missionary by the name of Leonard Sharp established a leprosy treatment centre on the then uninhabited Bwama Island. He saw to the building of a church, patient quarters, staff village and a medical centre. Sharp himself settled on the neighbouring Njuyeera Island.
The leprosy colony on Bwama Island was established for voluntary segregation and provided the unfortunate lepers with a happy community to live in and a place where they could seek treatment and live without being shunned by the local villages and where they could not infect others.
What to do on a Uganda tour to Lake Bunyonyi?
Lake Bunyonyi is one of the few places in Uganda that’s free of bilharzia and there are not hippos and crocodiles in the lake. Bilharzia is common parasite found in lakes and dams in southern Africa that can make you very sick and cause long-term damage to internal organs. This means Lake Bunyonyi is safer for swimming and water sports than the other great lakes in the country and a great holiday place for a holiday in Uganda for families with young children as well as outdoor enthusiasts.
The most common mode of transport taking people between the islands is the dugout canoe. A tour of the islands in one of these rustic lake boats is something fun to do on your Uganda holiday. The only thing to worry about is how deep the water is so always use a lifejacket when you’re out on Lake Bunyonyi in a boat or canoe.
Nobody really knows who Migingo Island belongs to and for a decade it’s been a source of tension between Uganda and Kenya. The rounded rocky outcrop rises out of Lake Victoria and is covered inch-by-inch with metallic shacks which makes it look like a giant iron-plated turtle.
The troubled island in Lake Victoria is not on the Uganda travel map and somewhere you’ll visit but it’s history is interesting. It’s well known purely because of the territorial tug-of-war that’s gone on for years. There is almost no infrastructure on the island apart a few bars, brothels and a tiny port.
The resident fishermen live cheek-to-jowl in a collection of corrugated-iron homes. The fishing community in Lake Victoria have seen their catches diminish to extremely low levels over the years so they flock to islands like Migingo found in deeper waters that are rich in Nile Perch.
Considering the island is no bigger than half the size of a football pitch, Migingo has certainly had it’s fair share of political drama. There are only about 130 people living on the island and most are either fishermen or fish traders. There’s no vegetation on the island and no wildlife of any sort.
In the early 2000s, Migingo Island was deserted and, at the time, located within Kenya on all the current maps. It has always been on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria, stemming back to the 1920s when the great lake was officially mapped out.
However, in the 21st century, a Ugandan official claimed the island belonged to Uganda and this started a long drawn-out mini-war over which country actually owns it. The Kenyan fisherman maintain that Nile Perch don’t breed in deep waters on the Uganda side, only breeding in the shallow waters on the Kenyan side so therefore the fish in the area belong to the Kenyans.
Another drama involved the Ugandan Marine Police who arrived on Migingo Island and raised the Ugandan flag. Regardless of who is the rightful owner of Migingo Island, the political fighting, overcrowding and dire living conditions on the small rocky outcrop highlight the plight of millions of local inhabitants living along the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania who survive on what fish can be caught in the lake.
The once abundant fishing grounds have been severely depleted over the past two decades. WWF experts say up to 80% of indigenous fish species in Lake Victoria have been lost and 70% of forest cover in the surrounding area has also been lost. Thick green fields of water hyacinth exacerbate the problem for the local fishermen.
Kampala is the capital city of Uganda and affectionately known as the ‘City of Seven Hills’ because it’s spread out over seven prominent hills. By a small margin, Kampala is the largest city in Uganda; followed by Jinja in the east and Entebbe in the south. Kampala is located in south-central Uganda, close to the northern shores of Lake Victoria.
Approximately 2.5 million people live in Kampala and even though it’s less populated than the likes of Nairobi and Lagos, the city is renowned for its hectic traffic congestion and air pollution. Its infrastructure is lacking and the city is burdened by lack of funds. At the same time, Kampala is one of the cheapest cities in Africa to visit, it’s relatively safe staying in Kampala and is culturally diverse.
The city of Kampala has its origins as the capital of the Buganda Kingdom, and remains so today. It was named City of Seven Hills because it had spread over seven hills but in fact, urban sprawl now covers at least 20 hills in the area.
Each hill houses an important government or religious building. Kasubi Hill is where you’ll find the Kasubi Tombs which is a sacred burial ground of Buganda Kings. The Uganda Museum is found at the top of Kololo Hill and showcases a collection of ancient traditional musical instruments.
Apart from a fascinating cultural tour of Kampala, visitors on a Uganda tour enjoy the city’s famous night life. Kabalagala is a strip of bars, clubs and restaurants in Kampala which are a hive of activity from sunset to sunrise on weekends. The streets of Kabalagala are lined with people selling stuff including grilled chicken and Uganda’s famous “Rolex” dish.
If you’re in Kampala when the national soccer team is playing, grab a vuvuzela and head to the Namboole Stadium to support the Uganda Cranes. The people of Uganda, particularly Kampalans, are mad about soccer and the city gets extremely vibey and noisy on a big-game day. Rugby and cricket fans can catch as game at Lugogo Oval in Kampala.
What to do on a Uganda tour of Kampala?
Apart from sitting in a traffic jam for hours if you don’t plan your day properly, Kampala is all about eating out a great restaurants, soaking up the vibrant city atmosphere and exploring cultural sites.
There are a handful of cultural festivals held each year which showcase the soul of the people of Uganda and their upbeat approach to life. If you’re not in town when one of the cultural festivals are on, book a table at the Ndere Centre where the Ndere Troupe put on a dinner-show cultural performance which is electrifying and fascinating.
You’re spoilt for choice for restaurants in Kampala with everything from East and West Africa fare to European, Japanese and Asian fare. The street markets are a great place to try out traditional Ugandan dishes such as the famous “Rolex”.