Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Great For: Gorillas in their natural habitat.
There are only around a thousand wild mountain gorillas left on the planet and two thirds of them live here. Over ten troops have been habituated to human presence, giving you an hour of intimate contact with the world’s largest primates.
Officially you can come within seven meters but gorillas don’t know that and most people get much much closer. Hiking in the untamed forest is also a highlight and while the permits are expensive, you’ll never forget gorilla trekking.
Best Time to Visit Bwindi Impenetrable Forest: The rainy months of April, May and November are low season, when the weather can be disruptive but the permits are cheaper. Book far in advance for July and August.
Also Consider: Volcanoes National Park (in Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (in The Democratic Republic of the Congo) are the only other places to trek with mountain gorillas.
Kibale Forest National Park
Great For: Outstanding chimpanzee tracking.
Highlights: Searching for 13 different primate species.
Kibale has long been recognized as the best place in Africa to view chimpanzees. You can track habituated troops and spend an hour with man’s closest relation. It’s always an inspiring journey through this dense Congo Basin rainforest, even when not looking for chimpanzees.
12 other primate species live here and there’s a good chance that monkeys will be swinging around your camp or lodge. Make sure you book your chimpanzee permits in advance as spaces are limited for the habituated troops; however, you may spot other chimpanzees simply by walking through the park.
Best Time to Visit Kibale Forest: Like most of Uganda, be cautious about the heavy rains of March to May.
Also Consider: Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda.
Combine With: Kibale is typically combined with Queen Elizabeth National Park and the gorillas of Bwindi.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Great For: Connecting with your really really wild side.
Highlights: Safari in an unknown land.
At Africa Freak we celebrate the best of wild Africa. And there aren’t many places wilder than Kidepo Valley, a remote wilderness in the far north of Uganda. The park receives less than 5000 visitors a year, despite having a superb collection of wildlife.
Drama reigns on this parched land and you’re in the heart of the action, watching predators lay ambush around waterholes, tracking deadly battles between males of all different species. It takes two days to drive here from Kampala so consider a local safari flight.
Once you make it to Kidepo Valley you will want at least three nights, for this is a safari destination where you’re never sure what theatre will unfold. It’s not recommended as a first-time safari but if you’ve been to Africa before, this may be the off the beaten path adventure you seek next.
Best Time to Visit Kidepo Valley: Avoid April and May. It’s always quiet here so prime game viewing doesn’t mean peak season crowds: February, March, August and early September are optimal.
Also Consider: Ruaha in Tanzania.
Combine With: Anywhere in East Africa; it’s just as easy to combine Kidepo Valley with Kenya as it is western Uganda.
Lake Mburo National Park
Great For: Horseback safari; serenity; safari introduction.
Highlights: Walking and riding in the wilderness.
Lake Mburo is not a classic safari destination. This incredibly pretty national park is all about making your own trails. Game drives here are average, at best. But the walking and horseback safaris are superb, offering incredible flexibility over where you go and how long you explore for.
The lack of lions and other dangerous predators makes these activities possible. By moving silently you’ll get eye to eye with many ungulate species, wildebeest and buffalo sometimes just a few metres away. And experienced riders have the chance to gallop along with the herds.
Best Time to Visit Lake Mburo: Avoid mid-March to mid-June as the park turns into a swampland.
Also Consider: The Okavango Delta (in Botswana) for walking and riding safaris.
Combine With: Lake Mburo is halfway between Bwindi and Uganda’s capital Kampala.
Murchison Falls National Park
Great For: An introduction to safari.
Highlights: Boat trips; the waterfall itself; easy safari impressions.
It can be worth traveling to northern Uganda just to see Murchison Falls, a thunderous spectacle shrouded in mist and forest. The waterfall is just one attraction though. The national park provides home for a diverse cast of wildlife, including hippos and elephants you can spot on a boat safari.
The park’s natural beauty and varied animal population means it’s a good first stop on a safari itinerary. And while it’s not too wild, walking safaris provide a new angle and there’s often buffalo or elephant around your camp.
Best Time to Visit Murchison Falls: Animals congregate around the river in dry season, making game viewing easier; July to September is best, March to May the worst time.
Also Consider: Victoria Falls and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.
Combine With: Queen Elizabeth, Kibale and Volcanoes national parks.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Great For: Diverse safari experiences and activities.
Highlights: Tree-climbing lions, large hippo pods, birdlife.
Ecosystems blur together in this popular Ugandan park. Tree-climbing lions and buffalo are highlights of the savannah, hippos and elephants are numerous around the river, while chimpanzees and colobus monkeys occupy forests in the Ruwenzori foothills.
Such diverse habitats are complemented by the range of activities, with boat and walking safaris commonplace in a program.
While the park facilities and camps can be a little ramshackle, such eclectic wildlife is almost unparalleled across Africa: nowhere else offers chimpanzees, lions and hippos on the same safari.
The park is very accessible regardless of your budget and has firmly become Uganda’s most popular safari stop.
Best Time to Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park: Logic says the dry season months of June to September plus January and February. But don’t discount other months when the park is quieter.
Also Consider: Tanzania’s Northern Circuit.
Combine With: The classic Ugandan triad also includes Bwindi and Kibale.