The Pearl of Africa. That’s the name that was given to Uganda by Winston Churchill when he visited the country in 1907. Churchill had discovered that Uganda’s natural beauty was incomparable to any other country on the continent.
It’s little wonder that in December 2016, Rough Guides said of Uganda, which came fourth on its list of “must-see” destinations in 2017 worldwide: “Where else you canoe past crocodiles on the Nile, track gorillas in dense jungles, soak in hot springs, scale snowy mountain peaks or visit a traditional Batwa village – all within a single day’s journey? Only in Uganda.”
For this 17-day best of Uganda itinerary, accommodation is both luxury and mid-range. Attractions both popular and off-the-beaten-track. Meals a mixture of international and local cuisine. You’ll interact with both the most urban and most rural Ugandans…
Day 1: Welcome to the Pearl of Africa!
Our representative will pick you up from Entebbe International Airport and take you to the Protea Marriott Hotel, just a five-minute drive from the airport. Depending on the time you have on your hands, your guide can give you a tour of Entebbe, the town that plays host to State House.
You can browse through local craft shops, visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and the Uganda Snake Village or delve into local markets and enjoy the aroma warfting from food stalls… Time allowing, you can later in the evening visit some of the town’s trendy bars for a litle bit of camaraderie with some of the world’s friendliest people before you retire to bed.
Day 2: Kampala, the freewheeling city
Kampala is one of the world’s most freewheeling cities. Visitors to Uganda’s capital will attest to this. It’s in Kampala where a restaurant by day becomes a nightclub at dusk. And it’s in Kampala where people freely hawk everything there is to hawk — food, books, kitchenware, hardware, clothes, shoes, phones, cars, you name it.
That aside, Kampala is also home to some of Uganda’s iconic historical and cultural sites. Today, you will visit the Uganda Martyrs Shrine, a Catholic church dedicated to the 22 Martyrs of Uganda who shed their blood because of the Christian faith, the Kasubi Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the Buganda King’s Palace.
Later in the evening you will retreat to your hotel at the Speak Resort in Munyonyo, where you’ll enjoy staggeringly beautiful views of Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest fresh water lake. If you don’t mind moving at night, your guide can take you to the city for a taste of Kampala’s great nightlife.
Day 3: Jinja, the source of River Nile
It’s in Jinja, Uganda’s second-largest city, where the mighty River Nile, the world’d longest river, begins its journey from Lake Victoria all the way down to the Mediterranean Sea. You will be a guest at The Haven, an exquisite lodge that will blow you away with its quietitude and breathtaking views of the river rapids. This is also a wonderful spot to watch various bird species and local fishermen paddling dugout canoes.
Today’s activities include white water rafting, a horseback safari, quad-biking, whitewater kayaking on the river, as well as a visit to the source of the Nile and Jinja Market.
Day 3: Sipi Falls
After breakfast, a six-hour drive further east will lead you to the beautiful Sipi Falls, located on a plateau 1800m above sea level. You will be checked in at the Sipi River Lodge, which will wow you wonderful views of one of the waterfalls.
The Sipi River flows over the foothills of Mount Elgon, forming a spectacular series of waterfalls (some nearly 100m high) and it’s surrounded by village walking trails and lush green hills that are laden with coffee plantations.
Day 4: Explore the Karamojong tribe culture
After an early breakfast you will continue your journey eastwards to Moroto town, where you will have an encounter with the Karamajong, a tribe that is related to the Maasai of Kenya. In fact, the Karamajong live and dress like the Maasai.
The Karamajong live in a Kraal, known as Manyatta or Boma in Swahili. A Kraal is basically a village made of huts surrounded by fences made of wood and thorns to keep the cattle in and to protect them against rivaling tribes and wild animals. Some of the Kraals are permanent while others are temporarily as the Karamajong follow the fresh grass to feed their cattle. In the afternoon you will visit one of the impressive Kraal or Manyatta of this community.
Tourist infrastructure does not exist in Kotido. Please be patient and do not expect the services from hotels and restaurants that you would expect in other parts of Uganda. You will spend the night at Lia Springs Hotel in Moroto with stunning views of the hills.
For the true adventurer you can sleep in one of the temporary Kraals. Here you will pitch your tent to spend an evening with a specific Karamajong family. Part of the evening is a goat roast ceremony. It’s a great event for them and they will be happy to sing and dance all night; During the night at the kraal you will experience how the Karamajong live. They will bring their cattle back in the kraal, they will make local beer (which you can try as well ) and you can be part of the bloodletting ceremony, whereby they tap blood from a cow to drink. After the traditional goat roasting, you will have some dinner for yourself. After dinner you will spend the rest of the night interacting and dancing with the Karamajong or listening to the songs next to the fire until it’s time to go to sleep. After waking up in the early morning you can see the sunrise on the Karamajong Valley and see the Shepard’s take their cattle from the kraal to look for fresh grass in the plains.
Day 5: Kidepo Valley National Park, the animal kingdom
Today you will travel to Kidepo Valley National Park, a long, five-hour but rewarding journey with some of the most beautiful sceneries Uganda has to offer.
If you are lukcy and your journey is on a Wednesday, you’ll get the chance to experience an authentic Karamajong cattle market, where herders walk for five hours to be able to buy or sell their goats, cows or chicken. It’s a colourful and stunning sight, one of the few remaining authentic African experiences.
After this thrilling experience it is time to enter into the most remote and pristine national parks in the country, Kidepo Valley National Park. Regarded as the most beautiful in Uganda, Kidepo has some of the most amazing scenery in the country, its beauty still untouched by mass tourism.
Here you will stay in one of the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s bandas — simple, but clean bandas that make you feel close to nature. Meals of your choice will be prepared from the banda by one of the chefs here. But you can also prepare it yourself, if you like.
Day 6: Safari in Kidepo
In Kidepo Valley National Park you will find zebras, giraffes, elephants, lions and leopards. This is also the only place in Uganda where you can find the cheetah and ostrich.
Kidepo is famous for its lions that usually relax on the rocks and you might even be very lucky to spot a leopard or cheetah! Besides the 4×4 safaris you can also take a bush walk in the park with an armed ranger. Up to you.
Day 7: Journey to Murchison Falls National Park
Today you continue your journey by crossing to the west of the country to Murchison Falls National Park. It’s a tiring eight-hour journey so there will be no adventure activities today. You will be a guest at the picturesque Fort Murchison, right in the park.
Day 8: Murchison Falls National Park
Welcome to the wild animal kingdom! Wild animals are most active in the morning so an early rise will give you an opportunity to come face-to-face with Uganda’s best: elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, lions, leopards, and a variety of antelope and bird species that roam this park. Morning is the best time to explore the park because the sun is not yet so bright and temperatures are cooler.
After lunch in the afternoon you will take a boat safari up the River Nile to Murchison Falls. Carefully watched by crocodiles, hundreds of hippos, buffaloes, water birds, monkeys and all the other thirsty wildlife that the Nile attracts, you will reach the base of the 43-metre high waterfalls that culminate in a magical thunderous sound.
After the boat safari you will hike to the top of the falls, from where you’ll have a wonderful view of the falls and fantastic photo opportunities as the sun sets!
Day 9: Travel to Kibale Forest National Park
On Day 9 you will be driven to the Kibale Forest National Park, an eight-hour journey that is sure to whet your eyes as you pass through an incredibly scenic countryside.
You’ll make a stop in Fort Portal town, seven hours into the journey, where you’ll have lunch and, maybe even, take a walk around town and visit local markets. One more hour on the road will lead you to the Kibale Forest National Park where you will be a guest at the Kibale Forest Camp, one of the best lodges in the park. You will spend the afternoon lazying around and enjoying views of the beautiful forest.
Day 10: Chimpanzee Tracking
For the uninitiated, Kibale Forest National Park harbours the highest number of primate species in the world, including over 5,000 chimpanzees. You can choose to track the chimps either in the morning or in the afternoon. Once you locate them, you will be allowed one full hour of eye-to-eye contact with them.
After that you can take a two-hour walk through the swamp, which will reward you with views of the beautiful scenery, local people going about their day-today tasks, and views of about four other primate species, though the highlight is usually a chance glimpse of the great blue turaco, a chicken-sized bird with garish blue, green and yellow feathers.
Day 11: Queen Elizabeth National Park
Day 11 will begin very early in the morning with a three-hour trip to the mighty Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda’s second largest park which is located at the base of the majestic Rwenzori Mountain range, adjacent to Lake Edward and Lake George. The park offers incredible game viewing: gazelle, Uganda kob, lions, giraffes, elephants, warthogs, waterbuck, hippos, leopards, antelopes, etc. Lions are often sighted both in and at the entrance to the park. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to so many wild animals that many of them can actually be spotted right at the entrance of the park!
After lunch, you will spend most of the afternoon viewing these animals before retiring to the artistic Marafiki Safari Lodge, which is located within the park and overlooks Lake George. This majestic lodge offers private safari tents on raised wooden floors and canvas walls that can be rolled up to allow you to sit comfortably and enjoy the breathtaking views across the Park and the Rwenzori Mountains. In fact, you will be able to watch a variety of wildlife from your verandah and fall asleep to the roaring of lions in a distance.
Day 12: Queen Elizabeth National Park & Boat Safari
Day 12 will find you in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is advisable that you wake up early enough, have an early beakfast and head out for a memorable hot air baloon safari. You will silently fly over the plains of the park, a one-hour adventure that will reward you with aerial views of a miriad wild animals, including elephants, buffalos, lions, waterbucks, leopards, Uganda Kob, and many warthogs.
After brunch you will take an amazing boat ride on the Kazinga Channel, which joins Lake George and Lake Albert. Some of the sightings during this expedition will include, hippos buffalos, crocodiles, elephants, and a range of beautiful birds.
While lion cubs around the world frequently climb trees for fun, adults rarely do. But the adult lions in Ishasha are an exception to this. after luch you will head to a part of Queen Elizabeth called Ishahsa, to see the famous tree-climbing lions, among other wildlife. It is thought that they sit in the branches to get away from the tsetse flies and to enjoy a cool breeze.
Day 13: Lake Mutanda/Bwindi
Today you will embark on an eight-hour journey to Lake Mutanda in southwestern Uganda, near the borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This journey will take you through one of the most beautiful parts of the country that is often referred to as ‘the Switzerland of Africa’. You go through a bamboo forest and watch the Virunga mountains brooding in a distance — a truely scenic countryside. For lunch you will stop at a local restaurant along the way.
You will be a guest at the Mutanda Lake Resort, which is perched on a peninsula on Lake Mutanda. Situated between Kisoro town, Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks, this resort makes a perfect base for gorilla trackers, volcano hikers, birders as well as those who are simply looking for a secluded place in nature.
Day 14: Gorilla safari in Bwindi Forest
Today you are in for a real trailblazing experience! This is the real big deal, the highlight of your trip to Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is the only forest on the continent that is home to both the unique mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. It’s also home to five other primate species, 113 mammal species, over 200 butterflies and 360 birds. Today you will track one of the nine habituated gorilla families that are accustomed to human presence.
It can take between two to seven hours to locate the gorillas, depending on how lucky you are today. But once they are located, you will only be allowed to be with them for a maximum of one hour to avoid stressing them. Still, coming face-to-face with these endangered species, mankind’s closest relatives, will no doubt be the most humbling and memorable experience of your trip!
Days 15: Lake Mutanda/ Batwa Trail
After gorilla trekking, you will be taken on a journey back in time as you track the Batwa, Uganda’s traditionally forest-dwelling pygmy people.
A story is told that about a century ago, there was a conflict between the Batwa and the Bantu speaking people of this region. The Bantu booted out the Batwa from the area, so the latter hid in the Garama Cave.
The Bantu had no idea there was a hidden cave in the forest and therefore could not find the crafty Batwa. Your guide will explain how the Batwa lived and fought out of this cave. The cave is 342 metres long and 14 metres deep. Now inhabited by bats, the walk to and from the cave will take you through mountain woodland with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery or watch a variety of bird species.
Day 16: Lake Mburo National Park
After breakfast, you will embark on a seven-hour journey to Lake Mburo National Park, one of Uganda’s smallest parks. Nevertheless, this park has a lot to offer, including zebras, elands, impalas, giraffes and a host of other wild animals. It’s also in Lake Mburo National Park where you will get to enjoy a night game drive, which is sure to reward you with sightings of the hyena and different nocturnal animals, including the leopard.
You will be a guest at the Rwakobo Rock lodge, which offers captivating views of the park and its residents.
Day 17: Bush walk and to Entebbe International Airport
On your last day, you can enjoy a bushwalk in Lake Mburo National Park, a horseback riding safari, or a boat safari on the lake, the last of which offers sightings of various bird species, hippos and crocodiles.
After brunch at the lodge, you will be driven back to Entebbe just in time to catch your flight back home, making sure to stop over at the Equator for a photo opportunity. If your flight is the following day, we’ll book you one more night in Entebbe or Kampala, depending on your choice.