Fort Portal

Fort Portal: Uganda’s tourism capital

Fort Portal is 294 km (5-hour drive) west of Kampala and Entebbe airport. It is in Kabarole district which is part of Toro kingdom. Karuzika, the royal palace of king (Omukama) Oyo, sits on the hill above the city at 1,523 meters above sea level.

The name Kabarole is a Rutoro dialect which means “let them see.” The view of the Rwenzori mountains is spectacular from the top of the palace, which was built in 1964. Batoro are some of the friendliest, humble and hard working people in Uganda. They have utilised the rich black volcanic fertile soils well.

Economic activities in Fort Portal

The area east of the city is dominated by green tea estates including Mwenge and Kijura. Entrepreneurs have found fortune in operating coffee farms such as the Clerk farm in the nearby Kyenjojo district as well as fruit and dairy processing factories. There are fresh food markets in and out of the city such as Mpanga, where you can grab fruits and snacks.

The town attracts many people for trade with a good road network connecting other regional big and small towns like Kasese, Katunguru, and Bundibugyo. The government has laid out innovative initiatives  and upgraded Fort Portal to a tourism city status. The city has got a variety of hotels, restaurants for both luxury, budget and backpackers. There are several cultural sites such as Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru cave and stalactites, which appears in much of the Bachwezi empire folklore.

Historical buildings that were built in the 20th century have been preserved including Rwengoma palace. Fort Portal is a pivotal point for safaris to Kibale forest, Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori mountains, and Semliki national parks, and Toro Semliki wildlife reserve. You can take trips to these parks and back to town, a great option for self-drive safari. Being in the midst of protected areas, the leaders are proposing to establish a zoo for wildlife education purposes and a cultural museum.

Volcanic effect

Fort Portal city is flanked by the Albertine graben to the north, Lake Edward to the southwest and the Rwenzori mountain range 54km north east. The city is within the volcanic field known as Ndali-Kasenda characterized by several volcanic crater filled lakes including Lake Kigere, a spiritual site associated with the Bachwezi demigods.

There are over 50 crater lakes around Fort Portal where lodges have been built on the rim of some craters such as lake Kyaninga lodge, Crater Safari Lodge, and Papaya lake lodge, which is surrounded by three craters including Kifuruka, Nyinambuga, and Lyantonde. The lakes were formed as a result of violent volcanic eruptions about 541 million to 4 billion years ago during Precambrian, the earliest era of geological history recorded.

This was estimated by the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History by the hydrocarbon dating method used at Kasensankaranga crater. Furthermore, a scholarly article in the Journal of Geological Society (“Petrology of the Volcanic Fields East and South of Rwenzori, Uganda, 1932.”  indicates that the volcanic field marks the boundary of the dry and alkali lake beds to the south in the plains of Queen Elizabeth national park. Unlike this park, the soils around Fort Portal support farming because they are of low-alkali carbonate volcanism. When you travel to or from Murchison falls, the Butiaba escarpment on the way marks the end of the Albertine rift valley.

Colonial history 

Uganda is one of the countries that have preserved colonial history by keeping names of British people alive in many parts of the country. The name Fort Portal alone is proof and the city has thrived on this legacy. The area was a territory of the Toro kingdom, which was rising as the Bunyoro Kitara empire began to weaken in the 19th century. By the year 1890, the British had sent Capt. Frederick Lugard to the Buganda kingdom in the central region.

Kabaka Mwanga had agreed to his terms to sign a treaty that would allow creation of a protectorate. However, Toro and Bunyoro were still resistant. Lugard proposed to unify all kingdoms for a protectorate to extend beyond the borders of Buganda. Lugard and his officers including Gerald Portal convinced Kyebambe II the king of Toro who became friends and allowed them to form an army camp with Sudanese Nubian soldiers; they defeated Kabalega of Bunyoro.

Eventually, all kingdoms were brought under indirect rule in 1894 and Kampala became the capital city of the new nation. To mark the victory, Lugard built a fort named Fort Gerry which was later renamed to honor his fellow Gerald Portal hence the name Fort Portal. Other colonial administrators remained in the area including members of the Church Missionary Society who founded banks, schools, hospitals and a golf club, which have all stood the test of time. Fort Portal therefore became a strategic town for the subsequent explorers who intermarried with locals. There are many descents of both Sudanese and Europeans in the area.

Lugard road 

A great example of colonial streets in post independent Uganda, Lugard road offers a number of shops that were built in the 1920s. The shops are of Indian architecture given that Britain had brought many of them during the construction of the East African Railway (1,060 km) that reached Kampala in 1931. The same architectural buildings are also found in Jinja city at the source of the Nile, where many Asians established their business. Aga Khan is one of the prominent Asian origin foundations in Uganda with a mosque in Fort Portal city, schools and hospitals in Kampala capital city.

Oldest buildings in Uganda

Fort Portal has some of the oldest buildings in Uganda including libraries, schools and hospitals, which are open for visiting during the day with a guide and permission from the caretakers.

Kabarole hospital and Kyebambe girl’s school

Built in 1903, Kabarole hospital is one of the oldest missionary medical institutions in Uganda. Before reaching Fort Portal, Catholic missionaries had already gained ground in Buganda kingdom with 25 Uganda martyrs and many converts that had been killed between 1885 – 1891 on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga for refusing to denounce their new faith. Once the work of preaching was done, they started building permanent structures. Mengo hospital was established next to Lubiri (Mengo Palace), which is Uganda’s oldest colonial hospital. In Fort Portal, their mission was to extend similar structures including Kyebambe girl’s school built in 1910 and St. Leo’s college and Nyakasura in the 1920s.

The Library and the bookshop

The British council opened the Fort Portal Library in 1963, a year after Uganda’s independence. They had earlier built a public bookshop in 1958 and both of them contain a collection of books and manuscripts that are open to the public.

Toro golf club

Colonial administrators who remained in Fort Portal built the Toro golf club in 1914, which has 9 holes. The club is within the city along Fort Portal Kampala road and offers accommodation. A trench system that surrounds it is a mark of intense fighting that took place.

Toro Royal Palace 

The Toro kingdom royal palace known as Karuzika was built in 1964 on Fort Portal’s highest hill during the reign of Omukama Kamurasi Rukidi III (1926-1965). By then, the hill was said to be infested with evil spirits and the king decided to build there and cast them away. He said Kabarole which means “let them see” Rukidi was a son of Daudi Kasagama Kyebambe, king of Toro between 1891 – 1928, who was the first to establish a two-storey palace on the same hill.

Kyebambe cultivated a good relationship with the British royal family and Princess Margret graced the opening of the palace in 1965. A year later, traditional kingdoms were abolished by president Obote, which led to a political crisis in 1966. Soldiers ransacked the palace looking for royal treasures during the reign of Olimi III who renovated it in 1993 and died in 1995. The current king of Toro is Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru who took the throne at the age of 5 years.

Sacred natural sites around Fort Portal

With Fortal becoming a tourism destination, several natural sites were uncovered including Amabare Ga Nyina Mwiru caves and stalactites, lake Kigere, and Ibaale rock. These sites are known to have been left behind by the Bachwezi who were the earliest inhabitants of western Uganda. The folklore about Bachwezi is that they were demigods who subdued the Batembuzi empire.

The former brought the Ankole-Watusi longhorn cows which made the survival of the Batembuzi cultivators difficult. The Bachwezi empire also disappeared later on with the coming of the Bantu people, which has remained an unexplainable mystery. Some theories state that they merged into other tribes including the Babito who founded the Bunyoro-Kitara empire in the 14th century of which Toro kingdom stemmed from. As such, Toro bears footmarks and sites of the Bachwezi of which most are spiritual places of worship as people believe that Bachwezi didn’t die. These sites are easy to reach from Fort Portal city.

Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru cave and stalactites

The Amabere caves are conveniently located 8 km west of the city along the Fort Portal – Bundibugyo road. Geographically speaking, the  cave’s mouth is surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. These features are formed due to constant dripping of calcium carbonate water on the floor of the cave. These features have the structure of human, canine, and cow udder breasts. People connect it to the mythology surrounding Nyinamwiru, a princess and the daughter of Bukulu, king of the Chwezi empire.

Her breasts were amputated when the king’s watchmen predicted that his daughter would give birth to a son who would overthrow him. According to the legend, she managed to flee and took refuge in some caves, where she became pregnant and gave birth to Ndahura, who went on to defeat his grandpa and rule the empire until its downfall in the 16th century. The miraculous breasts that fed the son and his mother’s milk allowed them to survive in the cave caused people to wonder and give the stalactites the nickname “the breasts of Nyinamwiru.” You may think it is raining as water drips through the rocks. During the natural walk around the caves, there are waterfalls to see.

Lake Kigere

Kigere crater-filled lake is 5 km from the city and has the shape of a giant human footprint. The locals believe the lake was formed when a Chwezi man attempted to jump from the summit of Kyeganywa hill 1,588 meters. Hiking to the top of the hill takes 5 minutes and offers spectacular views of other crater lakes at the foothill including Saaka in Kalyango and Nyabikora.

Ibaale rocks

Located 4 km from the city along the Kamwenge road, Ibaale rocks also bear the footmarks of Bachwezi. The rocks are revered by the locals as a place of a spiritual home and often go there to worship the gods.

Historical and cultural sites in and around Fort Portal are open to the public for tourism. Those intending to visit them are recommended to get a local guide who will provide all the necessary information.

 

uhuru falls

Discover Uhuru Falls in Murchison Falls National Park

Both Murchison and Uhuru Falls can be regarded as twin falls in Murchison falls national park. Uhuru Falls were formed due to the increase in the Lake Victoria water levels after heavy rains that lasted for several weeks in the 1960s. Before that, there used to be one main waterfall – the Murchison falls, the world’s most powerful waterfall. The falls were formed as the White Nile forces its way through a narrow steep-walled canyon and plunges over a 45-meter-tall cliff down the gorge with a thunderous sound. The mist rising from the bottom of the falls forms a trademark rainbow with the intersection of the sunlight. Viewers at the top of the falls can easily get wet by the rising water from the gorge. 

The origin of Uhuru falls

Uhuru is a Swahili word meaning “independence” in English and the falls were created when Uganda got her independence in 1962. A few years later, the country experienced heavy rains that lasted for several months and the water levels in Lake Victoria increased. The smoother banks of the river allow for faster flow of water right from Jinja at the source of the Nile. With a tremendous force, the narrow gorge at Murchison falls couldn’t hold big volumes of all the water that comes from the lake and the river overflowed its banks to form Uhuru falls in 1965.

Now there are two sets  of waterfalls, which have to be viewed separately given that the river splits and falls are divided by a big hard rock left in between. The falls encircle that rock and river meets again downstream below the bottom of the falls. You can’t see Uhuru falls while standing at the top of Murchison falls unless you fly a drone. The view is blocked by that rock. To see Uhuru falls, you must take a hike to the top of the elevated cliff on the south bank of the river. From there, the view of the twin falls is spectacular for keen photographers.  

Will Uhuru Falls remain permanent?

One wonders if the rock that divides the falls will remain or be eroded away by the forces of nature. Only time will tell, making a visit to Murchison falls national park to see them an urgent one one. Seasonal changes in the amount of rainfall also affects the water levels in Lake Victoria which in the end also affects the waters in the Nile.

Any changes that take place soon or later are likely to affect the shape of the waterfalls. “Victoria Nyanza water levels reached 1137.29 meters above mean sea level on May 19, 2021, higher than normal baseline” NASA Earth Observatory satellite data records dating to 1992 indicates that the construction hydro-power stations along the Victoria Nile in Jinja moderates the increasing water levels. For instance, when Nalubale power plant was expanded in 1999 and the subsequent drought in the early 2000s, water levels subsided. Many people began to settle closer to the lakeshores clearing vegetation and draining swamps for cultivation and fishing. However, they were affected by floods when water levels began to rise again in 2020 and 2021. Environmental geologists under the Lake Victoria Basin Initiatives are working to offer solutions to the people while also preserving nature. 

Colonial history of Murchison falls 

The falls were named by Sir Samuel Baker (British Explorer) in honour of Sir Roderick Impey Murchison (Scottish geologist) who was the president of the Geological Society of London in 1864. After Uganda became a British protectorate in 1894, there was still resistance from the traditional kingdoms including the mighty Bunyoro Kitara empire. The falls were part of the territory of Kabalega (Omukama) king of Bunyoro, which had control of the land in western Uganda encompassing present day Fort Portal city, Kibale forest, Budongo forest, and Murchison falls national park.

With intent to bring it under one political umbrella, Baker and his fellow colonial agents including Gerald Portal built a stone fort right on the mouth of the gorge to seperate Bunyoro Kitara from the Acholi and other chiefdoms in northern Uganda. The landmark still stands today but is partially submerged. There was a man-made bridge already allowing people to cross from either side trading in among other goods including ivory from the north and salt from the west in Lake Katwe, Queen Elizabeth national park. In doing so, the colonial agents must have had terrible ordeals and faced cruelty for their iron handedness against the will of the locals. 

The historical Masindi Hotel

What was Kabalega national park was renamed as Murchison falls. The British gained control over the territory with the arrival of the British East African Railway line that was built all the way from Mombasa Kenya to Kasese for the rich copper and cobalt at the base of Rwenzori mountains national park. A station and hotel were also built in Masindi town, which is a 1-hour drive to access Murchison falls for game drives and boat cruises and Budongo forest for chimpanzee tracking safari. Masindi Hotel was built in 1932, and is still welcoming visitors. Influential people have stayed there including the famous author, Ernest Hemmingway. Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn camped at the hotel during the course of shooting the “African Queen” film.

There’s so much history about Murchison falls and the reason to visit the park. In Budongo forest, you can track chimpanzees and visit the Royal Mile walk created by king Kabalega. The walk offers excellent bird watching opportunities with over 300 species of birds in the forest including the green-breasted pitta, which is also found in Kibale forest. Budongo forest was also a resettlement place for the Polish refugees during World War II. You can visit the Polish Catholic Church at Nywebeya whilst in Budongo forest for chimp tracking.

Murchison falls isn’t only famous for the twin falls and rich history, but also for the rich biodiversity including 79 mammal species and over 415 species of birds. Due to ongoing oil exploration, development, and production in the northwest of the park along the Albertine graben. Many people have access to the park like never before. During the construction of the tarmac road that cuts through the Budongo forest and the savanna to the north region, it looked like nature was being repressed. But it’s not the case. Due to strict conservation measures and the work done by Uganda Wildlife Authority, nature has regenerated quickly. The trees and shrubs along the edge of the road attract wild animals such as elephants, buffaloes, Nubian giraffes, Uganda kobs, waterbucks, and warthogs.  The speed limit is 40 km/hour given that animals are crossing even at sections where there’s no signage. Over speeding can lead to road kill and it is an offense with a high penalty.

Rwanda Gorillas Safari

Akagera National Park

Akagera is the only savannah protected area of Rwanda and a must-visit for big 5 Rwanda safaris and boat cruise experience. The park is one of Rwanda’s most successful conservation initiatives with the Big 5 mammals including lions and black and white rhinos that were brought back after extinction in 2009. Situated on the eastern border of Rwanda with Tanzania, Akagera is 164 km (2-hour drive) east of Kigali capital city. It was established in 1934, and named after Akagera river which flows through the eastern edge and forms a large wetland containing 10 freshwater papyrus swamp lakes including Lake Ihema the largest, along with Lake Shakani known for spot fishing and Lake Rwanyakizinga in the south. The elevation of Akagera ranges from 1,286m (4,219 ft) to 1,718m (5,636 ft) above sea level. The northern part of the park is characterized by a variety of habitats including rolling hills, open acacia savanna, riparian woodlands and dense dry bushes which harbor rich biodiversity including buffaloes, hippos, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, 8 antelope species and over 480 species of birds including Lake Victoria basin endemics such as blue-breasted bee-eaters.

History
The park’s area once extended for 2,500 sq.km and contained rich biodiversity including African painted dogs and over 200 lions. However, the park’s biodiversity was largely affected during the Rwandan civil war in 1994. Many refugees settled there and carried out poaching and encroachment and the area of the park was reduced to 1,200 sq.km. As a result, wildlife populations dwindled including extinction of wild dogs, lions and rhinos. To address these challenges, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) entered into a long-term renewable partnership with the African Parks Network (APN) in 2009. “The non-profit conservation organization’s purpose is to take on direct responsibility for rehabilitation and long-term management of protected areas across the continent in partnership with governments and local communities.” Since 2010, the Akagera management company has made significant progress by restoring the ecosystem that supports all other species and nearby communities. Among the Big 5 animals, RDB shipped 30 white rhinos which came from South Africa, making the largest rhino translocation. Travelers come to Akagera for wildlife viewing, thus tourism is therefore important to ensure that the park becomes self-sustaining through revenue collection. Today, Akagera offers a big five wildlife viewing experience and a wide range of accommodations.

Attractions in Akagera National Park

Lake Victoria basin endemic birds
Akagera national park is home to over 480 species of birds of which 183 are intra-african and palearctic migrants including lesser striped swallow, stonechat, Wahlberg’s eagle, and Abdim’s stork. Migratory species are present in the park between November and April. In addition, there are tropical lowland savanna grassland species such as Ruaha chat, Red-faced barbet (Lybius rubrifacies), yellow throated leaf-love, short-tailed pipit, crested and double toothed barbets. The park’s extensive papyrus wetlands provide habitat to some of the Lake Victoria Basin Endemics including Marsh sandpiper, papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri), blue breasted bee-eaters, northern brown throated weaver, slender billed weaver, and papyrus yellow warbler. The Shoebill stork is present on Lake Ihema but rare to spot. Common water species include marsh tchagra, caspian plover, white-winged swamp warbler, marsh owl, lesser jacanas and dimorphic egrets. Akagera is also home to several large and medium-sized birds of prey including martial and booted eagles, grasshopper buzzard, sooty and Amur falcons.

Big 5 Mammals
Wildlife in Akagera National ParkAkagera is famous for harboring the Big Five mammals including lions, black and white rhinos, leopards, elephants and buffaloes. Besides, there are zebras, Maasai giraffes, warthogs and over 8 antelope species are found in Akagera National Park including impalas, elands, reedbuck, topi, kobs, klipspringers, kobs, sitatunga and waterbucks. Since 2010 the African Parks effective law enforcement and habitat restoration efforts have led to an increase in wildlife populations. A survey conducted in 2021 found that the monitored population of lions had grown from 17 to 37 lions in Akagera national park and elephants also grew by 20% from less than 30 to 133. There are over 4,000 buffaloes. There are also several small African wild cat species such as side striped jackals and African civets. Primate species of African savanna are also found in Akagera including velvet monkeys, olive baboons, and red-tailed monkeys.

Akagera National Park activities

Akagera National Park offers a wide range of activities including night game drives, boat cruise, spot fishing, birding, community walks and cultural encounters. Visitors are reminded to observe park rules and regulations to avoid a fine of $150.

Day game drives
Akagera offers game drives and boat cruises and combining both gives you opportunities to watch large animals in the African bush and aquatic wildlife on the lakes and swamps. Day game drives leave from any place of stay early in the morning and last for 3-5 hours depending on the wildlife to look out for. It’s advisable to take a break in the wild where it’s safe to get out of the car and wait for the next activity. This is especially for those intending to do the afternoon boat cruise excursion without having to return to the lodge for lunch break. The best time for game viewing is in June to September and December to February. There are higher chances to spot big 5 as well as zebras, giraffes, hippos, roan antelope, elands, warthogs, hyenas and lots of birds. Game drives in Akagera require 4×4 vehicles given that the dirt roads can be challenging. Driving off track isn’t allowed and attracts a fine of $150.

Boat cruises
Akagera offers a wide range of boat trips including scheduled morning, afternoon and evening sunset cruises and private non-scheduled trips. All cruises are done on Lake Ihema and offer the opportunity to spot hippos, Nile crocodiles, and water bird species. The scheduled morning boat trip cost is $35 per person for adults and $20 for children aged 6-12 years. It starts at 7:30 – and ends at 8:30 am. Each trip can take a maximum number of 11 people. The evening sunset boat cruise starts at 4:00 pm to 6:45 depending on sunset time and the cost is $45 and $30 respectively. The most popular afternoon boat cruise begins at 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

Night game drives
Night drives in Akagera national park are done using the park’s specialized 7-seater vehicle and begin at the African Park’s visitor centre between 7:30 pm or 8:00 pm until 10:00 pm. Visitors must obtain authorization and be accompanied by armed rangers who use spotlights to look for nocturnal wild animals that are active at night including lions and hyenas, owls, civets, genets, nightjars and porcupines. The private boat trip departs any time of the day and costs $180 per person for a maximum of 11 people.

Bird watching
Akagera National Park is home to over 480 species of birds including the endangered shoebill stork and papyrus gonolek. The park offers opportunities to spot Lake Victoria basin endemics such as white-winged swamp warbler, papyrus canary, northern brown throated weaver, carruther’s cisticola and the red-faced barbet. In order to get more out of the birding tour in Akagera, you need to select particular activities and accommodations. For instance, Magashi camp is located on the banks of Lake Rwanyakazinga and often visited by aquatic wildlife species especially water birds including miombo wren-warbler, African fish eagle, crested barbet and brown chested lapwings. A pair of binoculars is a must-have gear to scan the surrounding forests for Bennet’s woodpecker, Souza’s shrike, Ruaha chat, and long-tailed cisticola.

Spot fishing
Spot fishing in Akagera national park is done on Lake Shakani, home to several fish species including Nile Tilapia, the main fish caught for sport. Spot fishing permit cost is $25 for adults and $15 for children aged 6-12 years available for booking through a tour operator or RDB. Visitors should bring their own equipment or rent one at additional cost.

Community Walks
Local people formerly depended on the park resources for livelihood but tourism nowadays provides an alternative income. Travelers can be part of this positive change for Akagera national park. Community walks take visitors into the villages outside the park which often involves hiring local tour guides or supporting local businesses. You can also participate in Rwandan cultural experiences including witnessing the Inyambo long horn cows milking and banana beer brewing activity. Besides, you may stay at the park owned Karenge bush camps.

Behind-the-scenes experience
Learn about the conservation story of Akagera national park with the behind-the-scenes-tour available at the park headquarters. You’ll meet and interact with professional wildlife rangers for 1 and a half hours taking you through the park management strategies. The experience cost is $25 per person for 4 visitors and $180 for a group of 8 people.

Walk the line
Akagera park boundary fence stretches for 120 km and was built to control human-wildlife conflicts. Walk the line tour takes visitors along the fence for 7 km (2-hour walk) and cost is $30 per person for a maximum of 3 people.

How to get there
Akagera National Park is 164 km (2-hour drive) east of Kigali capital city with a straight tarmac road stopping in Kayonza town, which is 27 km away from the park entrance gate. The park can also be accessible by air through Akagera Aviation helicopter flights.

Accommodations
Akagera offers a wide range of accommodations including budget camping, medium and luxury tented camps and lodges. Camping in the park cost $25 per person per night for adults and $15 for children aged between 6 to 12 years.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National park

The only protected area with Impalas, giraffes and zebras in the region, Lake Mburo National Park is a must-visit for wildlife viewing. The park has unique Uganda safaris activities including a walking safari, cycling and horseback riding, which other parks don’t offer. In addition, the park also provides excellent bird watching, game drives, and boat cruises.
Lake Mburo is located in south west Uganda in the dry Ankole cattle corridor including Kiruhura, Isingiro and Mbarara districts. The area was traditionally dominated by Hima people with big Ankole longhorn cattle ranches. The history of Lake Mburo is intertwined with the heritage of the local people themselves. They have shaped the conservation of the park and still play a vital role today. The British colonial government gazetted Lake Mburo as a controlled hunting area in 1933. When the park was upgraded to a game reserve in 1963, there was an invasion of tsetse flies causing sleeping disease called Nagana that wreaked havoc on the cows.

Several attempts that were made to get rid of the disease led to widespread death of both wildlife and domestic animals. The Uganda Game Department by then officially established lake Mburo national park in 1983, evicting and causing many cattle herders to flee from their ancestral land. After the National Resistance Movement established a new government, many people returned to the park throughout the 1990s. The new wildlife conservation policies with creation of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in 1996 started involving local communities in the management of protected areas. This helped to regulate human encroachment while benefiting people through tourism and revenue sharing schemes. Today, the communities adjacent to Lake Mburo are living in harmony with wildlife. The early historical sites of the Banyankole were recognized and can be found in the park including Rubanga Forest.

Vegetation
The park’s 370 sq km (142.8 sq mi) is made up of the Nakivale wetland system, which includes five lakes of which Lake Mburo is the largest. Wetland habitats occupy over 20% and are mostly found at the park’s lower elevations, 1,220 meters – 1,828m. These swamps are linked with tropical forests such as Rubanga forest and dense bushes. Much of the park though is dominated by open savanna grasslands and woodlands with acacia and euphorbia trees that are studded with rocky outcrops and gentle sloping hills.

Mammals
There are 69 mammal species in lake Mburo national park of which 9 are antelope species including impalas, bushbucks, topi, eland, oribi, reedbuck, waterbucks, Uganda kob, and klipspringer. The Sitatunga, which dwells in the swamps, is rare to see. Other large mammals often seen include Cape buffaloes, Nubian giraffes, plains zebras and common warthogs. There are no elephants, lions and hyenas in the park. Leopards are present in the park but are elusive given that their population is little and not well known. Visitors can spot the big cats from time to time especially during night game drives. Lake Mburo, other lakes and swamps provide home to hippos and Nile crocodiles.

Birds
Lake Mburo National ParkBirds are a major attraction for safari in lake Mburo national park with 317 species recorded of which 35 are raptors including African harrier hawk, which is an African-Eurasian migrant. The largest concentration of raptors in Uganda can be found at Lake Mburo, which is second only to Kidepo valley. Martial Eagle, the largest bird of prey, is also found in the park along with the African crested eagle, gray kestrel and vultures including white-headed, Reppell’s griffon and white-headed vultures.

Lake Mburo national park activities

Walking safari
Given that game drives involve staying in a vehicle in most of the Uganda national parks, Lake Mburo offers the best walking safari. The walk on foot with an armed ranger is a chance to experience the sights and sounds of the wild African bush. Besides spotting large mammals like giraffes and buffaloes, you can see some of the least considered species such as scarab beetles. You will also learn how to look for animal foot tracks and other things that are easy to miss by those who drive a 4×4 vehicle looking for large mammals. One condition for walking safari is to have an armed ranger and stick to the main path. However, it might be permitted to walk on trails depending on what is seen. Lake Mburo walking safari lasts 3 hours and is best done early in the morning when wildlife is most active. Those spending overnight in the park can do the walk before leaving the park.

Horseback safaris
Lake Mburo National ParkHorseback riding safari in Lake Mburo were introduced in 2008 by Mihingo, one of the luxury lodges in the park. Since then, the number of horses has increased and new routes were opened, giving you access to some of the parts of the park where other non guests don’t reach. The maximum weight horses can carry is strictly 85, however. There are strong horse breeds that carry 100 kgs. Mihingo horseback rides are available for both amateur and experienced riders. Experienced rides last 4-5 hours and go up to the Warukiri hill, where the view of almost all the 5 lakes surrounding the park.

Cycling safaris
You can cycle through Lake Mburo and spot wild animals such as zebras, buffaloes, impalas, giraffes, warthogs and elands. The trip will be booked depending on your biking abilities and what you would like to see along the way. Some routes go through the local communities where you might encounter herds of Ankole long cows along the way. You will see Lake Mburo in a unique way. Visitors must seek permission and be accompanied by an UWA ranger.

Birding
When it comes to birding safaris in Uganda, Lake Mburo is a must-visit for those intending to see both open savanna, forest and water bird species. There are over 317 species recorded including 35 raptors such as the African marsh harrier, martial eagle, gray, African fish eagle, dark chanting goshawk (melierax metabates), african harrier hawk, kestrel, brown snake eagle. The park also attracts southern migrant species including the brown-chested plover, which arrive in small numbers in the park during November. The bird can be spotted along the zebra trail in the open savanna habitat along with the northern ground hornbill. Trails along the shores of the lake and papyrus swamps offer opportunities to spot Lake Victoria Endemics such as papyrus gonolek as well as the African finfoot and the shoebill stork. Birding in lake Mburo national park is done mostly during the day, however. Visitors can also do birding at night to look for nocturnal owls and nightjars such as Verreaux’s eagle and African scops owls and the pennant-winged and fiery-necked nightjars.

Boat cruise
Lake Mburo National ParkBoat cruises in Lake Mburo offer opportunities to look for water bird species and aquatic wildlife species such as Nile crocodiles, hippos and sitatunga. The activity is available in the mid morning, afternoon and sundowners for those intending to observe equatorial sunsets. The banks of lake Mburo are enclosed by bushes and swamps, making it difficult to see buffaloes. However, sometimes you can see solitary bull buffaloes hiding on the shores under the canopy. Those intending to watch elephants and buffaloes can consider the boat cruise along the Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth and Nile River in Murchison falls national parks.

Community visits
Lake Mburo is located in the Ankole cattle corridor, and cultural tours are now focusing on the preservation of the Ankole cow heritage. Emburara fam and Mpogo safari lodges provide Ankole cow cultural experiences including milking cows. Those with enough time can see life in a day of a cattle herder. You can spend the day at the farm and accompany the boys as they go cow-watering and grazing in the bushes. Then go back home and talk to women to learn how milk is processed into goods like cow ghee. By doing this, communities near Lake Mburo are becoming more aware of the value of tourism and conservation while also producing more jobs.
For instance, the Enyemebwa Cultural and Educational Center was established by the Ankole Cow Conservation Association (ACCA) in collaboration with UWA. The center is found in the park, making it easier to visit and learn more about Ankole cattle heritage.

How to get there
Lake Mburo is 235 km (4-hour drive) south west of Kampala capital city through the Masaka-Mbarara highway. Lake Mburo has two entrance gates including Nshara, the first and Sanga being the second of which all are 24 km away from the Rwonyo, the visitor information center. Of the eight national parks in western Uganda, Lake Mburo is the one with the easiest access.
Africa Adventure Safaris offers offers tailormade Uganda safaris to Lake Mburo National park at affordable prices!

2 Days Mount Karisimbi Hike

Explore the tallest Volcano in the Virunga Conservation Area on this customized 2 Days Mount Karisimbi hike. Standing at 4.507 meters above sea level, Mount Karisimbi ranks as the 11th highest Volcano in Africa shared between borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mt Nyiragongo borders the Volcano in the west, Mount Mikeno in the north and Mount Bisoke in the east. The Volcano was named after the white snow”Amasimbi” which cover the summit mostly in the dry season in June, July and August. The other Volcanoes in the Virunga mountain region are Mount Bisoke Mount Mikeno, Mount Nyiragongo , Mount Nyamuragira, Mount Gahinga, Mount Gahinga and Mount Muhabura. Mount Karisimbi is one of the most hiked volcanoes in the Virunga Massif.

The slopes of the Volcano are habits to the endangered mountain gorillas (Karisimbi gorilla family) often met by travelers hiking up to the Volcano summit. Other primates that hikers can meet on the slopes of Mount Karisimbi include golden monkeys, Colobus monkeys and different bird species. The 2 Days Mount Karisimbi tour entail an overnight on the slopes of the Volcano

Trip summary
Day 1: Pick up, transfer to Volcanoes Park & Ascend
Day 2: Reach the summit & descend

Detailed Itinerary
Day 1: Pick up, transfer to Volcanoes Park & Ascend
Mount Karisimbi Hiking adventureVery early today, the driver guide representing Africa Adventure Safaris will pick you from your hotel in Kigali or the airport. Drive straight to Volcanoes National Park at Kinigi Park headquarters where you will be briefed on what to expect on this adventure and how to ensure safety all through. You will be given two armed ranger guides to lead you on this hike. At 8:00am, the real adventure begins! Transfer to the hiking starting point and begin the trek through different vegetation zones up to the summit. Mount Karisimbi hike is not an easy walk in the woods but rather a strenuous hike on a wild trail. The ranger guides will allow several breaks for calls of nature, refreshment and resting a bit. You will spend an overnight at 3,700 meters where the first camp is located. You are advised to rest early enough as you get ready for the next day. Dinner and overnight at the camp

Day 2: Reach the summit & descend
Rise up very early and begin a trek to the summit of the Volcano. Today’s hike is so steep and hectic but it’s worth it. Arrive at the summit to enjoy sunrise breakfast as you enjoy scenic views of other Volcanoes, National parks, towns and local communities. After having enough of it, hike down to the starting point to meet your driver guide for a transfer to either your hotel or the airport.
End of the tour

Tour Inclusions
Full time English speaking guide
Packed lunch
Accommodation & Meals
Bottled drinking water
Miscellaneous
Government taxes
Ground transport

Tour Exclusions
Porter’s fee
Alcoholic beverages
Extra activities not included on the itinerary

What to pack for hiking Mount Karisimbi
Hiking boots
Gardening gloves
Hat
Warm sweater/poncho for the cold nights
Walking stick
Bottled drinking water
Energy giving snacks
Long pants
Long armed browse or shirt

TO BOOK THIS TRIP,
Plan Your Trip

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Mount Bisoke Hiking Tour

1 Day Mount Bisoke Hike

Mount Bisoke is one of the 8 Volcanoes that make up the chain of Virunga Volcanoes. Located in Volcanoes National park on the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Bisoke is one of the easy to hike Volcanoes. The extinct Volcano stands at 3,711 meters above the sea level with clear views of the park and other volcanoes in the Virunga Conservation Area. Forests which shelter endangered mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and other primates cover the lower slopes of Mount Bisoke. Explore the 2 crater lakes on the summit of the Volcano best for scenic viewing and photography. Our customized 1 Day Mount Bisoke hike is a best package for this adventure

Trip details
Very early in the morning, our driver guide from Africa Adventure Safaris will pick you from either your hotel in Kigali or the airport for a transfer to Volcanoes National park at Kinigi park headquarters for registration and briefing. The park wardens will introduced you to the dos and don’ts of hiking Mount Bisoke to ensure safety all through. From there, drive to the hiking starting point and start off the adventure. The hike to the summit lasts for between 6-7 hours depending on your physical fitness and hiking speed. Later in the day, you will hike down and transfer to either your hotel or the airport for departure
NOTE: A walking stick and porter are highly recommended for this 1 Day Mount Bisoke hiking tour
End of the Tour

Tour Inclusions
Full time English speaking guide
Packed lunch
Bottled drinking water
Miscellaneous
Government taxes
Ground transport

Tour Exclusions
Porter’s fee
Alcoholic beverages
Extra activities not included on the itinerary

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Discounted gorilla permits in Rwanda

Low Cost Gorilla Permits in Rwanda

Travel to Rwanda and enjoy low cost  gorilla permits in  Rwanda to Volcanoes National park. Over the years, Rwanda has well known for her luxury gorilla safaris but she is now offering discounted gorilla permits to enable travelers visit gorillas cheaply. A single mountain gorilla permit in Rwanda is currently offered at $500, a huge slash from the actual $1500. The $500 applies to foreign residents while $200 is for East African citizens. Discounted gorilla permits in Volcanoes National park Rwanda are aimed at boosting tourism in the park and the whole country in general. Rwanda Development Board wants to make gorilla trekking accessible to as many travelers as possible. The campaign for promotional gorilla permits in Volcanoes National park began in 2021 when Rwanda reopened for tourism after close to a full year of closure due to covid19.

Discounted gorilla permits in RwandaThe reduction of gorilla permit prices will also benefit local communities surrounding Volcanoes National park. Every 20% of each gorilla permit is given to local communities to help them improve their standards of living. The increased number of travelers also creates ready market for locally produced products from which locals earn a living. The 20% community share on the gorilla permit

More, discounted gorilla permits will bring in more people who will learn on the lifestyles of mountains gorillas and conservation. The increased awareness about gorilla conservation will definitely favor mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas were once among the critically endangered primates in the world. However, thanks to the conservation efforts that have seen gorilla numbers rise to roughly 1006. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, mountain gorillas are no longer critically endangered but rather endangered species at the moment. We believe that increased tourist visit will increase gorilla conservation awareness and hence sustainability

Terms of getting discounted gorilla permits in Rwanda

  1. If you are traveling in peak season between June to September, booking for discounted permits is required attests a months before the trekking date.
  2. Travelers are required to identify citizenry when purchasing discounted Rwanda gorilla permits
  3. Non-Foreign travelers are not eligible to the discounted rates . These will pay a normal rate of $1500 per permit
  4. Foreign residents are asked to present work permits when buying discounted permits

How to book discounted Rwanda gorilla permits

  • First choose your planned gorilla trekking date. This should be early as 5 weeks before your travel time.
  • Booking through a travel operator is the easiest way to reserve discounted gorilla permits in Rwanda
  • You will then share your passport details with the operator
  • If you are a foreign resident, you are required to send in a work permit
  • Send your money for purchasing the gorilla permit
  • Ensure to receive a permit confirmation receipt from your travel agent

NOTE: Africa Adventure Safaris is your trusted  safari company to travel with. We help you book and reserve discounted gorilla permits in Rwanda plus tailor making Rwanda safaris

Luxury Gorilla Safaris in Rwanda

Luxury Gorilla Safaris in RwandaEven after the introduction of discounted mountain gorilla permits, Rwanda remains a luxury gorilla safari destination in Africa. The Land of a Thousand Hills upgraded to a luxury destination in 2017 when it doubled the cost of gorilla permit from the $750 to $1500. This was at first seen as a risk of losing many travelers to Rwanda but it turned out to be opposite. Rwanda gorilla market grew bigger than before. in 2018 just a year after the hike of gorilla permit prices, Rwanda hosted 1.71 million visitors, an 8% increase compared to the number of visitors that had visited the site in 2017.

What makes Rwanda safaris luxury?

There are many things which when combined make Rwanda a luxury tour destination. First of all is the expensive mountain gorilla permit. YES, a single gorilla permit in Rwanda equals to two gorilla permits in Uganda and 3 gorilla permits in Rwanda. Each gorilla permit in Rwanda costs $1500, which is far higher compared to $700 in Uganda and $450 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition to the gorillas, Rwanda has established numerous luxury lodges and hotels to offer excellent food and sleeping services to travelers.. Some examples of luxury accommodation facilities in Rwanda include Bisate Lodge in Volcanoes National park, One and Only Nyungwe House in Nyungwe Forest National park, Akagera Game Lodge in Akagera National park and many others. A stay at any of the luxury lodges in Rwanda will offer you the best feeling worth the money

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National Parks in Uganda

Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale forest national park is located in Kabarole district in the Toro kingdom and subregion in western Uganda. The protected area covers 776 sq.km (296 sq.miles) with an 180 sq.km forest corridor that adjoins Queen Elizabeth national park to the south west. Notable geographical features around Kibale include the spectacular Ndali-Kasenda volcanic crater filled lakes, which provide a great road trip stopover for keen photographers. The communities living around the Kibale have a population of over 337,800 people according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), 2020. The people are mainly interlacustrine Bantu speaking tribes including Batooro, Bafumbira and Bakiga. Those living adjacent to the park are actively involved in sustainable utilization of natural resources to enhance conservation in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Kibale forest was first gazetted in 1932 and established as a national park in 1993 mainly to protect chimpanzees.
Before being turned into a protected area, Kibale forest significantly provided food and forestry resources to the locals. Due to human encroachment, the southern portion of the park was cut off and is known today as Bigodi wetland sanctuary. Kibale today is surrounded by tea plantations and cultivated farmlands including Bigodi swamp, covering 4 sq.km in length, is a community conserved area. The local people are recognized as sole managers of the swamp through the Kibale Association for Rural Development (KAFRED). Bigodi wetland is open for tourism which generates revenue to address community challenges through projects including clean and safe water, housing for elderly women, culture and crafts promotion.

Flora
Kibale Forest National ParkKibale forest national park has an elevation of 920-1,590 meters above sea level, it’s a hilly region at the base of Rwenzori Mountain Range. The forest ecosystem has a variety of vegetation including moist evergreen broad-leaved forests, tropical highland forest, semi-deciduous tropical forests, which cover 77% of the park. The park also contains grasslands, woodlands, bushlands, swamps and wild conifer plantations. During the dry season (June to September and December to February), the semi-deciduous trees show partial loss of foliage, creating a beautiful scenery in the southern part. Some trees in Kibale forest reach up to 45-meters high with large buttress roots. These gigantic trees occur in the dense tropical highland forest areas in the centre and southern parts of Kibale. In the north of Kibale called Sebitoli, the vegetation contains over 70% regenerating forests with fig trees due to the commercial timber extraction that took place in the 1950s. The region is also home to chimpanzees, which are being studied because of the numerous farms that surround it.

Wildlife
This habitat supports rich biodiversity with 13 primate species, the highest concentration of primates in East Africa. These include over 1,450 chimpanzees, gray cheeked mangabeys, red colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys, olive baboons, velvet monkeys, Demidoff’s poto, black and white colobus monkeys, L’hoest monkeys and the Ugandan mangabeys. The protected area is also home to 340 species of birds of which the green-breasted pitta recorded only there. According to Nature Uganda, there are other two forest species including Nahan’s francolin and forest ground thrush found in only 3 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Uganda. Common forest species in Kibale include great blue turaco, yellow rumped tinkerbird, masked apalis, yellow spotted barbet, white-napped pigeon, superb sunbird, black-billed turaco, gray-throated tit flycatcher, speckled tinkerbird, white-thighed hornbill, blue-shouldered robin chat and purple -breasted sunbirds.
The grassland corridor linking Kibale to Queen Elizabeth national parks acts as a migrating route for African elephants and buffaloes. Smaller mammal species also occur in Kibale forest including giant forest and common warthogs, bush pigs, bushbucks, blue and red duikers, serval and African golden cats.
UWA estimates that Kibale forest contains over 200 butterflies, making an interesting diversity for butterfly watching enthusiasts. Butterflies of Kibale forest national park include the patterned African map butterfly, common leopard (phalanta phalantha), western blotched leopard, green banded swallowtail (papilio parcos), red glider and Crossley’s Forest queen. Watching butterflies in Kibale is rewarding given that they can be found everywhere in the park. Butterflies are known to feed on the dung of primates as well as mammals that live in Kibale.

Activities

Chimpanzee tracking
KIbale Forest National ParkWith over 1,500 chimpanzees, Kibale forest national park is one of the best destinations to see chimpanzees in the wild. UWA has since 1993 habituated several communities of which four are open for tourism including the most visited Kanyantale troop with over 15 members. Chimpanzee trekking experience in Kibale is conducted twice daily; at Kanyanchu, the park visitor center, a morning session starts at 8:00 am and in the afternoon at 2:00pm. The chance of meeting our closest relatives is 99% better at Kibale forest than when tracking in Kyambura gorge, Budongo and Kalinzu forest reserves. Chimps can be observed feeding on forest floor or in tree canopies during the fruiting season. The best time for chimpanzee tracking in Kibale is the dry season when the forest trails are dry, between June to September and December to February. Hiking can be challenging due to the nature of terrain. However, a visitor who may need help whilst hiking can hire a porter at an extra cost of $30.

Chimpanzee habituation experience (CHEX)
Chimpanzee habituation is meant for those intending to spend more time with chimps and learn about their social behavior. The experience entails visiting wild chimps that are not fully accustomed to human presence. This means that the chimps may be fearsome when visitors approach them but the encounters might still be up-close. What makes habituation experience interesting is that you will get to follow chimps from morning till noon. With the help of habituators, researchers, UWA guides and trackers, you’re able to study the social behavior of chimps including nesting, grooming, foraging and hunting for food. The session also involves collecting data on how chimps are responding to visitors on a daily basis.

Kibale night forest walk
The night forest walk offers an opportunity to listen to the sounds of nature. You might spot some nocturnal creatures such as bushbabies, frogs and insects. The walk begins at 7:00 pm in the evening and lasts for 1 hour or so. Booking is available at the Kanyanchu visitor center.

Bigodi swamp walk
Bigodi swamp is 4.6 sq.km from Kibale forest national park, making it easy to access for a swamp walk usually done in the afternoon after chimp tracking. Bigodi’s big attractions are the over 200 species of birds and 8 primate species including the black and white colobus monkeys, red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, velvet monkeys. The swamp is also home to antelope Sitatunga, though not easy to spot. The nature trails and boardwalks allow visitors to access the interior and walk through the swamp. Having a tour guide will help you to spot birds and primates as well as identify some of the medicinal plants and those that women use to weave baskets and mats. Visiting Bigodi helps the community to sustainably manage the resources and continually benefit tourism and conservation.
In addition to the swamp walk, visitors can also take a walk through the community and visit a herbalist for his stunning metaphysics.

Ngogo chimpanzee research
The purpose of Ngogo Chimpanzee Project in Kibale forest national park is to undertake scientific research on the chimp’s ecology in relation to other wildlife and surrounding communities. Dr. Thomas Struhsaker who founded the Makerere University Biological Field Station in the 1970s has become one of the earliest field investigations on primate ecology in Africa. The Ngogo Chimpanzee Project Inc. is a Massachusetts-based corporation that is exempt from federal income tax under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). Those intending to participate in learning about the behaviour of chimps, Ngogo project offers internship opportunities for researchers and biologists.

Accommodations
Kibale Forest has a variety of lodging options, including super-luxury, mid-range and budget lodges. The majority of the lodges are outside the park, except Primate Lodge, which is inside the forest next to the visitor centre. When booking accommodation through a tour operator, you should ask about its location to determine the driving distance to Kanyanchu visitor centre. It’s also crucial to know the atmosphere given that some of the accommodations are located on the edge of crater lakes including Ndali, Kyaninga lodge and crater safari lodges. Africa Adventure Safaris helps you to book and reserve your desired accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park

How to get there
Kibale forest national park (KNP) is 334 km (5-hour drive) west of Kampala capital city, 244 km (4-hour drive) south west of Murchison Falls and 120 km (2-hour drive) north of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Fort Portal tourism city, the nearest town, is 32 km (40 min drive) away. The park can also be reached by air through the Kasese airport, which is 64.2 km (1-hour 34 min drive) to Kanyanchu, the park headquarters.

Safari guide to Uganda

Uganda Travel Guide For First Time Travelers

If you are planning a Uganda safari, you definitely need Uganda travel guide to ensure peaceful and enjoyable safari. Every Traveler Visiting Uganda, the Pearl of Africa hopes to enjoy its beauty, hospitality of the people and sceneries as much as it is always praised but for a first-time traveler, things might look different from what you are used to back home. While the differences can sometimes become interesting, at times they are confusing. Because it is every traveler’s dream to have memorable experiences at a destination, we bring you this ultimate travel guide for first-time travelers in Uganda, check with Africa Adventure Safaris for details
When to visit Uganda
For every first-time traveler to Uganda, the question of “when to visit Uganda” is undeniable and we are excited to tell you that any month is perfect to visit the Pearl of Africa. Tourist activities in this country are offered all year round, although experiences tend to differ across seasons- wet or dry season. For instance, if you undertake game drives during the wet season (March to May, October to November), you will notice that grass is taller and watering points are scattered throughout the savannah Parks hence it becomes a lot of work to sight animals during game drives. This is not the case with dry seasons (June to September and December to February) where the grass is shorter and watering points are fewer hence it is easier to spot animals. However, let’s bust your bubble that due to climate change, seasons keep changing and it rains or shines when you least expect it.

Where to visit
While there are individual itineraries on popular National Parks in this beautiful country, it is possible to tailor-make your own packages to fit your interest. If you are looking for game viewing experiences, the best places are Murchison falls, Lake Mburo, Queen Elizabeth, and Kidepo Valley National Parks. If your dream is to meet face to face with the mountain gorillas, your adventure will be in Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks but if you hope to get up close with our closest relatives in the animal kingdom (chimpanzees), then Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo Forest, Kyambura Gorge, and Kalinzu Forest are some of the places to appear on your itinerary. There is everything for everyone in Uganda.

Visa requirements
Travelers holding passports from Madagascar, Angola, Eritrea, Ireland, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Rwanda, Barbados, Seychelles, Swaziland, Singapore, Jamaica, Belize, Solomon Islands, Lesotho, and Cyprus among others don’t need to apply for a Visa when entering Uganda. For more Visa information, kindly check https://www.immigration.go.ug/services/tourist-visa

Drink and Food
Food in UgandaFrequent travelers to Uganda possibly enjoy some of the country’s delicacies such as “Rolex” but for a first-time visitor, this might be a challenge. There are a number of tips in regard to dining and drinking while in this beautiful country.
Avoid drinking tap water during your safari in Uganda because unlike what you are used to back home, the water isn’t as safe as you might think. Instead, opt for bottled water for drinking and even brushing your teeth to avoid any chances of typhoid or cholera. Additionally, even ice and ice cubes should be avoided unless provided in well-established bars, Hotels, and restaurants.
Don’t be scared of trying some of the country’s menus in restaurants and Hotels as this is one of the ways of experiencing the heart and soul of Uganda.

Culture
Uganda, like any other country you are visiting, has a number of cultures and traditions that you ought to respect. There are a number of dos and don’ts in this country that will make your trip as memorable as possible and these include;
The number one rule is simply respecting the culture of the people and you will have your best time.
Dress decently (anything that covers your knees is decent enough for female travelers). If visiting Palaces, make sure you are in long dresses and skirts (for females) and pants for men.

Health
There are a number of compulsory inoculations required for Uganda and these include the yellow fever vaccination certificate and the complete COVID-19 Vaccination. For the latter, you won’t be stopped from visiting because you aren’t vaccinated, although you will be required to present a negative PCR test result attained in the last 72 hours prior to traveling.
Most places you will visit in Uganda have mosquitoes and for this reason, it is advisable to carry mosquito repellant and always wear light-colored clothing. Also, it is recommended to pack some anti-malarial drugs into Uganda, especially when planning to visit remote places where access to Hospitals takes some time.
Ensure that you are always hydrated during your Uganda safaris. Never undermine the effects of humidity and sunshine in this country, regardless of whether it is hot or cloudy.

Money
Uganda travel guideUganda Shilling is the National Currency of Uganda, and you will need it during grocery shopping, paying at restaurants, transport, souvenir shopping and other small transactions. For this reason, it is important to exchange small amounts of money into Shillings before leaving home. The best exchange rates are in Banks and Forex Bureaus in Kampala or Entebbe.

Language
Majority (if not all) of the National Parks, Safari Lodges, and other tourist areas, locals will speak at least some English and you won’t have many challenges. However, if you experience a language barrier, Ugandans will try using sign language and offer a smile which enhances visitor experiences. One of the most exciting and courteous things you can do is learn a few words in Swahili or the dominant language in the place of visit. Key words to learn are “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye”.

What to pack
For any kind of safari in Uganda, there are a number of things that shouldn’t miss on your packing list and they include a rain jacket, lightweight and breathable clothing (pants, long/short sleeved shirts), a hat, gardening gloves (if you plan on trekking chimps, gorillas and hiking mountains), hiking boots, sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen, toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, hand and body lotion, hair comb, wet wipes and sanitary towels for female travelers), a basic first aid kit, a backpack, to mention but a few.

Best Places to Stay in Virunga National park

Accommodations in Virunga National Park

Accommodations in Virunga national park include a luxury lodge and several medium range safari tented camps. Travelers on Congo safaris can also find lodging in Goma city, which is 48.5km via N2 (1 hour 20 min drive) to Rumangabo, the main visitor center. Virunga is best known for mountain gorilla trekking and hiking Mt. Nyiragongo 3,470 m (11,385 feet), which is Africa’s most active volcano. Regardless of where you stay, you will have access to Africa’s oldest protected areas with rich biodiversity including mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, African elephants, over 700 species of birds and 2,077 plant species of which 230 are Albertine rift endemics. Virunga National Park is a UNESCO world heritage site covering 7,800 sq.km which encampasses a variety of habitats such as tropical forests, savanna active volcanoes, plains, rivers, lakes, wetlands and the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountain ranges. The park has different sectors including the southern, eastern and northern and those visiting should know where to go in Virunga national park.

The Southern area
The southern Virunga sector, also known as Kibumba contains the main visitor center at Rumangabo, where gorilla trekking begins. There’s also Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage center, which opened in 2010 to take care of the gorillas that survive poaching and snares. The area includes Mount Mikeno (extinct volcano) and the active Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo volcanoes. The beautiful scenery in southern Virunga makes it a nice place to visit for keen photographers.

Central sector (Lulimbi)
The central sector is actually in the eastern part of Virunga, which borders Ishasha wilderness Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. In contrast to the south, the area contains savanna plains, riverine forests which attract large mammal species including lions, elephants and buffaloes. There’s only one lodging option, Lulimbi tented camp, visitors who stay there have a chance to do game drives.

Accommodations

Mikeno Lodge
Accommodation in Virunga National parkMikeno lodge is set on the foothills of Mount Mikeno at Rumangabo, the headquarters of Virunga National Park. It has 12 stone-built cottages with grass thatch roofs surrounded by the Mahura forest teeming with monkeys and birds, making it a perfect place for nature lovers. Each cottage contains en-suit bathrooms with hot and cold showers. There’s a fireplace and private lounge in every room guaranteeing maximum relaxation. Hydro power is available for you to charge your gadgets with 2 pin standard plugs in the rooms and in the main lodge building, restaurant and bar. The raised platform offers a view of the forest as you enjoy food including honey roasted butternut with avocados mousse. The lodge has a garden and also obtains vegetables and tropical forests from the community farmers, making it sustainable.

Tchegera tented Camp
Tchegera tented camp has six safari tents set on the crescent-shaped island in Lake Kivu. Rooms feature en-suite bathrooms, hot and cold water and can host up to 8 guests. The camp is 58 km (1-hour drive) north of Virunga National Park gorilla center. Staying there means that you will wake up early in the morning to arrive on time for gorilla trekking. However, it’s a nice place to stay with a soothing atmosphere and spectacular views of the active Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. Visitors can enjoy water activities including boat cruises, kayaking and canoeing. Food and drinks including congolese local cuisine are provided at the restaurant.

Bukima tented camp
Accommodation in Virunga National ParkBukima tented camp is 10-minute walk from the gorilla center and close to the ranger station, making it a safer place to stay in Virunga national park. Inside the tents, you will find king-size beds, hot showers, sitting chairs and en-suite bathrooms. Besides the restaurant and bar, the camp has an outdoor fireplace and dining option.

Kibumba Tented camp
Kibumba tented camp is 30 km (less than 1-hour drive) from Virunga National Park and 29 km from Goma city. There are 18 high quality safari tents each with en-suite bathrooms and hot showers. The restaurant and bar is available for guests to enjoy food and drinks. The camp is set in the community and welcomes guest donations of any nature. There are gardens for guests to enjoy the beautiful views of the park’s volcanoes.

Lulimbi tented camp
Accomodation in Virunga National parkOne of the best accommodations for nature lovers to stay in Virunga national park, Lulimbi tented camp offers 10 safari tents with en-suit bathrooms. The camp is built on the banks of Ishasha river in the eastern part of Virunga national park. The area contains both riverine forests and savanna plains, which attract mammal species including elephants, congo buffaloes, hippos and giant forest hogs often graze around. The camp is 160 km away from the park visitor center, thus can be used as an option for those intending to explore the different side of Virunga. In addition to gorillas, guests at Lulimbi tented camp can enjoy safari game drives.
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