Game Viewing Safaris in Uganda
Game drives can be done in two ways that is through self-drives or guided game drives. Self-drives are where tourists hire out their tour vehicles and drive themselves to different destinations. Self-drives are good especially if you want to gain new experiences but the downside of going for self-drives is that it is a bit expensive and you might miss out on the best views since you do not know the best spots for game viewing.
Guided drives are arranged by local tour operators and this is where you are provided with a driver-guide who will take you to your destinations, look for the best spots for wildlife viewing and also ensure that the drive is enjoyable and comfortable throughout your stay.
This is a guide on what to expect during the safari drives, what you should pack, the best drive destinations, and the wildlife that you get to see while on your safari to Uganda. Game drives in Uganda are done in the mornings and late afternoons when the animals are extra active.
When To Go For A Game Drive? Game drive schedules
Game drives in Uganda normally follow two schedules that is in the mornings and late afternoon. Each session can take about 2 to 4 hours with the first session beginning very early in the morning when the animals are still active and the second session in the evening and this can end with a sundowner with your friends. It does not matter which session you are taking just know that the memories from your game drive will be the best.
Night game drives
Night game drives offer a whole new experience for tourists as you get to see the other side of wildlife in Uganda. Night safari drives are optional activities and require one to pay extra money to be able to participate in them. They normally start at 6:30 or 7:00 pm and take almost two to three hours. Things that you should know before going for a night drive have been listed below:
You are to be escorted by a tour guide and an armed ranger on every night safari drive in any National Park in the country.
Your vehicle should keep to the clearly marked trails to avoid knocking down animals during the night drive
A spotlight is used to help in spotting the animals easily
Carry something warm for your night drive
Make sure you are quiet so that you do not disturb the nocturnal animals.
Game drive destinations in Uganda
Safari drives are the best way in which one can explore the expanse of the different National Parks in Uganda and viewing the wildlife. Some of the most popular safari drive destinations include Murchison falls national Park in north-western Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National in south-western Uganda, Kidepo National Park in North-eastern Uganda, and Lake Mburo National Park in south-western Uganda. Game drives in these destinations can be done with other activities like nature walks, birding, boat cruises, and cultural tours.
Lake Mburo National Park
Some of the animals that you get to see while on a safari drive in Lake Mburo include Mongoose, zebras, Oribi, Kilspringers, elands, antelopes, and bush rats among others. Safari night drives are also carried out in lake Mbur0 National Park starting at around 7:00 pm till 9:00 pm. Night drives normally last for 2 to 3 hours and you will get to see nocturnal animals moving around the National Park and some of the animals might approach the vehicle during the drive.
Normal safari drives in Lake Mburo are carried out in the morning and late afternoons during the dry season which is experienced from June to September and from January to February.
Kidepo National Park
Kidepo is among the top ten visited National parks in the country and is found in the North-eastern part of the country. Kidepo has unique wildlife that can be seen in abundance in their natural habitats. The park is divided into two sections that is the kidepo valley and Narus valley.
Kidepo valley has less concentration of animals as compared to the Narus valley and it was named after the National Park.
The animals that can be seen in Kidepo while on game drives include Burchell’s zebra, Bohor reedbuck, giraffes, Jackson’s Hartebeests, wolf-eared bats, oribis, cheetahs, waterbucks, leopards, kudus, and elands.
Narus Valleys n expanse sssavannahrassland which has the largest animal concertation in Kidepo National park.
Best visited during the dry season when the animals are around the available waterholes, Narus valley is the best place for game drives, and some of the animals seen here include antelopes, hippos, bushbucks, and African caped buffalos, giraffes, elephants, Ugandaob and waterbucks among others.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is a top tourist destination for tourists who love game viewing and one of the National parks found in Uganda that offers Game drives in the country. Located in the south western part of Uganda, game drives here are the best way in which you can view the wildlife in the National Park.
Game drives are carried out in the different sections that are found in the National Park and these are Ishasha, Kasenyi, Kazinga channel, and the Mweya peninsular which has the largest crowds of animals. Wildlife that you will get to see while on a game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park include buffalos, elephants, antelopes, baboons, warthogs, climbing lions in the Ishasha section, and giant forest hog, spotted hyenas, waterbucks, and crocodiles among others.
Queen Elizabeth also offers night game drives at an extra cost and the best part about night drives is that they are not crowded, you need a strong spotlight and you get to see the wild nocturnal animals, especially the big cats hunting.
Murchison Falls National park
Murchison Falls National Park is located in the Albertine region in the North-western part of Uganda 5 to 6 hours away from Kampala. Murchison is also known as the Kabalega National Park is one of the most visited National Park in the country and famously known for having one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world with water flowing at 30o cubic meters every second.
Game drives through Murchison Falls National Park are the best way to get around the Park and explore all that it has to offer to tourists. Covering about 3840 square kilometers squared, Murchison is home to over 451 wildlife with about 76 of these being the different animal species and the rest the bird life in the Par.
Animals that you get to see while on a game drive around Murchison include out of the big five without the Rhinos that is lions, buffalos, elephants and leopards, kobs, Bushbucks, giraffes, antelopes, and hyenas. Murchison Falls National Park has three trails that are normally used and these are the Buligi trail a 7 kilometers road that goes through Paara in the northern part of the National park, the Victoria trail, and the Albert trail.
There are two game drive sessions carried out in Murchison and these are morning and evening sessions.
The morning session starts as early as 6:30 am and the one in the evening starts at 3 or 4:00 pm. Game drives can take 2 to 5 hours and these give you a chance to explore the park extensively.
Game drives are best done along the banks in the Northern part of the Park because this is where most of the animals converge for water, especially during the dry season.
What to take on a game drive safari
After planning your game drive safari, the next thing is to pack what you will need for example what to wear and the essentials needed. This list is to help you pack the right things so that you avoid unnecessary baggage.
Carry a sun hat, sunscreen for protection, and insect repellent due to the many bugs in the country. When looking for a hat, make sure it is in neutral colors to easily blend in with the wild.
Long-sleeved shirts, trousers, gloves, and scarves should be on your packing list. Uganda’s weather changes drastically and therefore you need to be prepared at all times. You might also need a raincoat especially during the wet season.
You need to carry a first aid kit with the essentials les, antiseptic, Band-Aids, plasters, pain killers, and spirit and stomach relievers to mention a few. It will be a long day driving through the National parks and therefore a first aid kit is needed for emergencies.
Due to the Covid outbreak, all the National Parks in Uganda will not allow you to access their premises without a mask and you have to sanitize at different points so carry a box of masks and sanitizer. Although Covid has reduced a bit, precautions are still being taken so as to protect the wildlife in the country.
A guidebook with detailed explanations of all wildlife in Uganda will be necessary especially if you want to be able to spot different animals in the country. A tour guide can help with identifying the animals but it is satisfying if you do it yourself.
Bottled water and energy has should be on top of your list since the drive can takes hours before you get a decent meal and you will want to enjoy your drive without being interrupted because of hunger.
Refillable water bottles are better since they will also reduce littering of the National Parks.
Comfortable shoes are a necessity because you will at one point get out of your vehicle in designated places to stretch and you do not want to be in uncomfortable shoes after sitting for a long time.
A camera, extra batteries, and binoculars are some of the gadgets that you will need while on a game drive in Uganda. The binoculars with an 8×30 magnification will help you spot the wildlife that is far away and the camera, capture those beautiful moments. Carry a waterproof and dustproof bag to keep your camera and other equipment safe.
Why conduct a game drive while on a Ugandan Safari?
One of the ways in which you can get the best out of your game drive is by frequently communicating with your driver guide on which type of animals you expect to see while on the safari drive, how many hours you need, and other activities that you would like to participate in besides the drive. This will help them to plan your day in the best possible ways so that you enjoy it maximum.
As you plan for your safari, first carry out enough research on the National Parks that you want to visit so that you can find out the different animals and birds found there and how good the game drives are before confirming and booking for the safari.
Game drives require a lot of patience because no one controls the animals, their movement, and how they react when they see humans. You will be sitting in your vehicle for a long time before probably spotting a few animals and that is why you should be patient. This patience should also be forwarded to the tour guide because they know exactly where to get the best views of the wildlife in Uganda.
Most tourists go on game drives with the aim of looking out for the big five which are highly advertised and get disappointed when they don’t get to see them keep an open mind and try looking out for the smaller animals besides the big five during the game drive because they are as well entertaining just like their counterparts.
Enjoying a game drive comes with a lot of concentration and yes we understand that you would like to capture those precious moments but spare some time and put the camera away so that you can enjoy the unfiltered real deal in front of you.
Game drive rules in Uganda
Safari drives around Uganda have been successful because of the many rules that were set up by the Parks’ management and the Uganda Wildlife Authority. These rules are to protect the wildlife from becoming endangered and extinct and they must be followed by every tourist because failure to do so might lead to fines and a ban from accessing the National Parks. Below is a list of the game drive rules.
Tourists are not allowed to move out of their vehicles while on game drives. This is because animals move freely around the National Parks and you do not want to be in their way while you are on foot.
You must keep a distance between yourself and the animals.
Most of the wildlife is territorial and this makes them dangerous if at any one time they think that they are in danger therefore to protect yourself and the animals, make sure that there is at least a distance of 50 to 100m.
In order for you to be able to go on game drives, you will need to pay an entrance fee which is valid for only 24 hours. Every tourist is expected to pay entrance fees to every destination that they plan on exploring.
Minimize on noise that is made during the safari drive as it might scare the animals away. If possible communicate in whispers, turn off your phones, and do not turn on the radios in the van. When there is peace and quiet, the animals can easily be viewed for a longer time.
No one is allowed to feed the animals because there have been incidences where the animals were poisoned. If you are found feeding them, you will be escorted out of the National Park.
A speed limit of about 60 kilometers per hour should be maintained while driving through the National Parks so that you do not knock down the animals.
Do not litter the park, do not smoke while in the park, and do not pick anything out of the National Park. You are supposed to live the Park the way you came in and follow all the guidelines given to you by the tour guide.
Safari vehicles used for game drives
Different vehicles can be used for game drives in Uganda and the most commonly used ones are the 4×4 vehicles (land cruisers or vans)with an open roof which allows you to easily view the animals. Other vehicles that can be used include salon cars and coasters when you are traveling in large groups.
Best time to go for game drives
The best time to go for game drives is during the dry season. Uganda’s climate is greatly affected by the equator creating two seasons that is the dry and wet seasons. The dry season is from December to February and then from June to Mid-August. Game is best viewed during this period because of the dried-up grass and animals moving towards the waterholes in the National Parks.
Safari drives can also be done during the onset of the rainy season to get a clear view of the beginning of the green season.
Planning a safari trip to Uganda is quite easy as long as you have the right tour operator to help you with the planning.
We can help in planning for the safari according to your budget, recommend what is good, and put everything that you want into consideration. Ask all the questions that you think need to be answered and after ironing out everything, start proper planning and packing for your trip to Uganda.