What to expect on a Uganda safari
Undertaking a Uganda safari is one of the best decisions you will ever make because the experiences derived last a lifetime. The more travelers visit Uganda-the pearl of Africa, the more they wish to go back. However, a safari to Uganda or any other African country isn’t like undertaking any other vacation and for this reason, it is always important to know what to expect on a Uganda safari.
Uganda was christened the Pearl of Africa for a good reason. It boasts of one of the most mind-blowing sceneries you will ever see, plethora of wildlife living in the National parks, Wildlife Reserves, Sanctuaries, Forest Reserves and other Protected Areas, diverse cultures with unique traditions that will take your breath away, lots of bird species (11% of the World’s total bird species and 60% of what Africa offers in terms of avifauna). Given all these spectacles, some visitors still don’t understand what a typical Uganda safari is all about. Therefore, here’s what to expect on a Uganda safari;
Expect early starts and late evenings
Uganda safaris are for larks (early birds) where you should expect to be awake before sunrise (when it’s still dark) because it is when the best game viewing experiences are enjoyed. Would you be interested in sighting the nocturnal animals during your game drives, then you have to be up early. Most game drives in Uganda begin as early as 6:30am with higher chances of sighting lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, serval cats, jackals, and others while on their hunt. It is therefore advised to go to bed immediately after dinner to allow you wake up early and not miss the best sights during these game drives. You can always have siesta after brunch or after the morning game drive.
Afternoon game drives usually end by dusk, after which you freshen-up and enjoy dinner. Evenings are also wonderful for sighting nocturnal wildlife as they are out for hunting.
Expect over 3-4 hours of game viewing
Typical game drives in Uganda last from 3 to 4 hours, sometimes driving under the hot sunshine (hence recommended to always pack wide brimmed hat and sunglasses), with bumping and bouncing while driving, given the fact that Park roads are mainly loose-surface paths. However, you sometimes don’t notice all these challenges as exciting wildlife species are being sighted during these game drives.
Even when you opt for the nature walks or primate walks (gorilla or chimp treks), you should expect up to 6 hours of walking before the primates being tracked are sighted. Therefore, patience and determination are required during Uganda safaris.
Expect to be in close proximity with wildlife while on a Uganda safari
Whether it is primate treks or game drives, expect to be in close proximity with wildlife. For the game drives, they are conducted with closed vehicles with open roofs and it is always exciting to see animals especially lions, giraffes and leopards getting close enough to the safari vehicle that you can even touch (but never do that). Simply keep calm and enjoy the beautiful sights. For the gorilla and chimpanzee treks, visitors stay only 7 and 8 meters respectively from the Great Apes while watching and photographing them. Surprisingly, some visitors have been lucky to be touched by mountain gorilla infants but when it happens, don’t panic and simply move back slowly to avoid irritating or scaring them.
No toilets in the wilderness or jungles
Mountain gorilla/chimpanzee treks last up to 6 hours while the game drives take between 3 and 4 hours, and during this time, you will be out in the jungles or wilderness without toilets. For this reason, your safari guide will first give you the opportunity to use the toilets before starting the activity and also, it is advisable to have minimal food before or during the activities. However, it doesn’t stop you from answering the call of nature as you can always use the bush/forest. The Ranger guide will dig a hole which will immediately be covered after use.
What to take with on a Uganda safari
Your ideal Uganda safari packing list shouldn’t miss breathable safari pants and long sleeved shirts of neutral color, comfortable hiking boots, insect repellants, a rain jacket, pair of binoculars, sunscreen for sun protection, a wide brimmed hat, guidebooks, camera with extra batteries and enough memory space, first aid kit, toiletries (like toothpaste, wet wipes, deodorant, hand and body lotion, toothpaste, sanitary towels for female travelers, to mention but a few).
Duration of the Uganda safari
The duration of your Uganda safari varies according to the activities you wish to undertake. For instance, if you have mountain gorilla trekking on your wish list, then you need one night in Entebbe or Kampala, then at least two nights or more in Bwindi then fly or drive the next day to Entebbe/Kampala or any other part of the country. You will therefore need a minimum of 4 days for gorilla tracking in Bwindi or even Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
When to go for the safari
Uganda is a beautiful all-year round safari destination whereby all the activities are available throughout the year. However, some months-March, April, May, October and November experience heavy rains which make gorilla and chimp trekking more difficult but also make it more difficult to sight animals during game drives as vegetation tends to grow higher and animals scatter all over their natural habitats, as pasture and water is abundant. For this reason, most travelers prefer the months of June, July, August, September and December because rains are reduced and walks are less challenging. Also, watering points have reduced in the savannah-dominated Parks hence animals converge around the few ones thus remarkable viewing experiences.
Where to visit during Uganda safaris
Uganda has 10 National Parks, 12 Wildlife Reserves and Sanctuaries but the unmissable ones are Bwindi, Murchison, Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley and Lake Mburo National Parks for their wide array of activities and unmatched experiences.