There are beautiful countries, and there is Uganda, the Pearl of Africa: the place where nature is extravagant in displays of splendour and serenity. The first visitor to call Uganda “the Pearl of Africa” was Henry Morton Stanley, but it was Winston Churchill who made the description world famous. In the 1908 memoire of his Africa Tour, the future Premier of Britain proclaimed: “…Uganda is a fairy-tale. You climb up … and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa … I say: ‘Concentrate on Uganda’. For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life – bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale — Uganda is truly the pearl of Africa.”
Uganda is 100% heaven on earth and this 18 day safari with Trekking Timmy is your ticket to discover why. The soils are fertile, the people are friendly, the culture is diverse, the wildlife is rich, and the landscapes are unbelievably lovely. Unlike most African destinations, the parks here are not managed like large zoos: the Ugandan safari is a game tracking experience and the parks are proper conservation areas—great care is taken to preserve the animals’ natural habitats. On this safari, you will experience life in some of Uganda’s most vibrant cities and towns, interact with cultural traditions preserved for centuries, enjoy wildlife expeditions as they were meant to be, and witness the loveliest countryside on a road trip that is one of travel’s best kept secrets.
All days start at first light so make quick friends with your alarm clock if you are not an early riser. The drives are scenic and fitted with breaks to ease road fatigue, the roads are well-maintained and include highways, dirt roads, and off-road tracks. However, while the vistas on the drives are breathtaking, explorers on this safari are advised to carry some snacks, a good book, or a playlist for their entertainment— some travelers are just not that into nature…
Day 1: Arrival at Entebbe International Airport
When you arrive at Entebbe International Airport, a Safari Specialist will be waiting to pick you up and take you to your hotel. In case you need help on anything, our Safari Specialist is on call to attend to you. Depending on what time your flight arrives, you may tryout an optional activity or relax at your hotel.
Day 2: Kampala, City Tour
Your safari begins on a light note, with a tour of Kampala City, the political and economic capital of Uganda. Our destinations today are the bustling centres of urban life and cultural sites associated with Buganda, the kingdom in which Kampala City is found. The expedition begins with tours of Buganda’s royal palace (Twekobe), parliament (Bulange), and a series of religious sites that map the remarkable story of how this city came into existence, and the cultural forces that brought it into being.
Optional: BodaBoda Experience
To leave Kampala without experiencing the BodaBoda ride is like going to Paris and not falling in love. It’s one of those things you have to do before you die. BodaBodas are motorcycle taxis with a unique sub-culture in Kampala City. On the face of it, they are just a handy way to get around crazy traffic, but there’s more to them than meets the eye. This excursion initiates you into the complexities of Kampala’s urban culture and is a great way to see the city through the eyes of its residents. We return to the hotel after the tour and to begin our first expedition into the countryside.
Day 3: Jinja, Source of the Nile
We rise early for a treat of one of the pearl’s most dynamic cultures. The expedition kicks off with a climb up Kagulu Rock, a natural feature said to be the birthplace of Busoga Kingdom, and a pioneer of African achievements that our Safari Specialist will tell you about. From here you will see more of the town and learn about Busoga’s history as we drive to the spot that made Uganda the most coveted colonial prize: the source of the Great River Nile. We will return to relax at your hotel in the evening but you may opt to check out Jinja’s nightlife.
Optional: Jinja Nightlife
Day 4: Jinja, Adventure City
Jinja is a place of fun and adventure. You wouldn’t know it if you drove through the town’s streets, with traders and trekkers walking lazily about. But then you get off the road and a whole new world opens up! That’s when you realize you have stumbled into the greatest adventure spot in East Africa. There are plenty of activities to choose from. You can go white-water rafting on the Nile, kayaking, bungee jumping, quad biking, village trekking, cycling, horseback riding, and birding. If you still have the energy for it, we raid Jinja’s night scene one more time and head back to rest for tomorrow’s adventure.
Optional: Jinja Nightlife
Day 5: Kapchorwa, Sipi Falls
Today we head east to the land of coffee, Mt Elgon, and enchanting hills. Our destination is the Sipi Falls. Hidden in the seductive serenity of Kapchorwa, the falls are part of the Sipi River, which starts in the heights of Mt Elgon and flows down its slopes, forming a spectacular series of three waterfalls (some nearly 100m high). The falls are surrounded by walking trails and lush vegetation, and trekkers are escorted by varied bird calls and chirping insects, as they hike the mountain slopes to view the falls. What the falls lack for in scale, they make up for in elegance. The fertility of Mt Elgon’s soils is legendary and the region has been the hub of coffee production since the colonial era. After sipping in the beauty of the falls, we’ll visit a coffee farm where you can savour the taste of coffee brewed from freshly picked beans. From here we head back to the hotel to kick off our boots and enjoy the tranquility of Kapchorwa.
Day 6: Transfer—Kidepo Valley National Park
Brace yourself for a long drive today, we hit the road early for Karimojong country where Kidepo Valley National Park waits to give you an award winning experience. The drive is through scenic semi-arid terrain with views of open savannah, rock formations, and cattle-spotted flatland. Of all the parks in Uganda, Kidepo presents the biggest feast of game-viewing. It is famous for spotting large herds of zebra, antelope, bush back, and a wide range of herbivores. It is also home to Uganda’s largest population of lions.
Day 7: Kidepo Valley National Park, Wildlife Experience
Kidepo Valley National Park is the ideal location for an authentic African bush safari, and on this day you’ll find out why it is a four-time World Travel Awards nominee. Situated at Uganda’s border with South Sudan and Kenya, Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated park but a jewel for wildlife lovers. Kidepo can be visited at any time in the year. During the rainy season, the animals scatter allover the park while in the dry season the gather around the Narus valley, which is the only year-round water source in the park. Each season gives a different experience but no matter what time you visit, Kidepo is a great spot for birding, hiking, and wildlife tracking. It is also home to the Ik, one of the few remaining indigenous groups left in Uganda.
Optional: Evening Wildlife Expedition
Day 8: Kidepo Valley National Park, Culture Experience
Several centuries ago, a group of nomads from the Ethiopian highlands came to this region in search of a better home. Some would head south to form the Kalenjin and Masai in present Kenya, others would head northwest and become the Jie of South Sudan. A group of elders who were taken up by the beauty of the plains surrounding Kidepo, told the young ones, “let us settle here.” Some refused to stay and went on to form the Teso and Langi further south. They called the land they left behind “ekar ngimojong” meaning “the old men can go no further”. That is the legend of how Karamoja got its name. Today we visit a nearby Karimojong community and interact with nomadic-pastoral traditions that have existed since the Karimojong first settled here. You will learn about the history of the people and see more of the country side surrounding the park, then return to camp in the evening.
Day 9: Transfer— Pakwach
The journey from Kidepo to Pakwach traverses through vast open lands with hilly backdrops and endless skylines, across Lango and Acholi country. It’s a long stretch of road flanked by small towns, rustic homesteads and farming fields, and semi-modern structures; the perfect scenery to capture rural life in Uganda. We’ll stop to stretch our legs in Gulu Town, the political and economic hub of northern Uganda, then continue to Pakwach where a whole new culture and wildlife experience awaits you.
Day 10: Pakwach— Culture Experience, Wildlife Expedition
Pakwach is home to the Acholi people, a sub-set of the greater Luo language group. Though most visitors cannot tell them apart from the Karimojong, the two cultures have less in common than the Swiss and the Chinese. This is what makes Uganda so great: the diversity of its cultures is worthy of a Guinness record. On this leg you’ll experience the uniqueness of Acholi culture and learn about their customs and traditions. Afterwards, we’ll drive into Murchison Fall National Park for a pleasant boat cruise on the Nile, then head back to camp and prepare for another exciting adventure in the wild.
Day 11: Masindi— Culture Experience, Wildlife Expedition
Today we breakfast in the bush as we hit the road early to see how the wild takes its first meal of the day. Top on our watch list are predators like lions and leopards, which typically hunt before first light. If you are lucky, you might catch the light-footed leopard sneak up on an unsuspecting Kob, or watch a team of lions take down a buffalo. Early expeditions like this are your best opportunity to see Big Cats in action. We end the drive in the southern section of the park where you will meet an amazing group of women who will teach you plenty about another culture that once ruled most of present-day Uganda.
Day 12: Transfer— Fort Portal
One highlight of this Safari is the haunting beauty of the landscapes you see on the drives. You have experienced over the past few days the stunning serenity of the Elgon region, the calming plains of Karamoja, and the still savannahs of Acholi region. Now we head into the Rwenzoris, a region whose majesty has inspired legends for millennia, even making it into Egyptian fables recorded by Herodotus, the father of modern history. As the drive snakes through Bunyoro into Toro, your Safari Specialist will regale you with tales about these twin cultures that have fought for control of this region for centuries; when the “mountains of the moon” burst into view, you will understand why they fought each other. Tonight we camp at a guest farm with a story of its own.
Day 13: Kibale National Park, Chimpanzee Experience
A short drive away from camp is a forest with the world’s highest concentration of primates and a sanctuary for several endangered species of chimpanzee. We are here to observe chimps in their natural habitat. Chimps share 97.8% of their DNA with man, making them our closest cousins, which is why the experience of tracking them is so much fun. From here we trek to Bigodi Swamp, a community-run conservation area where you can see more primates, plenty of birds, and support an important community initiative.
Day 14: Toro, Culture & Nature Experience
Today’s adventure is a mixture of culture and nature expeditions. We hike up hills with amazing crater lakes and geological features with curious roles in the culture and folklore of the region’s natives, visit the palace of the world’s youngest monarch, and observe a secret cultural ceremony. In the afternoon we drive to a spot near Uganda’s border with Congo, where the hottest springs in East Africa steam all day, producing smashing sights and healing airs. By the time we head back to base, you’ll feel like a new person.
Day 15: Transfer— Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Say goodbye to the Rwenzori Mountains as we head south through a park that was named after England’s Queen. Famous for hosting about 30% of bird species in Africa, Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited and a favourite stop for scientists studying the wild in this region. The drive breaks from the hilly terrain of montane trails and flattens out into the vast savannahs of the park. Look out for large beasts like elephants and buffalos as we drive through the park, past the Ishasha sector where the famous tree climbing lions are found. Our destination is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the crown jewel of a magical region that we at Trekking Timmy call Gorilla Country.
Day 16: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Gorilla Experience, Heritage Trail
Bwindi Forest is Uganda’s oldest forest and one of the last sanctuaries for the few remaining Mountain Gorillas left in the world. Mountain Gorillas are an endangered species found only in this region, and more than half the world’s Mountain Gorillas live inside Bwindi Forest. The trek goes through dense jungle too thick to be penetrated by any vehicle, and the hike to spot a habituated group can take anywhere from one to nine hours, but once you come upon them, and see these shy giants of legend, you will understand why field scientists like Dian Fossey gave up their lives to save them from extinction. The feeling of watching these gentle beasts go about their daily business is like being in the presence of something otherworldly.
If we return from the trek early enough, we will crown the safari with Batwa Heritage Trail. The Batwa are an indigenous people that have lived in these forests since the days of cave paintings. You will learn about their honey harvesting techniques, traditional medicinal plants, edible roots, and be treated to traditional songs and dances that date back centuries before the first European saw the continent of Africa. The sound of Twa women singing soulful renditions of historical movements and cultural treasures is a memory to carry with you to the afterlife, especially when you consider that this culture may not survive the great tide of modernity much longer.
Day 17: Transfer— Kampala
Today is the last day of our Safari. We head for Kampala first thing in the morning and check into the hotel on arrival. If you have the energy for it, enjoy Kampala’s nightlife one last time but don’t have too much fun you miss your flight home; Kampala can be addictive!
Optional: Kampala Nightlife
Day 18: Departure
Depart at leisure.
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