Uganda is a land of stunning beauty. It’s rightfully named the “pearl of Africa”. This moniker comes from former British Premier, Winston Churchill, who was mesmerized by what he called “a beauty, unlike anything he had seen” during his tour of Africa. Little did he know the splendour which inspired that epithet would someday be a leading gem in African travel: Uganda is truly a land gifted by nature!
Of East Africa’s travel gems, Uganda offers the classic safari experience. Unlike Kenya and Tanzania where the game is literally littered along the tracks and habituated to human proximity, the wildlife experience is a tracking adventure; you track wildlife like a hunter and experience the thrill of discovery first-hand.
Among Uganda’s many wonders is the diversity of its populations—both human and animal. With over 56 ethnic groups speaking different dialects, more than 1000 bird species, and over 400 mammal species, crammed in a territory no larger than 93,065km2. Uganda is a study in diversity and complex ecology.
Places to Visit
Uganda is famous for harbouring the world’s largest population of Mountain Gorilla—the greatest of the big apes and a species threatened with extinction—located in the south-western rainforests of Bwindi and Muhavura.
The western arm of the Great Rift Valley is the most visited place in Uganda. Its exceptional biodiversity in both animal and plant life make it a popular destination for birding and wildlife safaris, followed by the shores of Lake Victoria where adventure and water sports centres abound along with serene getaways. Tourism in the northeastern region is fast picking up in the Karamoja region which is fast becoming a popular destination for ‘old-country’ adventures and cultural immersions.
There are 10 national parks, 12 game reserves, and 13 conservation areas managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority: there is plenty to choose from for your wildlife safari. Birders are home at once in Uganda—of the 2250 bird species recorded in Africa, over 1060 (48%) can be seen in Uganda, with more species being discovered every other year. There are over 34 Important Birding Areas in Uganda, giving birdwatchers plenty of options to tailor their experience.
People & Culture
Uganda is made up of a diverse range of ethnic groups. Lake Kyoga forms the northern boundary for the Bantu-speaking people, who dominate much of East, Central, and Southern Africa.
In the north, the Lango and the Acholi peoples, who speak Nilotic languages, are the predominant groups, while to the east the Itesot and Karimojong, who speak a Nilotic language, whereas the Gishu are part of the Bantu and live mainly on the slopes of Mt. Elgon. They speak Lumasaba, which is closely related to the Luhya of Kenya. A few Pygmies live isolated in the rainforests of western Uganda.
Ugandans are famously a welcoming people, hospitable to visitors from every race and creed; this trait has earned the country top ratings in global happiness indices. It’s considered by most expatriates as one of the safest and most conducive environments to live in—a home away from home.
They are also merry people. Nightlife in Uganda is unrivalled throughout East and Central Africa, and possibly all of Africa. Over 56 dialects are spoken in this small country, though most, if not all, are derived from Luo or Bantu, the biggest language groups in the region. English is the national language and is spoken or understood in most parts of the country.
Weather & Geography
Located in the very heart of Africa, between moon-kissing mountains, a broad network of rivers and freshwater lakes, and vast expanses of tropical savannah, Uganda straddles along the equator, across an elevated plateau stretching between the western and eastern arms of the rift valley, with perfect weather year-round. Its topography ranges from tropical savannah to equatorial rainforest. Travellers can go from steamy lowland tropics to cool elevated plains in a single bound.
Uganda is suitable for travel at any time of the year. The weather is sunny most of the year, with light rains and average annual temperatures ranging between 21°C and 26°C, and rarely rising above 29°C. Uganda has two dry seasons: December to February and June to August. The rainy season is from March to May and October to November.
The southeast and northern trade winds meet in its eastern provinces to make their westward journey into the inter-tropical convergence zone, resulting in a balanced climate that is relatively cool and stable through the year.
Arts and Humanities
Performance arts like comedy, dance, theatre, and spoken work dominate the art scene. As in most African countries, literature is still a growing art. The country’s biggest literary export is Okot P’Bitek, though contemporary writers like Jennifer Makumbi, Moses Isegawa, and Doreen Baingana are becoming popular elsewhere on the continent.
Most radio stations play a mix of international pop music and local music. The most popular local styles are Kidandali and Kadongo Kamu — traditional rhythms stylised with modern instruments or digital applications, and a local type of country-music led by a guitarist and vocalist.
Festival season in Uganda runs from August to November, with literary and poetry festivals occurring in August mainly, while music and performance art festivals run in September and November. The biggest festivals are Bayimba International Festival of the Arts, Nyege Nyege Festival, and Milege World Music Festival.
Traditional music is played at wedding ceremonies and public functions.
Before You Travel
Lightweight clothes with a warm cover-up for the evenings are advised. Take a pair of good walking shoes or boots for forest trekking, and long-sleeved tops to protect against