Viewing wildlife from water on a boat safari in Uganda
A boat safari in Uganda takes you to see savannah animals from the comfort of a houseboat. The launch safari is a unique experience bringing you the closest you can get to wild animals like elephants, hippos, and crocodiles on the water shores. Uganda offers incredible opportunities to enjoy watching wildlife from a boat.
Although classic African safaris are mostly done in a traditional game drive vehicle or on foot, Uganda boat safaris offer a more breathtaking experience to reach these animals on the banks of water bodies found in savannah parks. Three of the top destinations in Uganda have water bodies that attract large numbers of wildlife that come to sip on the life-giving waters. From the boat’s vantage point, tourists can view live wildlife drama without the struggle of beating the bush.
Unlike most African safaris, from the water is also one of the best vantage points for spotting wildlife. It’s also a more tranquil experience compared to the bumpy ride in a safari truck. You’ll have a cool breeze coming off the water instead of kicked-up dust in your eyes, and you can rely on the onboard bathroom instead of scrambling to find a discrete spot in the bush.
Because of the all-year-round water, many species of animals make the waterfront their home. So it is one of the only places in the world where you can experience intense game viewing from your boat on the river, lake, or channel.
During a 2-3-hour boat safari cruise with Nkuringo Safaris, you can sip on your favorite drink as the covered pontoon silently glides across the shimmering waters, with just a handful of other boats visible in the distance. Being free from any big crowds makes for some extraordinary animal sightings.
The boat gets so close to a motionless crocodile that you can discern the individual scales on its shiny, mottled skin; meanwhile, an unperturbed hippo stands just a few feet away, munching busily on tall blades of yellowed grass. It’s a breathtaking scene.
Let’s say you booked a gorilla trekking adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and would like to see the savannah game too, but you don’t want the go through the bureaucracy of crossing borders to the prominent game safari destinations. It would make perfect sense to book a front row boat safari in Uganda.
Get Closer to The Action
Kazinga Channel Boat Safari
The 20 mi (32 km) Kazinga Channel is the most popular waterfront for boat safari trips in Uganda. The channel cuts through Queen Elizabeth National Park, connecting lakes Edward (west) and Gorge (east) and providing the best opportunity to see Uganda’s big game animals up-close by boat safari.
Launch trips leave Mweya jetty twice daily and cruise the channel length for approximately three hours. The first leaves at 11:00 hours, and the second leaves at 14:00 hours. But you can take a private boat or canoe via Mweya.
Wildlife to see on Kazinga Channel boat safari
On the Kazinga Channel boat safari trip, you’re able to catch sight of elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, Uganda kob, and large hippo pods daily. From time to time, you can also see the giant forest hog, leopard, and lion. Keep an eye open for the enormous water monitor lizard, which is common in the riverine scrub, as well as crocodiles. The odds of seeing predators and other nocturnal creatures coming to drink are highest in the late afternoon.
Waterbirds are plentiful, in particular water thicknee, yellow-billed stroke, and various plovers. While pink-backed pelicans and white bullied cormorants often flock on a sandbank near the channel mouth. One smaller bird to look out for is the black-headed gonolek, a member of the shrike family with a dazzling red chest – and look closely, as the localized papyrus gonolek similar in appearance with a yellow crown, has also been recorded.
The 14:00 boat launch trip is most likely to yield good elephant sightings, particularly on a hot day, when these thirsty creatures generally gravitate towards the water from midday onwards, sometimes bathing in the channel.
An early boat safari on a private houseboat or canoe (08:00 and 17:00) is a more rewarding photography safari as the light will be softer. However, this may be challenging because of the increased camera shaking on the rocking boat in low light.
Lake Mburo Boat Trip
Get Closer to The Action
Lake Mburo Boat Safari
A boat safari trip on Lake Mburo lake leaves from the jetty at the main campsite 1km from Rwonyo Camp. In addition to the attractive scenery and simple pleasure attached to being out on the water, the boat launch trip reliably produces good sightings of hippo, crocodile, buffalo, waterbuck, and bushbuck, and it’s also worth looking out for the three species of resident otter.
Among the more conspicuous waterbirds are African fish eagle, marabou stork, pied kingfisher, and various egrets and herons, while Ross’s turaco and Narina trogon are frequently seen in lakeside thickets. Lake Mburo is possibly the most accessible place in Uganda to see the elusive African finfoot, which is generally associated with still water below overhanging branches.
VICTORIA NILE, MURCHISON
Cruise up the Nile to the Muchison Falls
Murchison, Victoria Nile Boat Safari
The superb boat safari trip from Paraa to the base of the Murchison Falls is the park’s most popular and longest-running attraction — the Queen Mother made an inaugural voyage in a spanking-new launch back in 1959.
In addition to the stalwart UWA launch trips, two private companies, G&C Tours and Marasa (owners of Paraa Lodge), also run various craft on the river. Consequently, it is now easy to arrange boat safari voyages to meet your schedule and requirements.
Keen photographers, for example, would certainly wish to leave slightly earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon than the UWA boats to capture the best light.
On the way to the falls, the boats follow a stretch of the Nile with a compelling African atmosphere, fringed by Borassus palms, acacia woodland, and stands of mahogany.
Game viewing is excellent on a boat safari along the paraa stretch— hippos in their hundreds, some of the largest crocodiles left in Africa, small herds of buffalo, waterbuck, kob, giraffe, bushbuck, and black-and-white colobus. Elephants are frequently observed playing in the water, often within a few meters of the boat, and fortunate visitors might even see a lion or leopard.
The birdlife on the papyrus-lined banks is stunning, with the top prize being the shoebill, seen here less often than it is on the trip to the delta, but a distinct possibility in the dry season. Savvy birders are most likely to see the African fish eagle, Goliath heron, saddle-billed stork, African jacana, pied and malachite kingfishers, African skimmer, piacpiac, rock pratincole, black-headed gonolek, black-winged red bishop, yellow-mantled widowbird, and the yellow-backed weaver. And at the right time of year, you can see a variety of migrant waders.
The dazzlingly colorful red-throated bee-eater which nests in sandbanks between Paraa and the falls is more likely to be seen here than anywhere in east Africa.
The UWA’s double-decker boats have chugged up and down the river for decades, and the long-serving guides and pilots are incredibly knowledgeable. The boats can carry 40 passengers, leave at 08.00 and 14.00 and take around three hours.
Our Uganda safari experts can happily help you book a private boat safari that leaves any time or a more general experience on a scheduled boat launch trip with a UWA boat.