How to Plan Your First Uganda Safari

To get the most rewards from Uganda's varied, unique, and hidden attractions, you have to do a little research for your trip. Here are thoroughly detailed tips about how to plan your first Uganda safari.

How to Plan Your First Uganda Safari

To get the most rewards from Uganda’s varied, unique, and hidden attractions, you have to do a little research for your trip. Here are thoroughly detailed tips about how to plan your first Uganda safari.

A safari vacation in Uganda is probably the most organized adventure holiday. While it is imaginable to simply fly to Uganda, rent a car and take off into the countryside, it is uncommon for first-time visitors to Uganda. Travelers don’t want to risk being alone on unmarked dirt roads patrolled by armed rangers, gorillas, and chimpanzees.

Use safari experts to help you select an itinerary and arrange transportation, meals, and shelter. Your local outfitter will have a driver waiting for you when you land at the airport. From then, you’ll be in the hands of professionals who will manage your entire trip and take you incredibly close to fearsome beasts. For a first-time safari in Uganda, you’ll be amazed at how flowless they will make your experience. Here are a few tips from local professionals you should consider.

Determine the journey’s duration

On your first Uganda safari, plan to spend at least eight days visiting the primate destinations in southwestern Uganda. That should allow you to see chimps, wildlife, and gorillas in three different places and spend at least two nights each. 

Generally, you can walk with chimpanzees in Kibale Forest, go on a game drive, take a boat safari, and spend incredible moments with mountain gorillas on this safari trip.

If you’re hoping to explore Uganda’s more extensive safari circuit and see the primates, plan to spend at least two weeks. Generally, you will spend long morning and evening hours walking in rainforests or driving on animal game trucks each day. So, two full days in each animal reserve guarantees that you’ll see a lot. 

With Uganda’s tropical weather, you’re guaranteed to encounter many big animals without interruptions from heavy downpours. Uganda’s rainforests guarantee chimps, gorillas, and other primate sightings during the dry seasons. Elephants, hippos, giraffes, buffalos, and lions can be seen in the three major parks. The arid Kidepo Valley in the extreme northeast has some of the best big cat sightings.

Find out the costs

One traveler once said, “I don’t understand why safaris are so expensive; it’s not like you pay the gorillas and buffalos.” Well, remoteness and the non-existent infrastructure are pretty hard on travel and will definitely hike the trip costs.

Average daily Uganda safari costs per person range from USD 200 to well over $1,000 and typically include government permits, accommodation, and transport between attractions. The quote typically does not include international airfare. 

The gorilla permit, which costs $800 or $1500, tips the scales on the safari cost. Most lodges will include meals with special dietary requirements on the room price of about $100 to more than $1,000 a night. 

Your travel company pays the guides, drivers, and service providers. Expect to pay about $50 per day for optional activities and meals, and about $100 to $300 per day for a 4×4 vehicle with gas and a driver/guide. The amount you spend on tips is at your discretion, although your trip manager and lodge operators will advise.

Which animals to see on safari

Uganda is a unique safari destination offering a fantastic mix of savannah and forest animal sightings. Mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are highlights, but many smaller primates can also be seen. 

Uganda offers the best primate experiences anywhere in the world. Twenty primates species jump roam rainforest canopies across western Uganda. Some of the specials you may bump into on your forest walking adventure include patas monkey, l’Hoest’s monkey, red-tailed monkey, golden monkey, red colobus, mangabey, or even the country-wide spread black-and-white colobus. 

Uganda also offers great savannah wildlife viewing safaris. The Big Five (elephants, leopards, rhinos, and Cape buffalo) are present. Lion is reasonably common in Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, and Kidepo Valley National Parks, where they prey on abundant antelope. Elephants, leopards, Cape buffalo

Accommodation and meals

From hostels to luxury forest lodges, you can find accommodations near prominent park entrances like Bwindi Impenetrable, Kibale Forest, and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. You’ll be spoilt for choice, but you would instead leave the lodge recommendations to your travel company, who will also make reservations on your behalf. You will find gorilla trekking accommodation a bit more expensive, falling between $200 to above $1000 for a decent night with meals.

You’ll find tented camps and lodges in the savannah parks, clusters of individual cabin-like single ensuite rooms, and one or two large buildings for shared spaces like dining. The lodge rooms are usually very decent, attached to private bathrooms with heated showers and flush toilets. All your meals will be at the lodge. Most lodges supply the usual toiletries, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

The local guides

Most Ugandan travel companies will include a local guide who will drive you between places, manage your safari trip and furnish you with relevant information during the journey. The guide is usually in-touch, via mobile phone, with the lodges and your trip planner, ensuring everything goes to plan and exceeds your expectations.

Elsewhere, you will have guides supplied by the Uganda Wildlife Authority or the safari lodge you stay at. They’re highly trained professionals who know their areas and the best wildlife spotting areas. You may pay extra to have your own vehicle or share a vehicle with other guests. But this is usually taken care of in your all-inclusive trip price. 

Clothing and stuff to pack

To save on packing space, you will need to pack a few fast-drying nylon clothes, which will downsize your luggage to a small duffel bag. Consider that small airplanes flying between parks accept not more than 15 kilos and will charge you for extra weight. Safari trucks don’t have much space either.

Most lodges generally provide laundry service, usually washed by hand and dried in the sun. They’ll usually place a laundry basket in your room with instructions, and you’re expected to clean your own underwear.

Forget what stagged photography and movies say; you don’t need to take an all-beige wardrobe on your first Uganda safari. Carry a wardrobe that makes you feel enchanted. And besides, most animals can hardly distinguish colors. Western Uganda safari parks can be chilly in the mornings and late evenings and yet very hot at midday, so dress in layers you can peel or put back. Take a look at our detailed packing list.

Plan with a licensed safari company

Even for a seasoned safari traveler, navigating Uganda’s travel logistics can be a migraine, especially when planning. Most people recommend using a licensed tour operator for your first Uganda safari. 

Local safari operators know their destination. They live in it, have traveled the destination extensively, and plan safari trips for a living. They are a great source of information about the most important places to visit, where to stay, when you visit, hidden gems, and how to navigate the local logistics.

You can trust Nkuringo Safaris Limited to give you all the recommendations and help you plan the entire trip with no hustle. They’ll consider your budget concerns and ensure they don’t hit above the belt.

Most first-time Uganda safari travelers want to deal directly with a company that operates multiple camps. Such is Nkuringo Safaris. They operate two lodges critically positioned for great gorilla trekking safaris. One is in Entebbe, where you enter Uganda and need to rest before your countryside journey. The other, Nkuringo Gorilla Lodge, is at the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where you’ll meet the incredible mountain gorillas.

Whoever helps plan your first Uganda safari trip will also take care of your transport from one remote camp to another. They will often move you in four-by-four safari trucks, small airplanes, or both.

Ready to start planning your first Uganda safari?

As long as you’re not thinking of doing this yourself, planning your first Uganda safari with professionals like Nkuringo Safaris should be easy-peasy. When you send us an email or text at, one of the many local experts jumps right into getting you a quotation with recommendations that suit your dates and budget.

When developing your safari itinerary, Nkuringo experts will focus on our core values; to be adventurous, have fun, stay active, and keep things intimate.

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How to Plan Your First Uganda Safari
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