Is Uganda Good For Wildlife Safari?

Compared to its East African counterparts, Uganda is relatively good for safari. Although it may not match the sheer numbers of savannah wildlife in pioneer safari destinations like Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda offers a more varied safari experience.

Uganda’s Wildlife Wonders: A Safari Experience of a Lifetime

When it comes to safari destinations in East Africa, Uganda offers a unique and varied experience that sets it apart from its counterparts. While Uganda may not have the same abundance of wildlife as Kenya and Tanzania, it more than makes up for it with its diverse array of landscapes and activities.

From the savannah plains to the rainforest jungles to mountain summits, a Uganda safari provides the opportunity to combine savannah game drives with mountain climbing, birding, and primate viewing all in one trip. This makes it a one-of-a-kind safari destination that cannot be replicated anywhere else.

While game drives are a staple of any safari experience, Uganda also offers the chance to view wildlife from a boat. This adds an extra dimension to the safari experience and allows visitors to see animals from a different perspective.

Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of Uganda’s safari parks is that they are still relatively unknown to mass tourism. This means that visitors can enjoy a more private and intimate experience with nature without the crowds and noise of other busier parks.

Generally, Uganda is a unique and exciting safari destination that should not be overlooked. Its diverse landscapes and activities, combined with the chance to view wildlife in a more private setting, make it a must-visit for any safari enthusiast.

Classic Safari Game Drives in Uganda

If you’re looking for a classic game safari experience in Uganda, there are four national parks that offer excellent opportunities: Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo, and Kideppo Valley National Park. While these parks may not have the same numbers of wildlife as Masai Mara or Serengeti, they offer a unique and rewarding experience for travelers who are willing to be patient and observant.

For the best classic game drive experience in Uganda, there are three destinations you should consider: the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park, the extensive Murchison Falls National Park in the northeast, and the remote and rugged Kidepo Valley National Park in the northeastern tip. These three destinations offer exceptional wildlife viewing opportunities, with smaller Lake Mburo National Park often included as a complement to a safari in Queen Elizabeth or a gorilla adventure in Bwindi.

Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Is Uganda Good for safari
Cape buffalo and antelope decorate the Queen Elizabeth National Park savannah plains

Wildlife game drives and boat safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Many safari enthusiasts dream of catching a glimpse of lions in the wild. Although finding these majestic creatures anywhere in the world can be challenging, certain parks offer a better chance of spotting them. In Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most reliable destination to see lions on safari. The park’s primary conservation focus is on lions, meaning it protects over 250 of them.

Most of the lions in the park are found within the grassy Kasenyi Plains in the northern and southern Ishasha sectors. Visitors to the park have a good chance of seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat, but it’s important to set realistic expectations and be patient while on safari. It requires a skilled spotting guide, a bit of luck, and perseverance to spot lions in their natural habitat.

Tree-climbing lion cubs lounge in Ishasha Sector fig trees. Is Uganda good for wildlife safari?
QENP Highlight: tree-climbing lion cubs lounge in Ishasha Sector fig trees.

In addition to lions, Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to many other wildlife species, including elephants, buffalos, leopards, and hyenas. Birdwatchers will also find the park to be a paradise, with over 600 species of birds recorded within the park. With its focus on lion conservation and a diverse array of other wildlife and bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is a must-visit destination for any safari enthusiast.

Besides the typical lions that grace the park’s savannah plains, QENP has gained an outstanding global reputation for counting the biggest population of tree-climbing felines on the planet. These tree-climbing lions live in the Ishasha quadrant of the park. The sector is within the bounds of the park’s southern sector. On a typical afternoon Uganda safari ride through Ishasha, visitors can see the lions contentedly lazing in the enormous fig trees.

Misty morning on Kazinga Channel

A typical safari to Queen Elizabeth

A typical safari in Uganda will join the QENP route to a Kibale Forest chimpanzee trekking expedition that heads north from the park or the exhilarating mountain gorilla trekking experience north of the park via Ishasha Sector in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Lions in Murchison Falls National Park - Uganda Good For Wildlife Safari
Lions in Murchison Falls National Park

Uganda wildlife game drives and boat safaris in Murchison Falls National Park.

Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda is perfect for safari and lion tracking. The big cats are most active early in the morning and evening, making these times ideal for classic safari drives. Witness lions roaming the open plains during these times for a thrilling safari experience.

The Paraa boat safari trip on the Victoria Nile is a famous classic safari attraction in the park. Visitors can spot crocodiles, lions, elephants, hippos, hartebeest, buffalo, Rothschild giraffe, oribi, and monitor lizards as they come to drink from the Nile waters. Birdwatching is also spectacular along the river.

The Spectacular Murchison Falls in View on a Boat Safari
The Spectacular Murchison Falls in View on a Boat Safari

The best classic game viewing safaris in Murchison Falls National Park occur north of the Nile in the Buligi plains, a stunning grassland wilderness sandwiched between the Victoria and Albert-Niles. Visitors can spot four of the Big Five on an early morning game drive, with rhinos being the only absent member. Huge herds of elephants and buffalos are common, and lions are relatively easy to spot. Antelope species include Jackson’s hartebeest, waterbuck, and Uganda kob. Large herds of Rothschild’s giraffe are a specialty, and chimpanzees and several other primates can be tracked in Budongo Forest.

Murchison is one of the few places in Uganda to see the endangered Rothschild's Giraffe.
Murchison is one of the few places in Uganda to see the endangered Rothschild’s Giraffe.

How to include Murchison Falls on a Uganda Safari

Murchison Falls National Park can easily be added to an all-inclusive Uganda safari, particularly when combined with a primate safari excursion in Kibale Forest National Park. Connecting the two destinations with a local scheduled flight or including buffer destinations like Queen Elizabeth National Park between Bwindi and Murchison is recommended, as it’s challenging to include Murchison Falls National Park on a gorilla trekking adventure in Bwindi due to its far-flung location.

Untamed Wilderness in Uganda: A Wildife Safari Adventure in Kidepo Valley National Park
The famous Kalabe Rock, where lions lounge in Kidepo Valley

Untamed Wilderness: A Wildlife Safari Adventure in Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is a hidden gem in Uganda, with an impressive population of 132 individual lions steadily increasing within the park. This makes it a critical habitat for witnessing lions over time, setting it apart from Uganda’s other primary lion safari destinations.

While Kidepo National Park is isolated in the far northwestern corner of Uganda, a newly paved route to the park has made it a top destination for wildlife safari in Uganda. However, combining a Kidepo trip with other safari destinations is still challenging due to its remote location. For those planning to stay longer in a single savannah park destination in Uganda, Kidepo National Park is an excellent choice, with accommodations like Apoka Safari Camp, Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp, and Kidepo Safari Lodge.

The only place to see cheetah in Uganda is Kidepo Valley. is uganda good for wildlife safari?
The only place to see cheetahs in Uganda is Kidepo Valley.

In addition to lions, Kidepo Valley National Park is home to a variety of other wildlife, including cheetahs, black-backed jackals, hunting dogs, bat-eared foxes, hyenas, elephants, giraffes, zebras, hartebeests, and more. The park also has five primate species, including the endemic Kavirondo bush baby, which can be observed on a night game drive.

The Ik communitys offer good cultural experiences around Kidepo Valley. Photo © Rod Waddington
The Ik people offer good cultural experiences around Kidepo Valley. Photo © Rod Waddington

Kidepo Valley National Park also offers a unique cultural encounter with the enchanting Ik people living in the Morungole Mountains in the park. Visitors can hike to the village to engage with the community of subsistence farmers who have kept to their traditional way of life. Nearby are the Karamojong pastoralists, distinguished by their nomadic pastoralism and unique cultural practices.

A Kedepo Safari

Kidepo Valley National Park is a must-visit destination for wildlife safari enthusiasts in Uganda. With its impressive lion population, diverse wildlife, and unique cultural experiences, visitors can immerse themselves in the vast wilderness riches of this hidden gem. A recommended stay of 3-7 days is needed to fully explore the park’s offerings.

Safari in Lake Mburo National Park
A good safari game drive in Mburo will spot substantial concentrations of impala, zebra, waterbuck, topi, and buffalo.

Lake Mburo National Park: A Small Hidden Gem For Low-Key Wildlife Safaris in Uganda

Lake Mburo National Park may not be as highly rated for safari game viewing as other parks in Uganda, but it still offers a unique and exciting experience for travelers. While the quality of game viewing along the park’s tracks can be inconsistent, the wet season offers a better chance to spot substantial concentrations of impala, zebra, waterbuck, topi, and buffalo.

What sets Lake Mburo National Park apart from other parks in Uganda is that it is the only park where travelers can view wild game on foot, bike, and horseback. It’s also the only park with a healthy impala population and one of the two places to see Burchell’s zebra. The park’s lake and lush vegetation support a variety of wildlife, including buffalo, warthog, bushpig, and hippopotamus.

Horseback safari and walking safaris are good only in Lake Mburo National Park.
Horseback safaris and walking safaris are good only in Lake Mburo National Park.

While Lake Mburo may not be the primary destination for a Uganda safari, it’s an excellent buffer stop for travelers on their way to Queen Elizabeth National Park or Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Visitors can take a break from long drives and enjoy a relaxing stay, taking a walking safari among the park’s meager animal display.

In summary, Lake Mburo National Park may not offer the same level of safari game viewing as other parks in Uganda, but it still provides a unique and exciting experience for travelers. With its opportunities for game viewing on foot, bike, and horseback, healthy impala population, and stunning lake views, it’s a worthwhile stop for those looking to break up long drives and enjoy a more relaxed safari experience.

What makes for an excellent wildlife safari experience in Uganda?

When it comes to wildlife safaris, Uganda offers a unique experience that cannot be compared to other popular destinations like Kenya, Tanzania, or Botswana. While those places may have more animals roaming their savannah plains and have been in the safari business longer, Uganda stands out for its diverse range of safari activities.

For a fulfilling wildlife safari experience in Uganda, it’s recommended to plan for at least a week-long trip that includes primate viewing in any of the three primate destinations – Bwindi for gorillas, Mgahinga for gorillas, and Kibale for chimps and monkeys. You can also have a classic game drive safari and a boat safari in Queen Elizabeth or Lake Mburo. An all-inclusive two-week itinerary can add birding experiences, an adventure at the source of the Nile, and a nature hike in the stunning rainforest jungles.

For the more adventurous, an active safari in Uganda can include climbing one of the summits on Rwenzori Mountains, Virungas, or Mount Elgon, alongside game drives, boat safaris, and a gorilla trekking challenge in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

When it comes to wildlife safaris in Uganda, the primates are the main attraction. A good itinerary would include safari drives, gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking, or both experiences.

What makes for an excellent wildlife safari experience in Uganda?
A relaxed, consciously planned journey will prove how good Uganda is for safaris!

Conclusion

Uganda offers a unique African safari experience, with the possibility of seeing chimpanzees and mountain gorillas, savannah game viewing, and sought-after birds. A licensed and skillful Uganda safari operator can pull off an all-inclusive journey in just two weeks, offering a more private affair with very few tourists.

Finding wild game on the African savannah plains is challenging, requiring good spotting, luck, and perseverance. It’s impossible to “mop up” all the species on your bucket list in a single visit. While Uganda’s national parks are good for lion and leopard safari, if big cats are your critical interest, Kenya and Tanzania are better destinations.

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Is Uganda Good For Wildlife Safari?
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