Uganda is fantastic for a private luxury safari because of its low crowds and rustic, remote signature lodges full of adventure and romantic charm.
We love ambitious, well-organised, far-ranging signature journeys. But they can be challenging to plan and may require an experienced Destination Management Company (DMC) or safari outfitter who understands the local tourism logistics.
In this new series, our expert safari advisors answer some of the most frequently asked travel questions to help you plan that once-in-a-lifetime luxury safari in Uganda. They tackle indulgence travel — which outstanding places offer indulgence, when to go, and how to plan a lovish trip in the ‘Pearl of Africa’, as Churchill called it.
Many envision a classic hardcore journey reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway’s travels when you mention Africa safari. They conjure up classic tours featuring rustic jeeps driving through dusty, uneven tracks, sleeping in a bag with lions roaring in the background and feeding on chewy, dark-roasted game meat.
Such classic experiences are still available, but today’s journeys can be lavish in ways that would make Ernest Hemingway envious.
A safari is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many travellers, and Uganda gives you good reasons to consider it for a lovish tour. First, it’s one of the remotest destinations unknown by most bucket-list adventures, who usually swarm great destinations like angry bees.
The fact that travelling to Uganda involves getting slammed with jetlag, expensive flights, and long hours of driving between attractions, keeps the “I can travel the world on a budget” travellers away. Which makes Uganda an exclusive once-in-a-lifetime destination for a few.
Second, Uganda travel is so inexpensive that an all-inclusive luxury trip is what other destinations like Kenya would rate as a mid-range price. Yet you get an all-rounded wilderness experience that doesn’t just focus on game viewing but also on rainforest adventures with rare primates, cultural immersions with remarkable tribes, and more remote regions.
Africa safaris are considered an expensive affair, and it would seem paradoxical to double up and increase your travel costs. However, precisely that same reason would compel you to splurge. Why cut corners when it’s a once-in-lifetime experience?
Luxury safaris in Uganda cost roughly USD 750 per person per day. The cost includes everything from the airport pickup, domestic flight transfers, signature accommodation, trekking permits, park fees, three meals per day, a fueled private four-by-four safari truck with a pop-up roof, local guides, and a driver.
The most expensive items on a Uganda trip are the primate tracking permits. The regular gorilla trekking permit costs $700 per person, while the habituation experience costs $1500, and the chimpanzee permit costs $200 per person.
Like any good vacation trip, it’s easy to splash much, much more, especially on luxury accommodation and meals. For example, you can stay at luxurious lodges like Nile Safari Lodge for more than $1,000 per night.
However, most luxury safari companies like Nkuringo Safaris will cheerfully customise your journey based on what you can afford.
Uganda is a safari destination ripe for nature adventures, including tracking the endangered mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, walking with wild chimpanzees in Kibale Forest, viewing the BIG Five, and marvelling at stunning waterfalls in Murchinson.
Most people will visit Uganda to have that precious chance to sit close to a mountain gorillas family in their wild setting. For that, you must visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the mountainous southwestern region. The park is straddled in a stark and seemingly boundless expanse of thick, rolling hills covered in ranks of bare trees, gorgeously cultivated slopes, and smokey dust of mist.
Bwindi is one of the only two habitats protecting the endangered gorillas with some of the most luxurious forest lodges for the gorilla experience in locations best suited for the gorilla experience.
The jungle-clutched designer Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge and Clouds Mountain Lodge are your top luxury lodging choice in the south of Bwindi. Their exotic forest cottages sprout above the jungle canopy, offering guests enchanted vistas across the rolling rift valley hills and the entire Virunga mountains range.
Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp and Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge in the northern section of Bwindi (Buhoma) offer a stylish forest ambience perfect for a luxury jungle safari experience in Uganda. The lodges are undoubtedly the top echelon of indulgence for the gorilla trekking experience with their classic safari charm and excellent service quality.
There’s no better place in Africa to observe our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, foraging and working out their social dynamics than in Kibale National Park. Even primate researchers will tell you the same. Head west and spend your luxury holiday at the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. Sleep at luxury safari lodges like Ndali, Kyaninga and Kimpundu, and spend a day in the company of wild chimpanzee troops in the nearby Kibale Forest.
Add Queen Elizabeth National Park to your luxury safari in Uganda for big-game viewing. Top choices for a luxury stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park include Kyambura Gorge Lodge, Elephant Plains Safari Lodge, and Ishasha Wilderness Camp.
From here, you can take a boat trip on Kazinga Channel to get close to elephants, hippos, crocs, and buffalo. Lions are surprisingly easy to spot, especially the tree-climbing lions in the southern Ishasha region. And the park is the closest you can add to your gorilla experience in Bwindi.
Lake Mburo’s Mihingo Lodge is perfect for buffering your long drive to Bwindi and a laidback wilderness experience. This luxury lodge has a natural frontier feel and enjoys a coveted spot overlooking Lake Mburo National Park‘s vast savannah plains. Here, the whole family can watch animals on horseback, a peaceful and airy experience compared to game driving. You can also take a guided nature walk and come close to touching the ungulates.
Far up north, away from the gorillas, is another luxury safari experience in Uganda that is a whole different game from the southwestern circuit. The Murchison Falls National Park sits along the Victoria Nile. Kidepo Valley’s vast ruggedness extends to the extreme northeastern frontier.
You’ll find tranquillity at Nile Safari Lodge, nestled into the bank of Victoria Nile River between the Albert delta and Paraa in Murchison. The luxury riparian immerses its occupants in a rural paradise, creating the most tranquil vacation hideaway.
Perched on a picturesque kopje, Apoka Lodge commands views across the Kidepo flatlands to the mountains beyond. Apoka has a relaxed classic safari feel, quietly providing a tranquil and private wildlife experience in Kidepo Valley.
Although anyone can create a Uganda safari itinerary, we highly recommend that you use a tour operator that understands the uncharted destination logistics.
Firstly, it can be incredibly complicated charting a plan of action in Uganda, especially for the first time. Finding availability from exclusive properties, reserving permits, transfers, and paying activity fees can be daunting. If there’s one time in your life to let someone craft the travel experience for you, this is it.
Nkuringo Safaris consultants like to say that crafting a luxury safari trip in Uganda is like conducting an orchestra. We try to build upon each destination or property with unique experiences that complement one another. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a local expert who’s seen more than just the glossy pictures.
Uganda safari’s claim to fame is watching the endangered mountain gorillas. It would be a shame to miss it. The gorilla trekking experience is on foot on steep, uneven, unmarked trails under thick and misty vegetation. March to May is the worse time to go to southwestern Uganda because it’s when the rains come down.
The worst time to go for a luxury safari in Uganda is from April to May when the rains come down like crazy on the plains and in the rainforests.
On the other hand, March to May is the low season. Going on safari during the offseason has the benefits of few tourists, a lower budget, and more privacy.
Otherwise, the best time to go is January, February, June and July when the weather is favourable, trails are dry, and safari properties are in regular operation.
Customise these trips or request a quote to put together yours.