Guided safari game drives in Uganda and any other destination in Africa are basically driving through a savannah park in a four-by-four safari vehicle, guided by an expert local guide, viewing wild animals. A game drive highlights any classic Africa safari taking you deep into the natural wilderness and getting you closer to the big and small animals within the protected confines of a 4×4 truck.
Anyone can take themselves on a safari game drive in Uganda. However, most tourists prefer to be guided, which promises a more relaxed experience in the wilderness, knowing that a local expert will take care of finding the animals and place you in the right spot at the right time.
In this guide, we take a look at what you should expect on these drives, which parks offer the best game drive experiences, and also give you a few tips on getting the most of driving in Uganda’s safari game parks.
Expect the most rewarding guided game drives to head out during the misty sunrise and late in the cool evenings or at night—the coolest times of the day when most animals are more active. Irrespective of the safari destination, every game drive is unique, making wildlife encounters unexpected and exhilarating. However, the operating format may be similar with different ground operators.
A typical game drive in Uganda may last 3-4 hours. Other game drives head out for more than six hours with short breaks allowing the traveler to get out of the vehicle, stretch, loosen up, and snack. The guide usually chooses somewhere with great views of the plains for short breaks. Some safari camps offer breakfast settings in the bush for early morning game drives. Afternoon game drives are usually arranged to end at a well-set refreshing sundowner.
The local guide will most probably be your driver, who is mostly in control of the adventure expedition, spotting out the animals, taking you through unexpected game viewing tracks, and throwing in humorous stories about your wildlife encounters.
Although wildlife densities in Uganda’s safari parks don’t match eastern destinations, wildlife viewing on an expert-guided safari game drive in Uganda is much rewarding. The number of tourist vehicles in the game parks is a mere fraction of those visiting the more developed destinations, making game drives in Uganda a more private experience. On a good day, lion, elephant, or leopard sightings are a moment to treasure, and you’ll seldom share such moments with swarms of vehicles.
Famous game drive sightings on Uganda’s savannah plains include the tree-climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park’s Ishasha sector, elephants, buffalo, leopard, various antelope species, hippo, and the localized Rothchild’s giraffe.
You should expect to drive in a generally closed 4×4 Landcruiser customized with large windows for every seat and a roof pop-up for photography. In other instances, you may find an open-sided four-by-four cruiser at some camps, but it’s improbable in Uganda. Uganda safaris operate in closed cruisers to avoid long windy drives from the airport to the safari park.
Generally, two game drives a day are ideal. Expect to take your very first safari game drive on the afternoon of your arrival. Safaris routing from trekking gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can’t avoid the tree-climbing experience driving through Queen Elizabeth National Park’s southern Ishasha sector.
Safari trips usually spend a day or two in the safari park with at least two game drives per day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, lasting about three to five hours each time. On the last day in the park, your local guide may throw in another safari game drive while heading to the next destination.
Let’s say you’re spending about three nights at the safari park or lodge. In that case, you have about six short game drives on your itinerary. Photography safaris usually take one safari drive per day, stretching 6-10 hours, with a packed picnic lunch. Travers who prefer a single drive per day typically want to come back to the more relaxed activities in the afternoons at the camp like nature gazing, walks, chats, swimming, reading a book, or local cultural shows.
On all-inclusive Uganda safari trips, the local driver-guide is usually paid per day to chauffeur, manage and guide 1-6 tourists per vehicle. They can determine how many safari game drives go out per day. You should discuss with your guide or tour manager early morning or after every safari drive to determine how many drives you should have that day or when the next one should be.
Our private tailored Uganda safari game drive allows for one to six people per safari truck (excluding the guide), giving each occupant an adjustable window seat with enough legroom.
The mosts rewarding safari game drives in Uganda occur in four of the ten national parks. The wildlife reserves in the country offer meager wildlife viewing experiences. Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake Mburo National Park in southwestern Uganda are popular with tourists hoping to adventure in the primate-rich rainforests of Bwindi and Kibale.
Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest along the Victoria Nile and the remote wilderness Kidepo National Park in the extreme northeastern corner usually feature on safari packages lasting more than a week or two.
If lions are a must-see on your safari holiday in Uganda, then safari game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park must feature on your itinerary. The park protects the highest number of lions in the country. However, finding lions on a safari game drive is always challenging anywhere in the wild and requires a good spotting local guide, luck, and perseverance. It’s not as simple as what the nature television channels depict out to be.
A knowledgeable safari guide will find the big cats within the grassy Kasenyi Plains in the northern and southern Ishasha sectors. Besides the typical lion spotting, the park has a high reputation for its tree-climbing lions regularly spotted contentedly lazing in the giant fig trees that sprout in the southern Isashasha region.
Other animals tourists commonly encounter driving through the Queen Elizabeth savannah plains include enormous herds of elephants and buffalo. You’ll also spot out many interesting antelope species such as Uganda kob, topi, and bushbuck. The giant forest hog is unusually easy to spot. Search around the Kasenyi tracks for the elusive leopard. However, night game drives are perfect for finding the elusive leopard.
A typical Uganda safari will usually include a couple of safari game drives and a boat safari with two nights in Queen Elizabeth National Park after or before the gorilla trekking adventure in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Nkuringo safaris offer trips with two nights in Bwindi, two nights in Queen, and end the journey with two nights in the Kibale chimpanzee jungle.
Tailored Uganda Safaris
Our Uganda safaris trips that include viewing wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park are entirely customizable to suit your travel preferences and style with the help of a local expert who guides the planning and manages the entire trip on your behalf.
If you’re not enthusiastic about big game viewing, then safari game drives in Lake Mburo National Park will meet your safari goals. A safari drive will spot substantial concentrations of impala, zebra, waterbuck, topi, and buffalo.
Mburo is usually a resting point for long drives to the southwestern Uganda safari circuit, where tourists expect to find more wildlife action drama. So, tourists typically prefer the park’s active safari activities, like game viewing on foot or horseback and the laid-back sunsets.
A typical lake Mburo safari will include a night or two in the park and then head deeper into the western safari circuit to track gorillas in Bwindi or explore the Rwenzori Mountains shadowed savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Up the Nile at the edge of the Albertine Rift is Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s largest savannah park. Murchison is one of the three large safari parks that provide excellent guided safari game drives in Uganda.
A good safari drive on Murchison’s game tracks will lead you to four of Africa’s Big Five; only rhinos are absent. Buffalo and elephant are particularly a common sight on game drives. The park has a rich population of lions that prey on the abundant Uganda kob. You’ll also catch sight of various antelope species like the oribi, Jackson’s hartebeest, Defassa waterbuck, grey duiker, and bushbuck.
You won’t miss sighting the large herds of the localized Rothschild’s giraffes on any safari game drive in the park. The introverted leopards, though far from numerous, are most likely to be spotted around Pakuba. Look out for troops of the rare Pata’s monkey on the grassy plains.
Murchison Falls National Park is a bit isolated from the popular western circuit with at least 200 kilometers from Kibale National Park, the nearest park. So it’s usually the first or last stop on the best of Uganda safari holiday. Nonetheless, the Murchison Falls route, via Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, is the only one that will assure you an encounter with Africa’s BIG FIVE game.
We recommend you spend at least two or more nights in Murchison and extend your love for the African savannah to the vast wilderness of Kidepo Valley in the extreme northeast for another two nights.
Tailored Murchison Falls Safaris
If you’re planning to stay longer in a single savannah park destination in Uganda, Kidepo National Park is your best choice. The park is a predator haven, protecting many predators found nowhere else in Uganda’s parks like the cheetah and black-backed jackal.
Common sightings on a safari game drive in Kidepo include the hunting dog, bat-eared fox, cheetah, striped hyena, caracal, aardwolf, Beisa Oryx, Lesser Kudu plus Grant’s gazelle, elephant, Orbis, Burchell’s zebras, Jackson’s hartebeests, bush pigs, cape buffaloes, bohor reedbuck, warthog, defassa waterbuck, Rothschild giraffes, bush duskier and elands, bushbucks and zebra.
In addition to lions, leopards, and several small cats, a good local safari guide will spot out the side-striped jackal, Kongoni, black-backed jackal, and spotted hyena.
We recommend about three or four nights in Kidepo National Park at Apoka Safari Camp, Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp, or Kidepo Safari Lodge to get a Mara-like experience with ultimate privacy exceptionally few safari parks can provide.
Tailored Kidepo Safaris
Uganda safari national parks are expansive with wild animals spread over vast savannah plains, which means you’ll be driving over distant game tracks to find a concentration of animals. Irrespective of how much you’ve paid for your safari, sightings are not guaranteed, especially for the big elusive animals.
It’s best you curate your expectations with your expert local guide on which kinds of animals you may encounter. Safari game drives are more challenging than what wildlife television shows depict out to be. Gather more information about the park you’ll be visiting, what kind of animals are there, and the quality of game drives in that park before you book your trip.
Generally, it’s best to have a few realistic expectations as possible and be rewarded with surprising wildlife drama.
The best game viewing moment on the savannah plains is often a waiting game. Whether you’re sitting by a waterhole or slowly trundling through the bush with your eyes peeled, having patience during a safari game drive is crucial to creating lasting wilderness moments.
So, carry a load of patience towards your local safari guide because they must ensure that your sightings are as memorable as possible. Instead of driving from animal to animal, it pays to stay with a potentially good sighting. Spending time will offer an opportunity to see some interesting animal behavior.
Taking photographs on safari should be fun. Unless you’re a professional photographer, there is no reason to let your camera dominate every animal sighting. It is enriching to ditch the camera, slow down and take in the views, the smells, and the sounds of the African bush.
A safari game drives in Uganda offer excellent wildlife photography opportunities, but hopefully, you’ll have some rewarding interactions with your local guide. You’ll probably make a close bond with your guide, and at the end of the day, it’s the human conversations that will continuously stay with you. So, put the camera down, and you’ll find that great shot.
Your safari guide’s primary goal is to make the most of your African safari. Most guides are good at spotting animals, and they can also offer exciting information relevant to the sightings. They’ll undoubtedly have plenty of amazing stories to tell. Engage with them to get a brighter picture of your adventure, the best position, spot rare animals, ask questions and collect stories to tell back home. Also, make sure they’ve turned off the at-sightings; sometimes, they get caught up in the moments and forget that you may not be hearing them.
Ultimately, It’s easy to get too focused on the Big 5 and other large mammals on guided safari game drives, partly because the Big Five is heavily marketed. Searching for them seems to be the main aim in any safari drive. However, viewing small animals and birds can be highly rewarding as well. A photograph of a dung beetle or a colorful bird is more evocative than spending 30 minutes watching a sleeping lion. An excellent way to focus on the small stuff is to drive very slow on the game tracks.
The best wildlife viewing on safari game drive in Uganda’s western savannah parks is during the dry seasons from June to August and December to February. The best time for game drives in Kidepo Valley National Park is immediately after the rainy season in September, October, November, and through the long dry season through December to April.
However, the beginning of the wet season is always a great time to drive on the safari tracks and check out the greening landscapes.
If it’s your first time on safari, you’ll be looking around for what you should carry or wear on a safari game drive in Uganda. Well, know your plight, and to your rescue, here’s a quick look at what you should take.
When starting your game, drive early morning and for the better half of the day, wear comfortable layers of safari clothing. That way, you can adjust to the wide range of temperatures you’ll experience on a typical day. While the morning can be freezing in western Uganda, it gets hot by midday, so layers of safari outfitters will save you the trouble.
Even If you’re on safari during the rainy season, convertible pants and a light jacket are great options since you’ll spend most of your time in the back of a closed safari truck. At least carry a scarf and gloves for the chilly morning game drives.
Sun protection is considerable concern on safari. So carry a hat, scent-free sunblock, and a pair of polarized sunglasses to reduce the glare. It doesn’t matter what kind of hat but as long as it can protect you from the UV sun rays and fits your style, take it. Avoid bright colors, though.
Although you may spend most of your time on a safari game drive inside the vehicle, a few times, you may jump out for a stretch, relaxation break, sundowner, or to get a closer view of a fascinating small animal or plant that your local guide may point out. In that case, wear a comfortable pair of shoes. They don’t have to be hiking boots necessarily, but a pair of canvas shoes will do.
A small spray bottle of hand sanitizer, facemask, and insect repellent are essential to carry in your handbag during these times. Park SOPs require that you wear a mask and disinfect at contact points. Insect repellent is particularly important during evening and night drives when mosquitos are at their most active.
Suppose you’re into nature and wildlife photography. In that case, you’ll need to carry appropriate equipment for wildlife photography, especially the right lens to zoom in on the animals that your guide may not reach driving. It’ll be helpful to carry extra batteries, memory cards, a waterproof or dustproof bag to keep the photography equipment protected.
Carry a pair of binoculars of at least 8×30 magnification to see far-off animals. You will be sighting most of the animals on the safari game drive far off your path, and the binoculars will come in handy in those moments. Our safari vehicles usually carry a couple of binoculars to save our guests trouble.
If you’re interested in getting a good education about the African wilderness, carry an animal guidebook on safari. Your guide may be using a reference book, but it would be very adventurous to have your own animal guidebook.
Take a refillable water bottle to avoid spoiling the environment with disposable water bottles. You can refill your bottle at your camp and stay hydrated during the hot safari drives.
Nuts, energy bars, and dried fruit make for great game drive snacks. The wilderness excitement and fresh air can conjure up some appetite, so it’s good to have some nibbles to hand.
To prepare for unforeseen eventualities on remote, long-day game drives, carry a light first aid kit with you. The kit can include essential items like aspirin, plasters, bandages, stomachache relievers, anti-septic, and anti-histamine cream.
We understand that the essence of any private Africa safari is the guided game drive, so we endeavor to provide our guests pleasant experiences with specialty four-by-four safari vehicles and expert local guides.
Start your early morning with the roar of an engine and the promise of adventure. Our well-serviced vehicles, specifically customized for the rugged safari terrain, gently churn up the dust on the plains tracks, keeping you on track in your quest to explore the African wilderness. The large windows, high seats, and pop-up roof intend that you don’t miss a thing across the vast savanna plains. Our safari vehicles are equipped with a fridge, a picnic bag, and on-request binoculars to guarantee a comfortable game experience.
Generally, our local expert consultants will recommend and tailor your experience on your game safari in Uganda. Have long conversations, ask many questions, and communicate your expectations to ease the planning process. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.
Happy game viewing!