Get an overview about the safari regions of Uganda. The country is divided into the western, northern, eastern and central regions. Knowing about them should help you to decide where to go for safari. If this is your first time here, look at the Uganda travel tips. Explore and find out a tour that’s right for you.
Uganda achieved her independence on 9 October, 1962 and then went through political difficulties including the Mengo crisis of 1966 in which traditional kingdoms were abolished, a military coup 1971 and the bush war from 1980 – 1986. The British Empire in 1890 persuaded the Kingdom of Buganda to establish a protectorate and the king (Kabaka) Mutesa II became the first elected president of the republic of Uganda. A new constitution drafted in 1967 established the above administrative regions, which are further subdivided into 15 sub-regions. The commonly visited are Ankole famous for the Ankole long horn cows and the Kigezi highlands known as the ‘Switzerland of Africa.’ The ones not well-known and need to be discovered include the semi arid Karamoja, Elgon and Rwenzori.
Central Uganda lies in the lake Victoria basin and was once the autonomous territory of the Kabaaka of Buganda kingdom. It gave birth to the name of our country Uganda and became the seat of government starting in the frontier town of Entebbe, and then to central Kampala capital city, a cosmopolitan city with 4 million people. Entebbe hosts the main international airport from where a new express highway leads to the city in less than 40 minutes. It makes for convenience regarding where to start your East Africa travel plans and how you want to see the picture of Uganda celebrating 60 years of independence, a journey that has impacted the culture and history of over 52 tribes and across the borders.
Depending on the hours or days you should stay when in either KLA or EBB, you have opportunity to discover the culture and heritage of Buganda kingdom and Uganda at large. Each city is worth it. But key highlights are mostly in Kampala including the Mengo palace, the national museum and a variety of markets for shopping.
Base yourself anywhere, with own traveling time, day trips to the east offer opportunity to visit Jinja and look at the source of the Nile. To the west, there’s Masaka the center of bark cloth making and Buganda food tour at Entanda village in Mityana district. While in Entebbe, you can go on day trips by ferry to Sesse islands or boat cruise to chimp sanctuary at Ngamba Island. The city authority is working to make Kampala navigable but you’ll still get stuck in traffic. So, try to start your city tour when traffic is less or take a boda boda ride early to manuver the rush hours.
The western region is home to 8 of the 10 national parks, making it the best places to travel to in Uganda. It encompasses other sub-regions including Ankole, Kigezi, Bunyoro and Toro. The key highlights are mountain gorillas and chimpanzees with Lake Bunyonyi, good for hiking, canoeing and swimming especially after trekking.
The complete main route includes wildlife viewing safari in Murchison falls with Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary enroute, Queen Elizabeth known for the tree climbing lions and Lake Mburo national park , the only park with zebras and Impalas in the whole region. For many, it’s natural to feel that they have seen it all after enjoying a trip in the west.
However, some parks and reserves are off-the-beaten path and evoke the spirit of adventure. For instance, the Toro-Semuliki wildlife reserve for tracking chimpanzees in the grasslands, a great alternative to forest trekking. Rwenzori Mountain Ranges, Semuliki national park known for hot springs and central Africa wildlife species including the Bongo and birds. Lake Albert boat rides in search of Shoebill stork.
Furthermore, new nature trails are now available in Echuya forest to see Batwa pygmies. Staying with Ankole long horn cattle home at Nshenyi village in Ntungamo. Even without the gorillas, western Uganda offers a lot things to do for every travel budget and style.
Karamoja Sub region
The north east corner of Uganda is semi-arid wilderness known as Karamoja. It is situated along the border with South Sudan and to the east the Turkana county in the rift valley province of Kenya. The area is so remote from the rest of Uganda and best for travelers looking to see “Rural Africa.”
There are several tribes but the most powerful are the Karamojong. They’re semi-nomadic Nilotes in nature and resemble the Masai in several ways including high jump dance. Some of their traditions attempt to resist modern influence such as living in Manyattas, which look like enclosed cattle Kraals. Land is communally owned, although 53% of it belongs to conservation areas. The amount of land they own might be steadily decreasing with recent discovery of gold, however. The investment profile and alternative sources of income are at hand for every family to seize opportunity. Even among the Ik (smallest tribe in Uganda), the tradition of survival by hunting and gathering is turning around. People are being encouraged to do sustainable farming through the Karamoja Intergrated Development Plan (KIDP). The government of Uganda is establishing over 20 valley dams are to create enough water for cattle and empower people to control food insecurity and adopt to persistent drought. Besides, cattle may still be the greatest measure of wealth. It is no longer a big threat to security and poaching giraffes for their tails has almost ceased.
Travelers will get to know the indigenous tribes of Karamoja through a variety of tours including gold mining family tour and the Karamoja breakfast. There are opportunities to join biking trips across the border to appreciate the flat landscape scenery and cultural similarities. From hiking in Mount Moroto and Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve to cultural and nature walks in the Narus valley Kidepo National Park. These destinations have empty nature trails even during peak season as most visitors head to the west for gorilla trekking. In Kidepo or Pian Upe, you have access to unspoiled nature where you’re likely to spot rare wild animals such as cheetahs, roan antelopes and Ostriches, Aard wolf, Bat eared fox and Caracol. Lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, impalas, zebras, giraffes, Uganda kob, and water bucks are frequently seen especially in Kidepo.
If you’re looking for a Uganda trip that is off the beaten track and rewarding in a number and varieties of adventure activities, look no further than the eastern region. The way to the east from Kampala is to drive across the Nile basin with possible stop in Jinja for white water rafting, tubing, Busowoko falls massage and source of the Nile boat cruise.
Going further is Mbale town “the Coffee Capital of Uganda” at the base of Mount Elgon National Park home to Uganda’s second tallest peak Wagagai 4123 m above sea level. This extinct volcanic caldera supports Arabic coffee production and lies about 300 sq.km (6-hour drive) south of Kidepo Valley National Park.
In between you’ll find Kapchorwa the home of Uganda’s running champions. A modern high altitude training center Its now one of the best places to run in Africa and guided runs are available at 2600 m above sea level at the Home of Friends Guesthouse. The Olympic gold medalists will provide you with a running experience of a lifetime. Whilst in Kapchorwa you can rent a bike to explore the cave complex and the spectacular Sipi falls for abseiling over the falls. In particular, visits to Mount Elgon begin at Kapkwai exploration center situated 13 sq.km from Sipi falls in Kapchorwa.