Every country has its sites. Every city its unique culture to display. Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Rome’s Colosseum, Athens’ Acropolis and Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza. Uganda is the same, she has her DNA, her things that make her Uganda, unique and beautiful. Warm and eager.
The downtown bustle on a fine February day, a roadside rolex as you rush to grab a boda to whisk you to wherever you want to go, almost like a jet on two wheels.
A quick Mobile money exchange in which funds are wired through your phone to another’s in the blink of an eye with no hustle, maybe as you swerve to escape being hit by a fast-approaching taxi, whose conductor is screaming, “Kampala biri, biri!” (2.000 Ugx to Kampala).
And then there’s the picturesque countryside, ginormous banana plantations, deep crater lakes, golden Savannah strewn with interesting flora and fauna. Deep green forests, fine woodlands and cultures richly endowed, bursting in diversity like the colors of a rainbow.
There is plenty to do and see in Uganda. But, where should you start? How can you choose what’s the best experience? What will give you a clear, insightful and fun experience of Uganda?
Here we list 10 things that you should absolutely not leave Uganda without doing or seeing.
We compiled this list after looking at several lists all over the internet, marking the things that were recommended repeatedly and then ranking them in the order we deemed right according to our own experience of Uganda.
- Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Without contest, Gorilla Trekking is the most popular and even maybe, fulfilling thing to do while in Uganda. These giant cousins of ours are the chief reason that people all-over the world choose to visit Uganda. This is understandable as this spot within Bwindi Impenetrable Park is the only place you will find mountain gorillas.
Tourists have the opportunity to watch the families, in groups of 10 led by a silverback, get on with their lives and to snap the occasional photograph with one or more of them in the background.
- Bird Watching
Uganda is a birding treasure trove as we have highlighted here. Boasting of 1000+ bird species, every birding enthusiast, experienced or amateur will have something to watch in Uganda.
The Shoe bill stork is one of the popular birds to see in Uganda with its striking resemblance to the much bigger shoe-bill dinosaur. Yes, one may come and watch this bird for a miniature feel of what that great ancestor might have been like.
There fox weaver and Rwenzori double collared sunbird are endemic to Uganda. It’s also home to rare birds that can only be seen in countries that are not yet suitably developed for tourism.
Uganda has the most variety of birds in East Africa, being home to gems such as the night jar, cuckoos and sparrowhawks among others.
- Spotting Tree climbing lions in Ishasha of the Queen Elizabeth National Park
Granted, these may make you nervous but they are quite the sight! Uganda maybe the only place to see tree climbing lions to our knowledge. A fun and exciting thing is that tourists have the opportunity to track them using GPS trackers, this would be the place to insert a wow emoji!
Queen Elizabeth National Park is also home to a diversity of wildlife that would be breathtaking to see and experience.
- Visit the Source of the Nile
We can all agree that this is an iconic site. The massive River Nile that travels over several countries contributing to the ecosystems of various communities and wildlife has its source in Uganda.
Over the years several activities have been introduced here that can lend a much more fulfilling experience to one’s visit there. Bungee Jumping, Kayaking, boat rides, fine dining, camping among others.
- Check out Kampala’s main local markets
Nakasero, Nakawa, Owino, Kalerwe and Katwe markets are huge masses of land that have been designated as market places. Here you can experience the famous Ugandan warmth and also see the variety of food and other products found in Uganda.
Most of what is sold in these markets is sourced from farms and gardens across the country and curated to serve the Kampala crowd.
A visit to any of these markets should give your insight into Uganda’s culture a colorful boost.
- Visit the Uganda Martyrs Shrine and other Cathedrals
Religious sites are a wealth of history. They are a symbol of the pillars of a community’s moral consciousness, the story of their relationship with what is unseen.
They are also a sight for eyes keen on beauty and architectural detail.
Uganda is home to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine located nearly 15km by road in the North East of Kampala, the capital.
One of the largest pilgrimage destinations in Africa, it is the monument for the remembrance of the 22 Catholic martyrs who lost their lives at the hands of Buganda King Mwanga. The shrine attracts more than 2.500.000 pilgrims every year.
Other notable cathedrals include St. Paul’s cathedral, Namirembe which serves as the provincial cathedral for the Church of Uganda and St. Mary’s Cathedral, Rubaga which is the home of the Archbishop of Kampala within the Catholic tradition.
These Cathedrals have been in existence for more than 100 years and are in fantastic shape.
- Visit and do stuff on and near Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa. A chunk of it is in Uganda with the opportunity for several activities.
You can sail on a boat to any of the Islands on the lake for camping, forest walks, birdwatching etc. The Mabamba bay Wetlands are a bird trove, harboring diverse bird species and other animal life.
The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) along the lake is a good place to go for a roundup of Uganda’s Wildlife complete with knowledgeable guides to make the experience more enriching.
You can also go to the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee sanctuary where chimpanzees rescued from the wild for various reasons are given a new home and enabled to thrive.
- Take a picture at the Equator Crossing
Imagine being in the Northern and Southern hemisphere at the same time! It sounds ridiculous until you are in one of the spots in the World where the line between them is found.
In Uganda, Kayabwe town in Mpigi district to be specific, you can stand at this spot, the equator.
And once you are there, grab your camera and snap!
- Revel in Uganda’s cultural dance scene at Ndere Centre
Distinct beats from drums, shakers, a xylophone or two, calabashes.
Ladies and men attired in elaborate costumes moving rhythmically to the beat, passionate voices piercing through, arousing every part of your being, to some an invitation to dance and to others a command to listen, to watch, to feel.
The Ndere Centre is a cultural hub for all things traditional music and dance. There you will be introduced to Uganda’s diverse culture and tribes through music and dance.
Many of the songs and dances are rich with cultural insight, telling stories of norms both archaic and still in use.
Marriage, child birth, death, planting and harvest. The entire circle of life in a song, a dance or instrumental.
The shows are usually in the late evening in the Centre’s open space arena.
- Take your breath away at the Murchison Falls
The Falls are found in the Murchison Falls Park that is also home to a diverse Wildlife. The Victoria Nile River gushes forth through a narrow gap in a massive drop hence the falls.
The sight is spectacular. Murchison Falls National Park is 5 hours from Kampala, which is 305 km.
It also has the benefit of several excellent lodgings for all budgets making it a place to be once you visit Uganda.
Winston Churchill, a great admirer of Uganda, described Murchison as, ‘Kew Gardens and the zoo combined on an unlimited scale,’ and we cannot agree more as it has a rich diversity of terrain and wildlife that make it a must-see, must-be place in Uganda.
There you have it, 10 things for you to engage in when you visit Uganda. There can never be a dull day with these at hand.