Uganda, straddling the equator high on the central African plateau and perched on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, is marketing itself hard as the ultimate eco-destination. Its gorillas represent perhaps the most powerful image of them all. Yet it still receives relatively few tourists compared to its neighbours, Kenya and Tanzania. Those that do visit are well rewarded with a fantastic climate, an ever-changing scenery, and people who are honest, polite and genuinely pleased to help.
As soon as you step off the plane the country immediately gives a good impression: well-maintained roads with immaculately clean verges. A huge array of greens, mixed with the terracotta red of the soil, is easy on the eye. The capital, Kampala, is a handsome city, set among seven hills, with a range of comfortable hotels, al fresco eating places, lively nightlife and a fine public garden. The surrounding towns, while not high on tourist attractions tend to have a modest colonial centre, bustling markets and historical and cultural interest provided by burial grounds of the kings.
Most travellers, however, visit for two main reasons – the gorillas and whitewater rafting. Neither is particularly cheap – both, however, are unforgettable experiences.
Aside from the gorillas, Uganda’s national parks provide a rich and unique habitat for a great number of wildlife species. From savannah in the east to rainforest in the west, few countries can match the sheer diversity of the landscape. Kibale National Park has East Africa’s highest concentration of primates, with 13 species, including chimpanzee; while Queen Elizabeth National Park has 95 mammal species including the elusive tree-climbing lions.
Birdwatchers are in for a real treat with more than 1000 species to spot. Exploring the island-studded Lake Bunyonyi by canoe offers the perfect opportunity to commune with nature and soak up Uganda’s glorious scenery.
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