KAMPALA — Planning an ultimate Vacation in Uganda? Besides the traditional Safari trips of planning and booking a whole trip with a travel agency, you can think of something new and exciting; a self-drive tour. You can experience the ultimate feel of relaxation and get all the excitement you can imagine with the incredible option of renting a car and drive on your own & at your pace.
Taking out a car for a tour on Self-drive in Uganda lets you enjoy different activities which gives you an up close and breath-taking view of the spectacular scenery, animals and birds among other wildlife. In order to enjoy the best of your time in Uganda, you need early preparations such as looking out for a car to hire, places to visit, activities to do among others.
Among the top tour activities to put on your bucket list, here are the top recommended (not in order of priority) from our travel experts especially while driving around the country on your own.
Looking for other things to do to make yourself drive experience in Uganda memorable and you love birds, why don’t you go on bird watching? Uganda is just one of more than 20 countries that are part of the African continent but has more than 1008 species of birds. This figure represents more than half of the type of bird species found in Africa making it the best place to be should you desire to go on a bird watching vacation. There are a lot of places to go bird watching in Uganda while driving yourself, taking a pick from over 700 forest reserves.
For instance, you can drive to Albertine Rift Endemic Area that boasts to have more than 38 species of birds. The birds here can also be seen in Burundi, Congo and Rwanda. Apart from the forests, there are also the wetlands. Uganda has 30,000 square kilometres of wetlands and not less than 210 bird species are present at all times. You might to see the Shoebill, the African Skimmer, the Papyrus Gonolek, White Winged Warbler or the White Winged Black Tern. The Bigodi Wetland sanctuary and Mabamba swamp are among the top wetlands to top your bucket list while choosing a place to go for birding.
Of the many national parks in Uganda, the most famous are Queen Elizabeth has one of the highest biodiversity ratings of any game reserve in the world and in Murchison Falls, you are sure to see several species of birds while Bwindi Impenetrable and Kibale, you will get to see various species of birds during a nature walk experience and along the way you might get the chance to take pictures of some primates.
One of the best places on earth that has a huge collection of animals is Africa. This is because of the terrain that includes rich savannahs, deserts, rain forests, wetlands and a lot more making it an ideal place to be close to nature. Game watching in Uganda offers a safari experience that is better lived than narrated. It is untamed nature at its best.
Game viewing usually takes place early in the morning by taking on a game drive in your 4X4 Vehicle (recommended). You can rent out a car from different options available offered by a number of Car rental companies suitable for the activity.
When you take on a game drive, the day begins at 7am. The first thing to welcome you on a morning game drive is the breath-taking scenery of the park, an undulating land scape which spreads out before one’s eyes disappearing in the horizon with savannah and rainforest vegetation. Feast your eyes with a variety of game, antelopes, buffaloes, rothschild-giraffes elephants, and buffaloes, warthogs, water bucks and many others.
Here, a better vehicle option to get is the one with a pop-up roof such as Safari Land cruiser, Land cruiser TX or Safari Van though others can also do it well.
In parks like Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth or Lake Mburo, you can enjoy more of game viewing during a boat ride, by catching a variety of wildlife safari animals from the comfort of the boat including hippos, large crocodiles basking in the sun, buffaloes, water bucks and elephants grazing at the banks and occasionally having to drink from the water.
Mountain Gorillas are threatened primate species in the world with the remaining living in Africa and more than a half in Uganda and the rest only in Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo.
Listed as one of the top 10 threatened /endangered species, there are not more than 1100 individuals remaining on the planet thus an ideal option to make and see them during your self-drive trip.
You can choose to drive to Bwindi Forest where most Gorilla Tours in Uganda take place. The forest itself has more than 19 habituated Gorilla groups each available for 8 visitors per day through the year. Another place where Gorillas are found in Uganda is Mgahinga National Park.
Though Gorilla Trekking in quite expensive, it’s more rewarding. In ordinary days, permissions to see Gorillas cost $700 for foreigners, $600 for foreign East African residents and Ugx 250,000 for East African residents per person. However, of now there is an ongoing discounted Gorilla Permits window recently extended till the start of June 2021 where a Gorilla permit costs $400, $300 and Ugx 100,000 respectively.
While Going for Gorilla trekking, don’t forget to go with packed lunch as the time taken to before meeting the great apes is an unpredictable. However the time ranges between 2-9 hours depending on the movement of the giant primates. The activity is tiresome, it involves walking along steep hilly tracks however encountering these great relatives of man erases all the poor memories/ hardships you went through in trying to find them. They are awesome!
Winston Churchill referred to Uganda as the Pearl of Africa, saying that it’s an end to end beautiful garden and indeed it is. After or before exploring the rest of Uganda’s parks or other attractions, you can choose to start/ end with a cruise around Kampala city. A Kampala city tour is much more rewarding especially for those interested in history and culture. The latter mainly focuses on Buganda, the largest kingdom in the country.
You can start with visiting the royal mile that comprises of the Lubiri Palace and the Bulange parliament all located in Mengo. These two have magnificent architectural designs that please all the tourists who take a glance on them as they walk the royal mile learning about the unique Buganda culture. The kabaka’s lake that is the largest manmade lake in Uganda is also nearby there in Ndeeba, surrounded by various hills such as Rubaga, Namirembe and Old Kampala each holding a special religious monument i.e. the Rubaga Cathedral, Namirembe Protestant Cathedral and the Gadaffi mosque respectively.
Visit the Namugongo shrine, where over 50 martyrs were slain on orders of the then current king of Buganda, Kabaka Mwanga in mid-1880. Also take a tour around different tombs, the burial grounds for Buganda Kings including the Wamala, Walusi to mention but a few not forgetting the highlight of all these, the Kasubi tombs.
Other places to visit during yourself drive tour around Kampala include the mother temple in Africa, the Bahai temple, the only one of its kind on the continent, craft village located along Buganda Road, the National Museum that is the biggest and Oldest Museum found in the country, the great Nakayima tree that has got great connotation to Ndahura and the entire great Chwezi fraternity, St Balikuddembe (Owino) market in the downtown of Kampala and different historical monuments among others.
You can also plan of yourself drive trip taking into Chimpanzee trekking destinations. Drive to Kibale Forest National park to enjoy the best of East African primates majorly chimpanzee. This forest is better known for its large diversity of primates with the route to see chimpanzees in the wild rewarding you with sightings of other primate species such as olive baboons, pottos & galagoes, different monkey species including black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, and grey cheeked mangabeys among others. Discounted chimpanzee permits in this park are still running till June 2021 at $150 per person for foreigners (from $200) and $100 from $150 for foreign East African residents.
Other places to watch chimpanzees from include Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National park, Kalinzu Forest and Budongo forest though the chances of seeing them here are sometimes limited.