Have you ever been kept awake by the sounds of a hippo? Ever stared into the eyes of a wild chimp? Have you ever briefly wondered how to get a baboon out of your car? Or stood between massive mountain gorillas as they communicated?
If you go gorilla trekking in Uganda, you can expect magical experiences such as these and so much more. Here’s what you can expect on a safari through Uganda.
Saving the Gorillas
Yep, on top of all the fun you’ll have in Uganda, you’ll also get to feel warm and fuzzy knowing that you’re helping the mountain gorillas who are critically endangered. There are under 900 mountain gorillas left in the entire world. That’s crazy!!
There are only three places in the world you can find these gorillas: Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda houses about half of these gorillas. By paying for the permit to gorilla trek in Bwindi ($450-600), you are supporting Uganda Wildlife Authority and neighboring communities, which is crucial for gorilla conservation.
Driving around Uganda, you’ll be greeted with gorgeous, smiling people. The children in particular will run out with a mega-watt smile and a huge wave. Everyone we met in Uganda went out of their way to be extraordinarily friendly. But don’t take my word for it – BBC recently wrote that Uganda is one of the world’s most welcoming countries, getting the highest marks in friendliness.
Need more proof? Our van broke down while passing through a small town, right before we got into the mountains (thank goodness). While the van was being fixed, we bought some drinks from a shop on the side of the road. The people there, both staff and clientele, were incredibly friendly and enjoyed speaking with us about our trip and our lives back home.
Rebuilding the Safari Scene
Back in the 60s, Uganda had a booming tourism scene. That changed in the 70s due to political unrest. While they’ve since gotten their tourism numbers up again, the safari scene isn’t quite up to snuff with neighboring countries Tanzania and Kenya. Unfortunately, their national parks have lost quite a few popular animal species (giraffes, zebras, etc.).
Probably as a result, our safari experience as a whole was not quite as polished of an operation as our safari in Tanzania. That’s not to say it wasn’t as good – it just wasn’t quite as smooth of a process.
On that note, you won’t see nearly as many of the “Big Five” as you may see on a safari to Tanzania or Kenya. This adventure is more focused on primates, which you will definitely see plenty of. I’ve never seen so many monkeys and baboons! Just don’t expect to see the same density of animals that you can find in, say, Ngorongoro Crater or the Serengeti.
Chimps and Gorillas
The highlight of our trip was definitely trekking for chimps and gorillas, and I bet the same is true for most people doing this trip. You should be aware that you will only get to spend one hour at a time with these gorgeous animals. This rule is enforced to protect the animals.
Food & Drink
You can expect to eat some great food during your time in Uganda. We opted for the “mid-range” option, and most lodges served multiple courses with a starter salad, soup, a main that consisted of meat/veggies/potatoes, and a small dessert.
Drinks were not included in the safari, but were extremely reasonable. Beers were around 5,000 shillings ($2.25 USD).
Many of the roads were crazy with tons of potholes. Some were even being rebuilt as we drove over them. If you go in the near future, expect detours and a nice “African Massage” (the lovely sensation you get when driving over uneven ground).
Like I mentioned in my Itinerary post, you should also expect looooong drives. At least two of your “safari” days will be spent mostly in the van (and chances are high you won’t have air conditioning…something to plan for).
You won’t have a problem communicating in English while on your tour through Uganda.
Diverse Geography and Climate
Uganda is a naturally gorgeous country. During our week in Uganda, we experienced many different climates and terrains – hot, dusty nights near Queen Elizabeth and chilly nights in the lush Bwindi Impenetrable forest, just to name a couple.
Want more Uganda? Check out these posts:
Abundance in Africa – my mom’s post about her experience
Have any questions about what to expect on a gorilla trek in Uganda? Feel free to comment!