If Uganda is the ‘pearl of Africa’, then southwestern Uganda is the mother of pearl. Easily the most beautiful part of the country, it’s a lush region of lakes, islands and mountains. And whether you’re here for adventure or respite, the southwest’s got you covered in spades.
Famous as the source of the Nile River, Jinja has emerged as the adrenaline capital of East Africa. Here you can get your fix of white-water rafting, kayaking, quad biking, mountain biking, horseback riding and bungee jumping. The town has a lush location and is the major market centre for eastern Uganda. It’s a buzzing little place with much Indian-influenced architecture.
For decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its war on civilians put most of northwestern Uganda effectively off limits. But now that the LRA has fled Uganda, this vast region is once again on the traveller’s map. As before, Murchison Falls National Park remains the region’s saving grace.
The fort may be gone, but this city is definitely a portal to places that offer sublime scenery, abundant nature and genuine adventure. Explore the beautiful Crater Lakes, track the chimps in Kibale Forest National Park or Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, and drop into Semuliki National Park with its hot springs and central African wildlife.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Home to almost half of the world’s surviving mountain gorillas, the World Heritage-listed Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of Africa’s most famous national parks. Set over 331 sq km of improbably steep mountain rainforest, the park is home to an estimated 360 gorillas: undoubtedly Uganda’s biggest tourist drawcard.
Murchison Falls National Park
Uganda’s largest national park and one of its very best; animals here are in plentiful supply and the raging Murchison Falls a sight to behold. Sir Samuel Baker named Murchison Falls in honour of a president of the Royal Geographical Society, and the park was subsequently named after the falls. The Victoria Nile River flows through the park on its way to Lake Albert.
Entebbe is an attractive, verdant town that served duty as the capital city during the early years of the British protectorate; though it’s the relaxed pace of life and natural attractions rather than any notable colonial relics that give the city its charm. Unless you have reason to rush into Kampala, Entebbe makes a nice, relaxing introduction to Uganda.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale is a lush tropical rainforest, believed to have the highest density of primates in Africa. This 795-sq-km national park is home to 13 primate species, including the rare red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey. The stars of the show are the chimpanzees, three groups of which have been habituated to human contact.
A bustling provincial city, Mbale is a place you’ll pass through if planning an assault on Mt Elgon or en route to Sipi Falls, otherwise there’s no real reason to hang around here. It has a scenic backdrop and is notable for the Abayudaya, native Baganda Jews, who live in and around town.
The long-closed Kilembe Copper Mines once brought great prosperity to this drab and dusty town, and the also-defunct train line from Kampala used to deposit a steady stream of visitors here. But now Kasese seems to have passed its use-by date and the only reason travellers come here is to organise an assault on the Rwenzori Mountains.