In 1979 Masaka was trashed by the Tanzanian army during the war that ousted Idi Amin. While the scars remain very visible, these days Masaka has turned the corner and is a suprisingly happening little town. For most travellers, it’s a stop en route to the Ssese Islands or Tanzania, and an otherwise good place to break your journey for a meal or coffee.
The long-closed Kilembe Copper Mines once brought great prosperity to this drab, dusty town, and the now-defunct train line from Kampala used to deposit a steady stream of visitors here. But these days Kasese seems to have passed its use-by date and the only reason travellers come here is to organise a trip to the Rwenzori Mountains.
Kibale Forest National Park
This 795-sq-km national park just outside Fort Portal is made up of dense tropical rainforest, within which dwell enormous numbers of primates. If you can't afford the lavish cost of mountain gorilla tracking, then visiting one of the five habituated groups of chimpanzees here is a very worthy substitute, not to mention a far less financially draining one.
Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve
Once one of the best-stocked and most popular wildlife parks in East Africa, the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve suffered significant poaching during the civil-war years and after the war with Tanzania. However, wildlife is recovering well and you may encounter waterbucks, reedbucks, bushbucks, chimpanzees, pygmy hippos, buffaloes, leopards, elephants and hyenas here.
Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park covers 220 sq km of the valley floor connecting Uganda to the steamy jungles of central Africa and harbours some intriguing wildlife, although sightings are not always easy due to the thick vegetation. It's most famous for its primordial hot springs, sites for traditional rituals for the local Bamaga people.
Rwenzori National Park
The Unesco World Heritage–listed Rwenzori Mountains National Park contains the tallest mountain range in Africa, including several peaks that are permanently covered by ice. The three highest peaks in the range are Margherita (5109m), Alexandria (5083m) and Albert (5087m), all on Mt Stanley, the third highest mountain in Africa.
The landscape south of Fort Portal is dotted with picturesque crater lakes, all of which are ringed with improbably steep hills. It’s a great spot to settle in for a few days to explore the footpaths or cycle the seldom-used roads. Much of the land is cultivated, but there are still plenty of primates and birds at the lakeshores.
Lake Mburo National Park
The 370-sq-km Lake Mburo National Park is an increasingly common stop on the safari circuit as it’s the only place in southern Uganda to see zebra. It’s also the only park in the country with impala, slender mongoose and giant bush rat, and is a great place to look for hyena, leopard, topi and eland. Furthermore, it's rumoured giraffe will soon be introduced here.