Uganda is home to the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world and the only way to see them is to trek through their natural habitat of densely packed, mystical cloud forests.
More and more international travellers and wildlife aficionados are shifting their focus to Uganda, where the more affordable permits reportedly can sell out often months in advance. But if you plan to track gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild, you'll want to book sooner rather than later with permit prices set to increase up to US$150 in 2020.
In addition, a series of new developments are set to put the ‘Pearl of Africa’ on the tourist map, so you'll want to visit Uganda before the crowds arrive.
Permit price increases: what you need to know
Gorilla and Chimp permit fees in Uganda will increase from July 1, 2020, so if you plan your gorilla and chimpanzee jungle trek before this date you will save US$150. The Uganda Wildlife Authority recently released cost changes to Gorilla permits from US$600 to US$700 per person, in both Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park, and Chimpanzee permits to be increased from US$150 to US$200 in Kibale National Park.
However, Gorilla and Chimp permits often sell out four to six months in advance, so the earlier you book the greater chance you will be able to travel on your chosen day.
Why Uganda? What about Rwanda?
With the gorilla permits in Rwanda now costing US$1,500 per person, Uganda remains competitively priced with permits more than 50% cheaper than its neighbour. So, it's no surprise that travellers are heading to Uganda, blessed with volcanic mountains, lush valleys, vast lakes and a wealth of flora and fauna – including half of the world's mountain gorilla population.
Beat the crowds
Best known for its gorilla tracking safaris, Uganda is a well-established wildlife haven and a series of new developments is set to put the ‘Pearl of Africa’ on the tourist map. Plans were unveiled for a new war museum that will explore its long history of conflicts and Uganda Airlines, the former national carrier, is set to commence operations at the end of August 2019.
While construction of a brand new international airport in the western region is currently underway, a new highway opened in June 2018 linking Entebbe airport with Lake Victoria; all of which should further add to its credentials as a tourist-friendly destination.
Before the crowds start building up in Uganda, here are some of the best ways to experience this landlocked country.
Top Uganda experiences
The whirlwind experience
If you're stretched for time, a short fly-in safari is a memorable way to access the elusive Mountain Gorillas in their natural environment via return scenic flights over western Uganda.
Regulations allow only one hour with mountain gorillas and a close encounter with these shy primates is one of life’s bucket list experiences!
After the scenic flight, you'll trek through the wilds of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest but be prepared for rain, mud and giant stinging nettles. Long trousers, gloves and a waterproof jacket are a must. View trip >
For animal lovers
In addition to heading to the forest to track mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in their natural habitat, Uganda's diverse ecosystem offers plenty of options when it comes to encountering wildlife.
Search for the famous tree-climbing lions in the scenic savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park, the country’s most visited national park. Why not cruise along the tropical Kazinga Channel teeming with one of the world’s largest concentration of hippos, or enjoy some of the best bird watching in Africa with over 1,000 different species? View safari >
The Rwenzori Mountains, or the ‘Mountains of the Moon’, are located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Isolated, rarely visited, often enveloped in clouds and permanently snow-capped, they are in an extremely humid area that contains no less than five different vegetation zones.
From tropical rainforest through alpine valleys to glaciers, reaching Margherita Peak (5,109m) is known for its demanding ascent and a very early start – but you will be rewarded as you watch the sun peeping over the horizon from Africa’s third highest mountain! View trek >
If you're up for a triple summit challenge, join renowned mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape on a exploratory trek in the Rwenzori Mountains through giant lobelia forests along the remote Kilembe Trail, before roping up and using crampons on glacial landscapes. Post-trip, you can also include an optional Gorilla wildlife safari extension. View expedition >
Experience all the highlights
After a tour that has it all? Our Best of Uganda adventure encompasses some of the country's most memorable wildlife encounters. From a jungle trek to see mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in the evergreen Kibale National Park to cruising along the Nile, it's easy to agree with Winston Churchill's description of Uganda as the "Pearl of Africa". The journey to the foot of the Murchison Falls will be a story to tell as Africa’s longest river squeezes through a seven-metre gap at the top with enormous Nile Crocodiles basking at the bottom!
A pair of hippopotamus enjoy the afternoon sun on the banks of the Kazinga Channel in Uganda. Photo: Udo Orgas
For those with a bit more time to explore, go on our adventure that encompasses the highlights of east Africa. From Tanzania’s world famous Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park to the renowned Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park in Kenya, you'll witness an endless series of spectacular wild animal sightings. View all Uganda adventures >
What other African destinations are on your travel radar?
Information last updated 28 August 2019.