Uganda is famous as the “Pearl of Africa” in the travel circles, a name that conveniently wraps all the good things about Uganda in three simple words. The country sparkles with natural riches and melts with unique native and foreign cultures. Cultures are born, and some die, but over 50 tribes flourish within a 93,064 sq mi (241,037 sq km) inland nation, the size of Britain. The people of Uganda possess a beautiful, generous, and resilient soul—going through years of civil wars and political power struggle but still welcoming all kinds of people to their lands.
Despite the country’s challenges, Uganda maintains an open-door policy to refugees based on traditional African hospitality. UNHCR and Global Citizen have recognized Uganda as the most welcoming country for refugees. Not related to refugees, but Uganda also holds the flag as a nation with the youngest population on the continent.
Uganda’s young population actually beats the global capitalist giants, the US & UK, in the most entrepreneurial activities. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 28% of adults own or co-own a new business. How come I don’t know any big business owned by a Ugandan, you may ask. Ugandan entrepreneurs intentionally keep their ventures small-scale and informal; it keeps them working because they’re a modest population.
Modest enough to retain over 20% of their land to wildlife reserves. The Pearl of Africa befits Churchill’s recommendation to the English in 1907. Uganda has a gorgeous landscape that harmoniously protects many animal and plant species within its rift valley basin. Uganda’s outstanding features are the largest freshwater lake on the continent, the source of the longest river, the strongest waterfall, the largest number of primates, and the highest number of mountain gorillas worldwide.
There are hundreds of awesome things about Uganda that can put the destination on your travel bucket list, but let’s look at these ten for travelers.
10 Awesome Things About Uganda
- A Generous and Welcoming People
- Over 50 Tribes With Different Culture Live in Uganda
- Highest Density of Primates Worldwide
- Uganda is The Most Affordable Safari Destination
- Uganda Has Relatively Low Tourist Numbers
- It Has Massive Wildlife Reserves
- Tourism significantly contributes to local communities.
- Uganda is a Bird Heaven; 1066 Bird Species Recorded
- Lions Climb Trees in Uganda
- Network Connectivity Across The Country
1. A Generous and Welcoming People
People who live in Uganda are some of the friendliest people on the continent. Sociable, exuberant extroverts are willing to welcome or help you through your visit fill every corner you may travel. According to the UN, the country has the most welcoming refugee policy in the World.
Welcoming all nationalities is an intrinsic part of the culture, and the people of Uganda are quick to offer smiles to newcomers. The people are amazingly friendly!
Uganda isn’t without its problems; however, its draconian stance on homosexuality is highly publicized by international media, but nothing of the sort shows within the people and their cultures when you’re within the country. Same-sex people hold hands and walk with no impunity from the public.
Political power struggles sometimes make social life come to a complete standstill. But that is seasonal and only happens in big cities, like most countries. The overwhelming majority of visitors to Uganda love the place, especially when visiting the countryside, where you’ll find almost all-natural attractions.
Uganda has a high-energy core with a relaxed periphery well suited for families and others who prefer to stay home. Its people are cheerful, welcoming, and insanely generous to all aliens.
2. Over 50 Tribes With Different Cultures Live in Uganda
Uganda is a cultural melting pot as evidenced by 50-plus various indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art, and handicrafts. There’s no telling what you get when you mix over 50 cultures in a tiny 241,037 sq km (93,065 sq mi) piece of land, but you can imagine.
Because Ugandans are generous and welcoming people, many foreign cultures have entangled the indigenous cultures to create stunning cultural effects like innovative, colorful dressing, music, dance, food, and language.
Though foreign, English and Swahili are the country’s official languages. Swahili is a valuable communication link with the country’s Eastern neighbors of Kenya and Tanzania, where it’s widely spoken.
Although Ugandans speak different languages, many of the languages bear some similarities. Others are entirely different, and the tribes that share the languages are unique in their way of life. Because of this, various communities have different cultural rites and practices.
What’s awesome about Ugandan cultures is that its people easily adapt to new cultures but never entirely abandon their indigenous languages and cultures. It’s not surprising to find a Ugandan speaking more than 4 native languages, including English and can understand the basics of at least 5 other native languages. One language proliferates almost the whole country, and that is Luganda.
You’ll enjoy reading this: Popular words that may be useful when traveling in Uganda & Immerse yourself in Uganda’s cultures when traveling.
3. Highest density of primates and gorillas worldwide
Although not even the UK’s size, Uganda harbors 20 species of primates among its rainforest jungles. Gorillas, chimpanzees, monkeys, and the most adorable of the adorable (though a bit gross) bushbabies all call Uganda home—as does one of the World’s fastest-growing human populations. The mountainous jungles of this tiny east-African nation are lush and endowed with animal and plant species.
Kibale Forest alone protects 13 primate species, the highest population density of primates globally, while Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks protect more than half of the total population of mountain gorillas.
Because of its primate endowment, Uganda offers the best affordable primate viewing adventures in the World. Better than the other two countries, gorilla trekking excursions occur in two locations; Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Chimpanzee tracking occurs in Kibale National Park and a handful of other forest reserves in its western part.
Primate viewing prices are the lowest, with a gorilla permit selling as low as USD 400 per person during promotional periods and as high as USD 700 (less than half of Rwanda’s charges).
To make primate tracking more interesting, Uganda also offers Habituation Experiences. The experiences are some of the most intense wildlife encounter activities in the World. A guest is escorted to join researchers, trackers, and rangers in the impenetrable jungle to track and stay with a wild primate family from dawn till dusk. The activity is bound to trigger the most intense emotions that will change all your feelings about the natural world. Because of the dangers involved, habituation is a little bit pricy; $1,500 for gorilla habituation and $250 for chimp habituation experience.
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4. Uganda is The Most Affordable Safari Destination
Although East Africa is known for its expensive destinations, Uganda offers the very bottom of the budget. Relatively, a luxury safari trip in Uganda is what a semi-luxury trip in Kenya would cost you.
Hotels, safari camps, and lodges have recently sprawled around cities and national parks in Uganda, sending price competition wars across the tourism industry. To the traveler’s advantage, they can’t fail to find affordable places to stay from the myriad choices. Uganda offers the lowest accommodation prices, from tented budget camps, guesthouses, and hotels to international luxury brands and private safari cottages.
The national park charges the lowest entry fees in East and Central Africa, while gorilla trekking and chimpanzee tracking permits are the lowest offering the most entertaining primate adventures in the World.
Check out entry and permit fees: Park entry fees and permit prices for Uganda 2021-2022
5. Uganda Has Relatively Low Tourist Numbers
Compared to its neighbors, Uganda has the lowest number of tourists flocking the country. Low numbers mean that your toes will not be stepped on, and when planning, you’ll not hustle with availability, and you’ll get the best attention during your trip to Uganda.
Low numbers also mean that Uganda offers great private travel options. You could be the only one on a safari drive on the entire safari park with no disruptions bucket-list tickers, giving you a life-changing connection with the natural world.
The ’80s crippled Uganda’s tourism industry, allowing its neighbors to outshine its attractions. But Uganda has recovered impressively, repopulating its national parks at world-record speeds. Approximately 23% of Uganda is reserved for wildlife and showcases the most beautiful landscaped on the continent.
Still, many tourists have not discovered Uganda, making it a destination of choice for private journeys in Africa.
If you’re looking for an undiscovered, raw, and authentic African experience that is not staged to impress, Uganda is your choice. With your map in hand, a couple of guides on your mobile, and a hired 4×4 vehicle, you can explore Uganda with little to no hustle. Uganda is practically the easiest African safari destination to explore on your own.
You’ll love reading this if you’re a self explorer: Self Driving & The Things You Should Avoid on Self-drive Journeys in Uganda
6. Huge Wildlife Reserves
Relatively the size of the UK, Uganda surely packs a great deal within its tiny-ness. Over 23% of Uganda is reserved to protect Wildlife, creating a massive green blanket across the country.
Uganda Wildlife Authority protects ten National Parks and over 15 wildlife reserves and sanctuaries. Most visited are the primates parks, and the big game savannah parks, Queen Elizabeth NP, and Murchison Falls NP.
An impressive population of Ugandans comfortably live around the National Park borders, in harmony with the wild. The most extensive wildlife reserves in Uganda, Pain Upe Game Reserve, Murchison Falls, and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, make approximately 3100 sq miles and protect the highest number of animal species.
Must read to help plan your Uganda journey: Uganda’s to Rated Destinations you Should Visit
7. Tourism significantly contributes to local communities.
Tourism contributes significantly to Uganda’s gross domestic product, provides significant
investment opportunities and employment, and is a substantial source of foreign currency, according to the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), tourism contributes a total of about 7.6% of the GDP, and n 2018, Travel and Tourism in Uganda employed about 667,600 people.
Communities surrounding game reserves and national parks benefit directly from tourism activities. A healthy number of camps and lodges have popped up in these areas, employing many locals in their operations.
For example, Bwindi Impenetrable is the only national park with the highest human population in its boundaries on the continent. Almost everyone living around Bwindi directly benefits from tourism in the park.
Many safari companies in Uganda are owned and operated by locals, creating a competitive environment for affordable trips in Uganda, as we pointed out earlier.
Uganda has the most sustainable/eco-friendly holidays than its neighbors. A good percentage of the money you will spend on a safari trip to Uganda will most probably benefit the local person or contribute to conservation.
8. Uganda is a Bird Heaven; 1066 Bird Species Recorded
As of May 2020, a total of 1066 bird species have been confirmed. The number represents over 50% of Africa’s total bird list and 10% of the World’s avian total, making birding in Uganda most rewarding for birdwatchers.
The concentration of bird species in such a tiny country can be attributed to Uganda’s location at a transitional point between the east African savanna, the West African rainforest, and the north’s semi-desert, which creates green basin-like heaven for winged creatures.
The rainforests of western Uganda are the country’s most important bird habitat and the most significant interest to birdwatchers, mainly if they are already reasonably familiar with typical East African birds. The most alluring forest in terms of localized species is probably Semliki, closely rivaled by Budongo, Kibale, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
However, in practical terms, Kibale Forest is probably Uganda’s best single stop for forest birds because of the keen birding guides who take tourists into the forest and the nearby Magombe Swamp—located in Bigodi wetland just opposite Kibale National Park in Fort portal district.
That said, just about any forest in Uganda will be rewarding; even the relatively tame botanical garden in Entebbe will throw up several interesting bird species.
Unfortunately, most forest birds are very secretive. It can be challenging to get even a glimpse of them in the dense undergrowth, let alone a clear enough look to make an identification. You would probably identify more bird species in a ten-minute walk in the suburbs of Entebbe than you would in an afternoon walking through the Semliki Forest.
For this reason, first-time Africa birding safari visitors might do better concentrating on locations other than forests. If you want to see a wide range of birds in Uganda, try these places:
- Entebbe – water and forest birds,
- Lake Mburo -water- and acacia-associated birds,
- Queen Elizabeth – a wide variety of habitats; over 600 species recorded,
- Murchison Falls – a wide variety of habitats; the best place in East Africa to see the papyrus-associated shoebill and,
- Kidepo – northern semi-desert specials; over 50 raptors recorded.
9. Lions Climb Trees in Uganda
Uganda is one of the few places in Africa where you’ll witness the tree-climbing lions’ unusual behaviors. Somewhat off the beaten track in the far southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National and the far isolated northern Kidepo National Park, a population of tree-climbing lions laze sprawling limbs on fig trees during the heat of the day. A sight that attracts thousands of travelers to Uganda.
In Uganda, lions are mainly found in the three largest savannah parks: Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), Kidepo Valley National Park (KVNP), and Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Lions, after mountain gorillas, are the most sought-after species by tourists visiting Uganda.
A WCS assessment in 2006 showed that each lion in Queen Elizabeth National Park generated about USD 13,500 per year for the national economy in terms of the revenue it brought into the country. An influencing factor was that tourists are willing to stay longer just to see lions climb trees.
Ecologically, lions play an essential role in maintaining ecosystem health and balance by predating on herbivores, often targeting sick individuals and thereby keeping disease down and disposing of carcasses. It makes the tree-climbing lions important to Uganda’s economy and ecology.
10. Network Connectivity Across The Country
Intenet connects each one of us to the global community. Traveling miles away from home and not communicating with your family and friends can leave a modern person mentally disturbed. But you don’t have to worry about that when in Uganda.
Uganda has a broadband connection in almost every place that attracts tourists. If it’s not the internet connection, it is a cell phone connection to make calls to your loved one. If you own a smartphone, you can keep in it roaming, and it’ll connect you to a random network on the international grid.
How to connect to the World while in Uganda: Mobile Phone Connection, Internet, Media & Communication in Uganda
Well? What do you think? A trip to Uganda soon?
Tell us what you think about the 10 awesome things about Uganda. Say something in the comment section. Send us an email [email protected], and we’ll connect you directly with a Ugandan-owned and operated Safari Company that will help you plan your leisure trip to Uganda. They’re locals and have been successfully doing this for years. They know the destination off-head and have partnered with the most comfortable, entertaining, affordable and most, sustainable travel companies that give back to the Pearl of Africa. They’ll connect you with the land’s cultures and give you an experience of indigenous African life. Visit Uganda soon!
- Global Citizen: World’s Most Welcoming Country for Refugees, But It Needs Help
- Wikipedia: List of protected areas of Uganda
- WCS Uganda: Lions
- Africa Media Portal: Research – Reviewing Uganda’s Tourism Sector For Economic And Social Upgrading. Pdf file.
- Nature Uganda: The State Of Uganda’ Biodiversity 2017. Pdf file.
- Global Entrepreneurship Monitor: 2014 Global Report