Find Out The Most Magical & Surprising Way To See Wildlife in Uganda
Visit Uganda and embark on a safari adventure in its national parks, and you’ll see wildlife in the most magical and unexpected way. On a boat safari along the pristine Kazinga Channel and Victoria Nile waterways, great herds of elephants, buffalo, schools of hippos, prides of lions, and more converge for a sip from the pristine waters. In the impenetrable mountain forests, you trek to visit gorillas living in small, socially intricate families. Not far from the gorilla habitats, you experience a rich cultural heritage connecting you deeply with the continent. Uganda will surprise even the most traveled adventurer.
The Wild Frontiers’ houseboat quietly made its way along the serene waters of the Nile River, flanked on both sides by the craggy banks of Murchison Falls National Park, thick with gorges, bushes, trees, marshes, and savannah fields. Sitting in a houseboat cruising along the calm Nile waters was a surprising way to see wildlife; I didn’t know what to expect.
As we cruised down the Nile, we heard the honks and grunts of hippos before seeing their bulging eyes peering above the watery surface. On sandy banks, baboon families engaged in antics, grooming, and feeding their young. Graceful kudu, forest antelopes with striking silvery stripes along their sides, stood stoically nearby. A Nile crocodile lay in wait, water rippling past its armor. The dark, chestnut brown bodies and snow-white chest and head of African fish eagles stood out against the backdrop of darkening clouds in the distance.
But where we were, the setting sun cast a warm glow; our ponchos swayed with the cool breeze, and the semicircle of a rainbow appeared over the width of the river, providing the perfect setting for our sundowner safari offered by Nile Safari Lodge, the only luxury riverfront property in the park. As the clouds drew closer, land mammals began a procession. Dozens of baboons, moms with babies on their backs, tails arched, took off with the kudu by their side, a vision evoking animals marching onto Noah’s Ark. This profusion of wildlife looked like AI-generated imagery, but it was very much real and lucky Uganda safari goers who get to experience this nearly untouched end of East Africa are treated to such incredible scenes and more.
The words Africa safari bring visions of khaki-clad tourists on open-sided or pop-top land cruisers, observing giraffes, elephants, and big cats in the savanna. However, there are surprising but more enriching ways to fully appreciate the magnificent and diverse fauna of the African continent than this traditional way of seeing wildlife.
See wildlife on a water safari amidst hippos, crocodiles, and elephants.
Landlocked Uganda is a country of contrasts with varied ways to see wildlife. The vast forested, rugged tropical landscape dominates the western region, while the grasslands, channels connecting lakes and lagoons, and the River Nile flowing in the northern part provide habitat to large aggregations of animals.
To get in the center of Uganda’s wildlife drama, organize your safari trip to include a water safari on the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls National Park. Extend your elevated safari experience to the impenetrable forest to see the mystical mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The Kazinga Channels is a unique interior river connecting two lakes— Edward and Lake Gorge—on the rift valley floor, 915 meters wide and 36 kilometers long. The gentle river bisects Queen Elizabeth National Park’s savannah landmass, creating an expansive plains wonder with forested banks, viridescent vegetation, and small rocky peninsulas.
The Dry Season of June to August attracts animals in the thousands, along with droves of insects and birds, to the fertile habitat along the channel, creating an oasis for wildlife congregations. Water safaris on the Kazinga Channel and the enchanting Nile in Murchison Falls National Park are experiences you shouldn’t miss on a wildlife safari in Uganda.
Many travelers visiting these two wildlife attractions stay in and around protected areas, experiencing exceptional wildlife viewing and birdwatching on motor boats, traditional mokoro (dugout canoe) rides, and extending their trip into Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see Africa’s mountain gorillas.
Despite the region’s popularity, it attracts fewer safari goers than popular destinations like the Serengeti, the Masai Mara Game Reserve, or Kruger National Park. You and your guide may often be the only human souls on the waterways amidst hippos, crocodiles, and elephants.
A water safari that brings you closer to wildlife.
My eight-day, all-inclusive journey to Uganda’s magical landscape began at the award-winning luxury Nile Safari Lodge on the northern frontier of Murchison Falls National Park. As the only luxury riverfront lodge just outside the park, it is ideally positioned to an early start before vehicles and boats arrive from the park’s outskirts.
During the dry seasons, large herds of elephants amass alongside the river. However, this year-round destination offered plenty of wildlife sightings during our stay in April. Each day, our guide, Jackson Turyebere, and we set out on safari drives and boat safaris in the morning, followed by an afternoon wildlife viewing drive and then a sundowner cruise. And every single outing was different.
If the first sunset cruise introduced me to the diversity and density of wildlife, the next few days demonstrated their true abundance. Herds of elephants, their young babies with their trunks raised in the air, bathed in the brilliantly blue river to reach murky embankments to splash mud over their glistening bodies, an act of both repelling insects and offering protection against the sun. Towers of giraffes ambled through the lush vegetation along the Nile shoreline, while African darter birds (called snakebirds) stood atop low branches and grassy areas, with their wings spread wide to dry.
Game drives along the river and through the plains savanna and acacias yielded sightings of lions, kudu families, mongoose mobs, and impalas and buffalo traffic jams. Scavengers like the Marabou stork and terrestrial birds of prey like Secretary Birds and the shoebill—a large prehistoric stork-like bird with a head like a shoe— made special appearances. Back at the Lodge, adorable “pumbas” (a.k.a. warthogs) dropped on their front knees to feast on the lawn grass while hippos foraged right underneath the raised boardwalks near the waterbed.
Nile Safari Lodge is creative and purposely simple designs with unique styles for ultimate privacy in Uganda’s wilderness. Its suites have locally inspired decor, a swimming pool, a spa offering African treatments, a lounge, and an expansive deck overlooking the river—Niles Safari Lodge remains a spot for celebrities, royals, and those looking for a premiere safari experience to see wildlife in Uganda.
Cruising The Kazinga Channel For Its Wilde Wonders
A quick drive to the pakuba airport and a bush plane ride on Aerolink flight service to a remote airstrip brought me to my next camp in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, the next best thing for viewing wildlife in Uganda curtained by the rugged mass of the Rwenzori Mountains. There, on the edge of a forested gorge, is an exclusive property called Kyambura Gorge Lodge, with sweeping views of the plains’ savannah and excellent access to park games drives and boat safaris on the Kazinga Channel.
The Lodge’s contemporary European theme, accentuated with local artifacts to give guests an African cultural feel, blends in with the environment, only revealing itself upon our approach. Though unassuming, its charm lies in the African regional artwork on the walls and wooden carvings of the local fauna in the communal space, and eight comfortable, well-curated double and family chalets.
The family-style slice through thick reeds, passing lily pads, offering unmatched birdwatching, with highlights such as goliath heron and yellow-green white-fronted bee-eaters fluttering from one reed to another. It’s common to find saddle-billed storks, egrets, slaty egrets, woodland and pied kingfishers, and reedy cormorants on boat rides.
Given the time I visited in the low season and being the only guest then, I was surrounded by a ubiquity of wildlife, not just on water safari rides. Baboons swung from the hanging branches along the path to my cabana; curious otters poked their heads up, and crocodiles drifted past the boat. I was awakened each morning by the twittering song and wilderness orchestra, reminding me I was truly in the middle of a pristine wilderness.
Journey to the gorilla highlands for an epic encounter with gorillas
With a 30-minute drive to the nearby Kasese Airport, I took another bush flight to my next forest getaway outside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site protecting half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas.
There, on a forested ridge above the gorilla forest, with breath-stopping views, my cottage elegantly beamed over the rural landscape. Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge could be heaven. Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge sits at a 2161-meter (7,087 ft) altitude ridge on the southern edge of the gorilla park with stunning views across the rugged rift valley landscape and the entire Virunga Volcanoes chain lined up like tourists on a lunch buffet cue. The Eighteen lavishly appointed guest cottages are set among towering conifer trees sprouting through a wooded ridge like a wild rose garden; even showering comes with verdant views.
Built with wood and ancient volcanic rock, the eleven private garden cottages, two family-style villas, and four luxurious forest suites sit above the steamy forest swathe and peering out of the forested ridge slopes with distinctive elegance.
From here, I walked a few minutes to the trekking center in the misty morning to join the rangers on one of Africa’s most exciting wildlife encounters, watching the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
There’s something unquestioningly fascinating about these great apes that charmed me to appreciate the combination of remarkable strength with profound gentleness, the depth of the primitive social bonds living in harmony with their environment, the vulnerability of the species, and the struggle to survive, an experience that reminded me of humanity’s humble beginnings in this fascinating part of the world.
When to Go
The best time to see wildlife in Uganda on safari and marvel at the country’s wonders is between June and October, but the tropical weather and prolific resident wildlife make Uganda a year-round safari destination. With fewer vehicles and boats, March and April are shoulder seasons.
Uganda’s main safari circuit is best accessed by domestic flights from Entebbe International Airport, your main entry into the country. However, a good road network connecting the national park makes for a good road trip; you should spare at least a day to drive between lodges. Bush planes via Aerolink connect guests between Entebbe, Pakuba, Kasese, and Kisoro or Kihihi Airstrips.
Plan with a local specialist using this email firstname.lastname@example.org