Uganda

 Local Ugandan tribe
 Gorilla in Uganda

Why Uganda?                                                                     Click here to view video

Winston Churchill called Uganda 'the pearl of Africa', presumably basing his opinion on the country's great natural beauty. From the moment the visitor lands at Entebbe's international airport, with its breathtaking equatorial location on the forested shore of island-strewn Lake Victoria, it is clear that Uganda is no ordinary safari destination.

Dominated by a century-old botanical garden alive with the chatter of acrobatic monkeys and colourful tropical birds, Entebbe itself is the least obviously urban of all comparably sized African towns. Just 40km (25 miles) distant, sprawled across seven hills, there is the capital Kampala. The bright modern feel of this bustling, cosmopolitan city reflects the ongoing economic growth and political stability that has characterised Uganda since 1986. Since the late 1980s, the nation has managed to move on from the abyss of civil war and the economic catastrophe of the Idi Amin days. Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. In this lush country, one can observe lions prowling the open plains, track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth, then navigate tropical channels teeming with hippos and crocs before setting off into the misty mountains to stare deep into the eyes of a mountain gorilla. Uganda is Africa condensed, with the best of everything the continent has to offer packed into one small but stunning destination. Uganda is home to the highest mountain range in Africa, the Mountains of the Moon in the Rwenzori National Park. It is the source of the mighty Nile, and around Jinja offers the best white-water rafting in the world. It has the highest concentration of primates on earth, including the majestic mountain gorilla, one of the rarest animals on the planet. Head to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for a chance to get close to these great apes. On top of all this, the scenery is so striking that it looks like an oil painting, the beautiful national parks see far fewer visitors than in neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, and the capital, Kampala, is safer and friendlier than most in Africa. Mention Uganda to most people today and the first thing they’ll think of is the brutality of Idi Amin. Their naivety is their loss as, thankfully for Uganda, the big man died in exile in 2003. The reality is vastly different. Stability has returned to most parts of the country and tourists are welcomed with open arms (some areas, particularly in the north, remain unsafe for travellers - see more in the Health & Safety section). Despite the trials and tribulations of the past, Ugandans have weathered the storm remarkably well. The people offer heart-warming hospitality up and down the country, their ever-present smile accompanied by ‘Hello Mzungu!’. They are truly some of the finest folk on the continent. Take the plunge now, before the world wakes up to this magical microcosm of Africa.

  • When should I travel?
The temperature, usually ranging from 21 to 25°C (70 to 77°F), can be quite cool in some parts of the country owing to the country's high altitude, despite its position on the equator. The mountain areas become much cooler and the top of Mount Elgon is often covered with snow. Other parts of the country are much warmer. There is heavy rain between March and May and between October and November.

  • Is it safe to travel and are there places to avoid?
Although much of Uganda is generally safe, there are some risky areas. North of Murchison Falls National Park, and around some towns, such as Lira and Gulu, the fruitcakes of the LRA continue to wreak havoc. It is also important to take care in the far northeast due to regular clashes between armed Karamajong people and anyone they don’t like. It is imperative to make inquiries with knowledgeable local authorities before setting off to these areas.

  • What money should I take?
Currency is the Uganda Shilling (UGX). American Express, Diners, MasterCard and Visa are accepted but not widely used. Some large hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and shops in urban areas accept credit cards. ATMs are available in the larger cities. Traveller's cheques are not widely accepted outside Kampala. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. It is advised that travellers bring sufficient US dollars in cash in case of emergencies.

  • What language will they understand?
English is the official language, with Swahili, Luganda and other Bantu languages also spoken.

  • How about my health?
Visitors should bring personal supplies of medicines that are likely to be needed. Comprehensive health insurance is essential and should include cover for emergency air repatriation in case of serious accident or illness. The Ugandan health service has still not recovered from the mass departure of foreign personnel in 1972 and there are medical facilities of a reasonable standard only in large towns and cities. All water should be regarded as being a potential health risk so bottled water is strongly advised.

  • Public Holidays

2012

January 01 New Year's Day
January 26 Liberation Day
March 08 International Women's Day
April 06 Good Friday
April 09 Easter Monday
May 01 Labour Day
June 03 Martyrs' Day
June 09 National Heroes' Day
August 19 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
October 09 Independence Day
October 26 Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day

2013
January 01 New Year's Day
January 26 Liberation Day
March 08 International Women's Day
March 29 Good Friday
April 01 Easter Monday
May 01 Labour Day
June 03 Martyrs' Day
June 09 Heroes' Day
August 08 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
October 09 Independence Day
October 15 Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 Boxing Day

  • Do I need a visa?
Visas are required for South African passport holders.

  • Will I need any innoculations before I depart?
A Yellow Fever certificate is required for Uganda.