Uganda

The Pearl of Africa

Discover UGANDA …the Pearl of Africa!

So far discovered by few tourists, East Africa is still virtually untouched and pure.
In East Africa, Uganda is a region of many surprises with rolling hills, sparkling crater lakes, abundant wildlife, adrenaline activities and, of course, the endangered Mountain Gorillas. Uganda is still authentically African, lush green and home to the friendliest people on the continent.

We at Zarcar Safaris are passionate about Uganda and it is our privilege to introduce you to the Pearl of Africa.

Whether you prefer gorilla tracking, exploring the country on a complete round-trip or combining a trip to Uganda with one of the other East African countries, everything is possible! We will tailor your safari to your individual needs, taking your special wishes into account and never lose sight of the smallest details. From the moment you step out of the plane, we have taken care of everything.

Introducing Uganda

A reputation for political instability and the looming shadow of Idi Amin have long – and unfairly – blighted Uganda’s fledgling tourism sector. Now, though, things are looking up for the central African nation once described as “the pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill.

And a brief look around is enough to show you why. From the second you step off the plane, the overwhelming impression of Uganda is one of rich natural diversity, friendly locals and a burgeoning cultural scene that is currently producing some of the most exciting artists in Africa.

Culturally, much of the action happens in the capital, Kampala, an urban sprawl ringed by farmland and perched on the muddy banks of Lake Victoria. While most foreign travellers confine themselves to the city centre or the diplomatic quarter, Kololo, its worth venturing into the bustling bars and clubs of Kabalagala, where expats and locals meet for a slug of the local Nile beer and a friendly game of pool.

Away from the capital, Uganda’s towns and cities have little in the way of diversions (although Jinja’s location on the banks of the River Nile has made it a favourite with thrill-seeking rafters). Instead, head west towards the Congo border where, along with the fascinating pygmy people of Fort Portal, Uganda’s natural wonders reveal themselves.

A popular spot for wildlife watching is Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is home to four of the Big Five, a flock of flamboyant flamingos and the rare tree-climbing lions of Ishasha.

The star attraction, though, is the iconic mountain gorilla, which can be found further south in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. While you’re down there it’s also worth taking a detour to Lake Bunyonyi, a mountain retreat famed for its stunning vistas and freshwater crayfish.

More natural wonders await in northern Uganda, home to the magnificent Murchison Falls, and in the east, where visitors will find the outstanding desert crags and ossified anthills of Kidepo.

Regardless of where you go in Uganda, when it comes to leaving, it will be with a heavy heart.

Uganda History, Language and Culture

History of Uganda

Before the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century, the Buganda Kingdom had become the ascendant dynasty in the region, having edged out other contenders with well-developed armed forces and agriculture.

From the 1840s, Muslim traders entered the region from the Indian Ocean coast. In 1862, British explorer John Hanning Speke became the first European to visit the kingdom, soon followed by a number of Christian missionaries, who were welcomed by the Bugandan king, Mutesa. The territory, renamed Uganda, officially became a British protectorate in 1894.

The country officially gained its independence in 1962, and most of its post-independence history has been characterized by politically inspired violence. President Obote, who banned opposition parties in 1969, was overthrown by the notorious and murderous Idi Amin, who remained in power until he was deposed by a joint force of Tanzanian forces and Ugandan exiles in 1979.

Obote subsequently returned to office but he too found himself fighting guerrilla groups – the remnants of Amin’s army and Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA). The third major military force in the country was the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), led by Tito Okello.

In July 1985, Obote was overthrown once again, this time by a military council with Okello at its head. The Okello government lasted just six months, and the NRA took control of the capital in 1986, establishing the National Resistance Council to govern the country.

By the early 1990s, Museveni had succeeded in restoring order and a measure of prosperity to most of the country. Presidential elections, comfortably won by Museveni, were held in 1989. Museveni continues to hold the presidency today, having won subsequent elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.

For decades after Museveni came to power in 1986, two regions of northern Uganda, Gulu and Kitgum, continued to be embroiled in a civil war. This resulted in a civilian death toll of 10,000 people, most at the hands of the extremely violent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a quasi-religious anti-government outfit that terrorised the border regions of northern Uganda by deliberately targeting civilians.

While the Ugandan army failed to formally end the war, the LRA hasn’t been active in northern Uganda since 2005 and the region and its people have finally been able to join the rest of the country in a prolonged period of peace.

Did you know?
• Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” when he visited in 1907.
• Uganda has repeatedly been ranked as a world leader in alcohol consumption.
• In 2016 nearly half of Uganda’s population were under the age of 14, making it the youngest country in the world after Niger.

Uganda Culture

Religion

66% Christian and 16% Muslim with the remaining being atheist, or belonging to traditional religions. There are tiny minorities that practice Hinduism and Judaism.

Social conventions

Visitors to the country will generally find Ugandans to be warm, friendly and relaxed.Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting and it’s considered rude not to greet a person properly before rushing into asking them a question. Most people will know ‘Hello’, but the Swahili ‘Jambo’ is also used. Casual dress is usual for most occasions in the daytime or evening.

Ugandans have adopted a socially conservative culture and expressing emotions or affection in public is best avoided. Expressing anger is also frowned on and generally counter-productive, so try and keep calm in frustrating situations.

Drug abuse is illegal and widely condemned, as is homosexuality. There has been much publicity in recent years regarding Uganda’s hardline approach to homosexuality, with the government proposing in 2009 – and still debating – an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would include death penalties for anyone proved to be indulging in same-sex activities. While the bill has provoked strong international condemnation, homosexuals in Uganda still regularly face persecution, outings in the media or through the church, eviction, arrests and violence. As such, any lesbian, gay or transgender travellers to the country are advised to be extremely cautious.

Photography: Since 1992, photography has been allowed in all areas with the exception of airports or military installations. However, some areas are still sensitive and it is advisable to take local advice. Commercial photographers should consult the Ministry of Information for a permit.

Language in Uganda

English is the official language, with Swahili, Luganda and other Bantu languages also spoken.

Uganda Weather, climate and geography

Weather & climate

Best time to visit

Uganda has a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 21-25°C (70- 77°F), apart from in the mountainous areas, which are much cooler; the top of Mount Elgon is often covered with snow. The hottest months are December to February. Evenings can feel chilly after the heat of the day with temperatures around 12- 16ºC (54-61°F).

Most regions of Uganda, apart from the dry area in the north, have an annual rainfall of between 1,000mm and 2,000mm. There is heavy rain between March and May and between October and November, when road travel can become difficult in parts of the country. The best time for trekking is during the dry seasons, between January and February and June to September. Wildlife viewing is best at the end of the dry seasons, when game is more concentrated around water sources.

Required clothing

Lightweight clothes with a warm cover-up for the evenings are advised. Take a pair of good walking shoes or boots for forest trekking, and long-sleeved tops to protect against mosquitoes. If you’re planning to go to mountainous areas, be sure to take warm clothing, as temperatures drop substantially. White clothes won’t stay white for long with Uganda’s red dust roads, so go for darker colours. Travellers can also pick up bargains at second-hand clothes markets in Kampala, Jinja and Fort Portal, which sell trousers, boots and fleeces.

Geography

Uganda lies between the eastern and western sections of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The country shares borders with Sudan to the north, Kenya to the east, Lake Victoria to the southeast, Tanzania andRwanda to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west. Whilst the landscape is generally quite flat, most of the country is over 1,000m (3,280ft) in altitude.

Mountainous regions include the Rwenzori Mountains that run along the border with the DRC, the Virunga Mountains on the border with Rwanda and the DRC, and Kigezi in the southwest of the country. An extinct volcano, Mount Elgon, straddles the border with Kenya.

The capital city, Kampala, lies on the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa and second-largest freshwater inland body of water in the world. Jinja, located on the lake, is considered to be the start point of the River Nile, which traverses much of the country.

The varied scenery includes tropical forest, a semi-desert area in the northeast, the arid plains of the Karamoja, the lush, heavily populated Buganda, the rolling savannah of Acholi, Bunyoro, Tororo and Ankole, tea plantations and the fertile cotton area of Teso.

Area:

241,038 sq km (93,065 sq miles).

Population:

37.1 million (2015).

Population density:

153.9 per sq km.

Capital:

Kampala.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni since 1986.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda since 2014.

Electricity:

240 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are used.

Uganda Visa and Passport Requirements

Passport required Return ticket required Visa required
Australian Yes Yes Yes
British Yes Yes Yes
Canadian Yes Yes Yes
Other EU Yes Yes Yes
USA Yes Yes Yes

 

Passports

To enter Uganda, a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Passport note

Entry may be refused to passengers not holding sufficient funds, return or onward tickets, and other necessary travel documents.

Visas

Visas are required by all nationals referred to in the chart above. You can obtain visas either on arrival at Entebbe airport or in advance.

Travellers who are also visiting Rwanda and Kenya may find it more useful to apply for an East Africa cross-border joint visa which allows entry into all three countries on a single visa.

Visa note

Although transit passengers do require a visa, it is possible to obtain one on entry provided you are continuing to a third country by the same or first connecting flight within 24 hours, hold confirmed tickets and travel documents and do not leave the airport.

Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the high commission/embassy to check visa requirements for Uganda.

Types and cost

Single-entry visa: £65 in advance or US$100 on entry (three months); multiple-entry visa: £100 (six months). You can apply for 12-, 24- and 36-month multiple-entry visas at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Kampala.

East African tourist visa: £70.

Single-entry visas on arrival for nationals of Cyprus, Ireland and Malta are issued free of charge.

Validity

Transit visa: 24 hours; single-entry visa: three months from the date of issue; multiple-entry visa: six, 12, 24 or 36 months.

East African tourist visa: three months.

Transit

Seven-day transit visas are available for travelling through Uganda overland.

Application to

On arrival at the airport or at the Ugandan embassy or high commission abroad. You can apply in person or by post. Allow extra time if applying by post and always send your passport by registered mail.

Temporary residence

A 12-month student pass may be issued to those wishing to study in Uganda at an approved college, university or institution, renewable on a yearly basis. Research passes may also be granted. Special passes are issued to those on short-term work contracts or those awaiting processing of more permanent applications including work permits or certificates of residency.

Working days

Allow five working days for visa processing at the consulate/high commission.

Sufficient funds

Travellers should have sufficient funds to cover their stay in Uganda, but proving this should only be necessary if you arrive with a one-way ticket, as officials may need reassurance that you can afford to leave the country when it’s time to go home.

Extension of stay

If you wish to extend your stay, you must contact the Immigration Headquarters in Kampala before your current visa expires. If you overstay your visa, you will be charged US$100 per day.

Entry with pets

Cats and dogs must have a certificate of good health from a registered veterinarian in the area of origin, which must be issued, signed and stamped no earlier than 10 days before arrival in Uganda. You will also need a certificate confirming the animal is free of rabies and has been inoculated as necessary.

Dogs require vaccinations against distemper, parvo-virus, rabies, hepatitis and leptospirosos, not less than 30 days prior to arrival.

Cats should be vaccinated against rabies and feline entritis, not less than 30 days prior to arrival.

Embassies and tourist offices

Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in the USA

Telephone: (202) 726 7100.Website: www.ugandaembassy.comOpening times: Mon-Fri 0900-1700; 0930-1500 (visa section).

High Commission for the Republic of Uganda in the UK

Telephone: (020) 7839 8925.Website: www.ugandahighcommission.co.ukOpening times: Mon-Fri 0930-1600, 0930-1300 (visa section).

British High Commission in Uganda

Telephone: 312 312 000.Website:https://www.gov.uk/government/world/organisations/british-high-commission-kampalaOpening times: Mon-Thu 0830-1300 and 1400-1700, Fri 0830-1300.

 

Uganda Health Care and Vaccinations

Title Special precautions
Diphtheria Yes
Hepatitis A Yes
Malaria Yes
Rabies Sometimes
Tetanus Yes
Typhoid Yes
Yellow Fever Yes*
* Yellow fever outbreaks occur occasionally, and an international health certificate showing proof of vaccination is advised, especially if you are travelling to another country from Uganda.

 

Visitors should bring personal supplies of medicines that are likely to be needed, but enquire first at the embassy or high commission whether such supplies may be freely imported. 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.

Food and drink

All water should be regarded as being a potential health risk. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other risks

HIV/AIDS is widespread. Vaccinations against tuberculosis and hepatitis B are sometimes advised. After road accidents, malaria is the most serious health concern for travellers visiting Uganda. Seek up-to-date advice regarding malarial areas and the appropriate antimalarial medication prior to your trip, usually doxycycline, Malarone or mefloquine. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to malaria and are advised against travel to regions where malaria is present. Take a good insect repellant and try to avoid bites between dusk and dawn by always covering up.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK also reports regular outbreaks of a wide range of serious diseases in Uganda, including cholera, Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF), Marburg haemorrhagic fever (MHF) meningococcal disease (meningitis A and W) and hepatitis E.

Tourist offices

Zarcar Safaris

Plot 22 Jinja Road – Kampala,

P.O. Box 34966, Kampala, Uganda
Tel: (414) 698281, +256 703 333710
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1800.
www.zarcarsafaris.com

Things to see and do

Enjoy the charming town of Jinja

No visit to Uganda is complete without a trip to Jinja, the country’s second-largest town and the location of the Source of the Nile. Jinja is also the departure point for a host of adventure activities on and around the river, and a very pretty place in its own right.

Experience Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

This special forest, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, is a sanctuary for around half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. The park is also home to colobus monkeys, various species of chimpanzee, hundreds of species of birds and many other animals, including snakes, lizards, chameleons and butterflies.

Explore the Budongo Forest Reserve

Situated near Masindi on the road to Lake Albert, the Budongo Forest Reserve is the largest mahogany forest in East Africa and one of the most diverse, with around 465 plant species. The forest is home to Uganda’s largest chimpanzee population, along with 366 bird species and blue monkeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys and the implausibly cute potto (another primate).

Get out and about in Kisoro

With breath-taking views of the volcanic peaks of the Virungas, Kisoro is a popular stop for travellers visiting Mgahinga National Park and going gorilla trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. There are many walks outside of the town with lakes, craters and caves to explore and bustling markets every Monday and Thursday.

Get your adrenaline fix at Bujagali Falls

The adventure capital of Uganda, the stretch of the White Nile between Jinja and Bujagali is a playground for rafters and kayakers. Adrenalin-junkies can ride the rapids – where the volume of water is equivalent to ten times that of the Zambezi – while looking out for hippos, crocodiles and monkeys along the way.

Hike through Rwenzori Mountains National Park

One of Uganda’s ten national parks, Rwenzori is regarded as one of the continent’s most spectacular. The highest mountain range in Africa runs almost 120km (75 miles) along the Congolese border and is known for its incredible hiking and climbing opportunities. It’s also a hotspot for wildlife including the endemic Angola colobus monkey.

Kick back on the Ssese Islands

This archipelago of 84 islands scattered along Lake Victoria’s northwest shore boasts some beautiful white sandy beaches and famous sunsets. Buggala is the most accessible island, while Banda is more of an old fashioned backpackers retreat. A great place for relaxing with a good book and then sipping a few drinks around the bonfire at night.

Marvel at the wildlife in Murchison Falls National Park

The largest protected area in Uganda, this national park is named after the stunning and dramatic waterfall which cascades 45m (148ft) over the rift valley wall, after travelling an 80km (50 miles) stretch of rapids. Keep your eyes peeled for lions, Nile crocodiles and elephants in the park, or visit rhinos at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Head to this popular and picturesque park’s remote Ishasha Plains for a rare opportunity to see the feted tree-climbing lions. The park boasts 96 mammal species in total, and more than 600 bird species. Comprising a wide array of landscapes and ecosystems, it has an almost unparalleled biodiversity rating.

Take time out in Fort Portal

One of the country’s most attractive towns, Fort Portal is a hub for travellers wanting to explore some of Uganda’s best wildlife destinations, including Kibale, Semliki, Bigodi, Rwenzori and Lake Nkuruba. Try and find time to check out the nearby crater lakes, Karambi Tombs and the recently restored Toro Palace.

Track chimpanzees in Kibale National Park

There are around 335 bird species and at least 60 species of mammals in this impressive park, including 13 primate species. Kibale’s most famous inhabitants are its chimps, which you’ll have a high chance of spotting on a guided tracking tour, whilst night treks reveal some amazing animals of the nocturnal kind.

Trek to the summit of Mount Elgon

Head to Mount Elgon to explore sky-soaring mountains, lush forest-clad hills and vast wetlands. Straddling the Kenyan border, Elgon is a must for trekkers, with excellent walks including the Karamoja, the Central Circuit trail and the Sasa River Trail, as well as the Sipi and Sisyi waterfalls.

Visit the lovely Lake Bunyoni

Almost certainly the prettiest lake in the country, Bunyoni is surrounded by steeply terraced green hills and scattered with fascinating islands. Like Ssese, it’s a perfect spot for some beach relaxation, but there are also a number of interesting historical sites and activities to experience.

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