Must Know About a Uganda Safari
Undertaking a Uganda Safari requires one to understand the following;
- The Uganda safari activities are paid for and some of them require advance booking depending on the availability. For example gorilla trekking permits and chimpanzee trekking permits require advance booking and their availability is subject to first come first serve. Thus, a traveller willing to undertake a safari in Uganda can book these activities through an agent or directly at Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala.
- The activity like gorilla trekking requires one to have a gorilla trekking permit which is issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority at its headquarters in Kampala in Kamwokya along Kiira road. Gorilla trekking which is carried out in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is done at a cost of $600 for foreign nonresidents, $500 for foreign residents and 250,000/= for East African citizens. However, in low season, the Uganda Wildlife Authority tends to offer discounted gorilla permits reducing the prices for promotional purposes. This tends to happen in the months of April, May and November. The foreign nonresidents pay $350, foreign residents pay $250 while the East African citizens go as low as 100,000/=
- The Wildlife safaris to the game viewing micro destinations particularly requires paying park entrance fees putting items like transportation aside. The national parks have well informed rangers who can offer guidance throughout the game drive activity at a fee of $20. However, tour companies have professional driver safari guides who are knowledgeable and can provide the same service as part of the package price.
- Important to note is that most of the Uganda safari activities have scheduled starting and end times thus one has to put the time in consideration so as not to miss on some of these activities. In this, you need to get detailed information from your travel agent regarding your itinerary so as not to miss on these activities.
- Uganda safari destinations are distributed all over the country and some of them are in remote areas with poor accessibility. Thus strong vehicles might be required to traverse these difficult landscapes which are also an experience of their own.
- If you are travelling as an independent tourist, you need to put in mind the road use rules as traffic in Uganda follows the left hand, consider the type of safari vehicle to use, the routes to take for particular destinations, attractions on different micro destinations, accommodation establishments and their categories that is luxury/upmarket, midrange/standard or budget/basic not forgetting basis about community norms so as not to conflict with the locals.
- The flights to and from Uganda is also a point of concern. The International flights have different arrival and departure times some of which are late in the night. Thus, it is very significant to send your flight details to the travel agent to avoid getting stuck at Entebbe International Airport after arriving or missing your departure flight due to clashes in the Itinerary.
- Security is also another point of concern to know about Uganda safari. The Uganda which was known for instability and dictator ship during the Amin’s era in 1970s has dramatically undergone the wave of change following the power take over by the NRM government under President Museveni in 1986. The rebel groups that emerged in the subsequent times have been neutralized and now one can say that Uganda is apparently secure. The Lord’s Resistance Army (Kony Rebels) that had tormented the northern part of the country were defeated and repelled out of Uganda. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on the Congo side was weakened and strong military bases of UPDF are in Rwenzori region to stop them from advancing. The Al shabaab terror threats arising from Uganda’s peace keeping mission in Somalia are a point of concern. However, the country security operatives are on alert 24/7 to stop any terror attack that might present its self. Regarding crime, the situations like highway robbery are not so common in Uganda though things like pick pocketing can be encountered in major urban centers like Kampala thus, the traveller on Uganda safari is advised to avoid carrying valuable items while walking along the streets of these urban centers and to always leave the vehicle fully closed after parking.
- Ugandans are very hospitable people and have gained a great recognition amongst world travellers for their welcoming attitude and willingness to handle guests. In fact, travellers have always remarked that they come to see mountain gorillas and leave talking about people. In this, they have no issues with you taking pictures of them or their items however, it very significant to first ask for permission from the people responsible so as to avoid clashes.
- Understanding the local terminologies. Most local Ugandans in the country side refer to the white person as Mzungu. Thus, it is very important to understand that Mzungu is not an insult but the local referring of any white person. And since the white people are perceived to be clean and smart, even the community members that appear to be smart, clean and organized are sometimes referred to as Bazungus (plural for Mzungu). You will drive in the country side and groups of people including children will always wave at you saying Bye Bye Mzungu as a sign of hospitality. Do not hesitate to wave back at them and if they are children, simple sweets would mean a lot to them.
- Listening to the guide. The safari guide is your point of reference while on your safari tour in Uganda. He is informed of all the endeavors that you have set out to encounter and the dynamics at the destination. Thus, it is very important to listen to him and be flexible where ever the need be. This is common in terms of wake up times and behavior on the safari. Avoid conflicting with the safari guide for it will affect your safari experience too.
- Understanding the accommodation element is very important. Accommodation units in Uganda’s protected areas appear in ranges of Luxury/Upmarket, Midrange/Standard and Budget/Basic. However, what should be noted is that these accommodation units are not similar across all protected areas. For example what may appear as a midrange lodge in one national park might appear as a luxury lodge in another park and vice versa. Thus, there is no uniformity something that should be understood while planning a safari tour to Uganda in order to avoid disappointments.
- The aspect of seasonality is very important to note. Uganda has got two travel seasons i.e. the high and low season though all the safari activities can be carried out throughout the year. The low season occurs in rainy season in the months of March to May and from late September to November. The high season occurs in the dry season in the months of December to February and June to September. During the low season the prices of some tourist activities are discounted like gorilla permits and some accommodation establishments offer discounts on their room rates. Due to rains, the transfer to certain destinations like Kidepo and the remote regions of Bwindi like Rushaga and Nkuringo tends to be challenging as the roads slippery while others are covered by floods.