There are tons of other ways to “monkey around” in this amazing country that don’t involve primates.
Home to elusive mountain gorillas, playful red-tailed monkeys, curious chimpanzees, and endangered golden monkeys, Uganda has become known as the primate capital of East Africa. Although mountain gorillas and Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees may be the first thing many people think of with Uganda, the country is home to countless other adventures. Of course, trekking through the Bwindi National Forest to spend an hour with the mountain gorillas in their protected habitat is high on the must-do list while in Uganda, but once you’ve seen the gorillas, check out these other once-in-a-lifetime experiences you can only have in Uganda.
Feel the Mist at Murchison Falls
WHERE: Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
Murchison Falls is the site where the world’s mightiest and longest river passes through its narrowest point. A powerful surge of Nile River water rushes through an opening no wider than 20 feet before pouring down to the river basin 130 feet below. The effect creates a cool mist that can be felt both at the base of the falls from a boat or even at the top of the falls, accessible by helicopter or via a moderately easy 45-minute hike along a trail that runs from the base of the falls to a stunning lookout point.
Hike the Rwenzoris
WHERE: Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Uganda
The Rwenzori Mountain range is one of the best-kept secrets among hikers. The range’s highest peak, Mount Margherita (16,761 feet), ranks third among Africa’s highest peaks, just behind Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. The Rwenzoris are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its variety of landscapes that range from glaciers and alpine flora to bamboo forests, cloud forests, and tropical rainforests. Guided hikes typically last anywhere from one to twelve days.
Go White Water Rafting on the White Nile
WHERE: Jinja, Uganda
The White Nile is one of the two tributaries that form the mighty Nile River, and it’s definitely the more exciting of the two. Nalubale Rafting operates a white water rafting outfitting just downstream from the powerful Bujagali Dam, offering day trips, overnight trips, kayaking trips, and even riverboarding experiences. In just 11.8 miles, day-tripping rafters will have the chance to conquer upwards of 10 rapids ranging from a grade 2 to a grade 5, starting with Jaws and working their way to the grade 4, two-tier rapid Vengeance.
Tour the Kasubi Tombs of Kampala
WHERE: Kampala, Uganda
There are more than 10 ethnic groups that make up Uganda’s vibrant population, the largest of which is the Baganda people. Bagandans make up the subnational kingdom of Buganda, where a kabaka (king) still stands in charge of this ethnic group today. Kabakas of former years can be found in a burial ground on Kasubi Hill, a 74-acre agricultural zone located within the capital city of Kampala. The Kasubi Tombs sit on the site of the former Buganda palace, where four royal tombs can be found within one large domed building. The tombs were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site for their remarkable use of organic materials and historic significance.
See the Tree-Climbing Lions
WHERE: Ishasha, Uganda
If the thought of lions climbing trees seems ludicrous to you, it’s because most lions prefer to keep their paws on the ground. Not so for the daring lions of Uganda, where this rare population of felines has taken to the trees. Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda is one of less than a handful of places to spot these limber lions.
INSIDER TIPYour best bet for a sighting is in the Ishasha region, where the lions tend to hang out in the fig and the acacia trees.
Stand at Zero Degree Latitude on the Equatorial Line
WHERE: Kayabwe, Uganda
The equatorial line is the imaginary line that divides the earth into two hemispheres, north and south. In Uganda, the line is less imaginary as the town of Kayabwe has set up a monument to mark the spot where the earth splits in two. Take a picture with each foot in a different hemisphere, or stand dead center at zero degrees latitude to test the theory that you weigh 3 percent less when standing over the equator.
INSIDER TIPStop in at the Equator Café opposite the monument to try an authentic Ugandan Rolex, a street-food creation of eggs and vegetables rolled inside a piece of homemade chapati.
Swim in the Allegedly-Healing Waters at Sipi Falls
WHERE: Sipi, Uganda
Sipi Falls is actually comprised of three waterfalls, two smaller upper falls, and one grand, show-stopping waterfall known as the main fall. The hike to the top of the falls can be a challenge, especially during rainy weather, but the views from the top are worth every ounce of sweat it took to get there. Although the air is cooler in this mountainous region of Uganda, the pool below the falls offers a great chance for a brisk dip, and you’ll find many locals doing the same throughout the year. Named after the Sipi River, which took its name from the medicinal plant “sep,” Sipi Falls is rumored to have healing qualities. Many believe that a quick dive into the icy cold waters can cure a number of ailments.
Spot a Shoebill
WHERE: Semliki, Uganda
The swamplands of Semliki are some of the only habitats around the globe for this rare bird, and birders from around the world make the trek to Uganda for the chance to spot this Jurassic looking creature. Not only is the shoebill a rare bird, but it’s also on the critically endangered list due to the dangerously low numbers spotted each year (less than 5,000). The bluish tint of the shoebill’s legs matches its feathers, but the most striking feature is this 55-inch tall bird is its engorged shoe-shaped beak.
Zip Line Through the Canopies in Kisiizi Falls
WHERE: Kisiizi, Uganda
Feel the gentle mist on your face while speeding past Kisiizi Falls at a rapid speed. The Kisiizi Falls SkyTrail course consists of three stages, starting high in the tree canopies and ending back down on the ground below the falls. Any visitors not up for the adrenaline rushed ride can still enjoy the same stunning views by taking a short hike will up to the Kisiizi Falls Suspension Bridge.
Channel Your Inner Jane Goodall
WHERE: Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda
Jane Goodall first came to Uganda to study the chimpanzee populations after she had established the Jane Goodall Institute. Goodall and her team established their first camp in the Budongo Forest Reserve inside the Murchison Falls National Park, home to the densest population of chimpanzees in Uganda. The camp changed ownership in 2009 but remains relatively unchanged since the days Goodall used for her research. Spend the morning outside the cabin on a patio while the sound of chimpanzees waken the forest, or explore her laboratory that’s been converted into a dining facility (many original artifacts and images still remain), or take to the forest for a day trek to see the chimpanzees up close.
INSIDER TIPOnly a small number of chimpanzee trekking permits are allowed each day, so book early to ensure your spot through Let’s Go Travel Uganda.