6 Best Sights in Uganda

Explosion Crater Drive

Fodor's choice

A stunning three-hour diversion along rocky tracks in northern Queen Elizabeth National Park, the Explosion Crater Drive runs between the Queen's Pavillion (turn off the Kikorongo-Katunguru highway at the Equator Markers) and the Kabatoro Gate (AKA the Main Gate) on the Katwe public road. You don't need a guide but a competent 4x4 driver and vehicle are a must. The drive is known for its scenic vistas rather than wildlife-viewing (though elephants are relatively common, lions are not unheard of, flamingos can be spotted seasonally and the crater environment is great for spotting birds of prey), the drive traverses the Katwe crater field. This area of the park is littered with steep-sided volcanic craters, each containing its own microhabitat, from ancient rainforest to a sulfurous lake. It's enough to make geologists of us all.

Explosion Crater Dr., Queen Elizabeth National Park, Western Region, Uganda
256-782 387--805
sights Details
Rate Includes: Included in park entry fee, No need to book or take a ranger guide.

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Fodor's choice

Delivering a different experience to tracking chimps in the wild, this sanctuary occupies its own island in Lake Victoria. Here visitors can observe the rescued and orphaned chimps during any of the three outdoor feedings; for an extra fee, get an up-close view during the 6 pm indoor feeding. Lying 23 km (14 miles) southeast of Entebbe, the sanctuary was established in 1998 and is run by the Chimpanzee Trust whose mission is to conserve the chimpanzees' natural habitat as well as provide care to rescued animals that can’t survive in the wild. A portion of the sanctuary is fenced off for day-trippers to observe feeding sessions from a raised viewing platform—an excellent photographic opportunity in itself. The real appeal, however, lies in getting to spend a night or even volunteer: overnight visitors (the island has an eco-lodge overseeing the lake with a fresh breeze) can opt for the volunteering experience. Be prepared for extensive medical requirements, but the chance to care for our closest relatives will melt your heart.

The Sunbird Hill Experience, Kibale Forest edge

Fodor's choice

Open exclusively to pre-booked visitors, the immersive Sunbird Hill Experience offers bird and butterfly treks on forest-edge trails in search of more than 250 bird species, insects, reptiles, and hundreds of butterflies and moths. Encounter the reality of human-wildlife conflict as you inspect the elephant trench and beehive fence deterrent with Silver, a reformed poacher and retired wildlife ranger; tour Butterfly Village with expert site guides for a glimpse of the vibrant Red Glider and the curiously named Flying Handkerchief (butterflies). The $30 donation to NGO In the Shadow of Chimpanzees supports grassroots conservation projects and includes refreshments and half-day access to the Birders’ Lounge and natural history library.

Recommended Fodor's Video

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

This community-run conservation project managed by the Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development (KAFRED) offers a popular guided nature trail through Magombe Wetland, near Bigodi. Its more open terrain frequently delivers better bird-watching and monkey-spotting than neighboring Kibale Forest. Here, endangered red colobus are common, with the chance of seeing black and white colobus, the Ugandan endemic crested mangabey, and L'Hoest's and red-tailed monkeys. Serious birders will enjoy the knowledgeable guides, who can identify the wetland's 200-odd species with ease. The 5-km (3-mile) trail takes three to four hours, and if you don't have waterproof boots KAFRED can lend you a pair for free. Porters can be booked in advance. Traditional lunches, village walks, and Tinka's Homestay (voted Best Homestay 2016) are also on offer. Created in 1992, KAFRED is the only swamp walk that directly funds the community; its success has birthed multiple copycat swamp walks so be wary of whom you're signing up with.

Kyambura Gorge

The forested ridges of Kyambura Gorge form a deep cleft in the savanna landscape between Maramagambo Forest and Lake George, creating a natural boundary between Queen Elizabeth National Park and neighboring Kyambura Wildlife Reserve. Offering the chance to spot chimps on guided forest walks, the chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge is more active than most; you may have to cross the river by fallen log (slippery when wet!) and the steep sides of the gorge can be difficult at best. But it's a mysterious, primeval place (made famous by the BBC's Chimps of the Lost Gorge) and worth the 1.6 mile (2.5 km) drive from the Katunguru highway just for the view alone. Chimp permits (USD$50) can be arranged with the UWA locally, but limited availability means it's best to secure them in advance from their HQ in Kampala. Visiting the viewing platform is free, provided one has paid park entry fees.

Kyambura Gorge, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Western Region, Uganda
sights Details
Rate Includes: Daily 6:30–6:30

Uganda Wildlife Education Centre

On the lakeshore in Entebbe, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre plays a multifaceted role: it's an animal rescue center, veterinary institution, and tourist attraction all rolled into one—but perhaps its most significant role is as an education facility for the country's schoolchildren, who roll up in busloads daily. UWEC (pronounced Ooh-Eck), is home to an array of Ugandan species. Facilities for the animals may feel a little cramped, but the team places great importance on putting conservation first, making it a pleasant place to while away a spare morning or afternoon in Entebbe. Kids love the camel and donkey rides, the children’s play center, and beach games. For maximum interaction, UWEC offers a Keeper for the Day program ($150); for those who like sleeping to the sounds of the wild, traditional banda (cottages) are for rent in UWEC's grounds. Visitors can also book the Behind-the-Scenes tour ($70) for a chance to enter some of the enclosures and meet the animals, or the Chimpanzee Close-up ($260) for a grooming session courtesy of one of UWEC's orphaned chimpanzees.