Why photographers should visit Uganda
Uganda is an incredible country to visit with a wide variety of landscapes and activities packed into a relatively small area. Uganda features dense montane rainforests, well known for their inhabitant primates and birds and savannas teaming with game. National parks like Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Kidepo offer a traditional savanna safari experience, while each has its own special features too like boat trips and chimpanzee trekking. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is as exotic as it sounds and is the best place in Uganda to find mountain gorillas. Kibale is home to chimps. The Rwenzoris are a fantastic mountain wonderland packed with endemic species and incredible views. Besides the wildlife, there is plenty of culture and history to explore. Uganda was centre stage in the race for the source of the Nile, for example.
The biggest and oldest national park in Uganda offers palm-dotted savannas a swath of the Victoria Nile, powerful Murchison Falls and tropical forests. The park has 100 species of mammals including abundant Uganda kob, elephant, giraffe, hartebeest, lion, leopard and buffalo. Visitors can trek to see the chimps in the neighbouring Budongo forest. The dramatic Murchison Falls is a spectacle worth seeing on a boat trip up the Victoria Nile. Elephant, buffalo, crocodile and hippo are likely to be spotted from the boat, as well as a large assortment of water birds. The park has 450 species of birds. Notably Ernest Hemingway was involved in a plane crash near the falls.
The varied topography and habitat types of Queen Elizabeth National Park are home to a huge diversity of wildlife—600 species of birds, 95 mammals including classic big game such as elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, hyena and hippo, plus ten primate species including chimpanzees. The park’s Ishasha sector is known for tree-climbing lions. The park offers a variety of activities including traditional game drives, very rewarding boat safaris on the Kazinga channel, chimpanzee trekking, and forest walks. Queen Elizabeth is located in the Albertine rift and houses a number of crater lakes in addition to the savannas, forest and wetlands and the shores of Lake Edward.
The remote Kidepo Valley has an incredibly wild feeling on Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya. Few people visit Kidepo, but that makes it all the more special. The park features wide open savannas, rocky outcrops, seasonal rivers, and a few year round pools that draw wildlife in the dry season. Mammal and bird diversity is high with at least 86 mammals and 475 bird species. Elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, hartebeest, waterbuck and warthog are present, as is the rare tantalus monkey.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a UNESCO word heritage site home to 350 mountain gorillas, half the world’s remaining population. The gorillas are the main attraction, and family groups are habituated to allow special interactions with visitors. Permits to visit the gorillas are expensive, and interactions are limited to an hour, but the experience is well worth it, and fees should help support conservation. Besides the gorillas, the forest itself is worth seeing for its incredible lushness and plant life. The forest supports 350 species of birds, 200 butterfly species, 11 primates (such as L’Hoest’s monkeys and black and white colobus) and rare forest elephants, giant forest hogs and antelopes.
The Rwenzori Mountains lie on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mountains, also called the Mountains of the Moon, feature glacier capped peaks and the third highest mountain in Africa at 5,109 metres. Vegetation zones change with altitude from moist montane forest, through bamboo, heather, alpine moorland, and alpine desert. The mountains feature incredible endemicity, the world’s rarest vegetation, 70 mammals and 217 bird species. Exploring the mountains is limited to hikers, but the otherworldly vegetation is well worth the effort.
Kibale is a tropical forest park with the occasional bit of grassland and swamp. Kibale is most famous for its chimpanzees and is a mecca for research, but it also hosts 12 other species of primates and 70 mammal species altogether. There are 375 species of birds. Chimpanzee trekking is the main attraction but forest walks allow visitors to catch a glimpse of many of Kibale’s other treasurers including rare primates and birds. Sitatunga, giant forest hogs, duiker, bushbuck and buffalo are also present. Kibale is well situated to combine with exploring Fort Portal’s crater lakes as well as Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Important notes for your Uganda Safari
(please note that this information can change and you should check with your embasssy or health practitioner before departure).
Uganda lies astride the equator, bordered by Kenya to the east, DRC to the west, Tanzania to the south and South Sudan to the north. Uganda shares part of Lake Victoria.
Full name: Republic of Uganda
Coordinates: 1 North 32 East
Area : 241 038 sq km
Population: 38 Million
Time: +3 hours GMT
VISAS AND PASSPORTS
Visitors must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended departure date, together with onward travel documents, proof of accommodation and sufficient funds for the duration of your stay. Please also ensure that you have sufficient blank visa pages (not endorsement pages) in your passport, with at least 2 consecutive/side-by-side blank pages. Our recommendation is 3 pages (or even 4 if you are travelling through more than one country on your journey). Please confirm with your local embassy whether there are any visa requirements or by contacting us.
Visas are required for most visitors to Uganda, except for certain nationals including some East and Southern African countries. Visas are available on arrival for $100. There is also an East African Tourist Visa available on arrival valid fro Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda; the fee for this is also $100. E-visas should be available soon.
BANKS AND FOREIGN EXCHANGE
1 Uganda shilling = 100cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de Change. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted. You can draw local currency everywhere through local ATMs. The exchange rate is currently $1 to 3,330 Uganda shillings.
Official languages are English and Swahili. Several local languages are spoken regionally as well. At any hotel, the service staff will speak English.
Uganda is a democracy. The Karamoja region in Northeastern Uganda is considered a security risk, due to ongoing conflict and armed banditry. Kidepo National Park is in this region, and is considered to be safe, but it’s better to fly in than to drive. Elsewhere, be aware there is a large gap between rich and poor, and there are criminal elements in certain areas, especially in Kampala. You should be careful when travelling not to be an obvious target. Keep a close eye on your possessions and lock your valuables away. Be careful not to venture into unknown urban areas, especially at night. If in any doubt ask your hotel, but use your common sense and you will be more than fine.
Inoculation against yellow fever and proof thereof is mandatory for entering Uganda. It is important that you obtain malaria prophylactics before entering Uganda. Only drink bottled water or be assured of water safety by your hotel and avoid eating from roadside stalls. Visit a travel health specialist for other recommended vaccinations.
Uganda is divided by the equator and enjoys a tropical climate that varies greatly from glaciers in the Rwenzoris to tropical savannas. The annual temperatures are warm and range from 15 to 35 degrees (colder at high altitudes). June to September is a great time to travel for mild temperatures and minimal rainfall. The long rains occur from April to June and short rains from October to December. Rainfall is sometimes heavy especially during the long rains and tends to fall in the afternoon and evenings. The rains mean fewer travellers, but sometimes roads and paths through the forests become difficult to navigate.
Please ensure that you have medical insurance cover while you are on safari. It is also recommended to have cancellation and curtailment insurance as David Rogers Photographic or agents cannot be held responsible for unforseen events such as delays in international flights or health issues. We ask that full insurance is put in place at point of confirmation. Please give us the details as above. We expect that every guest has insurance that covers the following as a minimum:
- Cancellation and curtailment
- Medical costs (including full hospital costs should it be needed)
- Personal accident or death
- Emergency evacuation from the point of evacuation to the nearest best hospital and then back to the guest’s hometown. Family or traveling partner should also be covered for accompanying an evacuation.
We cannot emphasize how important it is to be fully covered. Private hospitals in Africa will not accept a patient until full medical insurance has been established.
WHAT TO BRING
You should always travel with soft bags, not hard suitcases (not only for the smaller aircraft but also to fit into vehicles). Weight restrictions on internal flights are usually 20kg per person with one carry on bag that is usually limited to 7 kg per person. The airlines will weigh baggage. They do not allow valuable items to be checked into the hold but will allow cameras to be taken on board as long as the cumulative weight is adhered to. We recommend that you travel with anything essential (medication in particular, spare glasses, batteries) and, if possible, a change of clothes.
WHAT TO PACK
Please see our website for a full description of what to pack, photo gear suggestions, rental and also safari clothing. When packing, consider the following:
Always carry a hat, sunglasses, high-strength sunscreen, moisturizer, lip salve, strong insect repellent, anti-histamine cream and tablets. Bring binoculars, a torch (flashlight) and if you wear prescription glasses, bring a spare. Most properties have a daily laundry service and those that do not will supply washing powder, so we recommend keep clothing light.
- 3 sets bush coloured safari outfits (long/shorts/shirts) i.e. green/brown/dark khaki (not white, cream or bright colours – especially for walking).
- 2 sets casual evening clothes (long trousers & shirts and socks to reduce insect bites).
- 1 lightweight sweat Warm jacket in winter (July/ Aug).
- Light rain gear for the wet months (short rains from October to December November – April). Lodges do provide ponchos.
- Open shoes or sandal type shoes for warmer day A pair of closed walking shoes – need not bring boots.
- In cities and some of the more upmarket camps, the dress code is generally very informal.
- A number of camps do have pools, so bring swimwear with you.
STAYING IN TOUCH
There is extensive mobile reception through Uganda and many of the camps and hotels have wi-fi. It is likely to be slow internet compared to your home country. Also remember that browsing through local internet service providers is very expensive. We suggest you connect via wireless networks to avoid returning home to a big bill.
POWER AND ADAPTORS
Please note that the plug points are three-flat pins (220 volt). Most hotels and lodges have adaptors for the commonly used, round two-pin plugs.
Please let us know any food allergies or any other special dietary requirements well in advance so the camp /lodge can accommodate you.
We recommend the following books specific to the Uganda region:
The birds of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi)
Wildlife of East Africa by Martin B Whithers
A field guide to the tracks and signs of Southern and East Africa by Chris and Tilde Stuart.
My life with the Chimpanzees (Jane Goodall)
USEFUL IPAD APPS
Africa’s wild animals are unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Photographic safari activities and staying in any safari camp place visitors in close proximity to wild animals. It is therefore an inherent risk. Whilst every care is taken by personnel to minimise exposure to risk, our company and its suppliers bear no responsibility whatsoever for any loss, injury, illness, death, delays, cancellation of flights or change of itinerary and retain the right to alter, amend or cancel any part of a safari with just reason.