Scenic Drives in Uganda – Where and How to go about them on a visit to the Pearl of Africa

By Irene Rukundo

Ranked the 4th best world tourist destination by CNN and Bradt Guides, Uganda is a destination with contrasting landscapes with each region guaranteeing the most scenic drive.

Driving on Ugandan roads is fun and leaves lasting memories. Uganda is a rich destination when it comes to nature and visitor exploration starts right from the moment they land at the Entebbe International Airport.

There are many unique attractions worth exploring regardless of the route or destination. Whether you plan to drive to the North, South, West or East, you will have something to explore in the comfort of your 4×4 safari vehicle or when you get out of the vehicle.

The country can best be explored either guide or you can explore it on your own. All you have to do is by contacting a local tour operator to organise a guided safari for you, while on the other hand if you want to explore on your own, rent a 4×4 car for the best self-drive Uganda road trip.

Western Uganda 

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Driving through the Western circuit of Uganda never leaves holidaymakers in regrets. There are plenty of attractions and destinations to be explored along the Western circuit. Most premier Uganda National Parks are found on the Western circuit and include wildlife viewing parks such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and Semuliki National Park. 

Tourists on a cruise through Uganda’s evergreen Queen Elizabeth National Park

Primate safari destinations in Western Uganda: For chimpanzee tracking –visit Kyambura Gorge, Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Kibale National Park, and Semuliki National Reserve. Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks on the other hand are best for mountain gorilla trekking. 

Gorilla trekking is the leading wildlife experience, and also the main reason for most visits to Uganda. You can participate in a guided gorilla trek if you have a valid gorilla permit and each costs USD 700 per person. 

Other places to consider exploring on a tour along the western circuit include Lake Bunyonyi, and Lake Mutanda – ideal for relaxation or boat rides. If you would like to see golden monkeys, then consider visiting Mgahinga National Park. 

Mountaineering adventures are best done while on Mount Rwenzori in Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Gahinga Volcano, Muhabura and Sabyinyo.

A hike to the peak of Rwenzori Moutain in Western Uganda

If you are an enthusiastic birder, then consider taking a birding trip to Semuliki National Park where over 441 species of birds live. This park also protects one of the most powerful hot springs –the Sempaya hot springs and you can conduct a brief experiment to prove its powerfulness.

Eastern circuit

The Eastern circuit is perhaps one of the least explored regions yet endowed with unique natural wonders, including the Source of the Nile River. At the Source of the Nile, you will enjoy the most thrilling white water rafting experience, bungee jumping, jet boating, boat cruising, and tubing. 

Still in Jinja, you can also undertake community visits, cycling, horseback riding, and city tours. En route to Jinja to engage in adrenaline adventures, the main areas of interest include Ssezibwa Falls, and Mabira Forest. From Jinja, proceed to Kapchorwa to hike to the Sipi Falls- three scenic waterfalls that range at altitudes of 100m, 65 m and 85m.

Continue from the Sipi Falls to Mount Elgon National Park for volcano climbing, rock climbing, forest walks, cave exploration and game viewing. Head off from Elgon NP to Northeast and visit Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve, Kidepo Valley National Park, Matheniko Reserve and more. 

A closer hike to the Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa, eastern Uganda

Still in Eastern Uganda, you can go birding in the rich birding Lakes including Lake Bisina, and Opeta. Lake Opeta is where you can find fox’s weaver birds, the only endemic species of bird in Uganda. Besides, there are near-threatened papyrus gonoleks, shoebill storks and more. If you are interested in ancient history, then don’t miss to visit Nyero Rock Paintings in Kumi District.

Northern route 

Northern Uganda is one of the lovely tourist regions in Uganda, yet remains the least visited. The most popular attractions to visit along the Northern route include Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for rhino tracking, nature walks and birding. Proceed to Murchison Falls National Park, the biggest park in Uganda –spanning up to 3840sq.km. 

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This park holds over 76 mammals, and 451 species and offers experiences such as guided game drives, chimpanzee tracking (Budongo Forest), birding, boat cruises, hot air balloons, hikes to the top of the falls, and many others.

The main wildlife species to encounter in Murchison Falls NP include cape buffaloes, elephants, oribis, hippos, giraffes, bushbucks, hartebeests, Uganda Kobs, hyenas, lions, leopards, warthogs, and primates such as blue monkeys, chimpanzees, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys and others. Most of the park’s primates can be spotted in Kaniyo-Pabidi Forest also part of Budongo Forest.

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