Geography: Uganda is a country in East Africa with a varied landscape, including savannah grasslands, forests and wetlands. It is landlocked, about 300 miles from the Indian Ocean. Most of the country is at altitudes higher than 3,000 feet above sea level. The country borders Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.
Notable topography: Uganda is mostly flat or slightly hilly, but the southwest is bordered by the Rwenzori Mountain range. Uganda is home to the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria.
Climate: Uganda is on the equator, but the climate is tempered by its altitude. In the hottest months of the year, January and February, the temperatures range from evening lows in the mid 60's to daytime highs in the low to mid 80s. In the "cooler" months, the temperature barely changes with similar nighttime lows and daytime highs in the high 70s to low 80s. Rainy seasons are March - May and September - November.
Capital: Kampala. The main airport is in the neighboring city of Entebbe.
Official Languages:English and Swahili
Religion: Freedom of religion is protected by the Constitution. About 85% of the people are Christian and 13% are Muslim. Other religions are Buddhism, Baha'i and Hinduism.
Politics: Uganda is a republic with a president who serves as head of state and government.The ruling party is the National Resistance Movement (NRM) which has been in power since 1986, ending a 15-year tyranny under Idi Amin. This democracy holds elections every five years, but there are allegations of questionable election practices.
Matoke is mashed plantains and is often served with ground nut sauce.
Chapoti is an unleavened flat bread often served with meals.
There are many dishes with Indian influence.
Fresh pineapple, mango, passion fruit, papayas and bananas are plentiful.
Places to Visit: Here are a few of the many places to visit in Uganda:
Kigali, Rwanda: We often fly into Rwanda's capital city, Kigali, which is close to many of the Ugandan national parks. In Kigali, we visit the Genocide Memorial, a place to learn about and reflect on the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The remains of 250,000 victims are interred there. We also explore the Nyamirambo Women’s Center, a project that aims to address gender-based violence, inequality and discrimination in Rwanda.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:This forest protects approximately 400 mountain gorillas. Uganda and Rwanda are the only two countries in the world with gorilla trekking. After getting a briefing of the rules of the forest, follow your guide into the forest. You will meet with the trackers who spend the early morning hours locating the gorilla families for trekkers to observe before approaching the gorillas.
Batwa Community: In the Bwindi Forest region, visit the Batwa Pygmy community. The Batwa are a former forest-dwelling tribe that was removed from the forest when the government declared the forest a national park. Learn about the Batwa community struggles. In recent years, the Change A Life Bwindi project has worked to provide educational opportunities for the children and train the Batwa women so that they may be self sufficient.
Murchison Falls National Park: Murchison Falls is the largest protected area in Uganda with an incredibly powerful and tall waterfall. The Victoria Nile river narrows to about 20 feet wide and all the water surges through the gap in down the falls. The park is home to thousands of elephants, hippo, hartebeest, warthogs, crocodiles, giraffes and hundreds of bird species.
Queen Elizabeth National Park: Queen Elizabeth is Uganda’s most famous savannah reserve and is home to almost 100 mammal species and over 600 species of birds. Witness the park’s beauty on game drives and a boat ride on the Kazinga Channel. In QE Park, you may go on chimpanzee and lion treks. You might see any or all of the following animals during your stay in QE:elephants, buffalo, lions, hippo, antelope, leopards and hundreds of bird species.
Lake Mburo National Park: Lake Mburo is the smallest of Uganda’s national parks which gives visitors an opportunity to cover a lot of ground in a short time. The park is home to thousands of zebras. Other species you might encounter are waterbuck, buffalo, oribi, impala, hippo, hyena, giraffe, warthog and many species of monkeys and birds. In addition to game drives, take a boat ride on Lake Mburo
Vaccinations: Check with your doctor and/or travel clinic for information about necessary vaccinations & medications. Note that the yellow fever vaccination is REQUIRED. You will not be let into the country without it. Hepatitis A, typhoid & malaria (pills) are recommended.
Requirements for Entry:
Passport: A valid passport is required for entry and it must not expire within six months of your RETURN from Uganda.
Visa: As of this writing, you can purchase a standard, single-entry visa at the airport upon arrival. However, it is suggested that travelers apply for an e-visa online before traveling. There is also a 90-day East African Tourist Visa, valud for Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya available upon arrival. To apply online if you are arriving in Rwanda first: https://www.travelsrwanda.com/apply
Vaccination records: The Yellow Fever vaccination is required and you will need to carry proof of that vaccination with you when you travel.
Suggestions for Travel:
Pack light: There is limited space in the 4x4s and vans that are used for ground transportation. Bring detergent to wash clothes and/or ask about laundry service at your hotels/lodges.
Clothing necessities (in addition to what you normally would pack): 2 pair lightweight nylon hiking/trekking long pants; rain coat; dress in layers because some areas have an elevation that makes for cold evenings; hiking gloves (if gorilla trekking); long (not ankle length) socks to tuck pants into socks when trekking
Other necessities: bug spray with 20% or more DEET; sunscreen; hiking boots
Helpful, but not necessary: binoculars, Kindle and/or books; iPads with shows/movies pre-downloaded; snacks for trekking (can buy in Uganda also)
Things to know:
Cell service/Wifi: Even if you have an international cell service plan, the service is spotty and wifi is often only available in the lobby or reception area of the lodges.
TVs: Most hotel rooms do not have television so books, Kindles, iPads are a good idea.
Air conditioning: Most lodges do not have AC, but the evening temperatures are low enough that it is not an issue.
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