In March I had the opportunity to experience first hand Lonely Planet's top travel destination for 2012, Uganda. After many years of political turmoil, stability and prosperity have returned to this tiny country and tourists are warmly welcomed. Having spent extensive time in Tanzania and Kenya but no time in Uganda, I was touched by the genuine warm-heartedness of the people, beauty of the land and untouched magic of the country.
Uganda has the best of everything Africa has to offer all packed into one small country. Beginning with its stunning landscapes of misty forests, glacier-capped mountains, numerous lakes, lush plantations, savannas, palm forests and the Nile River, it is no wonder that Winston Churchill named it the “Pearl of Africa”.
Besides its amazing scenery, what else does Uganda have to offer those who choose to go exploring…
It has the highest concentration of primates on earth including mountain gorilla and chimpanzees. Gorilla trekking is one of the main draws for people to Uganda. I had the breath-taking opportunity to track both chimpanzees and mountain gorilla. Our gorilla group was the Rushegura family, which is one of the largest groups and includes what is believed to be the world’s largest silverback named Mwirima who weighs nearly 200kg. This family of gorillas is also now known as the YouTube group since they have been made famous by the recent video of a man being touched by the gorillas while visiting their tented camp.
With over 1200 species of birds or over 1/3 of the entire world’s bird species, it is one of the best birding destinations in the world. A birders paradise for the novice and expert alike. Uganda’s Wildlife Parks also have big game that can be found in other more popular destinations like the Serengeti and Kruger Park but without all of the crowds. One can find everything from tree-climbing lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, Ugandan kob, endangered Rothschild giraffe, bushbucks, Jackson’s hartebeest, impala, warthogs, zebra, hyena, hippos and crocs. It even has white rhino at the Ziwa Sanctuary, where you can track the rhinos on foot.
Uganda is rich in culture and community based projects. It is easy to weave in cultural experiences everywhere you go. These experiences include drumming and dance performances, walks that explore local village life like the Batwa Trail, Buhoma Community, Nyundo Community, Rubonio Village, or medicinal plant demonstrations, handcraft workshops and other community-based programs. These cultural experiences inspired me and added to the depth of my travel experience and understanding of the local people.
Uganda is full of opportunity for those who need their adrenaline fix. From white water rafting, high-speed jet boat rides, kayaking, boat safaris along the Nile for those up-close hippo and croc photo ops to bungee jumping, horseback riding, hiking to the top of Murchison Falls or trekking in the Rwenzori Mountains (named by National Geographic as one of the top 15 hiking destinations in the world) or Virunga Volcanos. If adventure is what you seek, Uganda has it!
Was Lonely Planet correct in their designation of Uganda as a must see travel destination for 2012? Without a question, yes!
About Real Life Adventure Travel Gal: A long time Moraga resident, Robin Felix, is the US Representative for Real Life Adventure Travel, a Tanzanian based tour operator that specializes in custom crafted climbing, wildlife, beach, and cultural safaris in East Africa. Robin has been working and traveling throughout East Africa for the past 7 years. She has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro 5 times and the lesser known Mt. Meru. For more information on how you can experience the Pearl of Africa or other African adventures, contact Real Life Adventure Travel Gal, Robin, at email@example.com.