Adventure Bucket List: Budget Friendly Uganda Wildlife
If you’re looking for big African adventures on a not so big budget, look no further than Uganda. The country’s rolling green hills are filled with incredible wildlife adventures that won’t break the bank. Uganda’s nickname—The Pearl of Africa—is apropos: The natural wonders there, from silverback gorillas and golden monkeys to lush untouched forests, feel like a treasure you’ve just uncovered.
A trip to this peaceful, friendly East African country (a BBC survey named Uganda “the most welcoming country in the world”) isn’t as expensive as fine jewels. It’s surprisingly affordable, offering bucket list wildlife adventures on a budget.
Gorillas in the Mist
The mist that spills along the hills and volcanoes of Uganda cloaks the home of one of Africa’s most endangered animals: the silverback gorilla.
With less than 900 of these wild mountain gorillas left in the world, a trek to see these humanlike primates in the wilderness is at the top of many bucket lists.
Rwanda has recently become the centre of big-ticket safaris. Lodges charge up to $1,500 per person per night and permits to track the gorillas are $1,500 per person per day (so yes, that’s $3,000 per person per day). Even if you can find cheap lodging, you’ll still have to pay $1,500 for a permit.
In comparison, Uganda’s most expensive permit is only $600. This is the price you have to pay during the dry months of June to September. The rest of the year, gorilla permits are just $450 a day (a third of the price in Rwanda). You’ll hike under the guidance of a local ranger and armed trackers. Trekking hikes may end up taking several hours, but no matter how long you’ve searched to find the silverbacks, you’ll only be permitted to stay with the primate groups for one hour. No one is permitted to visit gorillas without a ranger or permit.
Another bargain in Uganda is golden chimpanzee trekking. Also an endangered primate (there are only 2,400 in the world), these monkeys live in the Virunga Mountains and cannot survive in captivity. A permit to visit the bamboo-loving, golden mane monkeys is only $50 in Uganda. This is half of the Rwanda permit price, and includes a ranger-led tour up to the monkeys’ location. Expect the hike to take about 4 hours (round trip).
It’s a Wild, Wild Life
There’s more wildlife to see in Uganda. Queen Elizabeth Park is where adventure travelers will find large numbers of hippos, elephants, buffalos, and lions. There are affordable game drives and walking safaris into the sunken forest of the Kyambura Gorge. There’s also wildlife cruises along the Kazinga Channel, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of hippos in Africa.
More good news: In the rainy season in Uganda (which are usually only half rainy: the mornings are dry enough to hike without rain gear), even the best lodges like Bwindi Lodge near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Gahinga Lodge near the Golden Monkeys of Magahinga Volcano, charge around $200 per day for individual thatched roof cottages. This price includes three meals a day, snacks, and drinks.
This article is adapted from Eagle Creek’s travel blog.