Visit Uganda- Explore the Pearl of Africa!

About Uganda - The Pearl of Africa

So far discovered by few tourists, East Africa is still virtually untouched and pure. In East Africa, Uganda is a region of many surprises with rolling hills, sparkling crater lakes, abundant wildlife, adrenaline activities and, of course, the endangered Mountain Gorillas. Uganda is still authentically African, lush green and home to the friendliest people on the continent.

We at Zarcar Safaris are passionate about Uganda and it is our privilege to introduce you to the Pearl of Africa.

Whether you prefer gorilla tracking, exploring the country on a complete round-trip or combining a trip to Uganda with one of the other East African countries, everything is possible! We will tailor your safari to your individual needs, taking your special wishes into account and never lose sight of the smallest details. From the moment you step out of the plane, we have taken care of everything.

Introducing Uganda

A reputation for political instability and the looming shadow of Idi Amin have long – and unfairly – blighted Uganda’s fledgling tourism sector. Now, though, things are looking up for the central African nation once described as “the pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill.

And a brief look around is enough to show you why. From the second you step off the plane, the overwhelming impression of Uganda is one of rich natural diversity, friendly locals and a burgeoning cultural scene that is currently producing some of the most exciting artists in Africa.

Culturally, much of the action happens in the capital, Kampala, an urban sprawl ringed by farmland and perched on the muddy banks of Lake Victoria. While most foreign travellers confine themselves to the city centre or the diplomatic quarter, Kololo, its worth venturing into the bustling bars and clubs of Kabalagala, where expats and locals meet for a slug of the local Nile beer and a friendly game of pool.

Away from the capital, Uganda’s towns and cities have little in the way of diversions (although Jinja’s location on the banks of the River Nile has made it a favourite with thrill-seeking rafters). Instead, head west towards the Congo border where, along with the fascinating pygmy people of Fort Portal, Uganda’s natural wonders reveal themselves.

A popular spot for wildlife watching is Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is home to four of the Big Five, a flock of flamboyant flamingos and the rare tree-climbing lions of Ishasha.

The star attraction, though, is the iconic mountain gorilla, which can be found further south in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. While you’re down there it’s also worth taking a detour to Lake Bunyonyi, a mountain retreat famed for its stunning vistas and freshwater crayfish.

More natural wonders await in northern Uganda, home to the magnificent Murchison Falls, and in the east, where visitors will find the outstanding desert crags and ossified anthills of Kidepo.

Regardless of where you go in Uganda, when it comes to leaving, it will be with a heavy heart.

Uganda History, Language and Culture

History of Uganda

Before the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century, the Buganda Kingdom had become the ascendant dynasty in the region, having edged out other contenders with well-developed armed forces and agriculture.

From the 1840s, Muslim traders entered the region from the Indian Ocean coast. In 1862, British explorer John Hanning Speke became the first European to visit the kingdom, soon followed by a number of Christian missionaries, who were welcomed by the Bugandan king, Mutesa. The territory, renamed Uganda, officially became a British protectorate in 1894.

The country officially gained its independence in 1962, and most of its post-independence history has been characterized by politically inspired violence. President Obote, who banned opposition parties in 1969, was overthrown by the notorious and murderous Idi Amin, who remained in power until he was deposed by a joint force of Tanzanian forces and Ugandan exiles in 1979.

Obote subsequently returned to office but he too found himself fighting guerrilla groups – the remnants of Amin’s army and Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA). The third major military force in the country was the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA), led by Tito Okello.

In July 1985, Obote was overthrown once again, this time by a military council with Okello at its head. The Okello government lasted just six months, and the NRA took control of the capital in 1986, establishing the National Resistance Council to govern the country.

By the early 1990s, Museveni had succeeded in restoring order and a measure of prosperity to most of the country. Presidential elections, comfortably won by Museveni, were held in 1989. Museveni continues to hold the presidency today, having won subsequent elections in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011.

For decades after Museveni came to power in 1986, two regions of northern Uganda, Gulu and Kitgum, continued to be embroiled in a civil war. This resulted in a civilian death toll of 10,000 people, most at the hands of the extremely violent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a quasi-religious anti-government outfit that terrorised the border regions of northern Uganda by deliberately targeting civilians.

While the Ugandan army failed to formally end the war, the LRA hasn’t been active in northern Uganda since 2005 and the region and its people have finally been able to join the rest of the country in a prolonged period of peace.

Did you know?
  • Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” when he visited in 1907.
  • Uganda has repeatedly been ranked as a world leader in alcohol consumption.
  • In 2016 nearly half of Uganda’s population were under the age of 14, making it the youngest country in the world after Niger.
Uganda Culture
Religion:

66% Christian and 16% Muslim with the remaining being atheist, or belonging to traditional religions. There are tiny minorities that practice Hinduism and Judaism.

Social conventions:

Visitors to the country will generally find Ugandans to be warm, friendly and relaxed. Shaking hands is the normal form of greeting and it’s considered rude not to greet a person properly before rushing into asking them a question. Most people will know ‘Hello’, but the Swahili ‘Jambo’ is also used. Casual dress is usual for most occasions in the daytime or evening.

Ugandans have adopted a socially conservative culture and expressing emotions or affection in public is best avoided. Expressing anger is also frowned on and generally counter-productive, so try and keep calm in frustrating situations.

Drug abuse is illegal and widely condemned, as is homosexuality. There has been much publicity in recent years regarding Uganda’s hardline approach to homosexuality, with the government proposing in 2009 – and still debating – an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would include death penalties for anyone proved to be indulging in same-sex activities. While the bill has provoked strong international condemnation, homosexuals in Uganda still regularly face persecution, outings in the media or through the church, eviction, arrests and violence. As such, any lesbian, gay or transgender travellers to the country are advised to be extremely cautious.

Photography: Since 1992, photography has been allowed in all areas with the exception of airports or military installations. However, some areas are still sensitive and it is advisable to take local advice. Commercial photographers should consult the Ministry of Information for a permit.

Language in Uganda

English is the official language, with Swahili, Luganda and other Bantu languages also spoken.

Uganda weather, climate and geography

Weather and climate
Best time to visit Uganda:

Uganda has a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 21-25°C (70- 77°F), apart from in the mountainous areas, which are much cooler; the top of Mount Elgon is often covered with snow. The hottest months are December to February. Evenings can feel chilly after the heat of the day with temperatures around 12- 16ºC (54-61°F).

Most regions of Uganda, apart from the dry area in the north, have an annual rainfall of between 1,000mm and 2,000mm. There is heavy rain between March and May and between October and November, when road travel can become difficult in parts of the country. The best time for trekking is during the dry seasons, between January and February and June to September. Wildlife viewing is best at the end of the dry seasons, when game is more concentrated around water sources.

Required clothing:

Lightweight clothes with a warm cover-up for the evenings are advised. Take a pair of good walking shoes or boots for forest trekking, and long-sleeved tops to protect against mosquitoes. If you’re planning to go to mountainous areas, be sure to take warm clothing, as temperatures drop substantially. White clothes won’t stay white for long with Uganda’s red dust roads, so go for darker colours. Travellers can also pick up bargains at second-hand clothes markets in Kampala, Jinja and Fort Portal, which sell trousers, boots and fleeces.

Geography

Uganda lies between the eastern and western sections of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The country shares borders with Sudan to the north, Kenya to the east, Lake Victoria to the southeast, Tanzania and Rwanda to the south and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west. Whilst the landscape is generally quite flat, most of the country is over 1,000m (3,280ft) in altitude.

Mountainous regions include the Rwenzori Mountains that run along the border with the DRC, the Virunga Mountains on the border with Rwanda and the DRC, and Kigezi in the southwest of the country. An extinct volcano, Mount Elgon, straddles the border with Kenya.

The capital city, Kampala, lies on the shores of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa and second-largest freshwater inland body of water in the world. Jinja, located on the lake, is considered to be the start point of the River Nile, which traverses much of the country.

The varied scenery includes tropical forest, a semi-desert area in the northeast, the arid plains of the Karamoja, the lush, heavily populated Buganda, the rolling savannah of Acholi, Bunyoro, Tororo and Ankole, tea plantations and the fertile cotton area of Teso.

Key Facts
Area 241,038 sq km (93,065 sq miles)
Population 37.1 million (2015)
Population density 153.9 per sq km
Capital Kampala
Government Republic
Head of state President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni since 1986
Head of government Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda since 2014
Electricity 240 volts AC, 50Hz. British-style plugs with three square pins are used