Gorilla, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda

Uganda Holidays

Congolese rainforest meets eastern savannah with dramatic effect. Troops of chimpanzees swing through the vines of Kibale and mountain gorilla families shelter within Bwindi’s dense forests. Although renowned for its iconic primates, Uganda possesses a remarkable diversity of wildlife. Lions climb the trees of Queen Elizabeth National Park, shoebills shelter beside Murchison Falls and Rothschild’s giraffes roam the Kidepo Valley.

Explore the highlights of Uganda

walking beside elphants with guide


  • Trek in search of the mountain gorilla families of Bwindi
  • Spot red colobus, L’Hoest’s and numerous other monkey species
  • Track troops of chimps in Kibale Forest and Kyamburu Gorge
canoeing on the Zambezi River


  • Find tree-climbing lions snoozing on the branches of shady fig trees
  • Spot hippos and crocodiles basking in the waters of the Kazinga Channel
  • Encounter elephants and forest buffalos in the wild Semliki Valley

Our Uganda Experts Recommend

  • Fly in and out of Bwindi by light aircraft for two back-to-back gorilla treks.
  • Catch tiger fish and Nile perch – some of the largest fish on the continent – staying on the banks of the Nile River.
  • Combine gorilla trekking in Bwindi with time spent in Kenya. Encounter mountain gorillas, before searching for predators and plains game in the Masai Mara.
  • Stay at Apoka Lodge in Kidepo; experience some of the most dramatic scenery in East Africa, in one of the remotest lodges.
  • Trek for mountain gorillas in their two different habitats – the volcanoes of Rwanda and the forests of Uganda.
  • Search for shoebill storks amongst the lakes of Semliki. These rare and ancient birds stand tall amongst the wetlands – their favourite hunting grounds. 
  • Take game drives through the varied landscapes of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Spot elephants, buffalos, antelopes and tree-climbing lions.

Our Uganda Experts

Chris is most at home in the jungle, tramping through thick vegetation in search of primates. Having been arranging trips to Uganda since long before it made its mark on the tourist map, he is familiar with some of the more unusual areas of this diverse country.

Bridget first visited Uganda in 2001 and has watched country develop remarkably since then. Having now visited a number of times, she has encountered two of its most iconic species, mountain gorillas and shoebills. However, its chimps continue to elude her - much to her frustration.

Advice from our Uganda Experts

"Take a pair of lightweight gardening gloves for gorilla trekking. Uganda’s forests are notoriously dense, packed with spiky vines and nettles, but even a cheap pair of gloves will keep most things out."

Bridget Cohen | Steppes Travel Uganda Expert

"If your time and budget allow, try to include some time exploring the Kidepo Valley. This wild, open landscape is in perfect contrast with the thick green forests of Bwindi or Kibale. And the local Karamojong people are amongst the most fascinating and welcoming in Uganda."

Chris Johnston | Steppes Travel Uganda Expert

Uganda FAQs

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Why should I travel to Uganda with Steppes Travel?

We have been running successful holidays to Uganda for 25 years and are considered the UK’s leading authorities on trips to Uganda. We are lucky to travel to Uganda numerous times each year to ensure that our tried and tested lodges and operations provide you with the best possible experience. Not only do we meet hoteliers, charities, agents, partners, officials and conservationists to gain further insights into the country, but are always looking for new experiences and places for you to stay.

Such is our reputation, that over the years we have been asked to arrange trips for everyone from the BBC Natural history unit, to Turner Broadcasting and CNN. Steppes was even approached by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority themselves when they were looking to open up a new gorilla group to tourism in 2004 (The Nkuringo Group) – they wanted us to provide the tourists.

We are of course very lucky to have worked with these organisations over the years, but the highest accolade we can offer is the fact that over 70% of our business is repeat and referral. We hope that you will call us to at least discuss ideas if nothing else so we can answer plenty of questions and help start with the planning of your own adventure.

When is the best time to go to Uganda?

The best time to go is from June through to September and then December to February. This is when the skies are blue and there is little or no rain.  July and August is good but flights can be very expensive due to holidays. The short rains run from October to November and whilst it will be wetter, you can still trek and do many of the other activities, it will just be muddier. The gorillas are not affected by the rain. Sometimes there are discounts to be had on the permits in November. If you are keen on photography, then just after the rains in December / Jan or May / June are great times to go as everything is fresh and green, the skies are blue and the air incredibly clear, so the views across the countryside are spectacular. 

How fit do I have to be for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda?

Good question and one we are asked a lot. Anyone can do the trek as long as they prepare for it beforehand. By its very nature, walking in a mountain rainforest, where paths are steep and muddy at heights in excess of 2,500 metres, is a challenge, but doing some light exercise prior to your holiday, (walks, jogging, swimming or any other cardiovascular activity) will allow you to enjoy the trip that much more.

The guides are also very good at setting the pace of the trek so that it is comfortable for everyone and the walk itself through the forest is part of the experience and not a route-march. The guide will be stopping en-route to point out things of interest, take on water and allow you to enjoy the view. Like anything however, the more you prepare, the more you will enjoy it so don't worry.

You will also be given the choice to hire porters before each trek who are there to help carry bags and steady you as you go – they are brilliant. We are also here to help prepare you as much as possible, so if you have any concerns or questions, please do call but we have taken thousands of people of all ages and abilities and they have all enjoyed it.

What should I take when I go gorilla trekking in Uganda

Contrary to many peoples opinion, gorilla trekking in Uganda is not humid and Bwindi Forest (where you trek) is a mountain rain forest so is therefore cool and damp, getting VERY cold in the early mornings and late evenings. As you begin your trek, you need to wrap up warm but as the trekking progresses, you will start to get hot so it is best to have lots of light layers that can be taken off and put back on as required.

We also recommend strong walking boots or shoes, sturdy trousers, sunglasses, sun lotion (it is equatorial so whilst not hot, the sun can be intense), a sun hat, and waterproof jacket. It is also worth considering taking gardening gloves with you, as you will be pulling at and climbing over thick vegetation on the walks.

Some clients take energy bars/supplements with them, which can be eaten whilst walking to help keep their energy levels up. You will also be given a packed lunch (water, sandwiches, fruit) so you won't go hungry. Also, don't forget the camera (and spare memory cards!)

How long are the gorilla treks in Uganda? 

It is impossible to say how long your trek will take as the length of the trek itself depends on the location and the movement of the gorillas on the day on which you will be trekking as they are always moving around. Trekking can take anything from between 1 – 8 hours although you are usually back at the lodge around lunchtime, leaving the lodge early in the morning around 06:00am to make your way to the park HQ for your pre-trek briefing. If you then finish early, our guides will discuss options with you as to what else you would like to do for the rest of the day. This could be the chance to explore a local market, enjoy a gentle walk through traditional villages, another forest walk if feeling brave or the chance to visit some fascinating community projects nearby, such as schools or local hospitals. You can of course just relax at the lodge if you prefer. Our guides are very flexible and will be happy to discuss ideas. 

What gorilla groups can I see in Uganda?

You can visit one of 3 habituated families in Buhoma, in the popular Northern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest - Mubare, Habinyanja and Rushagura. A 2-hour drive away from this in the more remote Ruhija area of Bwindi, one can trek 3 other families, Oruzogo, Kyaguriro and Bitukura. In the wildest part of Bwindi, in the Southern Sector one can trek the Nkuringo. There are eight permits available daily for each group at a cost of U$600 per permit, per person.

How close to the gorillas do you get in Uganda?

Officially 7 metres. It is very important that you adhere to the guidelines laid down by your guide during the pre-trek briefing as they are in place for a reason. Whilst it can be difficult to keep to this distance ( the gorillas have never been told of this particular rule) please be aware of your guides comments and do what they say. The gorillas are usually spread out in the forest, sometimes out in the open, other times hiding in the shadows, so you may only catch glimpses of them and other times you may be very lucky and see them all out in the open.  Should the gorillas move towards you, please follow your guides instruction as the 7 metre rule is designed for the benefit of both humans and gorillas and to reduce the spread of infection (gorillas are susceptible to colds).  Some of the younger gorillas may well come and investigate.

What is travel like in Uganda?

Very exciting, very adventurous and always interesting. You can get around by driving (Steppes always use high quality 4WD) or you can enjoy the luxury of safe and established internal flights for convenience. Either way, there is always something new to see. Roads vary enormously in Uganda, from good tarred roads around the major towns and cities, (the traffic can still be bad) to rough dirt tracks through the parks and when exploring the more remote areas so if you have a very bad back, or suffer from car sickness, you may want to consider flying.  If driving through the country, you need to be prepared for one or two unavoidably long drives (around 4-6 hours), but we always use comfortable, 4 wheel drives and the driver will be happy to stop as you go along. Travelling overland however, does give you a wonderful sense of place as you pass through traditional villages and can stop anywhere to take great pictures.  For those who want to spend less time travelling, there are very good and very safe, internal flights between all of the major parks, using small 12 seater planes or private aviation companies or helicopters. This makes for some spectacular aerial photographs and allows you to spend more time doing activities.  We tend to advise a mixture of driving and flying to get the most from your time away. All of the parks are well connected by road or by internal flights, but the more remote a region, the higher the cost. 

Is it safe?

Of course. If it wasn’t we simply would not go there. We have been taking travellers here for nearly 25 years and the safety of our clients is paramount, so to ensure this, not only do we travel there regularly ourselves, but are also in close contact with the numerous lodge owners, partners, charities and officials with whom we work.

The Ugandan people are some of the most welcoming people in East Africa and whilst our clients go there to experience the wildlife, for many it is the warmth and generosity of the Ugandan people that makes the greatest impression. We also use the most experienced and professional agents in Uganda, whilst also providing a manned UK emergency contact telephone number that you can call any time of the day or night, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For many of our clients it is harder convincing their friends and family that it is safe to go, so we will be happy to speak to them to help put their mind at rest.

What is the accommodation like in Uganda?

Very good quality, ranging from small, well-run lodges with an emphasis on character and comfort through to exclusive, award winning luxury lodges in spectacular locations with all the mod cons you would expect. All are en-suite and most have wi-fi. In the cities, you can expect international standard hotels, with a range of facilities and restaurants. They all have their own characters and each offer something slightly different, depending on what kind of place you prefer to stay in. We would recommend one property over another, based on what you consider to be the most important aspect of where you stay – location, level of luxury, views etc. They serve a wide range of food, pretty much all special dietary requirements can be catered for and in many of the upmarket lodges alcohol is included in the price.

Can I charge i-pads, phones, laptops etc at the lodge?

Yes, all of the lodges have facilities to charge batteries, either in your room or in the main dining / bar area. We recommend you bring an adaptor.

What else is there to do apart from gorilla trekking in Uganda?

There are so many other activities you can do in Uganda besides gorilla trekking that you can easily fill 2 weeks. Many of the parks are home to lots of traditional big game and savannah wildlife where you can enjoy game drives or guided walks. These include Queen Elizabeth National Park (famous for the tree climbing lions), Murchison Falls (excellent not just for the falls, but one of the best places in the country to see the shoebill stork and lots of other big game), Semliki (excellent for big game, boat safaris and black and white colobus) and Kidepo Valley National Park. Kidepo is one of the wildest parks in Africa, best reached by a short domestic flight and in addition to the dramatic setting and wealth of wildlife, it is the only park in Uganda where you can find aardwolf, caracal and cheetah.

Uganda is also one of the most accessible places in Africa for Chimpanzee safaris, which you can do in three different regions (Kyambura Gorge - ok, Kibale Forest – good, Budongo Forest – very good) which is similar to gorilla viewing in terms of early starts and forest trekking. As 25% of Uganda is also covered in water, there are some great boat safaris to do, in particular the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, some of Africa’s best fishing (big tiger fish and Nile perch) in Murchison, shoebill safaris on the lakes around Semliki, but Jinja also offers some dramatic white water rafting. There is some excellent climbing to be done in the Rwenzori Mountains or some easy day hikes in the foothills. The birding in Uganda is also considered some of the best in the world, with over 1000 species in a country smaller than Great Britain due to the huge variety of habitat which is easy to reach and the birds being easy to see. This diversity also makes for some incredible photography – Uganda being one of Africa’s most photogenic countries. 

Do mobile phones work in Uganda?

Yes, although they can be a little patchy in some of the more rural areas, but texts can usually get through. The best way to find the best spot for reception in a village or small town is to look for a group of people huddled together on a small hill, waiving their phones in the air! You can also ask our guide about buying a cheap sim card and local phone if you prefer.

Can I use my credit card in Uganda?

Yes, but only really in the larger towns and cities. In the smaller lodges, it is a little trickier, but as all of your meals (and most of your drinks) are included on the trip, you won’t need to worry.

How much cash should I take?

This depends on how long you are away, where you are staying and what kind of trip you are going. We send out a very detailed information pack on money and tipping, specific for each person’s trip. That said, nearly everything is included, from transfers, to park fees, to meals, to drinks, so you will only be paying for tips and souvenirs, plus your visa on arrival (if applicable).

How do I get to Uganda?

There are direct flights to Entebbe (the capital) with BA, to date the only airline offering direct flights from the UK (but these are not every day) or Kenya Airways (via Nairobi) which are. There are numerous others, including KLM (via Amsterdam), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul) or Qatar (via Doha) to name but a few. The arrival and departure times need to be considered when planning a trip as you sometimes need to overnight in Entebbe at the start or end of your holiday, so the cheapest option is not always the most convenient. We are of course, happy to recommend places to stay. 

What advice would you give on photography in Uganda?;

Uganda offers some wonderful photographic opportunities given the incredible diversity of scenery, people and wildlife found here. Starting with the primates, gorillas and chimpanzees are notoriously difficult to photograph as they are dark subject matters usually in shadow, so you will need to use a high ISO if not taking a tripod or monopod, something which is recommended for serious photographers. A good zoom lens is essential with a minimum of 300mm required but more if looking to get some excellent close ups. It is also important to remember that there is a lot of moisture in the forests, so you will need to keep your cameras dry as the lenses can fog up very quickly and therefore best to keep a dry cloth handy (easier said than done on the hikes!). It is also worth putting some silica gel packs in your camera bag to absorb moisture. The camera should also be protected against the dustier parks such as Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo. Given the scenery in Uganda is so spectacular, from snow-capped mountains, active volcanoes, rolling savannah and dramatic mountain rainforests, it is worth considering taking a wide angled lens. The people in Uganda are also incredibly photogenic and markets and fantastic places to get some great shots. It is always nice to strike up a conversation with someone before even asking if you can take their picture. Not only is this polite, but will put them at ease and make for much more natural shots. Please do not be offended if they decline and respect their privacy. Children are usually delighted to have their photograph take, but again, always ask first. Avoid any financial transactions for this, rather buy something from their stall or promise to send them a copy of the picture through our agents. Finally, it is best not to take pictures of any military or government personnel of buildings. If you are very keen on  photography, then some lodges are better than others at catering for your needs and Jan, Feb, June and November are very good months for photography. This is just after the rains so the air is less hazy, with clear views across the lush, fertile countryside and much of the vegetation looking green. This is all great however, but it is equally important to take a few minutes, particularly when with the gorillas, to put the camera down and enjoy the moment. The one hour you spend with the gorillas will go so quickly, take time out to actually take it all in - of course this will be also be at the precise moment, when the silver back yawns or a tiny infant appears only feet from you, so it is easier said than done!

What visas do I need for Uganda?
Most nationalities (including those travelling on British or American passports) can currently obtain visas on arrival in Entebbe at a cost of U$50. It is also possible to obtain an e-visa online before travelling. This can change at short notice however, so we recommend you contact your nearest Uganda embassy for the most up-to-date information. Those NOT travelling on British or American passports should also contact their Ugandan Embassy for advice. 


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Client Reviews

countryside, uganda
"Right from the first contact it was clear Chris understood the kind of trip we wanted...
...and his expert advice ensured we were able to plan and experience the perfect trip. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend Chris and the rest of the Steppes team."

Claire Fraser

Handwoven baskets, Uganda
"Chris's very knowledgable and enthusiastic 'selling' of Uganda completely sold the country to us (when we initially enquired about Canada!)...
...and it turned out to be an excellent experience. We were very pleased with every aspect of our trip."

Robert Pietrowski

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12-13 hours from UK via Nairobi

Did you know?

Uganda produces and consumes large quantities of bananas. On average Ugandans eat 250-500kg each year
Due to its diverse range of habitats, Uganda is home to more than 1,000 different bird species
Fried grasshoppers, known as "nsenene", are a widely eaten delicacy in Uganda

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