Uganda Itinerary + Planning from a Tour Guide #uganda #africa

Uganda: Insights from a Tour Guide

Interview with Saturday Milton
Around Africa Safaris

We had the good fortune of having Milton as our tour guide in Uganda during our tour through the country. We had five days allocated to Uganda to go on game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park, do a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel, a chimp trek in the Kalinzu Forest and a couple of days unwinding at Lake Bunyonyi. Referred to as the ‘Pearl of Africa’, Uganda has a wealth to offer beyond the small section that we delved into, and Milton shared with us insight on his favorite parks in Uganda for a return trip to the country.

When it comes to valuable planning resources, you’ll be hard pressed to get better intel than from a tour guide on the ground. I was lucky enough to sit down with Milton and have him share the inside scoop on Uganda’s best offerings for a 7-day tour and a 10-day tour, plus some of his favorite resorts and camps in the region. One thing that I think is worth mentioning for anyone who hasn’t been on safari before, it’s important to understand that there are some decent driving distances between destinations on your road trip, which means there are many hours spent in the car. Be prepared for that and know that you’ll probably want to split your time between taking in the changing landscapes, taking a mini snooze, or reading. A book or Kindle is practically mandatory packing for a trip to Africa! Read on to see my interview with Milton for valuable insights from a tour guide.

For a first time visitor to Uganda, what would you recommend for an ideal 7 day itinerary?

With seven days, I’d propose a ‘primate safari’ that focuses heavily on the incredible primate population found in Uganda. It also includes a couple of nights at Queen Elizabeth NP for a more traditional game drive experience.

Day 1: Arrive at Entebbe International Airport. After passing through immigration, you will meet your professional driver guide who will transfer you to your hotel. I typically recommend an overnight at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Day 2: After an early breakfast, drive to Kibale Forest National Park known as the “primate capital of the world”.  Kibale Forest NP is home of 13 species of primates and is the perfect location for a chimpanzee tracking experience. The journey from Entebbe to Kibale takes about 6 hours. In the evening, visit the Bigodi Swamp Walk, which introduces you to different species of birds and monkeys in the region. Overnight in the park – I recommend Kyaninga Lodge or the Primate Lodge.

Day 3: Early morning chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest. Chimpanzee treks can take anywhere from 2 – 4 hours depending on how long it takes to locate the families. After lunch, depart to Queen Elizabeth National Park, a part of Uganda known for it diverse wildlife for a traditional safari experience.  If time permits, do an evening game drive. Plan on 3 hours from Kibale Forest to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Overnight at Kasenyi Safari Camp or Katara Lodge, where you’ll spend two nights.

Leopard on Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
On safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Day 4: Enjoy an early morning breakfast and head out for a game drive! Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, water bucks and a range of other wildlife. Return for lunch and then head out for a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel, a waterway famous for having the largest number of hippos in the world.

Editor’s Note: Read about our safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park, plus our boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel for more details. 

Day 5: Drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the home of mountain gorillas, via Ishasha (the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park). Tree climbing lions can be found in the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park so you’ll enjoy a game drive en route! The journey from Queen Elizabeth NP to Bwindi takes approximately 5 hours. In Bwindi, overnight at Mahogany Springs Lodge or Buhoma Lodge, where you’ll spend two nights.

Day 6: Gorilla trekking day! Gorilla trekking is an incredibly exciting activity, and a highlight for many people visiting the region. After breakfast, you’ll report to the briefing point where you are guided on dos and don’ts while in the park. Gorilla treks vary hugely and can take anywhere from 2 – 5 hours depending on how far the family is from the briefing point. Once you’ve reached the gorilla family, you’ll be given an hour to observe. You’ll be back for the afternoon and will be able to spend it at leisure. Overnight at Mahogany Spring Lodge.

Day 7: Drive to Entebbe International Airport via the equator for your outbound flight. Alternatively, there are options to fly to Entebbe with a domestic flight to connect with your international flight.

Insights from a Tour Guide

What would you add to that to create a perfect 10 day itinerary?

For a ten-day tour of Uganda, I propose a tour that we dub ‘The Pearl of Africa’, a circuit that highlights a few different regions of Uganda. Some of the itinerary is similar to what a seven-day itinerary would entail, but the extra time allows for more immersive experiences in a few spots.

Day 1: Arrive at Entebbe International Airport. After passing through immigration, you will meet your professional driver guide who will transfer you to your hotel. I typically recommend an overnight at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Day 2: After an early breakfast, drive to Kibale Forest National Park and have the afternoon at leisure. (See more details above.)

Day 3: Full day of chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest. There are a couple of different chimpanzee tracking opportunities available for guests, and a full day trek will allow you the time to really focus on the primate experience. With a longer tracking experience, you will come to learn their ecological behaviors in their ecosystem.

Day 4: Drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park and enjoy a game drive in the northern part of the park in search of cats,  antelopes and other big mammals. Plan on about 4 – 6 hours driving time from Kibale Forest.Overnight at Kasenyi Safari Camp or Katara Lodge, where you’ll spend two nights.

Gorilla Trekking in Africa, Virunga National Park
Shannon’s capture from a gorilla trekking experience in East Africa.

Day 5: Enjoy an early morning breakfast and head out for a game drive! Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, water bucks and a range of other wildlife. Return for lunch and then head out for a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel, a waterway famous for having the largest number of hippos in the world.

Day 6: Drive to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the home of mountain gorillas, via Ishasha (the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park). Tree climbing lions can be found in the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park so you’ll enjoy a game drive en route! The journey from Queen Elizabeth NP to Bwindi takes approximately 5 hours. In Bwindi, overnight at Mahogany Springs Lodge or Buhoma Lodge, where you’ll spend two nights.

Day 7: Gorilla trekking day! See the seven-day itinerary above for more details.

Lake Bunyoni, Uganda
Scott and Milton at Birdnest Resort on Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda.

Day 8. Drive to Lake Bunyonyi, a volcanic lake with beautiful islands perfect for some R&R after days of early morning wake up calls and trekking. Driving time from Bwindi is approximately four hours. Overnight at Birdnest Resort.

Editor’s Note: Read about our boat tour on Lake Bunyonyi, including some incredibly special people we had the good fortune of talking with during our time there.

Day 9. After breakfast, drive to Lake Mburo National Park (about five hours) and enjoy an evening game drive in the park. Lake Mburo. While Lake Mburo is the smallest of Uganda’s parks, it’s one of the places in the country where visitors can enjoy walking safaris, horseback safaris and traditional game drives.  Overnight at Mihingo Lodge.

Day 10. Head out on a game walk in the morning for an up close and personal encounter with the wildlife in the park. Head back to the lodge for breakfast. Afterwards, depart for Entebbe International Airport for your flight, about a five hours drive.

If you had to pick one national park to visit in Uganda which would it be?

Insights from a Tour Guide

If I had to recommend one park in Uganda, it would be Murchison Falls National Park. It’s relatively close to the international airport and Uganda’s capital city, the scenery is beautiful, it has abundant biodiversity and fascinating waterfalls, plus offers an outstanding boat cruise on the Nile that takes you to the bottom of the falls. Murchison Falls is a place where you have the chance to see the Big 5 in a short period of time. For visitors that want to add on more, chimpanzee tracking can be added for a primate experience.

Do you have any favorite lodges in Uganda that you would recommend to visitors?

That’s a difficult question to answer but I can share a few standouts as a starting point.

Are there any lesser known regions or parks in Uganda that most people miss out on that you think are worth seeing?

Insights from a Tour Guide

In my view, Kidepo Valley National Park, “the true wilderness,” is not visited often.  Being located in remote areas of the Karamoja region, most people have ignored the park but I think it reflects the hidden secrets of Africa in terms of biodiversity and culture.

What do you think makes Uganda a great destination over other destinations in Africa?

I think there’s a lot that makes Uganda a great destination to visit. A case in point, when Sir Winston Churchill visited Uganda, he regarded it as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ because of abundant wildlife, the beautiful landscape, the culture of the people, the presence of mountain gorillas, and the lakes and rivers among other things. Today, those same things still draw tourists in and make Uganda a special place to experience.


Have you been to Uganda? What highlights would you share with a first-time visitor to the Pearl of Africa?

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.