Uganda’s attractions are unevenly distributed, some are near the capital-Kampala (short driving distances), and other are far (over 500 km drive). If you have a lengthy time in the country, say you are staying/living, working, having a work shop, or studying here and you need an escape from the city, to see the country more. There are places that you can go for 2-3 days. In this write up are recommendations for 7 best places for short tours near Kampala-Uganda’s capital.
Lake Mburo National Park
The park is a gem and the closest to the capital of all the 10 national parks. It is 260km (5hrs) from Kampala. The park usually offer a break for those that would not want the long drive between Kampala and parks in the south western Uganda. It is Uganda’s smallest park covering 370sqkm and feature a mosaic of habitats that include forest, woodland, wetlands, and open water.
Lake Mburo National park has some top lodges and offers some unique activities since it has a population that is more of herbivores like zebras, Impalas, waterbucks, buffaloes, hippos, it also host some predators like the leopards and hyenas that are occasionally seen, sadly there are no elephants and there only one lion that is a rarely seen (last sighted in 2018).
The park offers an opportunity to roam anywhere in the park on foot (walking safaris), cycling, and Horseback safaris, among others. It is one park where one can spend a night and return to Kampala the next day and along the way to or from there, you can stop at the equator for a photo and demo about the imaginary line.
In the Northwest of Lake Victoria, the Ssese Archipelago which is made of 84 separate islands, is a great getaway off Uganda’s mainland in Kalangala District. Bugala island is one with the largest land are of the islands and 40km south west of Entebbe and Kalangala is the principal settlement. The area has low key beach resorts, forests, scenic lake vistas, and other opportunities for beguiling retreats.
Kibale Forest and Fort Portal
Kibale National park is famous for its chimpanzee/primate populations. The forested park covers 795 sqkm and is home to 13 primate species 9 diurnal and 4 nocturnal. Chimpanzee tracking is the principal activity and around the park the Bigodi Wetland Area is a paradise for bird watchers and those interested in community tours.
Visiting the park is a doable weekend since it is about 6 hours’ drive by road from Kampala and has an afternoon chimpanzee tracking session that one can engage in even on the day of transfer if you start the drive to the park early. The park about a 40km drive from Fort Portal town which is one of Uganda’s most attractive towns with scenic Rwenzori mountain ranges in its backdrop, pocked with crater lakes, surrounded by tea plantations that carpet the landscape, hosts the palace of Tooro Kingdom, Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru (Stalactites and stalagmites), and it also host a collection of good hotels and lodges. A Friday afternoon drive, Saturday and Sunday return day is some enough time to explore the area.
Set on the Northern shore of Lake Victoria 84km east of Kampala, Jinja is a historical town and its main source of fame is the Source of River Nile and adventure activities on the Nile River.
The town is a place for both leisure and adventure and offers a great combination of high-octane activities, relaxing excursions with views of the meandering river, historical significance dating from the days of the first explorers the likes of John Speke. Thousands of travelers flock to the river each year to raft a sequence of high grade rapids on the finest stretch of white waters. You can visit the source of the Nile River, tube on the river, sunset cruises, river boarding, bungee jumping, water slides, and other aquatic and terrestrial activities like quad biking and horse riding. You can have a weekend getaway or do a day tour to the town. For more about Jinja read here.
Murchison Falls National Park
At a point 45m high on the Nile River where the waters of the Nile River squeezes its self through a 7m gorge is where the park derives its name. The 3840sqkm (with other reserves that are under its conservation area) became a park in 1952 and this make its Uganda’s biggest conservation Area. The palm dotted park is bisected by the Victoria Nile into the Northern and southern sector.
The explosive froth of the waters make the most powerful waterfalls in the world and the “Rainbow” trade mark at the “Devil’s Cauldron” see while on the hike to the top of the falls.
Game viewing here is traditional with safari vehicles and boat trips on the Victoria Nile. The northern section is the savanna and filled with the big game and the southern part is more of Forest which include the Kaniyo Pabidi forest. The cruises to the bottom of the falls and the Delta offer remarkable sightings of the regular visitors to the riverbank which include hippos, elephants, waterbucks, crocodiles, buffaloes and resident water birds. The park hosts 76 mammals which include lions, leopards, Uganda Kob, Oribi and the largest number of Rothschild’s Giraffes in the world among others, 451 bird species and the key bird species include the Denham’s bustard, Abyssinian ground hornbill among others. This can be merged with a de tour to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
On the foothills of Mount Elgon, is a small trading centre of Sipi which is Elgon’s main tourist focus. The village overlooks the 99m high Sipi Falls, the last in a series of 3 water falls on the Sipi River as it cascades downhill from upper slopes of Mount Elgon to the Kyoga Basin.
The area is served by dozens of lodges and resorts that cater for people with different budgets. Sipi Area is a pretty area offering gentle day walks/hikes, with spectacular views of the lowlands and beautiful sunsets. Visitors can also try abseiling and community tours. The Elgon region is a coffee growing area so, the new adventure of coffee tour has been developed. It is a process through which visitors can track the process of coffee from the time of planting to until it is ready to drink (from plant to cup). It is a great place for short tours and also crosses Jinja to get to the area.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Extending to 1978km2, the former Kazinga National park is Uganda’s second largest national park. The Biodiverse Park is set on the floor of the Albertine Rift valley in the western arm of the Great Rift Valley. The equator crossed park was renamed in 1954 two years after the visit by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. Queen Elizabeth National Park has various ecosystems from grasslands, Forest, water and wetlands which accommodate 95mammals, 600 birds and other life.
The park is the most popular park and is a convenient add on to a safari for visitors to Kibale and Bwindi impenetrable National parks. The 40km long and 8m deep Kazinga Channel which connects the two lakes of George and Edward offers classic boat afternoon cruises to and from the Jetty at the Mweya peninsular past the visitors to the banks which include crocodiles, buffaloes, Kobs, elephant families, hippos, and variety of water birds which include the Spoon bill, Pink backed pelican, African fish eagle among others.
The major highlights in Queen Elizabeth National park are the drive in the Kasenyi plains and Mweya peninsular in search of the big cats and game watching, a walk into the 100m deep Kyambura gorge inside the park in search of chimpanzees and a drive to the small but bountiful Ishasha sector for tree climbing lions.
These places are the best for one to spend an idyllic weekend escaping the city Chaos. There are plenty of other places to go to but these are short drives below 400km to get there. We believe you wouldn’t want to spend 10 hours of what is your weekend on the road to a getaway destination.
If you are around Kampala and you need logistics for a weekend or short tour contact us for a well-designed and all expenses quoted escape to any of these areas.