Uganda is a land-locked country which lies across the Equator and borders Sudan on the north, Kenya to the east, Tanzania, Rwanda on the south, and Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. It’s an astonishingly beautiful country, full of vibrant colors, confident, courteous and indomitable people. Perched on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, Uganda is marketing itself as the ultimate eco-destination.
Mountain gorillas represent perhaps the most powerful eco-image of all. Uganda has a fantastic climate, an ever-changing landscape, and people who are honest, polite and genuinely pleased to help the visitor. Above all, they are very hospitable. Apart from a few areas, Uganda is safe and almost hassle free. Just relax; go Mountain Gorilla or Chimp tracking, climb Mt. Rwenzori or Mt. Elgon, or visit Ssesse Island, a tropical isle in a fresh water lake. Speed down to the River Nile in a helter of white water, or just sit and enjoy the stunning landscapes.
Uganda’s equatorial climate is tempered by cooling breezes from the mountains. In general terms, the lowland area and lake shores enjoy a warm climate, while it is somewhat cooler in the highlands. Uganda’s skies are sunny most of the year, with temperatures rising to 29ºC. The rainy season includes March, April, May, November and December.
UGANDA – HISTORY
Most of the kingdoms popped up in Uganda in the 14th century. Among them were the Baganda, Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole and Busoga. Over the following centuries, the Baganda people created the dominant kingdom. The tribes had plenty of time to work out their hierarchies as there was very little penetration of Uganda from the outside until the 19th century. Despite the fertility of the land and its capacity to grow surplus crops, there were virtually no trading links with the East African coast. Contacts were finally made with Arab traders and European explorers in the mid-19th century – the latter came in search of ivory and slaves.
Uganda’s long string of tragedies since independence has been a staple of the Western media so most people still regard the country as a volatile place to be avoided. However, most parts of the country have been stable for several years and the country’s transformation has been little short of astounding. Kampala is now the modern, bustling capital of a new Uganda, a country with one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Travelers are drawn by Uganda’s beautiful mountains, trekking opportunities and mountain gorillas.
Before independence, Uganda was a prosperous and cohesive country. Its great beauty led Winston Churchill to refer to it as the ‘Pearl of Africa’, but by the mid-1980s Uganda lay shattered and bankrupt, broken by tribal animosity, nepotism, insanely corrupt politics, mass murder and military tyranny. Despite the killings and brutality, Ugandans appear to have weathered the storm remarkably well. However, even rose-colored glasses won’t hide the country’s huge debt, AIDS crisis and less than desirable human rights record. It’s advisable to ask for local advice before traveling to areas near the borders of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, due to occasional incursions by rebel troops.
Full Country Name – Republic of Uganda
Area – 237,000 sq km (92,300 sq mi)
Population – 22,804,973
Capitals – Kampala
People – Baganda, Lango, Acholi, Pygmy, European, Asian, Arab
Languages- English, Swahili, plus 30 indigenous languages such as Luganda.
Religion – Roman Catholic (33%), Protestant (33%), indigenous beliefs (18%), Muslim (16%)
Government – Republic
Visa – The Ugandan authorities prefer that foreigners obtain visas at Ugandan embassies / high commissions or consulates prior to arrival in Uganda.
Time – GMT/UTC plus three hours.
Climate – The tropical heat is tempered by the altitude, which averages over 1000m. The best time to visit Uganda is late December to late February, as the weather at this time of year is generally dry (though hot). A close second is the mid-June to mid-August period. Don’t even think about trekking outside of these dry months.
Currency – Uganda Shilling (USh). The Ugandan shilling is a stable, fully convertible currency, fluctuating very little from day to day.
Cities – Kampala. A modern, bustling capital, Kampala suffered a great deal during the years of civil strife. These days, Kampala even has casinos, nightclubs and fancy restaurants. And it’s safe. The Uganda Museum’s most interesting feature is its collection of traditional musical instruments, which you’re allowed to play. The Kasubi Tombs are on Kasubi Hill, a royal palace enclosure first built in 1881. This is where you’ll find the huge traditional reed and bark-cloth buildings of the kabakas (kings) of the Baganda people. Bwindi National Park. Bwindi is one of Uganda’s most recently created national parks. Formerly known as the Impenetrable Forest, the park covers 330 sq km (128 sq mi) in the south-west of the country. It encompasses one of the last remaining habitats of the mountain gorilla, and is home to half of the surviving mountain gorillas in the world – an estimated 320 individuals. Jinja Jinja lies on the shores of Lake Victoria and is chockablock with old Asian-style buildings, reflecting the days when the town had a sizeable Asian community. Ssese Islands This group of 84 islands lies off the north-western shores of Lake Victoria. The islands escaped the ravages of Uganda’s civil wars and remain largely unspoiled. Ruwenzori Mountains and Kibale Forest National Park The mist-covered Ruwenzori Mountains offer some of the most challenging trekking in East Africa. It’s also the base from which to explore the Kibale Forest National Park, 30km (19mi) to the southeast. The park is famous for its chimpanzees, and is said to have the highest density of primates in the world. It’s also home to baboons, red and white colobus monkeys, and larger mammals such as bushbucks, sitatungas, duikers, civets, buffalo and elephants. Lake Albert Lake Albert is part of the Great Rift Valley system which extends from the Middle East to Mozambique, and since 1894 has formed part of the border between Uganda and Congo.
Restrictions – All nationals require an International Health Certificate showing proof of a Yellow Fever and Cholera vaccination within the past 10 years