Opening a child’s eyes to the wonders of Africa is one of the most rewarding things a parent can do, and what better way to achieve this than embark on a family safari in Uganda. I have for almost a decade now planned family holidays for my clients, including holidays for my own family to Uganda’s premium safari destinations. Whether it’s your first holiday in Africa, or a return visit taking your children for the first time, my advice is always the same… make things happen when the opportunity arises!
Uganda is a magical place for a family vacation; families can learn, bond and create life-long memories together. With the wide-open spaces of the wild as their classroom, it’s impossible for children to be bored while on safari. Whether it is the sight of lion cubs frolicking around their mother, baby elephants rolling in mud or sunbathing hippos.…Uganda is full of safari scenes that children have come to know and love, but mainly from afar and from films and documentaries.
While not all safari lodges have ideal facilities for children, many are geared specifically towards family-friendly safaris and offer activities and facilities to make sure that kids are always entertained and stimulated, while mom and dad relax by the pool.
The Pearl of Africa is blessed with national parks rich in wildlife and various water based activities, providing a rich setting for you to connect with loved ones and a wonderful way for children to learn about nature, encounter completely different cultures and see wild animals close up in their natural habitat. Custom built family safari packages ensure that you enjoy the magic and joy of a safari in a safe, friendly environment, with education and plenty of fun.
Africa Sceneries Tour& Safaris experts recommend a family safari in Uganda because of the nearly perfect all year round weather, its wide selection of quality activities and accommodation plus safari vehicles equipped are with child friendly amenities like strollers and snacks to add to the fun. “Our expert guides are experienced in engaging with children, and activities include not just safaris, but nature walks.”
In Karamojong villages, children meet and play with local children, learning about their lives. The best time to visit Uganda is during the dry seasons from June to August and December to February. Conveniently, many of Uganda’s star family attractions are best visited during European school holidays. Here is our guide to the top destinations for your family safari in Uganda.
Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses and it’s indeed Uganda’s best kept secret. The great savanna landscapes with the mountains rising up in the background will make you feel like you are on the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater at the same time. This park is framed in by rugged mountains, jagged hills, rolling valleys and golden grasses, no doubt the most stunningly scenic destination in Uganda.Kidepo Valley is vast, with large quantities of animals that include Lions, leopard, cheetah, elephant, zebra, and giraffe,, hartebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck and warthog and possibly Africa’s largest herds of buffalo, and it is not crowded. It is possibly the only national park left on the whole continent where you can have the park all to yourself! Better still, much of the wildlife can be spotted from the privacy of your veranda at Apoka Lodge.
This remote park, far away from city life and can be accessed by both road and air though we highly recommend you to take the 90 minute scheduled flight from Entebbe as opposed to driving. This flight will guarantee you a fantastic bird’s eye view of Lake Victoria, the River Nile, Mabira Forests, Mount Elgon, Lake Kyoga and wide expanses of sparsely populated land dotted with short grass and granite kopjes.
Unique family activities to look out for during your family holiday in Kidepo include; nature walks inside the park, community walks to visit the Karamojong and Ik villages in their “Manyattas”, game drives where you will encounter wildlife at a close range. Bird watching should be among the must do activities in Kidepo as the park has many unique and endemic bird species that include ostriches, kori bustard, pygmy falcon, and secretary bird and Karamoja apalis
The stunning Apoka Lodge in Kidepo valley also has a great swimming pool that is deep and cool and has been carved out of a big rock. Take an afternoon off to Jump into the pool, splash, yell and have fun as a family, this will definitely be one of the best family vacation experiences ever!
Murchison Falls is Uganda’s largest national park and one of its best making it the perfect destination to spend your family safari in Uganda. The Park is bisected by the Victoria Nile that explodes through a narrow gorge and cascades down to become a placid river whose banks are thronged with schools hippos, crocodile, waterbuck and buffalo. The vegetation is characterized by savannah, riverine forest and woodland. Wildlife in this park is in plenty and includes lions, leopard, elephants, giraffes, hartebeests, oribi, Uganda kob, chimpanzees, and many bird species.
The Victoria Nile races down a whole 80km of white water rapids before plunging 40m over the remnant rift valley wall at Murchison falls, the center piece of the park. The falls drain the last of the river’s energy, transforming into a broad, placid stream that flows across the valley floor for 55km to Lake Albert. This 45m waterfall was featured in the Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart film The African Queen.
Activities to look forward to as a family are unlimited and they may include; a launch cruise to the mighty falls which is a major highlight of any visit to Murchison Falls National Park. Look out for the abundant hippos, crocs, buffalo herds and a variety of water bird species.
Game drives in our pop roof 4×4 Land cruisers can be rewarding with a good chance of spotting both lion and leopard and you will also be able to see most of the park’s resident species.
Chimpanzee tracking can also be done in the nearby Budongo forest and you will also be able to stop at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary en-route your journey to track the southern white rhinos.
Experience Uganda in unique style, take to the air in a hot air balloon about 10,000 feet above the ground. This i would highly recommend for any family visiting Murchison Falls as it provides a bird-eye view of the park, wildlife, the mighty Murchison falls and Lake Albert.
Bulago Island on Lake Victoria is a perfect piece of heaven to go for a family vacation. This Island of 500 acres lies only 45 minutes away from Entebbe. It offerings are unimaginable; from white sand beaches, rocky cliffs, volcanic rock, sandstones, savannah and rain forest vegetation all embedded in this small paradise just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Kampala city. Bulago is mainly made up of rocks and low cliffs engender a feeling of serenity and peace; making it a perfect family vacation spot for family getaways.
This small hidden gem is all about enjoyment and relaxation. Enjoy amazing lake side views, sunbaths and variety of water sports. You can opt for horseback-riding, cycling, hiking the many trails and bird-watching as the island is home to approximately 200 bird species.
During your family safari, take a stroll on the white sand beaches and explore the tropical island, take a boat cruise and enjoy surfing on the lake. A sundowner picnic up to the hut on the top of the hill on a clear evening will guarantee you one of the best sunsets in Africa. Love sport fishing? The shores of Lake Victoria provide exciting challenges to anglers. There is the chance to land a massive catch or visit the neighboring Ngamba Chimpanzee Island Sanctuary as one big happy family!
Popular for being home to the source of the Nile, Jinja has recently emerged as the extreme sports/ adrenaline capital of East Africa. This is, in part, thanks to the range of whitewater rapids on the nearby stretch of the river Nile. The whitewater here is unique: not only are the rapids warm and deep (with no rocks or crocodiles), but the sun shines and the water flows all year round. Expedition days start on tranquil Bujagali Lake, a large expanse of picturesque flat water, with practice runs breaking in and out of fast-moving water before finally, with much trepidation, you plunge in to the churning grade-three rapid that is aptly named Jaws.
There are a number of reasons why Uganda is an amazing place to learn to whitewater kayak: average air temperatures of around 22C (which means shorts and T-shirts, not wetsuits), dam-controlled water (meaning you get a consistent run over the rapids) and plenty of routes to try. There really is something for everyone, regardless of ability or confidence level.
Jinja has a lot to offer for those who seek just serenity and tranquility. A visit to the source of the Nile is a moving and wondrous experience to look forward to during your family safari in Uganda. The source of the Nile alluded to hazily in the ancient writings of Ptolemy, for a long time stood as one of the great geographic mysteries of the Victorian Age.
The Nile down river from Jinja offers superb sport fishing. Other top family activities to look forward to in Jinja include bird watching, quad biking, mountain biking, horseback safaris and bungee jumping. You could also choose to take a canoe trip to explore one of the islands on the lake. Sunset cruises and swimming in the lake are also available before returning to the confortable family time on the terrace from where you can view lights of fishing boats on the lake twinkled that night. How is that for your family experience!
5. Ngamba Island
Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary is home to over 40 orphaned or rescued chimpanzees that are unable to return to the wild. Located 23km southeast of Entebbe in Lake Victoria, the chimpanzee sanctuary is one of the closest safari sites from Kampala or Entebbe offering a touch of wildlife, adventure, education and recreation.
Take a family trip to see and interact with the Chimpanzees and help raise funds for Chimpanzee conservation activities. On being rescued and brought to the Island the Chimps are treated, rehabilitated and then integrated with the rest of Chimps at the sanctuary. Humans are confined to one of the 40 hectares while the chimps wander freely through the forest, emerging twice a day for feeding at 11am and 2.30pm. This coincides with visitor arrival times to the island, with viewings of the chimps via a raised platform.
A visit to this Island provides a unique opportunity for families, especially kids to have a close range view of chimpanzees. Get to watch as the sanctuary caretakers give fruits to Chimpanzees as a way of supplementing on their leafy diet from the forest. Observe the interactions between the Chimps, their leadership hierarchy and their human-like gestures when asking to be given fruits. Later listen to a talk by sanctuary staff, kayak, view a neighboring fishing village, and enjoy some fantastic bird-watching, with the option to swim on the equator, or just sunbathe and relax. I certainly can’t think of a better family safari activity than this!
Queen Elizabeth is not only Uganda’s most popular national park but also one of its most scenic. This park stretches from the crater-dotted foothills of the Rwenzori ranges in the north, along the shores of Lake Edward to the Ishasha River in the South, incorporating a wide variety of habitats that range from wetlands, savannahs to lowland forest. It is home to four of the Big 5 safari animals; leopard, lion, buffalo, and elephants. You can be sure to see these on a game drive in addition to countless Uganda kob, waterbuck, warthog, hyena, giant forest hog as well as raptors and the occasional African rock python.
The Mweya peninsula however is the heart of sightseeing activities with some excellent accommodation in the park. This is the location of the famous Kazinga Channel stretching 40m long, another of Uganda’s safari gems. A two hour cruise along the channel is one of the top experiences during a family safari in Uganda. Expect to see hippos by the hundreds as well as herds of buffalo and elephants taking a dip while fishermen prepare their boats for fishing excursions. The sight of crocodiles with razor sharp teeth and the Nile monitor lizard roaming in the grasses near the channel is almost inevitable.
Chimpanzee tracking in the Kyambura gorge is a fascinating activity to look forward to during your family vacation. Nature walks in the Maramagambo forest and cultural encounters are possible if one chooses to engage in a cultural visit to the Kikorongo Equator Cultural performers, the Katwe salt lake and Bunyaruguru villages. Visitors are certainly advised to spend a couple of extra days to explore these.
One of my favourite family vacation activities in this park is the hot air balloon safari. The sensation of flying in a hot air balloon is hard to describe as it’s like nothing else. Fly inches over euphorbia trees and thickets to the roar of lions while herds of elephant, buffalo and hippos roam below. The scenery over the volcanic craters and lakes is awesome! Depart Queen Elizabeth proper by taking a short drive to the southern sector of the park and be alerted to the presence of the famous tree climbing lions of Ishasha by their paws and tails dangling as they rest high up the giant fig trees
Lake Mburo, also known as the ‘home of the Zebras’ is a great stop off point for visitors who want to see Uganda’s diverse wildlife but have limited time on their hands. It is the smallest and closest savannah reserve reachable within three-and-a-half to four hours by road from the capital, Kampala. The park is a special place with a medley of habitants ranging from dry hillsides, rocky outcrops, bushy thickets, open and wooded savannah, forests, lakes and a series of swamp-fringed lakes known for their rich birdlife, notably the secretive African finfoot. A boat cruise will guarantee the little adventurers fantastic sightings of hippos, crocodiles and a variety of water birds.
A host of wild game roams the acacia plains; look out for the spotted cat on a magical dawn game drive, the gigantic eland, topi, Impala and an abundance of zebra. Recently, a different patterned group was added to the herd; Rothschild’s giraffes were relocated to the reserve from Murchison Falls National Park.
Top family safari activities to look forward to include nature walks, horseback safaris and horseback safaris and quad biking. You can also enjoy a special family picnic breakfast on one of the hills in the park against a backdrop of the stunning views of the African sunrise as the park wakes up. A morning to remember!
Africa Sceneries Safaris recommends a stop at Mihingo Lodge on Lake Mburo when driving from the Bwindi area back to Entebbe for departure. It’s a nice way to relax and rejuvenate after the adrenaline and exertion of trekking for gorillas.
8. Lake Bunyonyi
This place deserves to be on your Uganda family vacation radar and ought to be considered one of the natural wonders of the world and on the destination “Places to See Before You Die” list.
Lake Bunyonyi, also known as “place of little birds” in the local language takes its name from the abundant birdlife that call it home. Over 200 species are found here, including herons, weaver birds and grey-crowned cranes. The second deepest lake in Africa, is framed by lush green-terraced hills but it is the spectacular 29 islands of various shapes and sizes scattered across the water that make it most magical. You will admire them all day! It’s a sight that reinvents itself every hour or two with the ever-changing climate and direction of the sun. In the early morning, the islands weave through cotton candy-like streams of mist and, in the afternoon, they’re bathed in the warm glow of the sun. Later, they’re silhouetted against a dim sky as evening approaches.
Take time to explore the lake with a motorized canoe trip to one of the Islands, this will give a completely different perspective of the lake. Alternatively, hire a guide for a community walk and explore the settlements along the shores to experience everyday life among playful children, farmers and women wrapped in multi-coloured sukas. You will be rewarded with spectacular views of the landscapes and even some wildlife, the forests and tree plantations found on some of the islands habour monkeys and zebras. Otters can also be spotted in the waters.
Lake Bunyonyi is known as one of the few lakes in Uganda free of bilharzia (a common parasite found in southern Africa), making its waters safe for swimming. It’s also free of dangerous wildlife like hippos and crocodiles. The only warning for visitors is the depth — inexperienced swimmers should take caution.
Lake Bunyonyi is a restorative place filled with tranquility and the perfect place to relax and take in the world’s natural beauty as you wrap up your Uganda tour, how is that for a family safari!
To book your tailor made Family Safari in Uganda, contact Africa Sceneries Tours& Safaris at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.africasceneries.com to see our different safari offers.