Whenever you mention the big names in African travel; Uganda is often overlooked. And whenever it is mentioned gorilla trekking takes the main highlight yet to some people it is far from an African budget safari. Without proper guidance, you might come to conclude that it is impossible to execute a budget Uganda safari. But with the following insights; you can be assured of executing a budget Uganda safari.
Look for a tour operator to organize an itinerary of your choice
Uganda has 10 national parks that offer a range of activities such as wildlife viewing, primate tracing, birding, hiking, nature and community walks. If your interest is to visit more than 2 parks on a safari, you’re highly advised to contact a tour operator to make a tour package and itinerary that suits your budget. There are many registered tour companies with expert knowledge for instance you have special needs like traveling with a family, you love cultural shows at your lodge or you want to end you want to relax on the lake after a safari. With a tour operator, you’re able to communicate about different types of activities you can do, book a room at a lodge of your choice, transfer money easily so that all other services like meals, transportation, are paid and catered for in advance.
Visit some of Uganda National parks
Uganda wildlife authority is responsible for managing 10 national parks and 13 wildlife reserves across Uganda. The most popular safari holiday is gorilla tracking in Bwindi National Park followed by game drives, boat cruises, bird watching and a variety of other adventures like hiking, nature walks, and cultural walks. Accommodation options in some of the Uganda safari national parks range from lodges, safari tented campsites and cottages, self catering bungalows, home stays, traditional huts, to guest houses. These accommodations come with toilets, hot water, good beds and food whether you’re on full board or not. Additionally, there’s a bush for those who love outdoor wilderness camping.
For a rewarding wildlife viewing safari, visit Queen Elizabeth Game Park, Murchison Falls Game Park, Lake Mburo national park, Kidepo valley national park. Animals like lion, leopard, elephant, buffaloes, Uganda kob, crocodiles, hippos, can be seen on game drive, boat cruise or nature walk. Primate viewing especially chimpanzee tracking is best done in Kibale forest home to 13 species of primates. There are home stays, various lodges around Fort Portal town for those who want to experience local culture and scenery of crater lakes and Rwenzori Mountains.
Travelers who want an exclusive bush experience might prefer Edward flats in Queen Elizabeth national park. Visitors who want an exclusive wildlife safari experience should visit Kidepo valley national park, and the Uganda wildlife authority owned Ngamuru tented camps are much cheaper. A cheetah, wild dog, ostrich, kudu, Aard wolf, largest herd of buffaloes in East Africa and indigenous tribes of Karamajong and IK can be only found in this park.
Visitors who want to visit national parks should consider organizing a safari with a tour operator whom you can discuss with various options.
Book for budget accommodation
A wide range of accommodation that range from luxury lodges, safari tents, mid-range camps, budget to low cost guest houses can be found in and around most of Uganda safari parks. But there are certain things to consider for budget conscious travelers. It’s not always the case that only luxury lodges offer excellent services. Rather there are budget lodges or tents with quality, clean and comfortable beds, delicious food, personalized services, en-suit bathrooms, running hot and cold showers.
The distance of a lodge to the national park is important in addition to the services. For instance if you’re visiting Queen Elizabeth national park most lodges are found outside the park which means you’ve to wake up early for morning game drive. And afternoon, you need to catch up with a boat cruise on Kazinga channel hence there’s no to drive back to the lodge if you can have lunch at Mweya visitor center.
Take a weekend tour around Uganda
Uganda can be trusted when it comes to a variety of weekend spots for travelers to visit and relax as an individual, group, couple or family. Whether you want an itinerary for 1 day or 2-3 overnight, various weekend destinations like Jinja, Sesse islands, Entebbe town offer endless opportunities. Jinja offers thrilling outdoor activities like white water rafting, bungee jumping, horseback riding, family floats and swimming, boat cruise and house boats while Entebbe and Sesse are great for beach lovers.
Kampala city also offers amazing historical and cultural tour, at places like Uganda museum, Mengo palace, Ndere cultural center or pilgrimage and places of warship like Bahai temple, Gaddafi mosque. There are many adventure parks with swimming pools, kids bouncing castles suitable. Travelers who want to see wildlife without traveling to a safari park, you can visit Entebbe zoo or birders can visit Mabamba swamp.
On the other hand, travelers can also make a weekend trip to a safari park like Murchison Falls National park, Lake Mburo.
Plan to visit Uganda during the low season
To see gorillas is often very expensive. But the low season in Uganda offers discounted gorilla trekking, Uganda’s popular safari activity. From April/May and October/ November, a gorilla permit can be purchased at $450. It’s easier to track gorillas since they move less and can be found near park offices than in dry season. On that note, rates for some of the accommodations also drop which will probably put you in position to negotiate and book a room at even lower price. Note that during rainy season, viewing wildlife in parks like Murchison falls animals may not be found along the roads due to long grass but rangers are always willing to guide and ensure the best experience.
Stay in some of the accommodation found outside the national parks
Accommodations found outside the parks are often affordable but visitors planning to do so should be mindful of the distance one has to cover when driving to the park early morning. For instance, around Queen Elizabeth national park there are many lodges like Engazi lodge that are 15 minutes drive to Mweya visitor center. In Bwindi rainforest especially Buhoma and Ruhija gorilla tracking sectors many lodges are found outside the park. Visitors to contribute to community development when you hire a local guide to take you on village walk.
Consider hiring a car if you want to self drive to the safari parks of your choice
Possibly one can rent a car in Uganda with many car rental companies at affordable price. You expect to make savings by only buying fuel. But you have to make arrangements with that company for vehicle support services in case of emergency accident or breakdown. Roads to southwestern Uganda are paved; it’s only a few that are dirt and bumpy hence you need to have a travel map of Uganda as well as some guide books like Bradt.
Use public transport if your travel schedule allows
Traveling by bus is one of the cheapest ways used by many Uganda when traveling up country. Buses are safe but tourist are advised to hold their vital items like camera, laptop while the rest of the luggage like heavy bag is kept in the boot.
For tourists on a safari and want to use a bus, you need to know the schedule and where you should get off. For example if wish to use bus to travel to Bwindi rainforest, you need to know the section of Bwindi and the route and bus to use. Those going to Rushag or Ruhija southern sectors of Bwindi can use Mbarara-kabale route while those going to Buhoma the headquarters of Bwindi need to use kampala-mbarara-Rukungiri-kanungu route. Buses usually stop on main stages; hence you need to incur another cost of using transport to your lodge.