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More Than Just a Primal Connection | Uganda as an Underrated Safari Destination

Elephants! Our itinerary for gorilla trekking in Uganda did not say anything about elephants! To be honest, I did not do much research about the country before I boarded my flight from Vancouver to Istanbul and then onto Entebbe International Airport, the main airport in Uganda.

But there they were in the brochure, as we flipped the pages, waiting for our bush plane. Along with three other adventurous friends, we were about to fly to a local dirt airstrip to begin our 6-day trip in Uganda.

“Just wait,” they told me. All three of my friends had been on safari somewhere in Africa before, but this was our first visit to Uganda for all of us.

After three hours of waiting to find out when our plane was arriving, “just sit and wait and we will come to find you,” was what we were constantly assured, our 9 seater plane arrived and with a few other passengers we set off for Queen Elizabeth National Park.

As the plane climbed into the sky, we flew over Lake Victoria and banked to the West. Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest lie in Western Uganda, where we would be spending the next 6 days.

Stretches of dirt passed below us, with pavement roads changing to dirt tracks. I peered at every little speck, “Was that one? Was that an elephant!”

We saw the crocs first, log-like shapes as we descended over a waterway towards the airstrip.

“LOOK, LOOK!” I practically shouted.

And there they were, an entire herd, drinking, bathing, and eating the grasses next to the river.

I will never forget that moment, with shaky iPhone footage as proof, watching the magnificent creatures from my Cessna window.

There is something magical about firsts. The rush of excitement, amazement, and euphoric high comes with retelling the story.

This was only the beginning of an epic safari journey, one I never knew I was going to have!

Lindsay Nieminen in Uganda with Elephants.
Our Riverboat was a safari experience we were not at all expecting! It literally said a river boat cruise in the channel that connects two big lakes in the area but it was full of animals down at the river.

What to Expect on Safari In Western Uganda

While almost every tourist comes to Uganda for Gorilla Trekking, there is just so much more that is never highlighted in an Uganda Itinerary. A herd of elephants crossing the road from their water source, a river cruise that is not just a river cruise but an up-and-close perspective of animals on the edge of the river, tree-climbing lions that it turns out, are not always hanging out in the trees and of course, the luxury lodges with private butlers, housekeepers, and meals.

Elephants in Uganda
One of our first side of the road elephants, just hanging out as we drove to our boat cruise.

Where are the snacks? Can I get a Coffee?

Development in Uganda is primitive. During a safari in Uganda when you enter a town, you will not find a coffee shop or barely even a corner store. If you are like me (and Karilyn), ask your guide for some snacks! They will know where to find you some pringles or crackers. But do not worry too much, typically you are well-fed on a guided safari and the lodges will prepare anything you desire when you get there!

I struggled without an afternoon coffee break, but sometimes we were able to pop into a lodge along the way and grab one!

Plantains are a popular side dish with almost every meal

Nature is Everywhere

We had a few arranged animal encounters, we had chimp tracking in Kyambura gorge, a game drive for tree-climbing lions and of course our scheduled trek with gorillas, but some of my favorite moments were when we were driving down a dirt road and animals would be everywhere! Elephants, monkeys, baboons, buffalo, waterbuck, they are so prolific, they are not even part of a “game drive”

Sundowners are a big treat

Having no idea what it was, we had a sundowner in front of the most beautiful valley. Staff from our lodge had set up chairs, snacks and drinks an hour before sunset and just before herds and herds of elephants moved across the valley below us. The entire experience was so unforgettable. Make sure any trip to Ugands includes at least one sundowner!

Elephants in Uganda sundowner
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK, UGANDA – Over 100 elephants making their way out of the forest at sunset.
Lindsay in Queen Elizabeth National Park
UGANDA – Enjoying a “sundowner” in Queen Elizabeth National Park

We came for the Gorillas but loved Every Moment

The gorillas are what draw tourists to Uganda, but day after day, we could not believe how amazing each day was, when the “main event” (our gorilla trek) was not until our last day on safari. From underrated animal encounters, luxury accommodations, excellent food, there is so much to say about how great Uganda is to visit.

Uganda chimp tracking
Chimp tracking at Kyambura Gorge
The final act – Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

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