From the glacier-packed peaks of the Rwenzori mountains to the sprawling savannahs of Kidepo Valley, all manner of flora and fauna thrive in this tiny equatorial nation nicknamed the “Pearl of Africa”—many of them tucked-away gems found nowhere else in the world.
Much of Uganda’s fame comes from its endangered primates. Trekking through the UNESCO-recognized and imposingly named Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to see half the world’s population of mountain gorillas is a plainly life-altering venture. Golden monkeys, chimpanzees, and other rare primates also mingle among the park’s plethora of varied, verdant life—Bwindi alone has over a thousand species of flowering plants, which in turn draw hundreds of broods of butterflies to their blooms.
If you’re a watcher of the skies, there’s more than butterflies to see aflutter. Uganda is totally for the birds—avid watchers can hope to tick off hundreds of unique marks in each of several parks across the country. A game drive through the volcanic craters and rolling grasslands of popular Queen Elizabeth National Park might reward you with another curious sky-borne sighting: black-maned lions with a penchant for hanging about in the trees.
Massive Lake Victoria gives birth here to the mighty Nile, giving you the chance to dip your toes in before the rest of Africa. Raft the rapids at their very source in Jinja—or see where the immense waters plunge through a seven-meter span at Murchison Falls, crashing down a dozen stories before continuing on its Mediterranean-bound odyssey.
Even with all of its wonders—and its incredible people—Uganda remains lightly touristed and less expensive overall. This, combined with its general rugged demeanor, reminds us fondly of old-school safari. The roads are a little rougher, hikes through the mountains can be legendary and the jungle-delving more strenuous, but the pay-offs are yours to treasure forever. A little friction, and layers of beauty. Sounds like a pearl to us.