The most popular thing to do on a tour of Africa is game viewing on a safari – but should you choose Uganda or Rwanda?
While game viewing is a truly special once-in-a-lifetime experience, there’s another equally thrilling must-try experience: gorilla trekking.
If you want to see unique golden monkeys, endangered mountain gorillas or clever chimpanzees, Uganda and Rwanda are teeming with them!
Don’t be confused anymore — this travel guide will point you in the right direction.
Safari in Uganda
Uganda is one of the most exciting African safari destinations due to it’s breathtaking scenery and attractive wildlife.
In fact half of the remaining mountain gorillas are found in Mgahinga Mountain Gorilla Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Uganda is a very unique and charming tourist destination for anyone interested in wildlife safaris, mountaineering/hiking tours, bird watching adventures, mountain gorilla tours, cultural tours and more. More natural wonders can be found in Eastern Uganda, where travelers will find the ossified Kidepo anthills and magnificent desert crags.
Wherever you visit in Uganda, you won’t want to leave the country in a hurry.
Many tourists visit Uganda to see the gorillas—then leave for Kenya to view the Big Five. However, you can see four of the Big Five in the wild here in Uganda too (i.e. rhinos, elephants, lions, and buffaloes).
Another good reason to choose Uganda over Rwanda in the battle of the safari destinations is that Ugandan safari tours are usually set against spectacular backdrops of lakes and volcanic craters. Driving, walking and boat tours can be done in many of the national parks – giving you a real taste of adventure!
Wild animals in Uganda range from big mammals like the gorilla, rhino, elephant, lion, and buffalo; to small mammals like the bush baby, shrews, and bats. Primate trekking in Uganda as includes the opportunity to see chimpanzees.
There are also reptiles like pythons, crocodile, chameleons, and monitor lizards; as well as birds like the Uganda crane, turacos, vultures and African eagle.
Ugandan food and culture
Carbs are a big deal in Uganda. Expect traditional delicacies to have mashed plantain (matoke) or thick, sticky maize flour paste, which you eat with sauce — often flavored with peanuts (groundnuts).
There’s a strong Indian influence in the country — with delicious curry sauces accompanying chicken, goat, or vegetables. The local street dish is known as Rolex. It’s a type of omelette wrapped up in chapati. Sweet tea (chai) is the drink of choice, while Nile Special is arguably the best beer.
As for culture, Uganda might not boast the most colorful tribes of other African nations, – for example the photogenic Himba of Namibia and Angola, or the statuesque Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania – but it’s not difficult to fall for Ugandan culture.
We recommend spending an evening watching cultural performances at Ndere Center in Kampala. Or what about sharing porridge over a bonfire, learning to grind finger millet, or having a go at playing the stringed instrument adungu. Partake in the joyous merrymaking in each new area of Uganda you visit and you won’t be disappointed.
Climate in Uganda
Uganda has one of the world’s best climates. It’s green and sunny throughout the year with two different rainy seasons: March through May and September through November. Rain can fall any time, though.
You can visit Uganda all year round, as temperatures scarcely change throughout its seasons. But Uganda is best visited during its pair of dry seasons from June to August and December to February, when conditions are perfect for trekking to view chimpanzees and mountain gorillas
The temperature averages 27°C, with the Kasese and Karamoja regions having the highest average temperature of 31°C. On the other hand, Kabale has the lowest average temperature of 15°C.
Uganda is a high altitude African country, despite lying right on Equator. Its fresh breeze will be a huge relief on those long safari trips – leaving you to truly enjoy this unforgettable safari and gorilla trekking destination.
Uganda’s top safari attractions
Uganda’s top safari destinations include:
- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
- Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
- Kibale National Park
- Rwenzori Mountains
- Kidepo Valley National Park
- Murchison Falls National Park
- Mengo Palace
- Igongo Cultural Center
- Uganda Wildlife Education Center
- Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
Safari in Rwanda
Exploring Rwanda takes you on an amazing safari journey like no other in Africa. Giant peaks carved with volcanic activity encircled by the delicate soft shapes of clouds, amidst a deep green hue of flourishing, thick rainforest.
In the battle of Rwanda vs Uganda, if you’re looking for the most Instagrammable destination – Rwanda probably edges it.
Nestled below the volcanic peaks are the peaceful, charming villages of the Hutu and Tutsi, where the chuckle of joyful kids is transmitted by the cool breeze, echoing continuously through the valleys.
In the higher lands are conserved bamboo forests, which house the Virunga mountain gorillas of Rwanda, animals that have fascinated millions around the world.
Rwanda’s diverse habitats host a variety of wild animals, including mountain gorilla, golden monkey, chimpanzee, giraffe, hippo, leopard, zebra, crocodile and over 600 bird species. About 10% of the country is set aside for bird conservation.
Lakes and plains dominate the east while the western mountains are covered in forest. This montage of mountain ecosystems is home to the mountain gorillas, alongside 12 other primate species – a good reason to choose Rwanda over Uganda.
Rwandan Food and Culture
Local delicacies include meat and bean stews, goat kebabs, matoke (plantain), chapati, and ugali (maize meal). The most popular drink is milky tea, while popular alcoholic drinks include waragi (a colorless, millet-based Ugandan spirit) and beer.
Whilst due to Belgian colonization, the country boasts tasty chips. Western themed restaurants often offer them with fish, chicken, or steak.
Rwanda’s culture is varied. Unlike so many African countries, Rwanda has been one unified nation since the pre-colonial era, populated by the Banyarwanda who share the same cultural heritage and language. There are three main tribes in Rwanda: the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa who make up 85%, 14%, and 1% of the population respectively.
Song and dance are an integral part of Rwandan social gatherings, celebration, and storytelling. Umushagiriro (cow dance) is the most popular folk dance, done by women, followed by the dance of heroes, done by men. The drumming is traditionally done by men. Music is performed orally, with different social groups having different styles.
Climate in Rwanda
Rwanda has a pleasant topical climate that’s neither too cold nor too hot. While it lies just south of the Equator, it’s high altitude keeps temperatures moderate all year round.
The country’s climate and weather are also typified by frequent rainfall during most of the year, with an average annual rainfall of 40 inches. The northeastern part of the country is particularly rainy as it’s immersed in the rainforest.
While you can visit Rwanda at any time of the year, the best time to tour the country is usually during the longer and short dry seasons, from June to September and December to early February.
Rwanda’s average daytime temperatures hover around 13°C in the highlands, and a much warmer 24°C along the lower mountains. Conversely, nighttime average temperatures hover around the 15°C to 18°C mark.
Rwanda’s top safari attractions
Some of the best Rwanda safari destinations include:
- Nyungwe Forest National Park
- Volcanoes National Park
- Kigali Genocide Memorial
- Murambi Genocide Memorial
- Nyanza Genocide Memorial
- Ethnographic Museum
- Akagera National Park
- Gisenyi Public Beach
- Musanze Caves
- Rusumo Falls
- Museum of National History
- Hotel des Mille Collines
- Nyamata Church
- Ntarama Church
Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Around half of all the world’s mountain gorillas live in central Africa’s Virunga mountains, along the intersection of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The gorilla trekking experience in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable forest likely requires more stamina and physical fitness. The forest is extremely dense and tracking gorillas through it requires more physical effort. This makes the tracking experience even more exciting and adventurous though.
On the other hand, gorilla tracking in Rwanda takes place on the sides of a volcano, making it a little easier. In a Rwanda trek, you’re assigned a team depending on your physical strengths.
Uganda or Rwanda: Which is the better safari and gorilla trekking destination?
With just 800 mountain gorillas remaining in the world, having the chance to view them in the wild is sadly very rare. But on the flipside, this is what makes a safari to Uganda or Rwanda all the more memorable.
Yet with these incredible creatures to encounter, and lots of other exciting adventures waiting for you, it’s easy to be swept off your feet by both countries. But whichever country you decide to visit, you’ll definitely have a blast!