The 2022 Ebola Outbreak in Uganda – what is the situation and is it still safe to visit?

As we come to the end of the month of September 2022 Uganda has confirmed an Ebola outbreak in the country. This comes at the time the country was picking its self up from the ruins of more than two years of the covid 19 pandemic that, like in the rest of the world, had brought life to a standstill, and has caused such havoc in the livelihoods of the people of Uganda. There could not be have been a worse time than now for another deadly virus to come knocking.

The Uganda Ebola situation so far – cases and areas affected

As of the September 28, it has been announced a total of 23 Ebola cases have been confirmed and from these 5 deaths registered. However, it has also been established that tens of people could have already succumbed to the virus from as far back as last August (last month) after the current Ebola victims from the community have revealed that their kin died from a similar illness and were buried without knowing the cause of the death.

As of September 2022, Ebola cases have been confirmed in the Districts of Mubende, Kasanda and Kyegegwa. All these are located towards the western region of Uganda.

The strain of Ebola virus causing this outbreak in Uganda has been identified as the Sudan ebolavirus. This is a less transmissible strain than the Zaire Ebolavirus that caused a recent epidemic in the eastern region (Kivu) of Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda is no stranger to Ebola outbreaks and has had several outbreaks before. Many of the outbreaks are usually a spillover from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo that has suffered frequent Ebola epidemics, and is currently still grappling with one. These spillovers into Uganda have mostly been managed and never resulted in a full-blown Ebola epidemic in Uganda.

The last Ebola outbreak in Uganda was about a decade ago (2014) and only about 100 cases were recorded with just 53 deaths registered.

From the previous Ebola outbreaks the Ugandan health system and its population have developed the capacity to manage the outbreaks. And, this gained experience from managing Ebola came in handy during the Covid 19 pandemic when the country was able to manage the pandemic and thus recording very few deaths in comparison to many other countries, including those with far superior health infrastructure.

The hope is that the current Ebola outbreak in Uganda will also be managed and the spread swiftly arrested.

Also, with the current Covid 19 SOPs (which can apply to Ebola) that many people have been accustomed to and many still adhere to, there is a lot of optimism that the current Ebola outbreak will not manifest into a countrywide epidemic.

Planning to visit Uganda, is it safe even when there is a reported Ebola outbreak?

We are coming to the end of the peak tourism (June – Sept) when many people book vacations to Uganda to go gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, safari in Murchison Falls National Park, and do many other tours in Uganda the pearl of Africa. Many who are traveling to Uganda soon for their trips could be pondering if it is really safe to visit Uganda with this announcement of an Ebola outbreak? As a resident in Uganda, I can confidently say it is safe. The hotspots of the outbreak have been identified and the health system is doing well to contain the spread. The affected areas are far from the activity destinations. Ebola may also have a reputation of being deadly because of a high fatality rate, and it indeed arouses fear by the thought of it. However, it is not easily transmissible. The last outbreak in the country a decade ago had just about 100 individuals infected.

Unless if a full-blown Ebola epidemic across the country happens, which would take several months to happen, Uganda is safe to visit in the short term.

It is also easy to protect from Ebola, as only symptomatic cases can transmit, and transmission is through body fluids hence basic social distancing and washing of hands would be sufficient for protection.

A brief about the Ebola virus/disease

The Ebola virus which causes the Ebola Virus Disease, spreads when one comes into contact with body fluids from an infected person or animal. The symptoms of the Ebola virus infection present between 2 days to 21 days, and some of these are: headaches, sore throat, muscle pain, high temperature or fever, vomiting, diarrhea, yellowing of the eyes.

The Ebola virus can stay in the body for up to 21 days without showing any symptoms.

An infected individual that does not show symptoms (Asymptomatic) does not spread the virus, a contrast to the covid 19 virus where an asymptomatic person can still spread.

Why is Ebola dangerous?

The Ebola virus is dangerous because it has a high fatality rate of about 50%, way higher than that of Covid 19 disease which is about 10%.

Why you may not fear Ebola?

The Ebola virus is not very infectious as compared to the covid 19. The Ebola virus spreads through direct contact with body fluids of an infected individual. It is not airborne like the covid 19 (sars-cov-2) virus. With washing hands and basic social distance

Is there a cure to the Ebola Virus Disease?

There is no cure for the Ebola disease. It is treated by therapeutics to support one’s good immune system that would help beat the disease. Much like the covid 19 situation.

Is there an Ebola vaccine?

Yes, vaccines against Ebola have been successfully made but are not readily available. One of the vaccines include rVSV-ZEVOB produced in the USA and has recently been used in the DR Congo.

Note that the strain of Ebola virus in the current outbreak in Uganda is the Sudan ebolavirus which has no vaccine. The vaccine rVSV-ZEVOB is for the Zaire ebolavirus in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Research shows the strain Sudan ebolavirus is less transmissible than the Zaire ebolavirus, this offers a bit of relief.

Cancelling a gorilla trekking ticket in Uganda – Can I be refunded? cancellation terms and refund policy

The gorilla trekking permit or ticket is central to a safari in Uganda that includes the popular gorilla trekking or tracking activity. Without the gorilla trekking ticket/permit you cannot take part in this once in a lifetime experience, and yet the tickets are limited in number as only 8 are issued per day for each gorilla family that is available for the gorilla trekking tour. In fact, before confirming any other arrangements of the safari trip to Uganda, confirming the date of the gorilla trek and buying the ticket is the priority.

The gorilla ticket is purchased many months in advance before the gorilla tour and one becomes tied to the trip because of it.

However, a concern for many travelers is what happens if they cannot make it for the trip or trek due to unforeseen issues? Is the gorilla permit/ticket refundable? Can it be rescheduled? Can I resell it?

Below I discuss about cancelling the gorilla tracking permit

Can the gorilla trekking permit in Uganda be refunded? Yes, the gorilla trekking permit/ticket can be refunded.

Here is the cancellation and refund policy by the Uganda Wildlife Authority which is body of the gorilla trekking tickets in Uganda:

Cancel less than 8 days to trekking date – no refund at all

Cancel 9 – 45 days to trekking date – 25% refund

Cancel 46 – 90 days to trekking date – 50% refund

Cancel 91 days and above to trekking date – 70% refund

What happens I travel for the gorilla trek and on the day of the trek I wake up and cannot trek because of a sickness or injury? Do I lose it all?! No you don’t lose it all

If on the day of the trek you are unable to join the gorilla tracking because of the an injury or a sickness, especially if you catch a contagious disease that can put the gorillas at risk, you can be refunded 50% of the ticket.  You will have to report to the park office a day before or early in the morning of the trek. You will be required to present a doctor’s report for processing your refund.

Can I instead reschedule a gorilla trekking ticket and come another time?

Once you have bought a permit, you are allowed to reschedule it once to a new date as long as there is availability on the new date.

Can I resell the gorilla tracking permit?

This may be the best option if you are cancelling and planning to come another time. You can resell your permit if there is demand on your dates. However, this option is easier if you have booked your ticket or tour through a local tour agent who would easily sell to another tour agent or would know if someone is looking for a ticket on your cancelled dates.

A big five safari in Uganda – What are the chances of seeing the big five (5) animals in Uganda?

Nearly every traveler’s dream is to tick off all the famous Big 5 animals (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo) on their safari trip in Africa. Uganda is one of the countries that offer this possibility, having all these animals in many parks and wildlife reserves. And, being home to the mountain gorillas, a safari in Uganda gives you the chance to see the Big Five and the famous Mountain Gorillas – two of the biggest highlights of an African safari holiday.

However, one wonders what the chances are of seeing the big five animals in Uganda and which destinations have the best chances to see particular animals

The Big Five in Uganda and best places to to see them

Rhinos in Uganda

The Rhino is the least widespread of the Big Five and the most endangered mostly because it is highly poached for its horn.

The rhinos in the wild in Uganda are found in only one destination, that is, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. The sanctuary was started in 2015 as a program to reintroduce the rhinos back into Uganda’s wilderness after they were poached and wiped out during the insurgencies of the 1970s. The fate which befell many rhinos in Africa. The rhinos have been thriving on the sanctuary and from the 13 White Rhinos that were originally introduced have since multiplied to more than 30 rhinos.

The sanctuary offers a guided rhino tracking activity for tourists to see the rhinos on foot. You therefore are guaranteed to tick off the rhinos in Uganda when you visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

Note, there are NO Black Rhinos in Uganda at the moment.

Lions

A safari is not complete without seeing the “King of the Jungle”, the Lion. It is therefore the most sought after Big Five animal.

You can see lions in three savannah park of Uganda – Murchison Falls Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, Kidepo Valley national park.

If you ask which park will give you the best chance of seeing lions in Uganda? First of all, none of the parks guarantees seeing the lions on a normal game drive. But if you visit at least two of the parks there is a high probability you will see them at least in one of the two parks.

Murchison Falls National Park offers slightly better chances to see the lions. The park is also located in the same direction and close to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, so the shortest tour to see the all the big five in Uganda is combing these two destinations in a 3 days Murchison Falls tour with rhino tracking.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for the tree climbing lions and is one of the few parks in the world where lions have developed this unique capability to climb trees like leopards. Queen Elizabeth National Park also offers a lion tracking activity where tourists join researchers to monitor collared lions. You should include lion tracking in your itinerary if you want to guarantee seeing the lions during your safari vacation in Uganda.

Leopard

Leopards are arguably the most widespread of the big five and yet the most difficult to find. They live in most of the parks and wildlife reserves across Uganda. They are very solitary and stealth, and a sighting is by pure luck. The savannah parks have provided the best chances to see leopards in Uganda, and one park in particular is the Lake Mburo Park which is the smallest of the savannah parks. For better chance to see the leopard you should do the night drive when leopards are most active. All savannah parks allow a night game drive.

Elephants

You sure cannot miss seeing the Elephants in Uganda. Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park all have plenty of elephants.

Buffaloes

Buffaloes are a constant sighting in all the savannah parks in Uganda.

Big Five Safari trips in Uganda

3 days Murchison Falls tour with rhino tracking

6 days Murchison Falls and Kidepo park safari

12 days Best of Uganda wildlife safari

Kidepo Valley National Park fees – pricing for park entry, activities & accommodation

Kidepo Valley National Park is the undiscovered safari gem of Uganda. Because of its location in the far north eastern corner of Uganda that was previously very difficult to reach and is surrounded by what are perceived as a hostile people, the Karimojong, very few people have taken the trouble to go and discover this beautiful wilderness. Most people would rather take a tour to Murchison Falls Park – Uganda’s biggest & most popular park which is great for wildlife safaris, but with little more endurance on a longer drive farther north east they will discover an unspoiled wilderness with no crowds but lots of wildlife including that which cannot be seen in other parks of Uganda such as the cheetah and ostrich in addition to common wildlife such as lions, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, etc…

Below are the entry fees for Kidepo Valley National Park and the pricing for the activities and park accommodation.

Tourist entry fees (per person)

Entry fee USD UGX
International visitor (Foreign Non Resident) – Adults 40  
International visitor Children 5 – 15 years 20  
Foreign Resident 30  
Foreign Residents children 5 – 15 years 10  
East African citizens   20,000
East African citizens children 5 – 15 years   5,000

Children below 5 years do not pay entry fees

Park entry fee is valid for 24 hours from the time of payment.

The opens at 7am and closes at 7pm. Beyond that no one is allowed in the park, unless they have booked a night safari drive with the park.

Car entry fees

Type of car Foreign Ugandan Registered
USD UGX
Saloon cars 40 20,000
Minibuse, Omni-buses 50 30,000
Pick-ups 50 30,000
Tour Company vehicles & 4-wheel drive 150 100,000
Buses & Lorries 200 30,000
School buses 50,000

Car entry fees are valid for 24 hours from the time of entry.

Pricing for activities in Kidepo Valley National Park

Activity FNR FR EAC
USD USD UGX
Day self-game drive per private car (with no park guide) 10 10 10,000
Day guided game drive per private car (with a park guide) 20 15 20,000
Night guided game drive per person (using park guides is mandatory for night drives) 30 20 50,000
Hiring the park game drive car for Day game drive – per person (Minimum 3 persons in car) 30 25 30,000
Hiring the park game drive car for Night game drive – per person (Minimum 3 persons in car) 40 35 40,000
Day nature walk – per person 15 10 10,000
Kidepo Lonyili Hike 50 40 50,000
Mt. Morungole hike & IK cultural tour      
Birdwatching 30 25 20,000

Fees are per person

Activity fees exclude park entry fee

Hiking fees do not include hiking equipment.

Fines and Penalties in Kidepo Valley National Park

Offence Penalty
Off-tracking driving fine $150 (per person in the vehicle, to be incurred by the driver)
Over speeding (speed limit is 40km/hr) UGX 100,000 per incident
Animal accident fee (road kill) $500
Littering in the park UGX 100,000 per incident
Hooting in the park UGX 100,000 per incident
Sitting on top of the vehicle $100 per incident

Customized tours to Kidepo Valley National Park

5 days safari trip to Kidepo Valley National Park

5 days Fly in safari to Kidepo Valley National Park

6 days Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls safari

 

Lake Mburo National Park fees – pricing for entry and things to do in Lake Mburo Park

When one thinks of a wildlife safari in Uganda, Lake Mburo National Park is not one of the places that comes to mind for many travelers. For most people the only way to enjoy a wildlife safari in Uganda is by taking a tour to Murchison Falls National Park – Uganda’s biggest park.

Lake Mburo National Park is actually an overlooked gem of a safari destination. It is a small park that is easy to explore even on a self-drive. Available animals are in plenty, it has fewer predators which has allowed other animals to thrive in big numbers. The scenery is one of the best you can experience. There are many activities to do. But the biggest advantage of all is that it is the closest park to Kampala and Entebbe, about 3 – 4 hours drive, meaning you could even visit it in one day, or can arrive in Uganda in the afternoon and immediately go to the park.

Lake Mburo National Park can also be a nice stopover point on the gorilla trip to Bwindi National Park, to break down the journey as you enjoy a nice short nice bush experience before taking on the gorilla jungle.

Below are the entry fees for Lake Mburo National Park and the pricing for the different activities you can do in the park.

Tourist entry fees (per person)

Entry fee USD UGX
International visitor (Foreign Non Resident) – Adults 40
International visitor Children 5 – 15 years 20
Foreign Resident 30
Foreign Residents children 5 – 15 years 10
East African citizens 20,000
East African citizens children 5 – 15 years 5,000

Kids below 5 years to do not pay entry fees

Park entry is valid for 24 hours from the time of entry into the park.

The park opens 7am and closes at 7pm

Car entry fees

Type of car Foreign Ugandan Registered
USD UGX
Saloon cars 40 20,000
Minibuse, Omni-buses 50 30,000
Pick-ups 50 30,000
Tour Company vehicles & 4-wheel drive 150 100,000
Buses & Lorries 200 30,000
School buses 50,000

Like tourist entry fees, car entry fees are also valid for 24 hours from the time of entry.

Pricing for activities in Lake Mburo National Park

Activity FNR FR EAC
USD USD UGX
Day self-game drive per private car (with no park guide) 10 10 10,000
Day guided game drive per private car (with a park guide) 20 15 20,000
Night guided game drive per person (using park guides is mandatory for night drives) 30 20 50,000
Hiring the park game drive car for Day game drive – per person (Minimum 3 persons in car) 30 25 30,000
Hiring the park game drive car for Night game drive – per person (Minimum 3 persons in car) 40 35 40,000
Boat cruise on the Lake Mburo 30 25 30,000
Day nature walk – per person 15 10 10,000
Cycling 30 25 30,000
Birdwatching 30 25 20,000
Sport fishing permit 15 for 1 day,

25 for 4 days

Fees are per person

Activities exclude park entry fees

Cheap accommodation run by Lake Mburo National Park (Uganda Wildlife Authority)

Type UGX
Bandas – Rwonyo Single 35,000
Double 40,000
Family banda 60,000
Guesthouses – Rwonyo Per room (Double) 130,000 per room
Extra person in room 65,000 per person
Tents Single 35,000
Double 60,000
Dormitory Adults 25,000
Students (within a group) 5,000
Children 10,000

Fines and Penalties in Lake Mburo National Park

Offence Penalty
Off-tracking driving fine $150 (per person in the vehicle, to be incurred by the driver)
Over speeding (speed limit is 40km/hr) UGX 100,000 per incident
Animal accident fee (road kill) $500
Littering in the park UGX 100,000 per incident
Hooting in the park UGX 100,000 per incident
Sitting on top of the vehicle $100 per incident

Short safari trips to/with Lake Mburo National Park you book

2 days safari trip to Lake Mburo Park

3 days Lake Mburo wildlife safari and Ankole cow tour

4 days Lake Mburo Wildlife and Bwindi gorillas safari