Uganda covid situation – no test on arrival for travelers (February 2022)

As the covid situation in Uganda improves, with cases of covid 19 dwindling every day, the government of Uganda is relaxing on the restrictions. The good news for travelers going to Uganda is that the government has declared there is no more testing on arrival at the airport effective from February 2022. Perhaps one of the best news as many travelers found the test on arrival at the airport the worst of restrictions. It added to the cost of travel as you had to $30 for it, and it was such a great inconvenience that caused a lot of anxiety waiting for the results while thinking of the worst outcome of a positive result. Imagining traveling all the way to Uganda to enjoy a safari vacation in the Pearl of Africa (home of popular gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking) only to test positive for covid and sent into isolation.

The government came to this decision to stop covid tests on arrival as fewer and fewer positive cases of covid were registered among the arriving travelers. An indication of the declining covid 19 cases worldwide. Perhaps an encouraging signal that the worldwide pandemic could soon come to an end.

What restrictions are still in place for traveling to and from Uganda?

Travelers going to Uganda are required to present a negative result from a PCR test taken not later than 72 hours to the time of arrival in Uganda.

Travelers leaving or flying out of Uganda are required to present a negative result from a PCR test taken with 72 hours from the time of flying out of Uganda. Travelers often are concerned as to whether they would be able to find a place to test in Uganda at the end of their gorilla trip and get results in time? Well, Uganda has developed a lot of capacity to test for covid 19 over the last two years of the pandemic. So many labs have been established in the capital Kampala and even out of Kampala. You can take a covid 19 PCR test and have your results in as few as 4 hours. Generally it would take 6 – 8 hours to have your results.

What is the latest covid situation in Uganda?

The covid situation in Uganda has improved a lot as of February 2022. The country experienced the Omicron surge in December last year of 2021, peaking quickly by early January and by the end of January almost every person in the capital Kampala and much of the country had had a taste of it. By end of February 2022 nearly much of the population has been “vaccinated” by the extremely contagious Omicron variant. There is little covid in the population as more recover from Omicron.

Most of the adult population above 50 years that is most vulnerable in Uganda has received the covid jabs. Uganda has a younger demographic with more than 70% of the country below 25 years. This younger demographic is one of the main factors the covid pandemic did not have a devastating effect in Uganda like it has been in countries with aged populations such as Europe.

There has been a lot of vaccine hesitancy among the young population, but the later covid variants that spread quickly through the population have caused natural immunity among the population.

Nearly all essential works such as health workers, teachers, security, tour drivers and hospitality workers have been vaccinated!

I can tell without fear that chances of picking a covid infection from Uganda are very minimal!

10 Interesting facts about Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are said to be our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. Below are ten interesting facts about chimpanzees that you may not know and many will leave you surprised at how similar they are to humans.

  1. Chimpanzees share 98.7% DNA with humans. Scientists say Chimpanzees and Humans share the same ancestor of evolutionary origin.
  2. Chimpanzees live in communities like humans. Unlike other primates like monkeys and Gorillas who live in groups, Chimpanzees live in communities that can be as large as 100+ chimps. Within the community are smaller units of groups, families, friends, etc… who can go about their lives independently from other chimps in the same community.
  3. Chimpanzee communities have classes. Within a community of chimps are three classes; upper class, middle class and lower class, and of course the higher the class the more privileges a chimp has…much like in human communities
  4. Chimpanzees vote their leaders in communities. Unlike in other primates like monkeys and gorillas where the most powerful becomes the leader of the group, chimpanzees are highly democratic and vote their leaders depending competencies and skills a chimp possesses. They do change leaders every now and then once a leader becomes unpopular.
  5. Chimpanzees have binocular vision. Chimps have an incredible eyesight that is said developed to spot snakes in the thick jungle.
  6. Chimpanzees can’t swim.
  7. Chimpanzees do not become sexually active until they about 10 years.
  8. Infant chimpanzees are born every 4 – 5 years and stay with their mothers until they are 8 – 10 years
  9. Chimpanzees are endangered. Due to the low birth rate of chimps and the immense pressure on their habitats, their numbers continue to dwindle.
  10. Chimpanzees can make and use tools. Chimpanzees have been observed to make and modify tools from their environment such as trees.

Never seen chimpanzees before? The chimpanzee trekking in Uganda and chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda are excellent tours that will give you an opportunity to encounter a community of chimps in their natural home, observe their classes and leadership, see how they use tools and communicate with each other, and other interesting behaviors.

How to dress for your gorilla trekking

One of the most asked questions by tourists planning for gorilla trekking in Rwanda or gorilla trekking in Uganda is how they will need to dress up or what to wear on the day of the trek? For experienced trekkers this is not much of a challenge to figure the suitable clothing for the outdoors, but for many that will have the gorilla trek presenting a rare opportunity they trek in the jungle, picking the right outfit is something they think critically about.

Below I discuss how you should dress up for a comfortable and safe trek in the gorilla mountains in Uganda and Rwanda.

Sleeved shirt – lightweight breathable

A shirt with long sleeves is essential to protect your arms from insect bites and being pricked by thorny or rough plants. Stinging nettles are the true menace in the jungle, a slight rub off a leaf instantly puts your skin on fire. Guides will try to point out a stinging nettle for you when its seen.

You should also consider lightweight breathable material to keep your body cool and fresh in the heat of the trek

Long pants/trousers

Long pants like long sleeves will help protect your legs from scratches and insects constantly trying to climb up your legs. The long pants also protect from mud and dust depending on the weather conditions.

Neutral colors (khaki) – nature blending colors

Choose neutral or nature blending colors. Bright colors such as red are easily noticed by wildlife especially birds that will flee. Meanwhile insects are attracted to dark colors so you will end up having to constantly be wading off insects hovering all around you causing great inconvenience.

Colors green and brown are the best.

Khaki is almost a standard for the safari.

Hiking shoes

Many that have attempted to trek the gorillas while putting on crocs, heels, slippers, office shoes have had a miserable experience. You need trekking/hiking shoes with good traction to keep you from slipping as you trek on uneven ground that can get very slippery in case of rain. Mid-cut to high-cut would be the ideal especially for the inexperienced to protect your ankles.

Your sneakers may be just fine if you are used to using them for trekking.

Gaiters or long socks

Gaiters will protect your pants from dirt and keep away insects from crawling under your pants. If you can’t get gaiters carry long socks that you can tuck your pants in.

Hat/cap or hood

A hat or cap is essential to protect your head from small particles. It also provides shade over your face. A hood would also be help if a hat is unavailable.

Rain jacket

This is very essential if you will be trekking during the rainy season (March to May & Oct to Dec), but it is also not unusual to experience sporadic rains even during the dry season. You are trekking in a rainforest on a highland so expect rain any time and have a rain jacket on you.

Garden gloves

Not so essential but useful to protect your hands as at some point you will push tree branches and shrubs out of your way using your hands. They also keep you warm in the chilly mountain forest.

Where to see chimpanzees in Uganda

With a big population of chimps in Uganda and having many places to see them, the country by far offers the best opportunities to see and learn about chimps our closest relatives. You can see chimps within ten minutes of leaving the Entebbe International airport at a sanctuary, or you can travel towards the far ends of the country and embed with a community of chimps in the pristine jungles on a chimpanzee trekking tour. Whatever your trip itinerary to Uganda is and the kind of chimp experience you want, it is easy to include a visit to see chimps in Uganda.

There are also opportunities for kids to see chimps and I will start off with these.

Family friendly places to see chimps with kids in Uganda

Traveling with kids? Below are family friendly places where parents with children can visit to see and learn about chimpanzees.

Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary

Ngamba Island chimpanzee sanctuary is probably the best place to see and learn about chimpanzees. This forested island on Lake Victoria measuring only 100 acres is home to more than 50 chimps. The island is a project to host chimps rescued from several situations in Uganda and across the world such as from poaching, circus, bush meat trade, etc… An electric fence separates the forest from a small area where viewing takes place from behind the fence. It is exciting watching the different individuals and learning about their history and their unique abilities, and learning about the chimps’ leadership hierarchies, classes, etc… in the community which you can observe it all playing out.

Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo) – behind the scenes experience

The Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo) is nearest place to see chimps in Uganda. In addition to many other animals and wildlife the zoo has 21 chimps that you can see from behind a fence. You can also join the more interactive “behind the scenes experience” where you join caretakers during their routine feeding of the chimps & other wildlife, cleaning their enclosures, etc.…

The adventurous chimpanzee trekking (15+ years)

If you want to embed with nature and trek the rainforest to see the chimps up close with no barrier in between below are the best places to go

Budongo forest, Murchison falls national park – best chimp & big game safari experience in one place

Budongo forest is the largest forest in east Africa. Part of the forest lies within the boundaries of Murchison Falls National Park the prime destination for wildlife safaris in Uganda. This part of the Budongo forest that lies in the Murchison has a large habituated community of chimps numbering over 100 chimps. This community is so far the only one available for chimp tracking in the forest, as another group is still undergoing habituation. The chimps may be difficult to see during some time in the year when they venture beyond their known home territory at Kaniyo Pabidi after depleting the food here. However when they are at Kaniyo Pabidi this community offers by far the best chimp tracking experience in the forest in Uganda, as the community is quite large offering great views of different individual chimps, and in addition the forest is beautiful to walk in having some of the most gigantic trees in the region. The little undergrowth enables great views and photography!

If you want a great wildlife safari experience in the savannah bush and a wonderful chimp experience all in one place then a safari trip to Murchison Falls National Park with chimpanzee tracking in Budongo forest is the best option.

Kibale forest national park

Kibale National Park is touted as the primate capital of East Africa, because of the up to 13 species of primates in this jungle that include the biggest population of chimps in Uganda with more than 1500 individuals. Due to many habituated chimps available for chimpanzee tracking activities, Kibale forest national park is the most popular destination for trips exclusive for chimpanzee tracking. It also offers 100% chances of seeing the chimps. However, this popularity also means big crowds of tourists.

Kalinzu forest reserve

Kalinzu Forest reserve is small patch of forest near Queen Elizabeth National Park, another prime safari destination in Uganda. It is not popular and often overlooked for chimpanzee trekking but with a high density of chimps, more than 250 chimps, offers great chances of seeing the chimps. If you will be visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park for a big game experience and want to see chimps as well without having to overnight away from the park, this is the best place to add to your itinerary. Kalinzu Forest is located less than an hour’s drive from Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Kyambura gorge forest

Kyamburo Gorge Forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park is a unique forest located in a valley and it is famously referred to as the underground forest. The forest is home to a small population of chimps, about 60, which can be difficult to find sometimes. The trek in the Kyambura Gorge is a great addition to your safari experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park, offering a wonderful nature experience with chances of seeing several wildlife including the chimps, elephants, giant forest hog, etc…

Uganda gorilla trekking from Kigali

Did you know it is easier to track gorillas in Uganda coming/starting from Kigali, Rwanda? Yes, it is possible to come through Rwanda for the gorilla trekking tour in Uganda and it is easier and cheaper alternative. The drive from Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda is about 4 – 5 hours. This is a much shorter journey than if you fly into Uganda and start from Uganda’s capital Kampala or Entebbe airport which takes 8 – 9 hours of drive to the gorilla parks; Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park.

Save on the gorilla trekking permit

Planning to visit Rwanda for a gorilla trekking tour but find the 1500USD for the gorilla permit/ticket way beyond your budget? Then you can come through Kigali city in Rwanda and drive to Uganda where the gorilla tracking is 700USD, about half of the cost of the permit in Rwanda.

Visiting Rwanda and tracking the cheaper gorillas in Uganda also frees up funds allowing you include other amazing tours in Rwanda such as the chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe forest, safari trip to Akagera National Park, and golden monkey tracking in the volcanoes among others.

Which border crossing to use for the gorilla trekking in Uganda starting from Kigali

The nearest border from Kigali is Gatuna/Katuna border which is about 2 hours’ drive. From the Gatuna/Katuna border to Bwindi National Park is about 1.5hours. This is the ideal border to cross into Uganda if you will be tracking in the Ruhija and Buhoma sectors of Bwindi.

Note that there are four gorilla trekking sectors in Bwindi National Park i.e. Ruhija, Buhoma, Rushaga and Nkuringo. The border to go through, either Cyanika or Gatuna border, depends on the sector of Bwindi National Park you would be tracking in.

The other border crossing, Cyanika border is about 3 hours drive from Kigali. From Cyanika border to Bwindi National Park is about 1.5 hours drive. This is the ideal border to cross through if tracking in Rushaga and Nkuringo, the other two sectors of Bwindi National Park.

Cyanika border is also the nearest border to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Uganda’s second gorilla park.

If you will be doing any activities in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park before or after your gorilla trip in Uganda, Cyanika is the only border to think about.

Therefore, the border crossing to use for a shorter drive depends on the sector (in the case of Bwindi National Park) and park where you will be tracking in Uganda.

It is easy to combine trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

Do you wish to combine the incredible experience of tracking gorillas both in the Virunga volcanoes of Rwanda and the impenetrable Bwindi jungle of Uganda? Well, it is easy and possible by land as there is just about 1.5 hours of drive separating Rwanda’s gorilla park from Uganda’s two gorilla parks via the Cyanika border.

Uganda gorilla trekking from Kigali tours

2 day Uganda gorilla tour from Kigali

Day 1

Depart from Kigali at 7am and drive to Bwindi National Park.

Afternoon at leisure with a optional Batwa pygmy tribe village tour

Day 2

Gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park and thereafter drive back to Kigali

3 day Uganda gorilla tour from Kigali

Day 1

Leave Kigali in the morning or afternoon and drive to Bwindi National Park

Day 2

Morning Gorilla tracking in Bwindi National Park and afternoon relaxation

Day 3

Drive back to Kigali or continue to Kampala/Entebbe