Family holidays in Uganda
Uganda is a wonderful choice for family holidays, offering some of the most memorable wildlife experiences on the continent, game drives in national parks without the crowds, island and lakeside beaches to while away relaxing days and more outdoors activities than you can shake a GoPro stick at. For family holidays in Uganda, Western Uganda is the top region to visit: home to most of the country’s national parks, reserves and natural attractions, it offers spectacular wildlife, astonishing landscapes to explore and lots of outdoors activities. For families with older children, mountain gorilla and chimpanzee trekking are two top highlights, while children of all ages can enjoy wildlife spotting in the most popular national parks of the region – Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls – and guided nature walks to spot birds and monkeys in the region’s beautiful rainforests, such as in Budongo Forest Reserve.
Memories of family holidays are always held close to the heart because it is time well spent with the people you love the most in the world. A safari in Uganda your family will definitely be that kind of holiday, the kind none of you ever forgets about, the adventure that you will all be glad you went on.
As it happens, more and more people are discovering the magic of going on safari with their families. It is a great and exciting way to introduce your children to other cultures and ways of life, and to discover places beyond the borders of their home country. For active families, Eastern Uganda is home to the adrenaline capital of East Africa, Jinja, which lies at the source of the Nile River. For children above the age of eight, white-water rafting is a heart-pumping adventure and there’s plenty more fun to be had on the river, including boat cruises, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Then on land there’s bungee-jumping, horse-back riding, quad biking and mountain biking – more than enough to keep even the most energetic of children entertained for a few days.
There is of course a lot more to consider when travelling to Africa with your family compared to when you’re travelling along. You need to consider the length of the journey, the age of your children, which activities would be good for the whole family, the long drives through Africa, and so much more. But an Africa safari experience will be well worth it. Yes you might have zoos back home that the children have visited, but the wilderness of Africa just cannot be replicated. Coming to Uganda and seeing the animals on a game drive, or enjoying a boat ride on the Murchison falls, or if they are old enough tracking gorillas and seeing them up close, these are extremely unique experiences.
What to consider when planning for a family holiday to Uganda
First there are some activities that have an age limit. Gorilla trekking and chimpanzee tracking for example allows a minimum age limit of 15 years. So, you cannot go gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable forest with your children who are below 15 years old. Some activities are just to tiring and exhausting for children, either because they take a long time or need a lot more strength and resilience than children can master. Volcano hikes for example take up to 8 hours. Most children would be tired before the four-hour mark. So perhaps alternative activities for them such as guided walks and visits to the zoos, and game drives are might be friendlier. Kibale forest has some alternative activities for children that they can do while you the adults go on your gorilla tracking expedition. They will be supervised by trained park staff and will be perfectly safe. At the end of the day, you will all have stories to tell. There are park entrance fees for both adults and children in Uganda. So, if you are visiting one of the many national parks in Uganda, budget for park entrance fees for each of your family members except those below 5 years of age. Entrance fee for children below 15 year is usually about 15 dollars or less, children under 5 years get in for free.
Highlights for families travelling in Uganda include wonderful wildlife encounters – tracking mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, rhinos and shoe bill storks and seeing rescued chimps on ngamba Island, exploring the savanna and rivers of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park to see lions, elephant, giraffe, leopards and hippos, experiencing and learning about the amazing primates, birds and butterflies of Western Uganda’s bio diverse rain forest on guided walks and exciting activities, from windsurfing in the ssese Island archipelago to white-water rafting on the Nile River.
Holiday travel Travel tips
Tracking mountain gorillas is a big reason why people travel to Uganda and it’s a wonderful activity to do as a family, but note that there is a minimum age limit of 15 for gorilla safaris (the same age limit applies for chimp trekking). Many other safari and wildlife activities also have an age limit – for example, rhino trekking at Ziwa is only for children above six.
Uganda’s roads are mostly unpaved and rough, which means that travelling by car between destinations can take a lot longer than you would expect, given the distance. If you’re self-driving or hiring a driver to travel around Uganda with your family, it makes sense to limit your itinerary to fewer places, spending more time in each destination, rather than trying to see all of the highlights on one trip.
There’s a risk of contracting several mosquito-borne diseases in Uganda. Malaria is the biggest risk, and children are particularly susceptible to catching severe and fatal malaria. It’s essential that you consult your doctor before travelling about taking antimalarial medication for your children, and that while you’re travelling you try to prevent them getting bitten by wearing suitable clothing, insect repellent and sleeping under mosquito nets.
Before you book any lodging, check up on the minimum age policies of lodges, as many of them won’t accept children under a certain age (and some don’t allow any children). Some lodges have a policy of only allowing children on game drives if you book a private vehicle and guide. Some lodges, however, are particularly child-friendly, offering family rooms and things like children’s menus and guided nature walks for kids, so it’s worth doing research on the best lodges for families before your trip.