The Best Itinerary for Uganda Self Drive

Best Itinerary for a Uganda Self-Drive

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“Where should we go? How about somewhere in Africa?”ย This I asked Jim a few months ago. After road tripping in both Northern Africa, especially in Tunisia and Morocco, and going through much of Southern Africa hitting South Africa and  Botswana. I was bitten. Not by the tse tse fly, but by traveling throughout this fascinating continent, and I couldn’t wait to do more. Still, I was not ready for Jim’s response.

His response floored me, “Uganda.”ย

“Huh?”ย I’ll admit, it’s not the most intelligent reply, but I never even considered Uganda as a destination. Don’t ask me why, but it’s just not someplace that was on my radar…at all. Luckily, places that aren’t on my radar once mentioned peak my interest, so yeah…guess where we went? You got it, Uganda! And what a trip it was!

Incredible view of Lake Mutanda on our Uganda Self Drive
This stunning view of Lake Mutanda is only one of the incredible vistas awaiting the Uganda self driver!

As you know, we love to drive and Jim had recently read this article where the travelers had rented a four wheel drive vehicle and driven themselves around this lesser-known East African country. The seed sprouted and we started researching all the wonderful things we could do and see. In the end we decided to go with Roadtrip Uganda and rent a small 4X4 and drive ourselves. Other folks just booked it through a tour company who then drive you all around the country and you don’t have to do the work. Either way we were sold and the next thing we knew, we had air tickets to Entebbe.

The Uganda Self Drive Itinerary

Here is the route that we took on our Uganda self drive: Entebbe – Mburo National Park – Bwindi Impenetrable Forest- Queen Elizabeth National Park (2 different areas, first Ishasha then the main part of the park)- Kibale National Park- Semliki Wildlife Reserve – Kampala – Back to Entebbe

Entebbe is a dusty little city on the shores of Lake Victoria. We didn’t spend much time there, but we did go down to the lake and watch the fisherman’s wives cutting up and selling the catch of the day amidst some huge, otherworldly storks.

In Mburo National Park, a zebra stairs down the car on our Uganda Self Drive
Mburo National Park was absolutely teeming with life. Having your vehicle for game drives is a must!

Mburo National Park blew us away. It was green and lush; it had plenty of the gorgeous and thorny acacia trees which for me, makes for an iconic African landscape. We saw an abundance of wildlife from zebras to hippos to giraffes. It was a great place to really start our trip.

Your Uganda self drive can't be complete without tracking the Bwindi mountain gorillas.
Bwindi National Park in Uganda is the best place to track mountain gorillas!

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest  was our second stop. Whenever I hear the name, I picture a jungle so dense that you have to cut your way through it, and guess what? We did. We really did have to hack our way through the forest, machetes and all.  The main attraction here is gorilla tracking, and looking into the eyes of that baby gorilla will stick with me forever.

Tree climbing lions can be found as you drive yourself along the fig tree track in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park on your Uganda self drive.
When life gives you enormous fig trees, climb them! Unless your in Ishasha, then you really should leave them for the lions.

Queen Elizabeth National Park was our next stop, and the first part of it had us looking for the famous tree-climbing lions. Apparently these are the only lions in the world that climb trees, an interesting phenomenon. And yep, we found them.

The next part of that trip took us to the main, more visited part of the park and here we saw elephants, and warthogs, and baboons…oh my!  We spent the most time in this park, and by the end of our time there, we still weren’t ready to go.

The chimpanzees are waiting for you in Kibale National Park, Uganda self drive.
When in Kibale, we recommend opting for the more expensive Chimpanzee Habituation experience.

Kibale National Park was next on our itinerary, and we were excited to see the chimpanzees.  After having so much luck with the gorillas, and with wildlife viewing in all the parks, we knew that we were really going to have a great experience.  We were not disappointed. In fact, we were in the park less than an hour and we came upon a troop of chimps whom we followed around for awhile.

Take a sunrise or sunset drive through the park on your Uganda self drive, the light is magically gorgeous!
It was hard to get a photo of a Ugandan Kob on its own in Semliki, there were thousands upon thousands of them.

Semliki was the last park that we visited. As far as parks go, it was a little less amazing to me, but that’s probably because by this time we’d seen and experienced so much already. I have to say, though, that I wouldn’t have missed this park for the world. I learned a few things here and had one of the funniest wildlife experiences of the entire trip.

We loved every minute in the parks, but we wanted to see at least a little of the capital city, Kampala. I have to say, it surprised me. Along the way, we’d met a few people who lived there as expats. They couldn’t say enough about the city and how wonderful living there was, but when we drove in we were surprised. Most of it, except the real central part of downtown, looked exactly like all the other villages we’d driven through, just much, much larger.

We could have just kept on driving down tracks like this, but the outside world calls and back to work we go.
The roads and tracks are just waiting to be explored, a Uganda self drive makes it all possible.

And then we were through. Our Uganda self drive was over…way too soon. It was one of those trips that both Jim and I could have spent so much more time. We boarded the plane talking the whole time about what we are going to do next time.

It turns out that even though we hit a number of the major sights and parks, most tour companies do it in reverse order from us. I think they want their visitors to go home with the gorilla tracking as one of their last activities. Bwindi was closer to the beginning of our trip. However, it’s an unforgettable experience, so I don’t really think it matters where it falls in your itinerary.

Don’t forget to pack a tripod!

Honestly, there is more to see, more to do. We spent 15 days driving around a corner of this spectacular country and now have a list of things to do next time as well. However, we did do so much, came home with stunning photos, and a love for the Ugandan people. Stay tuned for future posts that will highlight all the things we did and saw in this fantastic country.

Have you thought about going to Uganda? Would you do a Uganda self drive?

Pin Self-drive Uganda for later!

Is a Gorilla or Chimpanzee African safari on your bucket list? This is the perfect Uganda road trip.

Is a Gorilla or Chimpanzee African safari on your bucket list? This is the perfect Uganda road trip.


25 thoughts on “The Best Itinerary for Uganda Self Drive

  1. Gwen says:

    Hi Corinne,
    Did you book the parks entrees and gorilla permit in advance? Who booked it for you? Do you have a good agency to recommend? Where were you staying? Camping or in lodges? Did you book those in advance too?
    Thanks gwen

    • Corinne Vail says:

      Gwen, Yes, we booked lodges, gorillas, and chimps beforehand. The other stuff we booked as soon as we arrived in the parks. We rented a car and they did all of our paperwork for us. Piece of cake. I think anyone that is working with you will book. Just ask.

  2. Lizie says:

    Hi! We are wanting to visit Lake Mburo when we go to uganda next week but when I email them on setting up a drive the details are not clear. What exactly did you do when you visited? Anything you would recommend? Thank you!

  3. Steve says:

    Hi Corinne,
    We have our air tickets to Entebbe booked but we are unsure which self drive rental company to go through. Did you have a guide drive you or who did you rent through.

    • Jim Vail says:

      Hi Steve, we went with for our self drive. Friends of ours booked a car with a guide through and they had a great experience as well. I hope you have an awesome adventure!

  4. Adam says:

    This trip looked amazing! My wife and I are considering self- driving in Uganda and Rwanda too.

    Was Google maps reliable, and was it easy to navigate the country?

    And did you get a guide once you got to the parks? I’m concerned about not being able to find the animals without the benefit of a local guide.

    • Corinne Vail says:

      Adam, We didn’t use Google, we used Maps.Me and it worked great. Also the rental company will give you a paper map that will help. We did a few guided safaris, but mostly we did it on our own. When you enter and show your pass or buy one for the day, you can ask the rangers where certain animals have been seen, but mostly we just drove around. There are plenty of animals everywhere! You will love it! Of course we wrote up our chimps and gorilla experiences as well, so check those out.

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  6. Jennifer (Dr. J) says:

    Fantastic post, Corinne and Jim! It was great to see you in Uganda at Rwakobo Lodge and share our adventures. Scott and I would not have been brave enough to self-drive but good for you for adding that extra bit of adventure to the equation.

    I’d like to add one suggestion for your readers. We visited the Bigodi Wetlands near Kibale National Forest. It’s a community run nature reserve and you’ll see some awesome wildlife and be inspired by the local guides who are using the opportunity to improve their lives. Visitors to Uganda should definitely check it out if they are in the area!

  7. Christina says:

    What a great itinerary! I didn’t realize a self-drive was possible in Uganda. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures there.

  8. Stacey Veikalas says:

    I have never been to Uganda but it looks amazing. I love self drive and things to take my family on without tour busses and a lot of people. Super story thank you for sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Shannon - SoleSeeking says:

    Amazing photos! I also wouldn’t have considered Uganda straight away as an African travel destination but I like the fact you were able to be independent and see so much wildlife without being on a busy guided tour. Pinning for reference ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Phoebe | Lou Messugo says:

    What fabulous photos Corinne! I can’t believe how close you got to gorillas, that’s just amazing. What an adventure, I’m properly jealous!!

  11. Anda says:

    Oh, Corinne, you made me very jealous with this trip. Uganda looks so beautiful! I’d love to go visit it too, but it’s so difficult to get my husband out of his burrow. It seems you guys love driving a lot. I think it’s the best way to cover more territory.

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