Western Uganda is gorilla territory and as such it is the most visited tourist area of Uganda. But there is more to this area than just primates. It is a region of national parks that are returning to their former splendour thanks to the good work of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and other agencies.
This tourist trail is dominated by the evocative-sounding Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This 330 sq km park is now a Unesco World Heritage Site but, more importantly, it is home to roughly half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. Viewing permits cost $500 per person.
Gorillas can also be viewed in the much smaller Mgahinga National Park, close to Kisoro. In addition to gorillas, Western Uganda is an ideal place in which to view other primates.
Fort Portal is regarded as the gateway to the Rwenzoris. It attracts walkers who wish to spend a comfortable night in a hotel before tackling a tough hike. Some of these last several days and reach altitudes of over 4,200 metres through the mountains. Fort Portal is also within easy reach of Kibale Forest, the best place in Uganda to see chimpanzees, and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Also within easy reach is the 220 sq km Semuliki National Park. This hidden gem is the only low-level tropical rainforest in East Africa and its fauna include an astonishing 11 mammal species that are endemic to the park.
In terms of lakes, Western Uganda contains both Lake Albert and Lake Edward. Both are much visited by tourists and boat trips are especially popular, with opportunities to view impressive hippo pods and crocodile populations.
Bilharzia-free Lake Bunyonyi is a further attraction. Thankfully, the lake is also free of hippo and crocodiles, so it is ideal for swimming. In fact, this small lake is the second deepest in Africa and its unusual topography, with a scattering of small islands, makes it an
attractive weekend destination. The area contains a handful of properties catering for visitors, while some of the islands are home to Batwa communities.