5. To spot a prehistoric beast
Uganda's oldest conservation area, Murchison Falls National Park draws visitors to its famously thunderous cataracts, where the full force of the Nile is explosively squeezed through a gap in the Rift Valley Escarpment. But this is also one of the best places in the country to see the primeval-looking shoebill, a towering, hook-beaked bird that feeds on baby crocodiles and looks like it was dreamt up by the creators of The Dark Crystal.
Where to stay Baker’s Lodge enjoys a superb setting on the banks of the Nile, its eight cottages hidden among acacia trees and fronting the river. Watch out for hippos munching on the grass outside your room at night.
Shoebill © Petr Simon/Shutterstock
6. To hike the Rwenzori
Forming an imposing border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and snow-capped even at the height of summer, the legendary Mountains of the Moon are Africa's highest range. The hiking is tough – it's a good eight or nine days to complete the Kilembe Trail in the southern section of the park, though much shorter routes are available – but the rewards are considerable: remote trekking through a pristine wilderness of craggy peaks, glacier lakes and a lunar landscape dotted with giant groundsel plants.
Where to stay Rwenzori Trekkers, located in the shadow of the mountains, is the closest accommodation to the Kilembe trailhead, but you'll be more comfortable, and still within range, staying in the Ndali-Kasenda region.
7. To cruise the Kazinga channel
Queen Elizabeth National Park is blessed with a variety of beautiful habitats, from the open plains of the Kasenyi sector to the densely wooded scrub of the Mweya Peninsula and fig-tree-studded Ishasha. But it's the boat launch on the Kazinga Channel that's the real highlight of a visit to Uganda's most popular national park.
You'll drift lazily past huge pods of hippos; close-up encounters with buffalos, crocodiles and Nile monitors are virtually guaranteed; and herds of elephants regularly come down to the water to drink and bathe in the shallows.
Where to stay It's worth spending a night in different sectors of the park. Mweya Lodge is a fairly large bush hotel with a personal feel, and an infinity pool that overlooks the Kazinga Channel. In the far south of the park, spectacular Ishasha Wilderness Camp makes the most of its beautiful setting, with luxurious safari tents spread along a scenic stretch of the Ntungwe River.
8. To track gorillas in Bwindi
A full day spent tracking mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is probably the most remarkable wildlife experience on earth.
On the Uganda Wildlife Authority's new Gorilla Habituation Experience, you’ll accompany park rangers and researchers as they track (and monitor) these powerful yet peaceful creatures, first locating their overnight nests before following a trail of broken branches and tell-tale silver hairs to the gorillas themselves. What follows is 3 or 4 hours of lifelong memories, as you watch immense silverbacks tearing up and munching on huge bundles of vegetation while playful youngsters roly-poly amongst the undergrowth.
Where to stay The group of gorillas currently being habituated in Bwindi are tracked from the trailhead at Rushaga, where the staff at the forest-facing Gorilla Safari Lodge are super-friendly and the chef serves up some of the best meals in Uganda.
Kenya Airways flies daily from London Heathrow via Nairobi to Entebbe. Steppes Travel’s excellent "Highlights of Uganda" tour takes in Kibale, Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi, and they can also create tailor-made trips that feature all of the destinations and activities covered above. Due to flight timings, nearly everyone spends a night in Entebbe at the start or end of their trip; the Best Western Premier Garden Hotel Entebbe has smart but comfortable en-suite rooms and is located just a few hundred metres from Entebbe’s birdlife-rich Botanical Gardens.
Top image: Giraffes against the background of the Nile River. Africa. Uganda © GUDKOV ANDREY/Shutterstock