Uganda is one of the best countries to rent a car for self drive tour and explore its nature, culture and its untouched beauty. Self driving in Uganda through the national parks gives a great sense of adventure and excitement.
Here are the 6 tips for a perfect self drive tour in Uganda’s National Parks.
Go for bush camping in Uganda
Bush camping is the true African safari experience. You won’t be able to get more immersed into the wild than going on a bush camp within in the Uganda National Parks. In most parks, there are two options: either use the facilities of designated UWA campsites (of varying quality / cleanliness), or find your own spot in the wilderness with the guidance of an UWA ranger.
Bush camping in the complete wilderness is possible with the guidance of an UWA ranger. You can arrange this at the entrance or headquarters in the parks. You need to bring your own food and water. It is polite, even expected, that the ranger can join you for the meal. The UWA ranger will help you to find a great spot to pitch your tent, make a fire, and will safeguard your tent at night. Rest assured, no toilets, shower or other guests. It’s you, a campfire and jungle.
The early bird catches the worm
If you thought that going on a safari was a good opportunity to catch some sleep, think again! Uganda safaris are very relaxing, but ideally they require an early morning lifestyle. You will increase your chances of spotting hyenas, lions, leopards and other wildlife in any national park in Uganda if you are among the first at the gate (the parks open at 7AM). Most lodges are used to the early morning habits of their guests and serve breakfast from 5:30 AM onwards.
Coming from crazy rushy New York, it can take some time for you to adjust to the tropical pace of life. Tourists are used to rushing from one place to the next, but really during a game drive in the park, you see most if you are driving not faster than 15km/h. You hardly have to hit the gas pedal at all in my opinion. What’s the rush? And besides, when you go slowly, you have the chance to distinguish whether that brown heap in the grass is an ant hill or a lion.
Get yourself a Ranger Guide
Yes, just the two of you in a Landcruiser on the wide savannah plains is pretty amazing and I can surely recommend you go into the park by yourself. However, it’s advisable to also take an UWA guide with you on one of your game drives. These rangers know every corner of the parks and can lead you to the best places to spot predators such as lions. You can book an UWA ranger/guide at the entrance gate of the park, and they will accompany you in your car and guide you through the plains and bushes. They are worth every penny of the $20 fee you pay for this service.
Ask for the lion
Let’s be honest, that’s what you would love to see, right? Unfortunately, unlike what you may have seen in Disney’s The Lion King, in reality lions do not pose on a rock every morning enjoying the circle of life. They hunt, eat and sleep ideally somewhere hidden in the high grass and are therefore very difficult to find. Therefore don’t be shy to ask UWA staff at the entrance gates, other people at the campsite or drivers that you meet within the park if they have seen anything. Of course it also works the other way around, let others know when you have been lucky!
Respect the elephant
Always be alert and drive as if you would expect animals around the corner. Keep an eye on heavy moving bushes and trees. Keeping distance is key. Never try to drive towards elephants intentionally. Heavy ear flapping, trumping his trunk and bluff charging are signs that he or she is a bit pissed off by your company.
When you encounter an elephant on the road, do the following: make sure you have a clear route to drive away if necessary, always leave your engine running, stay calm, keep your voices down and most of all enjoy the experience!
Last but not least…
Enjoy the ride, take loads of pictures, relax and have a lot of fun!