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Home arrow Tourism Zones in Uganda

Vacation zones in uganda

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In its effort to ensure that visitors to karibuuganda.com enjoy the benefit of having access to as much information as possible before they make the vital decision to visit Uganda, we have gone a step further to dig up, more details on tourism in Uganda. This information will greatly help would be visitors to plan and budget for their travel before hand. It is important to acknowledge that in compiling this information, we have used the Uganda Tourism Master Plan from the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry.

Tourism Development and Zoning

Way back in 1993, Uganda developed a 10-year Tourist Development Master Plan under which a number of tourism zones sufficiently endowed with attractions were demarcated. The relative importance of a zone was determined by quality, degree of concentration and the variety of attractions within it. The zones are in the primary, secondary and tertiary tourism zones according to the priority rating for investment and promotion.

Primary tourism zones

1. The Rift Valley Zone

This Zone runs from the western boarder with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from the mouth of River Semliki on Lake Albert, south to River Ishasha. Its eastern border follows a line running approximately from the northern to the eastern shores of Lake George then down the escarpment of the rift valley to Ishasha. This zone is said to have the greatest concentration and wider range of quality attractions in Uganda.

These include:

a)     Wildlife Parks: Queen Elizabeth National Park

b)     Scenic Areas: Rwenzori Mountains and Volcanic Craters

c)      Specific Natural Sights: Mountains Stanley and Speke, Kyambura Gorge.

d)     Forests: Kibale Forest, Semliki Forest, Maramagambo Forest

e)     Game Reserves: Toro, Kibale Forest Corridor, Kyambura and Kigezi.

Why this zone?

This zone is unique in that it has some environmental protection control. This protects its wide range of habitats and corresponding flora and fauna. These include extensive swamplands of the Semliki delta and Lake George; the low, medium and high altitude rain forests, and Afro-alpine environments, Lakes and Rivers, grass, trees and wooden savannah. A visitor to this zone will be fascinated with the scenic view composed of flat tree savannah evolving into rolling hills, forests and woodlands, in some areas terminating abruptly at the foot of high, steep escarpments. The scenery is further boasted by volcanic remnants shrouded in wooden Acacia grasslands. When weather permits, one can see the towering mighty snow and glacier-clad peaks of Rwenzori Mountain.

So, which tourist activities?

You will certainly not be short of activity here. These include the following:

General game Viewing
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park (north)
  • Kazinga Channel
  • Ishasha
  • Kyambura
  • Kigezi
Chimpanzee and other Primate Viewing
  • Kibale Forest
  • Kyambura Gorge
  • Semliki Forest
  • Maramagambo

Is the Rift Valley zone accessible?

Yes. Further to the north of the zone is accessible from Kampala via a well-paved road in about 3 to 3-1/2 hours. Driving for another 1 hour along this road leads to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Alternatively, one could reach the park through Mbarara though it takes about 5 hrs of driving. There are also airstrips for light aircraft at Mweya and Ishasha and public air facilities for larger aircraft at Kasese.

2. Murchison Falls Zone

The demarcations of this zone, which encompasses Murchison falls National Park, and its surroundings, stretches to lake Albert, Masindi/ Butiaba road to the Masindi/Karuma Road.

Why Murchison Falls Zone?

Though not as much endowed as the Rift Valley zone, this zone boasts of the Murchison water falls in the Park. Its wilderness is still untouched (better than Queen Elizabeth National Park) exuding an atmosphere of remoteness, isolation and seclusion, which is attractive to tourists. For the adventure lover of the environment you will enjoy the relatively homogenous vegetation, consisting mainly of luxuriant savannah grassland spotted with trees and suddenly becoming wooded and shrubbed along the borders of the Victoria Nile. Moving further south you get into the Rabongo and Budongo forests. Looking up, one will not fail to take in the scenic rolling hills that provide a welcome change of scene.

These hills suddenly erupt into bluffs, which constrain the upper reaches of the Nile into a rushing torrent, the Murchison falls, squeezing through the narrow crafts of no more than about six meters over a drop of 45. Any visit to Uganda wouldn’t be complete without this view, particularly after the game viewing and bird watching experience of the boat ride from Paraa to the falls.

So, which attractions and tourist activities?

Wildlife Park
  • Murchison Falls National Park
Specific Natural Sights
  • Murchison Falls
  • Karuma Falls
  • Budongo Forest Reserve
  • Rabongo
Game Reserves
  • Bugungu
  • Karuma
Activities General Game Viewing
  • Victoria Nile
  • Buligi Circuit
Chimpanzee and Other Primate Viewing
  • Rabongo
  • Budongo
  • Lake Albert
  • Victoria Nile (especially Chobe Sector)
  • Victoria Nile (below Murchison Falls)
  • Lake Albert
  • Albert Nile
White-water Rafting
  • Victoria Nile, Karuma to Murchison
  • Bird watching and other eco-tourism

Is the Murchison Falls Zone accessible?

A journey from Kampala to Masindi would take some 2 hours, with another 2 hours getting you to Masindi.

3. Kidepo Valley Zone

This zone extends from the Kidepo Valley National Park, covering adjacent areas, the surrounding mountains, and moving further southward to the northern part of Karamoja.

Zonal attractions and potential tourist activities

Wildlife Park
  • Kidepo Valley National Park
Scenic Areas
  • North-East Mountains
Forest Reserves
  • Zulia
  • Morongole
Other Areas
  • Lipan Controlled Hunting Area
  • North Karamoja Controlled Hunting Area
  • People of Karamoja (Karamojong)

If you want to get the experience of being lost away in the Savannah, then Kidepo valley, which is the least spoiled by man’s activities, is your bet. You will experience the undulating Acacia Savannah at the River basins, dotted with rocky outcrops and small hills, dramatized by an enclosing ring of surrounding forested mountains. Be impressed by this great natural amphitheatre of large scale, majesty and beauty. For the traditionalist, the Karamojong in the southern part of the zone will give you a feeling of originality. The people still follow their traditional ways of life. Dressing, agriculture, culture and all have not been greatly affected by modernity.

Secondary Tourism Zones

1. Capital Area Zone

As the name goes, the capital area zone covers areas around Kampala City, Entebbe and Jinja Towns. The attractions in this area are of an urban nature and are explored on an excursion basis or concentrated on entertainment and cultural sites such as the Kasubi Tombs of Buganda Kingdom, the King of Buganda’s Palace, the National Museum, Entebbe Botanical Gardens, The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (the Zoo) and the Source of the Nile in Jinja.

Natural attractions
  • Source of the Nile, Jinja Town
  • Bujagali Falls, Jinja Town
  • Animal Sanctuary, Jinja
  • Mabira Forest
  • Bird and Animal Sanctuary, Entebbe Town
  • Lake Victoria

2. South East Mountains Zone

This zone includes mountains that run south and southwest of Bulema and Kabale and the Rwanda border. On the west is the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Zonal attractions and potential tourist activities include:

Natural Attractions

National Parks
  • Bwindi Impenetrable
  • Mgahinga Gorilla
Scenic Areas
  • South-West Mountains
Specific Natural Sights
  • Sabinyo
  • Caves of Soko/Garuma/Ruhengo
  • Mutanda
  • Bunyonyi
  • Bwindi
  • Echuya
  • Mgahinga


Gorilla, Chimpanzee Other Primate Viewing
  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
  • Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Bird watching and other eco-tourism
  • Bwindi
  • Mgahinga
  • Lakes
  • The whole Zone
Water Recreation
  • Lake Mutanda
  • Lake Bunyonyi
Mountain Climbing and Hill Walking
  • Mafumbiro
  • Bwindi

Within the forests of Bwindi is where half of the worlds surviving population of mountain gorillas is found. The place has a remarkable floral and faunal environment deriving from its antiquity and survival during the last ice age. It has a cross section of habitats from swamps to lowland and mountain forests. Mountain gorillas can also be sited in Mgahinga Park particularly in the high altitude mixed forest zone which becomes Afro-Alpine at the highest elevation. The zone even becomes more appealing due to the variety of its topography and landscape and the experience that comes with the changes from one topography to another. There is untamed tenebrous shades of Bwindi that clothe the close-knit mass of hills, mountains, and deep gorges in the north opening up into wider valleys of terraced hillsides and lakes of southern Kigezi, concluding with the high, eroded volcanic cones of Muhabura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo.


There is an excellent road that runs from Kampala via Mbarara to Kabale taking approximately 4-1/2 hours. One then follows a one-hour journey on a good murramroad to Kisoro.


1. Lake Mburo Zone

This zone is demarcated by the boundaries of Lake Mburo National Park. It is rather small in size, giving the impression of a large Zoological Park. Game viewing is good and the birding population is abundant. Though not having a big potential for becoming a major tourist destination, it is of value as a transit point park to Queen Elizabeth or Bwindi, for day visits from Kampala or for short stopover visitors from Entebbe Airport. Activities may include boating on the lake or safari walks. In 2-1/2 hours, one could reach the Park from Kampala.

2. Mountain Elgon Zone

This has mountain Elgon and its foothills plus Mbale town itself. A tourist would mainly be attracted to its scenery and the specific natural attraction of Wagagai and Jackson’ Summits, and Sipi Falls. There is also Mountain Elgon Forest Reserve. Though there are some prospects of eco-tourism, the principle activities are mountain climbing and camping.

3. Ssese Islands

The zone is composed of the whole group of Islands in Lake Victoria. The principle charm of the Zone is said to be in the multiplicity of the Islands and Islets often thickly covered in rainforests and their variations in size and close proximity. They are a paradise for birds and a habitat for the Sitatunga Antelope. A visitor to the Islands would enjoy bird watching and eco-tourism in general. Touring the Island by boat itself is an attraction in addition to Angling. Access to the area is however still problematic in addition to concerns about health conditions. A lot is however being done to alleviate these conditions.

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