When it comes to African safaris, you’re definitely spoilt for choice in terms of incredible countries that offer up memorable wildlife experiences. While countries like Tanzania, Kenya, or South Africa offer up the chance to observe a great deal of Africa’s most iconic animals, one country that consistently stands out for its remarkable biodiversity is Uganda.
Uganda is home to many national parks and is of course renowned for its primate diversity which includes mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. The country’s diverse ecosystems, including rainforests, savannahs, and wetlands also help support over 1,000 bird species.
If you’ve been curious to know more about planning a Uganda safari, find out why you need to book one today and what you can expect in terms of the costs associated with taking one of life’s most rewarding safaris.
Costs Associated with a Uganda Safari
Reasons to Go on Uganda Safari
Let us begin with one of the main reasons why you should choose Uganda as a safari destination. Uganda is one of the few places in the world where you can embark on gorilla trekking adventures. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are home to nearly half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, offering a rare opportunity for intimate encounters that few people get to experience.
In addition to gorillas, Uganda is also known for chimpanzee experiences in places like Kibale Forest National Park, as well as being home to well over a dozen other primates that include golden monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, baboons, and Black-and-white colobuses.
And it doesn’t stop at just wildlife, as the country’s natural landscapes are equally impressive. Murchison Falls National Park is home to the impressive Murchison Falls, where the Nile River forces its way through a narrow gorge. That being said, wildlife can also be spotted here too via boat safaris that seek out hippos, crocodiles, and birdlife.
Compared to some other East African safari destinations, Uganda is often considered less crowded. This allows for a more intimate and exclusive safari experience, with fewer tourists in the national parks and reserves.
And in addition to traditional safaris, Uganda also offers a range of adventure activities, such as white-water rafting on the Nile, trekking in the Rwenzori Mountains, and hiking in various national parks.
Uganda has made significant strides in conservation efforts, and the country is committed to the sustainable management of its natural resources which makes it appeal especially to eco tourists. Safaris in Uganda end up contributing to both the protection of wildlife and support for local communities.
Calculating the Costs of a Uganda Safari
The costs associated with a Uganda safari can vary widely depending on various factors such as the duration of the safari, the type of accommodation, the number of people in your group, the activities included, and the level of luxury or comfort you wish to enjoy
It’s important to thoroughly research and plan out any safari, while considering your preferences and budget. Prices can vary between tour operators and accommodations, so it’s recommended to get quotes from multiple providers and compare the value they offer.
If this will be your first African safari, it may be wise to choose an outfitter that offers all-inclusive Uganda safari tours so there are fewer surprises when it comes to total costs. Popular Uganda tour companies will be able to cater to most travelers whether they are travelling solo, as a couple, with a family, or as part of a larger group
The key is to find a company that provides flexibility in terms of allowing you to customize an itinerary that suits both your budget and the experiences you wish to tick off your list.
Safari Tour Packages
Selecting a tour package will likely be your major expense. Safari packages often include transportation, accommodation, park fees, and sometimes meals and activities. Prices can vary based on the length of the safari and the parks you plan to visit, which in the case of Uganda which offers a wealth of national parks, can result in a large difference between a tour that takes in just a few parks and others that are more thorough in taking you to see more habitats.
Expect to pay more for longer and more comprehensive itineraries. When planning a safari in Uganda, it’s common for itineraries to include a combination of parks to maximize the diversity of wildlife you’ll encounter, but keep in mind that specific animal encounters may depend on the season, location, and parks visited.
it’s essential to choose a tour package that aligns with your interests, budget, and preferences. Make sure to inquire about the specific details of each package, including what exactly is and isn’t included, the quality of accommodations, the size of the group, and any additional activities or optional extensions.
Prices for budget safaris can start from around $1,000 to $2,000 per person for a shorter safari with basic amenities, while luxury safaris can easily go beyond $5,000 per person depending on the level of luxury and exclusivity.
Types of Safari Packages to Choose From
Gorilla Trekking Package
This package focuses on the highlight of Uganda’s wildlife experiences which is gorilla trekking. It typically includes permits for gorilla trekking in either Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, accommodation, transportation, and sometimes additional activities.
Primate Safari Package
This package is designed for those interested in primates beyond gorillas. It often includes chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest National Park, along with opportunities to see more of the 20 primate species that call Uganda home. Uganda offers up both diurnal and nocturnal primates, and the list includes galagos, blue monkeys, pottos, red colobuses, and De Brazza’s monkeys.
Classic Safari Package
A classic safari package usually covers multiple national parks and reserves, providing a well-rounded experience of Uganda’s various habitats. It may include game drives in parks like Queen Elizabeth National Park, boat safaris, and cultural experiences.
Uganda is a paradise for birdwatchers, and specialized birdwatching packages cater to those interested in observing the country’s numerous bird species. These packages often include visits to bird-rich areas like Bwindi, Kibale, and Queen Elizabeth National Parks.
Adventure Safari Package
For those seeking a mix of wildlife encounters and adventure activities, some packages include options like white-water rafting or fishing on the Nile River, hiking in the Rwenzori Mountains, or exploring botany through multi-day rainforest treks.
Luxury Safari Package
Luxury safari packages offer a higher level of comfort and often include stays in upscale lodges or tented camps. These packages may include exclusive experiences, private guides, and personalized services.
Cultural Safari Package
This type of package focuses on cultural experiences, providing opportunities to visit local communities, learn about traditional customs, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural diversity of Uganda.
Photography Safari Package
Designed for photography enthusiasts, these packages take into account the unique needs of capturing wildlife and landscapes. They may include special access, guided by experienced wildlife photographers or guides familiar with photography requirements and gear.
While many of these packages may be all-inclusive of things like accommodation, transportation, park entrance fees, and meals, you may be able to customize these options to create a tour that fits your budget. Let us look at the individual factors that will influence the overall cost of a safari package.
Flights to Uganda
The cost of flights to Uganda will be one of your other major expenses and can vary widely depending on factors such as your departure city, the time of booking, the airline, the class of service, and the period of travel. Additionally, prices may fluctuate based on factors such as demand, fuel costs, and route availability.
On average, round-trip economy class flights from the United States to Uganda can range from $800 to $1,500 or more. Prices may be higher during peak travel seasons or if booked close to the departure date.
Flights from Europe to Uganda may offer more competitive prices compared to flights from the United States. European cities, especially those with major international airports and well-established airline connections, may provide more routing options and potentially lower fares.
Direct flights or those with fewer layovers may be more expensive, while flights with layovers or stops could be more affordable. Booking well in advance is generally advisable for securing more competitive fares. Last-minute bookings or those made close to the departure date may result in higher prices.
Keep an eye out for special deals, promotions, and discounts offered by airlines. Sometimes, sales or promotions can provide significant savings.
Uganda offers a wide variety of accommodation options to cater to different preferences and budgets, both pre and post safari as well as while on safari. The type of accommodation you choose for your safari can significantly impact your overall experience and of course budget.
Luxury lodges and tented camps provide high-end accommodations with a focus on comfort and perks. They are often situated in or near national parks, offering stunning views and close proximity to wildlife. Amenities may include spacious rooms or tents, gourmet dining, spa services, and more personalized attention.
Mid-range accommodations offer a balance between comfort and affordability. These lodges and camps provide comfortable rooms or tents with essential amenities. While they may not offer the same level of luxury as high-end options, they still provide a pleasant and convenient base.
Budget camps and guesthouses are suitable for travelers looking for more economical options. These accommodations may include basic tents, rooms, or cottages. While the amenities are simpler, they still provide a basic place to rest after a day in the wild.
Some safari lodges in Uganda offer unique and adventurous accommodations, such as treehouses or platforms. These options provide a special experience, allowing guests to be greater immersed in nature.
Then there are also mobile tented camps are set up in specific locations for a limited time, providing more intimate and exclusive experiences. These camps are often used for specific activities, such as when gorilla trekking or on migration safaris.
In addition to international flights to reach Uganda, you may need to take domestic flights or transfers within Uganda to reach specific national parks or regions depending on your safari itinerary. Domestic flights are often involved when accessing more remote safari destinations.
Airport transfers from Entebbe International Airport to your initial accommodation and vice versa are typically included in many safari packages or can be arranged separately. The cost may depend on the distance and mode of transportation.
Once you arrive in Uganda, ground transportation will be essential for getting to and from national parks, game reserves, and other safari destinations. This can include road transfers via vehicles such as a minibus or 4×4 safari vehicles. Transportation to hiking trailheads and boat transfers may also be encountered and may or may not be included in the safari package.
Some travelers opt for self-drive safaris, where they rent a vehicle and drive themselves to various parks and reserves. In this case, the cost would include the rental fee, fuel, and potentially park entrance fees.
It’s essential to carefully review the details of your chosen safari package to understand which transportation expenses are included. Additionally, when planning a safari, consider the convenience and comfort of the transportation options or you could end up like me on a dreadfully long and uncomfortable bus ride when visiting Kenya.
Park Entrance Fees
National parks in Uganda charge entrance fees, and these fees can vary between parks. Gorilla and chimpanzee trekking permits also contribute significantly to the overall cost. Permits are usually obtained through the Uganda Wildlife Authority or authorized tour operators. When planning a gorilla or chimpanzee trekking experience, it’s crucial to factor in the permit costs as they can be rather substantial.
Keeping in mind that permit costs are always subject to change, the cost last check for a gorilla trekking permit in Uganda was $700 per person for foreign non-residents. Uganda also offers Gorilla Habituation Experiences priced higher at around $1,500 per person where you are allowed to spend an extended amount of time with a gorilla group undergoing habituation.
The cost of a chimpanzee trekking permit in Uganda varies depending on the specific location but generally runs much lower in the range of $50 to $200 per person.
Parks that you may want to include on your itinerary and which may incur entrance fees include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which are famous for their mountain gorillas, Queen Elizabeth National Park which is home to Africa’s Big 5 (lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, and rhinoceros), the chimpanzees of Kibale Forest, and Kidepo Valley National Park’s savannah which is home to lions, elephants, giraffes, and ostriches.
Guides and Tours
Hiring a knowledgeable guide is essential for a successful and safe Uganda safari. The cost of a guide or tour operator may be included in your package, or you may need to hire one separately. If you hire a guide to accompany you throughout the entire safari, providing commentary, assistance, and expertise at all times, the cost is most likely going to be higher. However, this cost is often factored into the overall cost of a safari package.
In some cases, tour guides may be hired on a daily basis or for specific activities. For example, if you’re engaging in gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking, or other specific experiences, you may hire a guide for just those particular days or activities.
The level of expertise and experience of the guide can influence the cost. Guides with specialized knowledge in wildlife, birdwatching, or cultural aspects may charge higher fees. The size of your group can also affect the cost of hiring a guide. Some guides charge per person, while others may have a flat rate for the entire group.
Some safari packages include meals, while others may not. The cost of meals will of course depend on where you choose to eat and what you choose to eat and drink. High-end lodges often include meals in their packages, while budget accommodations may not.
Full board or all-inclusive packages typically cover breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re on a self-drive safari or have chosen a different type of accommodation, you may need to budget separately for meals. At lodges and camps, additional snacks, alcoholic beverages, or specialty meals for those with dietary restrictions might incur extra charges.
Breakfast is often a buffet-style meal with a variety of options. It may include fresh fruits, cereals, eggs bacon or sausage, toast, pastries, and hot beverages.
Lunch can vary, depending on the day’s activities. It might be a packed lunch provided during a game drive or an excursion, featuring sandwiches, salads, fruits, and snacks. If you’re back at the lodge, lunch may be a buffet or a set menu with a mix of international and local dishes.
Dinners at safari lodges and camps are typically more formal. They often include a choice of appetizers, main courses (featuring meat, poultry, fish, or vegetarian options), and desserts. The menu might reflect a blend of international and Ugandan cuisine like matooke (steamed green bananas), posho (maize porridge), and local stews
Tips and Gratuities
It’s customary to tip guides, drivers, and other safari staff members. This is often a separate cost that you should budget for and is a way to show appreciation for staff efforts. On average, a tip of $10 to $20 per day for your guide or driver is considered a reasonable amount. However, the actual amount can vary depending on factors such as the length of your safari and how satisfied you were with the experience.
Lodge and camp staff often work behind the scenes to ensure your comfort, including housekeeping, kitchen staff, and other service personnel. A general guideline is to tip about $5 to $10 per day, which is usually pooled and distributed among the staff.
If you have a specialized guide for activities such as gorilla trekking or chimpanzee tracking, it is common to tip them separately. The amount can vary, but a tip of $10 to $20 per person is a common range. If you hire porters for activities like gorilla trekking, it is customary to tip them as well. The recommended amount is around $5 per porter.
Before tipping, it’s not a bad idea to check with the lodge or tour operator to see if they have specific guidelines or recommendations for tipping. You should also try to tip in the local currency (Ugandan Shillings) or in U.S. dollars whenever possible.
Travel insurance is crucial for any international trip. It can cover unexpected expenses such as medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or lost luggage. The cost of travel insurance for a Uganda safari can vary based on several factors, including the duration of your trip, the level of coverage, your age, the type of activities you plan to engage in, and of course the insurance provider.
African safaris often involve unique considerations, such as potentially dangerous wildlife encounters, remote locations, and possible medical emergencies, making comprehensive travel insurance particularly important. Comprehensive travel insurance, which includes coverage for trip cancellation, medical emergencies, baggage loss, and other potential issues, may cost around 10% to 12% of the total trip cost.
If your safari involves activities considered more adventurous or hazardous, such as gorilla trekking or hot air ballooning, you might need additional coverage and the cost for such specialized coverage can vary. The age of the travelers can also impact the cost of insurance, such as older travelers often paying slightly higher premiums.
Your chosen coverage limits, deductibles, and any pre-existing medical conditions will also determine the total cost of insurance.
In addition to the main expenses like accommodation, transportation, permits, and meals, there are various miscellaneous costs you may want to budget for as well.
Depending on your nationality, you may need to pay for a visa to enter Uganda. Visa fees can vary, so check with the Ugandan embassy or consulate in your home country for the most up-to-date information.
Before traveling to Africa, you may need to get vaccinations or medications to prevent certain diseases like yellow fever or malaria so this will also be a cost to factor in.
While some activities may be included in your safari package, there might be optional activities or experiences that come with an extra cost. Examples include guided nature walks, boat safaris, or hot air balloon rides. And don’t forget about budgeting for souvenirs or locally made crafts and any excess baggage fees or shipping costs that may be involved in getting purchased items back home.
Laundry services at lodges or camps may come with an additional cost as well and may be needed for longer trips, so consider this if you plan to use such services during your safari.
Lastly, be sure to factor in costs associated with currency exchange and potential banking fees for international transactions.
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