New multi-day walking safaris in Uganda

Uganda’s national parks offer alluring opportunities to explore on foot, with a strong focus on tracking primates, trekking and ornithology. The mighty Rwenzori Mountains on the western border are known for some of Africa’s best, and toughest, high-altitude trekking. But multi-day walking safaris of the type found in Kenya and Tanzania do not feature. At least not until now. A local company, Bush Wonderers, has started to offer overnight walking safaris in Muchison Falls, a first for Uganda.

The walking safaris are the initiative of Juraj Ujhazy, a keen explorer of Africa’s wild places, who founded Bush Wonderers alongside his wife Lindiwe Sibanda. They picked Murchison Falls as it has the scale to offer a variety of savannah, woodland, and semi-dry riverine terrains to walk over a visit of three to five nights. At 3,900 square kilometres it is the country’s largest park – double the size of Queen Elizabeth National Park and over ten times bigger than Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It has been a protected area for almost a century thanks to its central natural attraction, where the Nile River squeezes through a narrow gorge and cascades into the “Devil’s Cauldron” below.

Jackson’s hartebeest

Over time it has had its ups and downs, but the conservation status is now regarded as good, and walkers are likely to encounter elephant, buffalo, Nubian giraffe and various antelope including Uganda kob, Jackson’s hartebeest, bushbuck, reedbuck, oribi and waterbuck. With luck, some primates will be spotted, and as well as baboon the park hosts black colobus monkey and Patas monkey. The birdlife is prolific, and walkers will find aardvark dens and ubiquitous termite mounds. Walks take place in the northern part of the park with its open landscape dominated by grasslands, scenic Borassus palms, and acacia woodlands.

Bush Wonderers offer walking safaris year-round, with the driest months usually January to March and June to September, and the hottest conditions in February and March. Park authorities tend to do planned burns at the start of the year, but walks avoid the freshly burned areas. The guides have a good knowledge of where it is best to walk through the season, seeking out short grass areas with the best visibility for safety, and even in the greener months there are suitable areas to walk. Overall, Juraj’s favourite walking months are January and June to September.

The fly-camp sleeps 2-8 guests and rates start at $1,500 pp for three nights, inclusive of accommodation, meals and activities. Bush Wonderers have selected a number of camp locations in the northern half of the park, all with interesting views, and at the end of each stay all trace is removed. For bookings of over three nights, the camp is relocated. The camp features twin-bed dome tents and shared ablutions in the typical walking safari style – an eco-friendly long-drop toilet and suspended bucket shower. At night, walkers will fall asleep to the call of hyena, and often lion too.

The daily routine generally has walks in the mornings from around 7 to 10 or 11 – as the trips are bespoke, everything is customisable to suit interests and abilities. There are some preferred routes that range from 2-12km. From December to March it’s possible to spot great flocks of Abdim’s stork around water pans and from April to June elephants congregate to feed on ripe Borassus palm fruits, and during this time a camp at Tangi River is often utilised to make the most of the sightings. When water levels are low, a favoured walk follows the mostly sandy Nyamsika riverbed, a perfect habitat for animal tracking overlooked by scenic cliffs, also home to prolific birdlife which includes flocks of red-throated bee-eaters. It’s recommended to use footwear suitable for wading shallow sections.

Guests can breakfast before the walk or choose to get out earlier and take a picnic breakfast. Groups are accompanied by at least two Uganda Wildlife Authority armed rangers for safety. There’s time allocated in the middle of the day to relax in hammocks and take in whatever wildlife wanders through camp and in the afternoons there are opportunities for vehicle and river-based safari exploration, culminating with sundowners at a suitable vantage point. During the stay, a visit to the top of the Falls is a must, but apart from that location, guests are likely to see few if any other visitors during their stay.

As well as the walking safaris in Murchison Falls, Bush Wonderers organises a full suite of active travel itineraries in Uganda, with options for chimp trekking, rhino tracking, and more demanding hiking amidst the crater lakes and the Rwenzori range.

Further information and bookings:

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