Music, dance, and drama are vibrant cultural traditions throughout Uganda. Through engaging performances, Ugandans outfitted in colorful clothing, grass skirts, animal skins, and even masks tell their stories of courtship and romance, spiritual beliefs, and joyful celebration. Songs and dances are accompanied by traditional music and instruments such as ndaras, wooden xylophones played by up to four musicians at a time; hand carved flutes called envamulres; and string instruments called adungus. Dances are performed by all ages, and even the less able are encouraged to join in with the aid of wooden puppets.
Each region has its own style of music and dance – from the rhythmic shuffles of the Batoro in the Rwenzoris to the incredible leaps of the Bakiga people of southwest Uganda. Many lodges and attractions throughout Uganda incorporate on-site cultural performances into their experience, and visitors can feel good knowing that they are supporting local families, villages, and educational institutions through their participation.
The Ike people
In Uganda’s northernmost hills, the Ik tribe makes their home on Mount Morungole. The Ik were displaced from the lower reaches of Kidepo Valley National Park half a century ago and now maintain their way of life on the mountain ridges. Those seeking a true adventure can embark on a day-long hiking excursion to an Ik village. The higher travelers climb, the more breathtaking scenery awaits with views into the Eastern Rift Valley of Kenya, South Sudan, and beyond.
The Batwa experience was created by Uganda’s original forest inhabitants to share the tribe’s amazing heritage and traditions with the world. As of 1992, the tribe no longer lives in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, their ancestors’ home, but they have not forgotten the old ways. Visitors can step back in time on a rainforest hike with Batwa guides, learning how they lived, hunted, and foraged, while watching for animals and birds. Through a translator, the Batwa tell ancient legends and sing traditional songs, while performing traditional dances and reenacting a hunting party.
Semuliki Hot springs
Semuliki’s most famous attraction is the pair of hot springs – ‘male’ and ‘female’ – found near the park office at Sempaya. The female spring, Nyansimbi, which means ‘the female ancestors’, is a boiling geyser that spurts bubbling water and steam up to two metres high. Visitors can buy eggs locally to cook in boiling pools that surround the central spout. Nyansimbi is a short walk from the Sempaya park office. The male spring, known as Bintente, is an hour distant. A broad, steaming pool 12m in diameter, this is found in a large, swampy clearing enclosed by forest and with a striking Rwenzori backdrop.
Launch trips on the Kazinga Channel provide the most relaxing way to view the national park as awhole. The 2-hour return voyage between Mweya and the channel’s entrance into Lake Edward cruises beside banks lined with resident hippos, crocodiles and waterbirds and visiting elephant, buffalo and antelopes.
Queen Elizabeth national park’s main tourism hub is found on Mweya Peninsula, 22km west of the Kasese-Mbarara Road. Mweya, which occupies an elevated plateau overlooking the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward, is the site of an upmarket lodge; budget UWA run accommodation; a marina for launch trips on the channel; and a Visitor Information Centre.
The river below Murchison Falls provides an exciting challenge for anglers with the record for Nile perch landed with rod and line standing at a hefty 108kg.
Top of Murchison falls
As you explore Uganda, you should be sure to visit the Top of the Murchison Falls viewpoint to see, hear, and feel the Nile thunder through a 6m-wide gorge. The site can be reached by vehicle but it is more rewarding to disembark from the launch to climb up to the Top of the Falls through Fajao Gorge.
Launch, Boat Cruise
The launch voyage upriver from Paraa to see the Murchison Falls exploding through the cliffs at the head of Fajao Gorge is the park’s oldest and most popular excursion. The 3 hour return trip passes a wealth of riverside wildlife on the way, including resident hippos, crocodiles and visiting elephants, buffalo among other fascinating tourist attractions.
Boats also run downriver from Paraa to the Nile Delta where a mosaic of papyrus islands chokes the river’s entrance into Lake Albert. These are rich in waterbirds, most notably the shoebill.
Mountain bike excursions range from casual exploration of lovely trails along the sipi falls vicinity, to the challenging Elgon Enduro hosted by Sipi River Lodge.