Situated in the heart of Africa astride the equator, Uganda offers mesmerizing natural beauty and superb wildlife viewing. One of the last refuges of the mountain gorilla, Uganda’s rainforests also shelter chimpanzees and monkeys—the world’s best destination for primate tracking. Birding is also spectacular. To the east lies open savanna, where plains animals and predators roam in abundance. Uganda’s rivers—including the White Nile, birthed in Lake Victoria—teem with hippo and crocodile. To experience the diverse riches of Uganda is to concur with Sir Winston Churchill that it is “end to end one beautiful garden.”

Mountain gorillas are Uganda’s most important attraction. Half the world’s population of this critically endangered species (fewer than 800 remain) reside in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where they are threatened by encroachment on habitat, transferable diseases and poaching. Other primates include chimpanzees, blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons and bushbabies. The savanna and swamps offer encounters with lion, zebra, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, jackal, waterbuck, bushbuck, topi, oribi, duiker and the rare sitatunga, an aquatic antelope. Uganda’s many lakes and rivers are home to prolific hippo and crocodile. Given its extreme biodiversity, Uganda is paradise for birdwatchers, with more than 1,000 species comprising 67% of Africa’s and 11% of the world’s total population. Some of the more fascinating varieties include crested crane, shoebill stork, African fish eagle, jacana, Narina’s trogon and African pygmy geese.

Compact Uganda is a microcosm of African wildlife and environments, offering diverse safari experiences. Gorilla trekking is the high point of any itinerary. To track these wondrous creatures through misty forests and gaze into their equally curious eyes is a wildlife encounter without parallel. Chimps are the highlight at Kibale Forest, which harbors the greatest variety and concentration of primates in Africa, and an amazing assortment of tropical birds. Scenic Queen Elizabeth National Park stretches from the crater-pocked foothills of the Rwenzori Range—the “Mountains of the Moon”—to the remote Ishasha River. Its varied habitats range from gallery and lowland forest to wetlands and savanna, where classic plains game graze. Boat cruises on Kazinga Channel and in Lake Mburo National Park offer front-row views of hippo, crocodile and waterbirds. At Murchison Falls, witness the Victoria Nile plummet 130 feet into Lake Albert.