Uganda is home to the quintessential safari experience. From exciting wild jungles teeming with apes to the vast savanna plains where you’ll encounter Africa’s majestic big 5 animals, aesthetic proud tribal people, endless golden sunsets over massive inland seas and lakes, plus so much more!
A Family-Friendly safari in Uganda is quite life-changing and memorable. All the more when you experience this with your children! Traveling is essential to kids as it benefits their education and their ability to adapt socially to different scenarios and people. Traveling as a family exposes the whole family to new things and you get to spend precious moments together.
However, when planning a successful family-friendly safari, you need to think about more than just game drives. Children typically will not want to sit in a vehicle day after day, no matter how remarkable the game is. So what activities will you integrate into your safari to make it fun and exciting for the whole family? We have come up with our top 13 family-friendly activities to enjoy while on your trip to Uganda.
1. Family-Friendly Game Drives
One of the top activities to enjoy on your safari as a family is undoubted, game drives. The whole family will enjoy watching the animals in their natural habitat roaming free, yet still in the safety of your tour vans with popped-up roofs. Every national park has something different to offer with varying landscapes and vegetation. The major game viewing parks, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Lake Mburo National Park are all predominantly savanna yet all different from each other. For example one can only view the famous Tree Climbing Lion prides in Queen Elizabeth NP, Murchison Falls NP is famous for some of the biggest crocodiles in the country and the cheeky Savannah Patas monkey, and Lake Mburo is the only park where you can see Impala while Kidepo is a quite stunning savannah plateau with grazing animals, big and small dotted on the plains as far as the eyes can reach. Perfect habitat for the fastest animal on land, the Cheetah.
2. Boat Cruises
As a third of Uganda is covered in water, boat cruises are quite popular in the country. You cannot fail to get several family-friendly boat cruises you can enjoy as a whole family. Viewing wildlife on the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth NP and on The Nile in Murchison Falls NP is quite an unforgettable experience, as you get quite close to the crocodiles, hippos, and the animals that come down to quench their thirst in the hot African sun. Notwithstanding the amazing spectacle and majesty of the Murchison Falls, where the Nile thunderously squeezes through a 43-meter drop on its long journey north to the Mediterranean Sea. The boat cruises in the parks are an activity the kids will enjoy and talk about for years!
Family-Friendly cruises are also popular on Lake Victoria and River Nile which is quite relaxing and fun. Here the family can enjoy fishing, swimming, Stand-Up Paddling, and finally beautiful sundowners with drinks and snacks in the setting golden African sunsets. Life jackets are provided for all water activities in the country.
3. Cycling with Zebra, Impala, and Giraffe
Children love bikes. Why not take it to another level by merging family-friendly mountain biking with giraffes, impala, and zebras? This exciting activity is done in Lake Mburo NP where there are no predators, or elephants and the terrain is quite gentle. You get to enjoy the thrill of mountain biking with the beautiful sights of the animals lazily grazing while you bike past them. Unforgettable memorable wholesome family-friendly fun! And the perfect photo opportunities are an ultimate plus for this exhilarating activity with the kids.
4. Bird watching and Nature walks
Bird watching is one of the best nature activities for children, especially if you want to teach them to love and appreciate nature and wildlife, big and small. From even the most tender of ages, parents can use a child’s natural interest in birds as one way to introduce them to the outdoors and help them develop a lifelong love for nature. By observing bird behavior, children can refine their skills in observation, concentration, and reasoning.
Uganda’s birdlife is prolific and diverse with a birding checklist of over 1090 species which can be viewed practically anywhere you are in the country. The Green Eco Tourism Concept that Uganda has maintained has seen that even the most urban areas are filled with flowering bushes, shrubs, and trees that regularly attract birds of all colors and sizes. Parks and reserves have well-maintained trails where you can spend hours walking, enjoying nature, and bird watching. Taking time to really get to know the birds that share our habitat is a brilliant pastime for families. It is good, clean family-friendly fun and builds compassion and respect for nature and all living things.
5. Waterparks and Adventure Parks
If you ask the kids to choose between any activity and visiting a waterpark/adventure park, their choice will definitely be the latter because they are just SO MUCH FUN! Usually we the adults are so serious and we just need a few hours to let go of our inhibitions, forget about our stresses of the real world and enjoy absolute undisturbed fun at a waterpark/ adventure park as a family.
Most of Uganda’s waterparks are found in urban cities and towns. You can enjoy a family-friendly day splashing and sliding, swimming around cooling off this perpetual summer that is Ugandan weather. Adventure parks are lots of fun too where you can challenge each other with varied activities like zip-lining, High-Ropes, Go-Karts, paintball and so much more. Indulge in your childlike happiness, scream your head off and return back to your hotel wholly exhausted but happy and ready to face the real world.
6. Lion Tracking Activities
Lions are a must-see for most visitors to Uganda, and yet their reclusive nature sometimes makes it a frustrating experience for tourists. See, the lions are in their natural habitat-not a zoo and thus are free to roam as they please. Secondly, their nature is such that they are more active at night when the African scorching temperatures are cooler.
Thankfully, you now have more of a chance of seeing these magnificent beasts. With the help of the Uganda Carnivore Program, you can track lions in Queen Elizabeth NP both during the day and night! This exciting program allows you to track the collared cats for an up-close in-depth experience with the King of the Jungle. The activity is done safely in the comfort of your vehicle. The kids will love seeing and learning about the lion up close. Part of the proceeds collected from this activity goes back to the Uganda Carnivore Program which carries out research on the conservation of Uganda’s largest carnivores including Lion, Leopard, and Hyena.
7. Family-Friendly White-Water Rafting
White-water rafting in Uganda is the second most popular tourist activity, after mountain gorilla tracking. Rafting the world’s longest river, the Nile with the whole family can be an experience that is both exciting and rewarding for both parents and the kids. Professional guides take charge of your safety and high floatation life jackets are used so you can all enjoy the trip without worrying about your safety. Each trip is usually tailored to your family’s needs, whether you are first-time rafters or in need of a little more excitement and adventure.
The section of the Nile that is chosen for family-friendly rafting is calm and pristine, safe for family trips. You can enjoy views as other rafters go over the most remarkable rapids on the Nile from a safe distance, enjoy nature, bird watching, and swim in the gentle pools. Lunch is served on a beautiful island that the kids can explore before continuing on your rafting trip. You will enjoy a great day conquering the Mighty Nile with fond memories of the day.
8. Horse Riding
Horses are fun and kids adore them. You can enjoy horse riding activities with the whole family in Jinja right along the River Nile. Ponies are available for younger kids who can safely enjoy rides with professional guides beside them. For the more experienced children who can control the horses by themselves, they can join the adults on a slow-paced safari through the local village and along the beautiful River Nile. Those who are more experienced can opt for longer trips, up to four hours or you can even decide to do a full-day riding safari to fully appreciate nature and the local communities, and the landscape of this lovely town. Accommodation options for all budgets are available where you can spend overnights before heading back after an exhilarating family-friendly trip.
9. Quad Biking Safaris
This is another activity that the whole family will absolutely love! The thrill of riding the quads through puddles, mud, and potholes is exhilarating, thrilling and so much family-friendly fun! The safari takes you through the local villages and along the River Nile and you can choose how long you want your activity to last according to your family’s needs. The kids below six can ride with the adults while those above are provided their own kid’s quads. No previous experience is required, and neither is a driving permit! A thirty-minute training session is offered before you head out for your sensational trip, and then it’s FUN all the way. Each trip is tailored to suit the riders’ ability and to give you the best of the adventure!
10. Hot Air Ballooning
Everywhere you go in Uganda, you will able to find beauty from every single angle. But one of the best ways to surely appreciate the beauty of the Pearl of Africa is from a bird’s eye view. A hot air balloon in Murchison Falls NP and Queen Elizabeth NP is one of the best ways to witness the wildlife, landscape, and scenery. Take off at dawn or towards dusk and float over the park as your pilot leads you. Your altitude will vary from tree top to lower to offer you a unique perspective of the beauty of the park and great photographic opportunities.
The kids will love the views of herds of elephants gently grazing around the Borassus palm trees, the elegant giraffes calmly striding across the park to reach their favorite whistling acacia trees for the top most tender leaves, buffaloes and Uganda Kobs cautiously staring back at you as they slowly chew cud, hippos sleeping in the river shallows in the hot African sun and so much more. Hot air ballooning is an experience surrounded by tradition, romance, and adventure and it will leave the whole family with fond memories of Uganda.
11. Visit a Cultural Village
Uganda is blessed with over 56 tribes all of which still practice different aspects of their cultures. From ways of life, food, dress, and dances to governance, kingdoms, rituals, cultural celebrations and so much more. Immersing yourself in another culture provides endless opportunities to learn about the way other people live, about their society and traditions. It raises cultural awareness in children, giving them a growth to new knowledge, experience, and encounters.
When planning your trip to Uganda with kids, cultural activities should not be ignored. For instance, a few days at a cultural village like Nshenyi Cultural Village will be an eye-opener for the whole family and will help you reflect on your own culture. At Nsheyi Cultural Village, the whole family can immerse themselves in the community through nature walks, visiting homesteads, and learning about local traditional farming techniques that have been passed down through the ages. Visit local schools where the kids can share their learning experiences, walk through local markets, visit local pottery makers, and milk the unique Ankole cows the local way.
Other cultural villages and farm villas you can visit include but are not limited to Emburara Farm lodge, Etanda Cultural Centre, Martha’s Farmhouse, Igongo Cultural Centre, Kluges Farmhouse, Ndere Troupe Cultural Centre, Bwigamiro Farmhouse and so much more! There are so many cultural activities, festivals, palaces, and cultural sites you can visit and appreciate as a family on your trip to Uganda.
12. Escape to an Island Villa
Lake Victoria Africa’s biggest freshwater inland sea is the chief reservoir for the River Nile and is shared between Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The lake is dotted by tens of islands with 94 Islands located in Uganda alone, collectively known as the Ssese Islands. Located minutes away from the equator, these islands are relaxing picturesque havens with endless summers, gently swaying palm trees, pristine white sands, lush forests, and beautiful clear water for that total Island retreat feel where you can escape the bustle of modern life.
You and the kids can enjoy an array of activities like fishing, cycling, beach volleyball, bird watching, hiking, nature walks, swimming, paddling, quad biking, skiing, cruises, relaxing, sunbathing, water biking, monkey watching, bonfires, horse/camel rides BBQs and private parties or just relaxing with a good book. There’s so much to occupy everyone when you are on an Island retreat. Some of our favorite retreats include One Minute South, Pineapple Bay, Brovad Sands Lodge, Victoria Forest and so much more. There’s something to fit any budget and all your family needs. Grab the kids, sunscreen, and swimsuits, kick off your shoes and bask under the African sun as you laze the days away,
13. Feed and Pet Orphaned Wild Animals at UWEC
The Uganda Wildlife and Education Centre was founded in 1950 as the Uganda Zoo, but it’s more than just a zoo. Its sole purpose was and is to rescue confiscated animals got from poachers, take care of injured and orphaned animals, rescue trapped animals, and rehabilitate them so they can be returned to their natural homes. The Centre also assists with species recovery for those that are about extinct by breeding and releasing back into the wild. UWEC is a fun and exciting place to see and learn about the animals of Uganda and the ecosystems they live in.
For an even family-friendly special experience, you can go Behind the Scenes and get up close with the animals. You get a chance to feed and pet the orphaned elephants, giraffes, chimpanzees, lions, cheetahs, rhinos, The Shoebill stork and so much more. The kids will exceptionally love the experience of getting close to the animals.