13 Amazing facts that will make you fall in love with Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country bordered on the north by Sudan, to the west by Kenya, in the south by Lake Victoria, Tanzania and Rwanda, and to the east by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Located largely on an elevated basin situated between the eastern and western elements of the Great Rift Valley, it is a reasonably flat country, with mountain ranges found in the south-western and western borderlands, in the north-east and -in the form of Mt Elgon – near Kapchorwa, on the Kenyan border.

1. LONGEST RIVER

Uganda has the longest river in the world, the Nile a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa is generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is 6,650 km (4,130 miles) long and runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.

Followed by the Amazon River in South America is the second-longest river in the world. However, Amazon is the largest river in the world by volume with an average discharge greater than the next seven largest rivers combined. It is also considered to be the widest river in the world.

The Nile is credited as the longest river in the world. Its main source is Lake Victoria in east-central Africa. From its farthest stream in Burundi, it extends 6,695 km (4,160 miles) in length.

 

2. Highest mountain ranges and the third highest mountain in Africa

The Rwenzori mountains are home to Africa’s third-highest mountain, Mount Stanley and the mountain range also hosts six of the continent’s ten highest mountain peaks making it the highest collection of high points in Africa. Mount Stanley’s Margherita Peak, is the highest peak and climbs higher than the five-thousand-meter mark (more than 16,400 feet)—taller than the highest point of the Alps. Hikers who make it up Margherita also give Mount Speke and Mount Baker a try and also take in the spectacular Enock Falls. Then there are also the bamboo forests the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and the most permanent source of the Nile to discover.

It’s no wonder the 2nd-century geographer Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus) was mesmerized as he described them as the “Mountains of the Moon” and were long thought to be the source of the Nile due to its year-long glaciers at the peaks.

Recognized as a Unesco World Heritage site for its unique flora and fauna, this high-altitude paradise stands out as one of the most unique features Uganda has. The mountain range near Uganda’s eastern border with DR Congo is every hiker’s dream assignment.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A 9-12hrs day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita Peak, the third-highest point in Africa and the highest point in Uganda and DR Congo though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighbouring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

  1. The largest lake in Africa

Lake Victoria holds the titles of Africa’s largest lake, the world’s largest tropical lake (A tropical lake: a lake with surface temperature constantly above 4° C) and as the 2nd largest fresh water lake measured by surface area, the only larger freshwater lake is Lake Superior in North America.

Covering a total surface area of 69,485 square kilometres (26,600 square miles), Lake Victoria was named after Queen Victoria, it is one of the Great African Lakes, and is mainly fed by inflows from the Kagera River.

Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria

The basin of the lake covers a large area of Africa. This lake is relatively shallow, with an average depth of 40 m and a maximum depth of 84 m. Lake Victoria is bounded by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and has 84 islands within its body.

Two rivers flow out of the lake, they are the White Nile (called the “Victoria Nile” where it leaves the lake) and the Katonga River.

  1. Uganda & the Equator

The equator is simply the imaginary line that divides the earth in half, with the north on one side and the south on another and runs more than 40,000 kilometres or nearly 25-thousand miles long; 78.7% is across the water and 21.3% is over land. The latitude of the equator is by definition 0 degrees.

The equator is one of the five notable circles of latitude on earth, the others are– the two polar circles and the two tropical circles – the tropic of cancer and the tropic of Capricorn.  Interestingly the equator is the only line of latitude, which is a great circle.

Being able to stand on the equator (Other than the fact that you can stand on both sides of the earth at the Equator) is a privilege only a few have the opportunity to experience, as the imaginary line passes through only a few countries in Africa, South America, several islands; that is Uganda, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia, and Sao tome and Principe and oceans.

The Equator

The Equator

Some mesmerising facts about the equator;

Is one lighter while at the Equator?

Yes, you will find out that you are 3% lighter while at the equator line. Here is how it comes about; weight is a force of which gravity acts on a mass.

Along the equator, anyone’s weight will be less by 0.5% thus gravity is 0.5 % less at the Equator. This is inclined to the earth not being a perfect sphere. At the poles, it is flattened.

You will be a few tens of kilometres away from the centre of the earth while standing at the equator unlike when standing at the poles. Gravity is therefore only slightly less at the equator because it falls off with distance.

The change of water flow as you pour it;

If you pour water when you are on the northern side of the equator on top of the funnel it drains in the clockwise direction and on the southern side it will change and drain anti-clockwise. And right here on the straight-line, there won’t be any movement. And this is caused by the Coriolis effect of the magnetic field.

This means that those who are living in the northern hemisphere: when you flush your toilet or open the sink plug the water will run clockwise.

Southern hemisphere:  the flow changes direction and runs anti-clockwise. Some countries in the southern hemisphere, for example, New Zealand and Argentina all their toilets flush this direction.

The Equinox;

“21 March and 23 September are equatorial equinox days where the sun rises and sets directly above the equator line .at midday on these two days you won’t see your shadow.  This is because the line is straight up.”

The temperature at the equator can plummet during rainstorms. In many tropical regions, people identify two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season, but many places close to the equator or near oceans are rainy throughout the year.

“On the 0-degree latitude (equator line): water will not spin, it will just stay sill. You will not see any movement because both magnetic fields are pulling on the equal point.”

NOTE: Scientists say the places on the equator experience the quickest sunrises and sunsets. Since the sun rises and sets almost vertically throughout the year. The length of a day from (sunrise to sunset) at the equator is almost constant during the year; each day is about 14 minutes longer than night because of atmospheric refraction and the fact that sunrise/sunset is the moment when the edge of the sun’s disk passes the horizon, rather than its centre.

  1. Only Bahai temple in Africa

The Bahai Temple is located on the Kikaya Hill, 7 Kilometers from the City Centre along the Kampala- Gayaza Road. It is the only Bahai Temple in Africa. The temple is of international significance and attracts the Bahai community from all over the world.

Bahai Temples
There are eight Bahia Temples in the world with Mother Temple of Africa located in Uganda. During the rule of President Idi Amin, the Bahai Faith was banned and the Bahai Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga and his family was murdered.

Structure of the Temple
The building is more than 130 feet (39 m) high and over 100 meters in diameter at the base with the dome composed of lace-like tiles, rises over 124 feet (37 m) high and is 44 feet (13 m) in diameter. The foundation goes 10 feet (3 m) underground to protect it from possible earthquakes.

The Bahai temple in Africa

The Bahai temple in Africa

The green dome that was used in the construction of the Temple made of fixed mosaic tiles was from Italy and the lower roof tiles are from Belgium. The walls of the temple are of precast stone quarried in Uganda.

The coloured glass in the wall panels was brought from Germany. The timber used for making the doors and benches was from Uganda.
Bahai Temple was designed by Charles Mason Remey and its foundation stone was laid in January 1958, and the completed Temple was dedicated on January 13, 1961.

Religious unity
Bahai Temple is open to all people regardless of religion, or any other distinction. It brings together different faiths to meet and pray together at the House of Worship.

It is a House of Worship where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions. Only the holy scriptures of the Bahá’í Faith and other religions can be read or chanted inside the House of Worship in any language.

Readings and prayers may be set to music by choirs, no musical instruments may be played in the House of Worship and no sermons may be delivered.

  1. Home to one of the most feared dictators of all time

Idi Amin Dada was a Ugandan president born circa 1925 in Koboko, West Nile Province, Uganda as member of the small Kakwa ethnic group of northwestern Uganda.

His mother, a herbalist and diviner, raised him after his father deserted the family. Amin had little formal education before joining the King’s African Rifles of the British colonial army in 1946 as an assistant cook.

He rose within the military from the 1940s through 1970. Amin overthrew Milton Obote who was out of the country in Singapore on state duties in 1971 and declared himself president and chief of the armed forces in 1971, field marshal in 1975 and life president in 1976 till his ouster in 1979.

H.E Idi Amin Dada

H.E Idi Amin Dada

Early Military Service

Extremely charismatic and skilled, Amin quickly rose through the ranks. His stature was rather notable. He stood 6 feet, 4 inches tall and was a Ugandan light-heavyweight boxing champion from 1951 to 1960, as well as a swimmer.

He soon became notorious among fellow soldiers for his overzealous and cruel military interrogations. Eventually, he made the highest rank possible for a black African serving in the British army. From 1952 until 1956, he served in the British action against the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya.

The Reign of “terror”

Amin became known as the “Butcher of Uganda” for his brutality. It is believed that some 300,000 people were killed during his presidency. In July 1976 he was personally involved in the hijacking of a French airliner to Entebbe. In October 1978 Amin ordered an attack on Tanzania.

Aided by Ugandan nationalists, Tanzanian troops eventually overpowered the Ugandan army. As the Tanzanian-led forces neared Kampala, Uganda’s capital, on April 13, 1979, Amin fled the city.

Escaping first to Libya and then finally settling in Saudi Arabia.

Death

On August 16, 2003, Idi Amin died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The cause of death was reported to be multiple organ failure. Although the Ugandan government announced that his body could be buried in Uganda, he was quickly buried in Saudi Arabia. He was never tried for gross abuse of human rights.

  1. Uganda is a landlocked country

Uganda is an East African landlocked country that lies across the equator right in the heart of Africa with a total land area of approximately 236040sq km and 36330 sq km is underwater.

Capital city of Uganda, kampala

Capital city of Uganda, kampala

Uganda is landlocked meaning it has no direct access to an ocean or sea. Its neighbours are Kenya in the east, the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west, Rwanda in the south-west, South Sudan in the North and Tanzania in the South.

  1. A key birding destination in Africa

Uganda as a nation is teeming with a richness in birdlife and has over 1008 species but with only one endemic species, the rather ordinary Fox’s weaver. However, if you consider only East Africa, then approximately 150 bird species (more than 10% of the regional checklists) are found only in Uganda.

This list includes seven of the 20 hornbill species recorded in the region, five out of 14 honeyguides, seven out of 20 hornbill species recorded in the region, five out of 20 bush family as well as 13 members of the thrush family, 11 warblers, ten flycatchers, eight sunbirds, eight weavers, eight finches, four tinker birds, four pigeons, 3 kingfishers, 3 sparrow hawks, 3 cuckoos and 3 nightjars.

The shoe bill

The Shoe Bill Stork

The Rwenzori Park is a dwelling to 217 species of birds and 17 of them can only be found in Rwenzori which justifies UNESCO labelling it a key Birding Area.

At about 1800 meters, the variety will leave you captivated including the Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Long-eared Owl, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Strange Weaver, Archers’ Robin-chat, Rwenzori Batis, White-starred Robin, Montane Sooty Boubou, Slender-billed Starling, Lagden’s Bush-Shrike, Blue-headed Sunbird, Barbets, Golden-winged Sunbird, Greenbuls, IIladopsis, Apalises, Crimson wings and Flycatchers.

  1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi‘s impenetrable forest was voted Africa’s best birding spot by Africa Bird Club, owing to the rare bird species found here and the park’s conservation efforts.

It is easily accessible for birding with maintained birding trails in the forest. Bwindi is home to about 350 species of birds, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics of which 14 are not recorded anywhere else in Uganda.

Species to look out for include the African green broadbill, Chapin’s flycatcher, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, handsome francolin, mountain-masked and collared Apalis, white-bellied robin chat, black-billed turaco, Fraser’s eagle, western bronze-naped pigeon, purple-breasted, blue-headed and regal sunbirds.

Uganda is arguably the most attractive country in Africa to bird watchers ( tour), not only to because of the unusual number of species recorded within its borders but also because it offers easy access to several bird-rich habitats that are difficult to reach elsewhere.

bwindi impenetrable forest

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Uganda’s remarkable avian diversity-1,008 species recorded in an area similar to that of Great Britain can be attributed to its location at a transitional point between the East African savanna, the West African rainforest and the semi-desert of the north.

The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats: arid semi-desert, rich savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, vast wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. Uganda covers an altitude from 650 to 5000m.

Analytical of Uganda’s intermediary position is the fact that only one bird is endemic to the country, the rather ordinary Fox’s weaver. However, if you consider only East Africa, then approximately 150 bird species (more than 10% of the regional checklists) are found only in Uganda.

This list includes seven of the 20 hornbill species recorded in the region, five out of 14 honeyguides, seven out of 20 hornbill species recorded in the region, five out of 20 bush family as well as 13 members of the thrush family, 11 warblers, ten flycatchers, eight sunbirds, eight weavers, eight finches, four tinker birds, four pigeons, 3 kingfishers, 3 sparrow hawks, 3 cuckoos and 3 nightjars.

Most of these Uganda’s specials are West African and Congolese forest birds that should be very difficult to see elsewhere for the simple reason that the other countries in which they occur are poorly developed for Tourism.

The rain forests of Western Uganda must be seen as the country’s most important bird habitat, and that is the greatest interest to birdwatchers (bird watching), particularly if they are already familiar with typical East African birds.

Bwindi forest

Bwindi forest

The most alluring forests in Uganda with localized species is Semliki, Budongo Forest, Kibale Forest and Bwindi Forest. However, Kibale is Uganda’s spot for forest birds and the nearby Magombe swamp. Even the relatively tame botanical gardens in Entebbe will throw up several interesting species.

Therefore you want to see or watch a wide range of birds in Uganda for tour enthusiasts, try to visit Entebbe (water and forest birds), Lake Mburo (water and acacia associated birds), Queen Elizabeth (Over 600 species are recorded), Murchison Falls (a best place in East Africa to see the Papyrus-associated shoe-bill) and Kidepo (over 50 raptors recorded ).

Uganda is among the most well-known birding destinations in the whole of Africa. It has a diversity of bird species several of which are not easily spotted in any other part of the African continent. There are several birding destinations within the country and these have made Uganda certainly one of the finest birding paradises.

There are more than 1010 bird species all of which you certainly enjoy on a Uganda safari. The various National parks within Uganda are the biggest habitat for most of the bird species in the country.

As you take time to marvel at the spectacular birds, you will certainly come across a diversity of additional wildlife that will turn your bird watching safari into a very memorable encounter. The most ideal time to spot these birds is early in the morning as well as late in the evenings.

  1. the largest mosque in East Africa and the second-largest in Africa

Gaddafi/Uganda National Mosque

The National Mosque of Kampala is the second largest mosque in Africa after King Hassan Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. It is located on over 12 acres of land at Old Kampala Hill.

Previously it was called Old Kampala Mosque which was constructed in 1972. Col. Muammar Gaddafi, former President of Libya financed it in 2004.

Gaddafi mosque in Old Kampala

Gaddafi mosque in Old Kampala

It was inaugurated and named as Gaddafi Mosque in 2006. It seats up to 25,000 worshipers. The name was changed from Gaddafi Mosque to National Mosque on the downfall of Gaddafi in 2013.

It is a two-storied building with the mosque on the second floor while the ground floor houses the offices. Since it is located on the top of a hill, the mosque can be seen from all over Kampala city.

A beautiful view of Kampala city can be seen from the minaret of the Mosque and tours are allowed but only when dressed appropriately according to Muslim customs

11. A warm tropical climate year-round

Situated on the equator, a quarter of Uganda is permanently covered by water, with lakes Victoria, Kyoga and Albert being the country’s largest standing sources. Save the semi-arid to arid areas in the north-east, one or two semi-arid to semi-humid rain shadow zones in the west and the semi-arid region east of Lake Edward.

Uganda mainly experiences a wet-dry tropical climate, with the south-west forests becoming tropically moist.

The climate in Uganda is controlled by the oscillating effects of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), which sees the convergence of the rain bringing Atlantic westerlies and Indian Ocean easterlies and the dry north-east and south-east monsoon winds. Thus, in keeping with much of tropical Africa, Uganda experiences a wet season and a dry season, its precipitation pattern described as bimodal, the main or long rains arriving March-May, the short rains November – start of December.

Most travel destinations are located either in the Lake Victoria basin (Entebbe, Kampala, Lake Mburo) or in the western borderlands (Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth, Kibale, Rwenzori, Murchinson Falls and Semliki).

Except for south Kibale, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo, they all experience very good to excellent levels of precipitation, the likes of Kampala, Entebbe, Bwindi, the Rwenzori Mountains, north Kibale and the Semliki watershed more a rainforest climate than the wet and dry seasonal climates characteristic of savannah biospheres.

In the north-east, Kidepo National Park is the driest destination. With just 650mm rain per year, although the actual variation is 300mm in poor years and 1000mm in fine.

Given this, and the fact that Uganda offers both a rainforest and savannah safari experience, best times for travel will depend on location and type. Generally speaking, the dry season (June – October and December – February) is the best time to visit for wildlife.

At this time, in wet-dry tropical climatic zones, the cover is greatly reduced, seasonal water sources are either drying or entirely dried up and animals mass along riverfronts, lakesides and waterholes.

And while the moister rainforest climates of Bwindi or the Kibale Forest experience rain throughout the year, trekking is easier during the drier months, the roads clearer, the primates easier to spot. In the north-east, in the Kidepo Valley, which annually experiences a single wet season, the best time to visit is November through March.

Finally, it’s worth knowing that – as a result of the stable diurnal rhythms of the Lake Victoria basin mesa-scales – rain in the south generally occurs between 4 and 9 a.m., while inland and in the highlands it usually rains at between 3 and 5 p.m.

  1. largest Volcanic base in the world

At 4,000km², Mt. Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world. Located on the Uganda-Kenya border it is also the oldest and largest solitary, volcanic mountain in East Africa. Its vast form, 80km in diameter, rises more than 3,000m above the surrounding plains. The mountain’s cool heights offer respite from the hot plains below, with the higher altitudes providing a refuge for flora and fauna.

This extinct volcano is one of Uganda’s oldest physical features, first erupting around 24 million years ago. Mt Elgon was once Africas highest mountain far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5895m. Millenia of erosion have reduced its height to 4321m relegating it to 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th in Africa.

Elgon volcanic base

Elgon volcanic base

Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer.  The higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve.

A climb on Mt. Elgon’s deserted moorlands unveils a magnificent and uncluttered wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains: the ultimate goal on reaching the top of Mt. Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40km² caldera.

13. One of the only 3 homes to Mountain Gorillas in the World

Mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) are a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, which also includes the Grauer’s gorilla in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, as the total population is estimated to comprise 1,004 individuals in two populations as of 2018.

Mountain gorillas can only be found in three countries in the world. One population lives in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, and the other in the Virunga Mountains in three adjacent national parks, namely Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Mountain Gorilla

The Mountain Gorilla

Mountain gorillas live in family groups headed by one or more Silverback males, with several females and young. They mainly eat herbaceous vegetation such as nettles and thistles but will sample bamboo in excited groups when it is producing new shoots.

Babies are born when a female reaches 9-12years and will be weaned at 3-4 years. Males are often pushed out of the group when they reach adulthood and develop the silverback at around 12 years, becoming lone males until they can take over a group of females when a group male is too old to defend it or dies.

The endangered Mountain Gorilla won’t be found in any zoo in the world (they do not survive in captivity and there are no surviving mountain gorillas in zoos), you can only find them and see them in Africa, in the countries of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Uganda Bwindi Mountain Gorilla

Bwindi Mountain Gorilla

The Mountain Gorillas were not even known about by westerners until 1902. Rwanda was a German colony when a Captain von Berenge was climbing Mount Sabinyo on the Rwanda side with some friends and they were at the 9300-foot level and camped when a group of Mountain Gorillas was spotted and he shot two of them but could only retrieve one.

It was a young male about 5 years old, 220 pounds and not too large, but larger than any apes the German had seen. Bones and skin were sent to Berlin where it was identified as a gorilla.

 

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