Visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Located in Nakasongola district along the Kampala-Gulu highway as you head over to Murchison Falls National park, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the only destination in Uganda where you’ll find the rhinos. During the early years of 20th century, white rhinos roamed freely in Murchison and Kidepo National Parks because poaching was strictly prohibited during the colonial era however, during the 70s and 80s, there was insecurity in the country and therefore poachers found a gap to hunt down the already endangered white rhinos hence leaving none in Uganda.

Hopes of having the rhinos back in Uganda were revived in 2005 when Rhino Fund Uganda worked together with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to reintroduce one of the big five animals in Uganda’s wilderness. However before taking that big step a sanctuary needed to be setup in order to protect the few animals introduced.

Ziwa rhino sanctuary started with only 6 rhinos, 4 were got from Kenya while the other 2 were donated from Disneyland in the Unites states of America. The sanctuary is 70 kilometers squared wide and surrounded by electric fences that are 2 meters high.

The sanctuary now has 22 white rhinos and this has been successful due to the conservation efforts by the rhino fund, donors, researchers and UWA.

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ACTIVITIES TO DO IN ZIWA

Due to the existence of rhinos in this area, rhino trekking has turned out to be the most popular and major activity carried out in the sanctuary. Rhino trekking activity involves getting close to the large rhinos as they graze in the wild, the activity takes about 1-2 hours. It can be done on foot or you can be driven to where the animals are and later get off to come closer to the rhinos. You are accompanied by an experienced ranger to lead to where the rhinos are, who will inform you about their behavior, ecology and conservation efforts. You will be standing 7 meters away from the rhinos just to be safe though rhinos are calm animals.

During your rhino trek, you will be able watch the endangered animals feeding on fresh pasture unbothered about your presence. It is a joy to meet these large animals as they complete your Big 5 Uganda safari. You can’t have a complete safari without meeting the rhinos.

Other activities you can enjoy in the sanctuary are bird watching with over 350 species of birds available. There are important birding sites such as swamps, savanna plains and woodlands where you can sight birds like African Black Crake, cranes, Ibis, shoebill and Fish Eagle etc.

This is another interesting activity, a guided night walk in the sanctuary offers you an opportunity to hear the late night sounds of Africa, take walks under the moonlight in the company of armed guides and you will be able to come across some nocturnal animals like bats.

These are adventurous experiences, that involve one to walk through the sanctuary on foot and discover the beautiful tropical vegetation. You will also come across animals like the black and white colobus monkeys, mongoose, grey duiker, squirrels and bushbucks among others.

Rules and Guidelines to observe when trekking Rhinos.

  1. Follow all the instructions given to you by game rangers and you can always ask questions when in doubt of anything.
  2. Unauthorized treks are regarded as illegal such as those done after 5:30 pm.
  3. You are not allowed to feed the animals or even touch them.
  4. Littering within the sanctuary is forbidden, there are proper disposal units where you can dump any kind of trash.
  5. You are expected to maintain as minimal noise as possible, you are actually advised to turn off any gadgets that make noise such as telephones
  6. Cycling or jogging is not allowed in the sanctuary or even near its boundaries.

Cost of Rhino trekking in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

The cost of rhino trekking at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary varies depending on your nationality and age. The rates for adults are as follows:

  • Foreign non-residents: $50
  • East African residents: $40
  • Ugandan citizens: 30,000 UGX

The rates for children are as follows:

  • Foreign non-residents: $25
  • East African residents: $20
  • Ugandan citizens: 10,000 UGX

SAFARI ACTIVITIES IN UGANDA

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

After reading about the mountain gorillas, meet them physically and watch the silverback protect its family, mothers nurse and youngsters play. Half of the total population of the mountain Gorillas call Bwindi impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park home.

Mountain Gorillas are only found in the pearl of Africa, around the vast Virunga chain of mountains which spans through Uganda, Rwanda and the DR Congo. All trekkers must be 15 years and above, with a valid Gorilla trekking permit which can only be used once-the date of the activity.

Gorilla trekking permits are purchased from Uganda wildlife Authority, or through a licensed tour agency and costs 700Usd for foreign non-residents, 250,000ugx for East African residents and 600$ for foreign residents. 

Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda

Chimpanzees trekking is done in Kyambura gorge, Kibale national park, Kalinzu forest and Budongo forest. This is one of the must-do safari activities in Uganda, and thus one of the best for holiday goers. Get to experience the silence of the jungle, know what the forest has, and encounter other forest inhabitants.

The Gorilla trekking experience is done in the morning and afternoon hours, taking about 1-4 hours on foot. It is open for only persons aged 16 years and above in groups of not more than 8 persons. One can combine chimpanzee trekking with other activities like game viewing, boat cruise, hiking, birding and more. At Kibale forest National Park, you will visit Isunga community for the top of world hike and coffee experience.

Game drives and camping safaris

Akagera national park is the only place where game drives are done in Rwanda. The park is located in the eastern part of Rwanda, with a wide range of flora and fauna, cool weather, and classic lodging options.

Game viewing in Akagera National Park is rated as one of the best in the continent, and offers high chances of encountering among others; the African elephants, cape Buffaloes, lions, leopards, Rhinoceros, forest genet, zebras, wild dogs and more. There are birds, plants and more to explore during your stay in the park. Game drive is best in the morning and late evening hours.

Boat cruises

Boat cruise experiences in Murchison falls national park, Lake Victoria, Lake Mburo, Bunyonyi and Kazinga channel are quite unmatched. The best way to explore water, and uncover the aquatic world. Get closer to Nile crocodiles, hippos, kingfisher, water duck, shoebill stock and more, the papyrus swamps, and cool water breeze. This experience takes about 1-3 hours, in either morning or afternoon hours.

Bird watching tours.

Uganda is a host to 10% of total bird species in the world. Birds are found across the country, in the swamps, lake shores, mountains, river shores, and forests. For bird enthusiasts, you get to learn of these birds by name, and character.

Take time to capture numerous photos of the many species notably; Turacos, eagles, Kori bustards, shoe bill stock, cranes, francolins, Albertine owlets, kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori Turacos, regal sunbirds, mountain masked Apalis, Red-billed quale, western nicator eagles, African Jacana, eastern black korhaans, lover birds, guinea fowls and more.

Hiking and Mountaineering activities.

Nature walk and hiking are some of the best safari activities done in your holiday. It is an activity where everything is within your presence, notably; the birds, plants, water and more. It is a much practical way of uncovering Mother Nature and doing physical exercise.

Spend a few nights above the ground, by hiking to the summit of Mount. Rwenzori; one of the tallest mountains in the continent of Africa. Other destinations include; Mountain Elgon which offers a scenic view of the magnificent caldera, coffee plantations and more.

Other activities in Uganda include; City tours, cultural tours, night life, and religious tour.

F.A.Q.

There is no standard price for Uganda, Rwanda or Congo gorilla permit –each country has its rates. In Uganda, the charges vary depending on the visitor category. The foreign non-residents are charged USD 700 to have their gorilla permits booked, USD 600 for foreign residents and Ugandans (East Africa citizens) pay shs. 250,000 per person. To have a gorilla permit secured/booked, you need USD 1500 for Rwanda and this is most ideal for luxury/high-end travelers interested in visiting the endangered mountain gorillas.

When booking a gorilla permit, it is also a good thing to have a destination of your desire in mind. The key places to consider a must-visit on gorilla tour include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park –these are gorilla trekking destinations for tourists on a tour in Uganda. In Rwanda, Volcanoes National Park is where you can locate habituated mountain gorilla families and crossing the D.R. Congo, you can explore Virunga National Park.

It is a good thing to also understand when best to book your gorilla permits to avoid having issues on actual date of gorilla trekking. Considering our experience, we always recommend our clients to have their permits booked early enough at least 2-4 months. This can save you from last minute stress, especially if you plan to travel during the dry season also considered to be the peak season. The peak months of the year fall around June, July, August to September, and December, January to February.

Gorilla permits are among the relevant documents visitors must have to be allowed to track gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Not any gorilla permit should be presented on actual gorilla trekking adventure but a valid one. Booking gorilla permits is part of making the entire gorilla trip complete and should be done early enough before the actual visit to see mountain gorillas or eastern lowland gorillas.

To have your gorilla permit booked, there is a process one should undergo through and is generally tedious. Considering your tight schedule back home, you may wonder how easier you can have your permit booked in advance to avoid last minute stress.

The easiest way to secure your gorilla permit in Uganda or Rwanda is by dealing with a recognized tour operator/company on the ground. This is where our reservation team comes in. As part of your gorilla safari requirement, our team being on ground will ensure that your permit is booked early enough and everything else that is needed for gorilla trekking is put together.

The beauty about dealing with local safari company such as ours is that we have knowledge on the different gorilla groups and surrounding communities plus various accommodation facilities for your night stay. This is in addition to making the entire gorilla permit booking process easier on behalf of our clients.

There is also an option of booking the permit directly through the reservation team of respective park authorities. But the challenge is that you must undergo through the long process to have your permit booked and this may not favor you depending on your schedule. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is an organ in charge not only for conservation of wildlife in the Pearl of Africa but also sets prices for tourism activities in the parks including gorilla permits. In Rwanda, you can contact Rwanda Tourism Board/Rwanda Development Board to have your permit booked.

The East African tourist visa is a joint visa that permits one to travel to specific countries within East Africa, namely Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda only. A joint tourist visa can be used several times for various purposes as long as it’s not overdue. 

Tourists should therefore find it important to always remember that the tourist visa lasts for only 90 days.  Processing the tourist visa takes a maximum period of two working days. It is also important to note that the tourist visa prohibits employment.

The process of applying for a tourist visa has been made easier since it can be done with the help of a tour operator or by the individual themselves online through the Ministry of Internal Affairs immigration portal. Visitors are required to log in to the portal, go ahead and accept the terms and conditions for the tourist visa, select the Visa / permit type, the subcategory and category, complete the application form and upload the required documents. 

A reference number will be generated and sent to you through your email, submit it and proceed to payment. It’s important to note that the payment can be made using Visa cards.  An approval letter will be sent to your email after the above process.

Report at the immigration office or border post for the biometric capture with all the necessary documents, receipt of payment, approval letter and your passport. Visitors should regard it as important to enter through the home country issuing the visa.

The East African tourist visa costs a fee of $100 only, meaning that it can be obtained by all travelers ranging from the budget to luxurious ones.

  • Persons aged 15 years and above are allowed to trek gorillas.
  • Avoid sneezing in the presence of gorillas.
  • Always stay away from gorillas by observing distance
  • Do not try to feed gorillas
  • Do not chew in the presence of gorillas
  • Do not take photos with flash light on.