SOLO SAFARIS IN UGANDA
Most people prefer going for safaris in Africa with company, but still what happens when all your friends are very busy or when you just want to get away alone on safari? You get a way on a solo safari. Solo safaris are mostly preferred by photographers who want to capture every moment of the safari such as wildlife, landscape without worrying about delaying fellow travelers.
Solo safaris give you opportunity to choose what you want on your safari – the National Parks to visit, activities to engage in, number of days to spend on safari, where to stay and also the amount of money you want to spend.
The downside that comes with solo safaris is that it comes at a higher cost. The traveler has to cater for the bill alone because there is no one else to share the expenses with – accommodation expenses, permits, transport, entrance fees. Usually the biggest burden is on transportation since it includes hiring a car and its fuel. But still many tourists, look at the good that comes with solo travel.
The benefit of going solo on safari is that you are at a liberty of easily approaching other people, even yourself are approachable which may result into great opportunities to build stronger connections with people found on safari, even the community.
You also have a chance of engaging in cultural experiences of the local communities which creates lifetime friendships. With solo travel you have the freedom to rest, sleep, eat, dance, or explore at any time when you need to.
Where to go?
Whereas all other regions are amazing to visit while on a Solo safari, the Western part of the country is the best and highly opted for by solo travelers. This region has a number of national parks, lakes, game reserves, spectacular landscapes as well as various activities to engage in.
While in Western Uganda, you can enjoy game drives, nature walks through the savannah grass lands or bird watching while on a launch cruise on either the River Nile or Kazinga Channel in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Parks respectively.
It’s also remarkable to go for chimpanzee tracking and gorilla trekking in Kibale Forest, Bwindi Impenetrable, and Mgahinga National parks. The magnificent hot springs of Semuliki National Park are breathtaking and the adventurous travellers can join those trekking the magnificent Rwenzori Mountains.
Another great place to visit in the Western part is Lake Bunyonyi which hosts about 29 islands including the punishment island of which tour guides have a lot of stories to tell about this island, there are a number of outdoor activities you can engage in such as birding, nature walks among others. It’s from here that you can easily connect to Bwindi for gorilla trekking. In the Eastern part of Uganda is Jinja, an ideal place for those interested in solo travel. There are many activities to do such as bungee jumping, quad biking, white-water rafting, zip lining, canoeing and many more. This will give you chance to meet other travellers in the town’s restaurants and bars.
Is it safe for go solo?
Solo tours can be opted for both male and female travellers, although most female travellers usually have a question of if it is safe for them to go on a solo tour.
Uganda is a safe destination open to travellers. But just like anywhere else, women should take the same precautions: Not walking by themselves along quiet streets after it’s dark however close you would be to the place you are going to at least order for a cab, ask for advice from the locals or your tour operator on which areas to avoid while in a city/town, keep your valuables safe; don’t splash money while in bar.
Whereas people in the urban centers have adapted to the western style of dressing, it is not so in most rural areas. People there tend to dress conservatively; their clothes cover up to the knees or beyond, so in case you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, you could also wear t-shirts/tops which are not too tight and skirts or dresses or shorts that cover your knees.
If on your itinerary you plan to engage in any sort of hiking, don’t do it alone just in case something doesn’t go right, so if you can, you could meet up with other travellers or take a skilled guide with you and also ensure that before you set off, you inform someone it might be your friend or family, the route you would be taking for the hike.
It is also advisable for you to put a hand over the purse and also put your bag over your shoulder so that no one can easily grab it from you. Don’t move around with large sums of money or all your original documents, it is always good that you move with at least a copy or scan of your documents.
Always remember that you should never act lost even if you are, at least ask for directions from a trusted person or order for an Uber or a Boda boda for instance, but one thing for sure you will always get where you are going.
In case you want to spend an evening out don’t drink excessively and get wasted since you have no one to look after you. Also don’t tell everyone where you are staying even if it is a hotel or a homestay.
Tips on how to cut down costs
In order to cut costs while on a solo safari, instead of booking a lodge for accommodation, some solo travelers opt for home stays. It is a good thing to do since you even get an opportunity to learn a lot about the people you are with and also engage in their day to day lives.
Also you can get affordable accommodation. Single rooms in different towns of the country including Kampala can go as low as $15 for a booking of bed and breakfast. There is also an option of camping in case you are spending a night in the park or get a room that goes for about $20 dollars and above. As you plan your safaris also budget for the meals basing on how much you can afford.
Concerning transport, some solo travelers on budget basis board public means such as buses especially those heading to the west for gorilla or chimpanzee tracking, others prefer self-drives. But you have to plan well if you are to use public means, since a bus can take you to the closet town to the park hence at some point you have to hire a car to take you to where you will be staying.
You can make connections or friends with some of the hospitable Ugandans, who can negotiate with you on the hire vehicle, they can also help you get in touch with other solo travellers in the area.
Above all, we would advise you to book with a trusted tour operator who will help you plan your safari package. The tour operator also gets you the best vehicle and a skilled tour driver that will take you around to whichever place you want to go to.
Another option is to contact tour companies that offer scheduled safaris. Most of these tours include visits to some of the famous tourist sites in Uganda. So as a solo traveler, you can book a slot on this kind of tour. We recommend you to join a group with not more than 6 people and of course the price of the tour also varies with the size of the group, the more people you are the lesser the cost, since you split costs together.
How about the Permits?
If you intend to go for Gorilla tracking or Chimpanzee tracking, you need to book your permits your prior time of travel, since these permits are always on high demand especially during the peak season. You are even advised to book like four months or more before your day of tracking. This gives you liberty to choose which sector you would want to track gorillas.
It is important to note that the cost of gorilla and chimpanzee permits has been increased from $600 to $700 and from$150 to $200 respectively, with effect from 1st July 2020. Also the chimpanzee habituation permits have been increased from $200 to $250.
You can buy these permits directly from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kamwokya, Kampala or making your payments through a tour operator of your choice, who will ensure that you have the best time during your safari.