Getting from park to park on your Uganda safari
Uganda is relatively a small country, which can be traversed fairly easily due to the good road network and available domestic flight options. It is 236,040 square kilometers, which is almost the size of Great Britain (243,000 square kilometers) or the state of Oregon (255,000 square kilometers). If you're planning a safari to Uganda, chances are, most tour operators will use ground transportation to take you from park to park. This is because people mainly land in Entebbe and are easily within a day's drive of parks such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kibale, Lake Mburo and Murchison Falls. And, once people are in Queen Elizabeth National Park, popular destinations like Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are only a few hours away by vehicle.
But, what if you have your heart set on seeing Murchison Falls or Kidepo and Bwindi, and only have seven days to do it all? Murchison Falls is located in the northern part of the country, and Kidepo is on the northern border with Southern Sudan, while Bwindi is on the southern border with Rwanda. Many of the roads up north are not tarmacked, making the jouney by vehicle a very long and bumpy one. While not as established or sophisticated as Tanzania's or Kenya's systems, Uganda does offer internal and charter flights to greatly reduce journey times and allow people to visit every park on their wish list.
Domestic airlines in Uganda
If you travel by air from your country, you will land at Entebbe International Airport. Many international airlines fly into Entebbe. Entebbe is about 40 km from Kampala, the capital of Uganda and the start for many of the travels to the rest of the country. Many international airlines service Uganda. For a full list, please see 'Getting to Uganda'.
There are domestic flights to most of the touristic attractions and towns in Uganda from the following companies: Aero Link, Eagle Air and Fly Uganda. Incorporating a domestic flight or two in your safari itinerary reduces the time spent in transit to the different attractions. For example, Entebbe to Bwindi Impenetrable forest for gorilla trekking experience will take you about 10 hours’ drive. If you choose to fly, it will take under two hours. Aero link has scheduled flights but there are also opportunities to charter flights to the destination. You can fly every main safari destination in Uganda. Choosing to fly will add on to the price of your safari, especially if there is not a scheduled flight on the day you wish to travel and you need to opt for a charter flight, but for those with limited time or limited tolerance for bumpy roads, domestic flights are a great alternative. Flying safaris also allow you to see the park(s) as you fly over them, something you wouldn't be able to do on a drive-only safari.
Uganda airstrips, courtesy of Fly Uganda
Internal flight scheduling: What to know
When you're planning on adding some internal flights to your Uganda safari itinerary, it's important to know the flight schedule. If you need to take a charter flight, many will not fly without a minimum number of passengers—normally four. It's also important to keep it light. On all services, the luggage allowance is 15 kilos in soft-sided bags. Leave your hard-sided suitcases at home. These allowances include all hand baggage. The carriage of excess baggage is at the sole discretion of the company after taking into consideration the number of passengers booked. When excess baggage is carried, it will be charged at the prevailing freight charges
Here's a list of Eagle Air's scheduled flights. Note there isn't daily service on any route.
Here's a list of Aero Link's schedule flights. They do offer daily flights on popular destinations such as Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and Semuliki.
Here's what a Uganda safari itinerary that incorporates domestic flights might look like:
Day 1: Fly to Murchison falls from Entebbe—boat ride in the afternoon
Day 2: Game drive in the morning—fly to Kasese for Kibale
Day 3: Morning chimp tracking in Kibale and afternoon flight to Bwindi
Day 4: Track gorillas and relax in the afternoon
Day 5: Fly back to Entebbe for flight back home.
This same itinerary would take minimum of nine days if you opted to drive to all these locations. It's important to mention that the above itinerary would be significantly more expensive than a driving one.