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Holiday Guides for Africa - Uganda

Uganda Holiday

Uganda may have a rocky history, but look beyond this and a country of vivid colour and rich wildlife is well in evidence.

Uganda is a country with a turbulent past and some of the most impressive scenery in Africa.

A mountainous nation on the east African plateau, it offers a wealth of nature and trekking opportunities. The country is landlocked and borders Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

Uganda has a population of just under 25 million and a generally pleasant tropical climate. The official languages of the country are English and Swahili and the country is home to around 40 different ethnic group, with no single group dominating.

Inhabited for thousands of years by early hunter gatherers related to the modern western Ugandan pygmies, Bantu settlers arrived around 2,000 years ago, followed by Nilotic people. The country developed a complex social order that led to the development of centralised kingdoms.

Arab traders reached the area that is now Uganda in the early 1800s, followed by British explorers seeking the source of the Nile and Christian missionaries from the 1860s. The region was placed under the control of the British East Africa Country in 1888 and the British Empire, as a protectorate, from 1894.

Uganda gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963 and is named after the old Buganda kingdom, located in the south. From 1966 when prime minister Milton Obote declared himself president, the country witnessed a series of bloody coups that lasted until the 1980s and saw despotic dictator Idi Amin terrorise the nation.

The Republic of Uganda is a democratic multi-party democracy and has one of Africa's most rapidly growing economies. Although it has been heavily affected by the Aids epidemic, it is working hard to develop its place on the global stage, target the disease effectively and increase its stability.

The modern capital, Kampala, is a busy city that is starting to bounce back from years of civil war and oppression. An optimistic, vibrant place to visit, it has a number of good hotels, nightclubs, shops and restaurants and is safe and pleasant to walk around.

Part of the vast Lake Victoria is in Uganda, with numerous islands dotted around the expanse, pretty peninsulas, fishing villages and swampy bays. Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary covers around 100 acres and is open to visitors year round, with overnight stays available.

The lakeside town of Jinja is a pleasant old mix of Asian architecture and indigenous buildings. The town has a sizeable Asian population and is one of the places that Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi chose to have his ashes scattered.

The other large lakes, Albert, Kyoga and Edward, are also worth paying a visit, offering dramatic views across the mountains, interesting bird and animal life and an array of activities.

Mountain gorillas are found in dense forests along the Rift Valley along the between Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is one of the few places the endangered gorillas can still be seen in the wild.

The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is home to more than 137 species of exotic bird and offers guided walks and a helpful visitors' centre, while the spectacular Sipi Falls are particularly popular with tourists.

The diverse ethnic populations of Uganda give it a particularly rich cultural life, with music, dance, song, art, handicrafts, theatre and other traditions of great importance. Local markets are a must see during a visit to the country, with all kinds of colourful wares and food on offer.

Kampala is served by an international airport, though there are still few flights available directly to the Ugandan capital. Many travellers choose to fly from Europe to neighbouring countries like Kenya and Tanzania.