Uganda: Chimps, Treks and Parties in Fort Portal

Fort Portal is fuuuun, and it is ideally located to enjoy some of the best activities Uganda has to offer. If you are travelling the country, a stopover is an absolute must.

Fort Portal is a paradise for travellers, a crossroad town in Uganda among amazing greenery, where you can meet long and short term tourists, a small community of foreigners living and working in the country, and also find a super nice vibe if you are in the mood for a few drinks and a night of wild dancing.

The view from the garden of the hostel where I was staying

People around here are very friendly, and mingling with the locals has never been easier. Don’t be worried if you often hear a Muzungu thrown in your direction, it’s just a friendly way to start a conversation or ask a question, and it means a wanderer, or a white person that travels. If you stay long enough, you might even get your own pet name in the local language, which is apparently a must-have for all inhabitants. 

Fort Portal is an important crossroad for good reasons. The town is ideally located close to several national parks, and to enjoy some of the best of Uganda’s nature and activities.

A chimp in Kibale National Park looking at me while resting on a tree branch

My highlight was Kibale National Park, where it’s possible to see chimpanzees. You go tracking them in small groups of 5 or 6 people with a guide, and it seems that our closest relatives are not bothered here, and behave very naturally. We observed a family of 30 individuals for about an hour and a half from so close we could grab their hands sometimes. It’s really an emotional experience, a must do in my opinion, although the trip is not cheap, 150 USD just for the permits.

From Fort Portal you can also visit famous Queen Elisabeth National Park for some game drives, but I haven’t been there yet. Instead, I went for a day trek to the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, right at the border with Congo. That was a huge mistake!

Me taking a break during the trek at Rwenzori National Park

Don’t get me wrong, the place is amazing. The mistake was not to go for a multiple-day trek, at least three days are needed to get to see the only snow-capped mountain range on the equator. Indeed, the range is covered with glaciers, and Margherita Peak, the highest point, reaches a staggering 5,109 m., the third-highest in the continent, but the only one without a volcanic origin. It takes seven days to actually climb to the peak. Who knows, perhaps one day…

But we’re not done yet. From Fort Portal, you can go visit Semuliki Wildlife Reserve and Lake Albert or you can choose to spend a relaxing afternoon or two visiting one of the scenic crater lakes in the surrounding area, with all their variety of birds and monkeys. I just went to see one, where one of those high-end lodges offer a breathtaking view of the whole lake. 

A crater lake just a few minutes out of Fort Portal. It’s always possible to go for walks around the lake.

Nope, I did not sleep there, just went for a drink, I’m a backpacker after all, and in town there are clean, comfy and low-cost accommodations. Anyways,  it’s hard to beat the range of opportunities for sport, fun and wildlife spotting this Ugandan town offers.

What can I say? Don’t miss it. And that’s 500 words, let’s go! 


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