10 Packing List Essentials for a Safari in Uganda if You're a City Person

Gaiter-clad legs in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda
I've written a lot about our safari in Uganda over the last few weeks. We're naturally city people and thus are most comfortable trekking on the sidewalks of European capitals. For our 20th wedding anniversary, we decided to take a once in a lifetime trip to East Africa to see Uganda's mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, and over 1000 species of birds with our own eyes. Looking back, here are some packing list essentials for a safari in Uganda that will make you feel more comfortable and at home even if you are feeling totally out of your usual urban element.

1. Sturdy Hiking Shoes

The most important investment for your safari in Uganda is a sturdy pair of hiking boots. I bought KEEN Women's Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Boot and broke them in over a 2 week period in Ireland before embarking on our East African adventure. I like KEEN because the toe box tends to be extra wide thus limiting pinching. The boot also offered sturdy ankle support to ensure we kept our footing on tough terrain.

2. Insect Proof Clothing

Even though Uganda is on the equator, there were surprisingly few bugs in most places due to the country's elevation. However, we found insect proof clothing was helpful for hot and humid days in Entebbe and for protecting against creepy crawlies when crashing through the brush to follow chimpanzees. I like Craghopper's Nosilife trousers. I also exclusively wore long-sleeved shirts (some infused with insect repellent) to protect my skin from both bugs and thorny brush.

3. Rechargeable Flashlight/Torch and a Lantern

The lodges in Uganda are often remote and dark which can be unnerving for city folks used to constant light and sound. In many cases, the accommodation is powered by solar energy which means there is limited light at night. When there is no solar, generators are often turned down overnight while people are sleeping. With this in mind, make sure to bring a strong lantern and torch.

We brought a couple of flashlights with us but found that the light they cast was still not enough to keep us from feeling claustrophobic at night in our tent. We were fortunate to find a strong lantern in a local grocery store in Kabale, a mid-sized town on the road between Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Don't leave this to chance, however, and make sure you have enough sources of light, preferably with solar or hand-crank charging. 
  

4. A Local SIM Card

It didn't occur to us until we were tucked away in the Kibale Forest Lodge that we were really far away from the nearest urban center. We were in a forest alive with monkeys, elephants, and other creatures. If something went wrong or one of us got sick, we didn't have an easy way to get in touch with anyone other than to run out of our tent for help. This was an unnerving prospect in the dark. After this realization, we asked our guide to stop in a town and help us procure a local SIM card for our phones.

We knew that a local SIM could come in handy if we needed to call for help in the middle of the night (we immediately programmed our guide Geoffrey's number into our phone). We also knew it could be helpful if the car broke down. I know I was extremely thankful to have our local Uganda SIM card when we were sitting in a leaky boat in the middle of Lake Victoria with the sun setting fast and the outboard motor was struggling to start up. I was able to keep calm by reassuring myself that we could call for help if needed.

We never needed to use the SIM to call for help but it was incredibly reassuring to know we could easily use our phones if needed. We also opted for a data plan which reassured us further since we knew we could look stuff up if we weren't feeling well or ran into trouble in Uganda.

5. Gaiters for Hiking

Tracking Uganda's famous mountain gorillas or going on a chimpanzee habituation trek are strenuous hikes through dense vegetation. We went back and forth on whether to bring gaiters (knee-high waterproof coverings for our boots and trousers). In the end, we bought them and the gaiters turned out to be one of our most useful pieces of kit on the trip. Gaiters help protect you from fire ants that you may encounter on the trail. They also keep your trousers dry and clean. When you get back to the lodge, gaiters are relatively easy to clean before the next hike. 

6. Lots of DEET-based Insect Repellent

There were definitely fewer mosquitos in many parts of Uganda (Entebbe was the notable exception) than we were expecting. However, I felt better knowing that I was protected from insects potentially carrying malaria, Dengue fever or other maladies. Better safe than sorry was our mantra. We brought a 50% DEET spray which we applied each day before getting dressed. We also brought DEET wipes to top up our protection after sweaty hikes. Even at night, I felt better under my mosquito net with a citronella wrist band as an added layer to keep the bugs at bay.
  

7. Hand Sanitizer and Wipes

There may be times where toilets and running water are not available in Uganda. We brought a copious amount of hand sanitizer with us for these occasions. We recommend bringing a combination of hand sanitizer gel and wipes.

In the Bush Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the eco-toilet was inside our tent but the sink and shower were adjacent to our tent but nonetheless outside. Granted, the area was surrounded by a 5 foot fence but after hearing hippos grunting nearby on their way from the Kazinga Channel to their nightly feeding grounds, there was no way I was going outside in the middle of the night to wash my hands. The hand sanitizer and wipes came in extremely handy in this situation.

8. Collapsible Day Pack

Both of us brought backpacks on the trip but we also found that it was useful to bring a collapsible day bag. We found one that functioned as a bumbag (aka a fanny pack to my American readers) for days when we had porters to help with our backpacks. The pack expanded into a backpack on days with less strenuous hikes planned.

9. Quick Dry Socks and Underwear

It's a good idea to pack light on a trip to Uganda. We changed lodges every 1-2 nights. We also learned that having laundry done is generally possible but it's taboo to send out undergarments to be washed; you're on your own here. We brought a few pairs of quick drying underwear and socks and washed them in the sink at Birdnest @ Bunyonyi a lodge with a larger in-room basin and running water. 

10. A First Aid/Medical Kit

It's also a good idea to bring a first aid and medical kit to Uganda. We brought a variety of medicines to treat headaches, stomachaches and diarrhea. We even brought a nose spray purported to stop colds in their tracks (Boots Dual Defence) since we knew we wouldn't be able to go trekking with the chimps and gorillas if we were sick.

A first aid kit is also incredible useful for minor injuries on the trip. I tripped and twisted my ankle the day before we were supposed to visit Uganda's mountain gorillas. I didn't have a compression bandage with me (we had to stop in Kabale to get one) but I wish I had packed one. My husband, Scott, also jammed his toe on a vine on the gorilla trek. Our guide Geoffrey gave us a jar of balm with the consistency of vaseline that smelled like menthol. It worked amazingly well on both his toe and my ankle.

We also recommend making sure that your first aid kit has a tick remover. At one of the lodges, a fellow guest complained that they'd found seven ticks on their chest. They hypothesized that the ticks got into the sports bra that she had left on the floor. We had to use our tick remover once for a small creepy crawly that had gotten into my hair. Using my local SIM, I discovered that it wasn't a tick but the tick remover was definitely helpful for getting it off of me! The moral of the story is: be prepared for anything.

A trip to Uganda is a once in a lifetime experience. Even if you're a city person like us, it is possible to make yourself comfortable and less anxious on the trip. Make sure to plan ahead and pack the essentials to ensure a stress-free and enjoyable trip to East Africa.

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Ten Packing List Essentials for a Safari in Uganda if You Are a City Person

More Sidewalk Safari Travel Blog Posts About Our Trip to UgandaTracking Uganda's Nkuringo Family of Mountain Gorillas: Hiking the Path Less TraveledIn Search of Shoebill Storks in Mabamba Swamp: Uganda's Ultimate Birdwatching DestinationUganda's Bird Whisperer of Bigodi Wetlands SanctuaryWhat It's Like to Spend the Day On A Chimpanzee Habituation Trek in Uganda's Kibale ForestA Boat Cruise on Uganda's Kazinga Channel: Hippos and Elephants and Crocodiles, Oh MyThings to Do In and Around Entebbe Airport in UgandaThe Birds of East Africa: Why Uganda is a Birdwatchers Paradise10 Packing List Essentials for a Safari in Uganda if You're a City PersonWhy Uganda is the Coolest Safari Destination in East Africa: So Much More Than Just The Big 5

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Sidewalk Safari: 10 Packing List Essentials for a Safari in Uganda if You're a City Person
10 Packing List Essentials for a Safari in Uganda if You're a City Person
Find out what to bring on a safari trip to Uganda if you are a city person. Practical tips from travel blogger, Jennifer (aka Dr. J) from Sidewalk Safari.
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