In this blog post, uncover all the Best Places to Visit in Fort Portal and nearby. Situated at the base of the snow-capped Mountains of the Moon (Rwenzori Mountains), Fort Portal is one of most beautiful areas you can visit during your Uganda safaris.
The town was named after Sir Gerald Portal, the British Consul General in Zanzibar and the fort that was built in the late 1800s to protect the Tooro Kingdom against King Kabalega of Bunyoro and his persistent guerrilla raids. Today, the fort no longer stands, but this dynamic and friendly town is indeed a great portal to numerous tourist attractions in Western Uganda.
Here you can explore the tranquil crater lakes, visit the iconic Amabere Caves-believed to be the ancient home of the legendary Bachwezi gods, track wild chimpanzees on foot in Kibale Forest, take a wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth Park or drop into Semuliki Valley with its hot springs and central African wildlife, while all the time having the pleasant hotels of Fort Portal to return to afterward.
Best Places to Visit in Fort Portal & Nearby:
Take a break from your daily work life and plan a refreshing tour from the list of Best Places and Tourist Attractions to Visit in Fort Portal and nearby. Whether you are a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or a culture lover, Fort Portal has something for everyone. So join us on this journey and uncover all the best places to visit in Fort Portal.
1. Amabeere Ga Nyinamwiru Caves
The hike to the Amabere Caves is one of the most popular trails in Fort Portal. The caves have appeared in many ancient Ugandan folklore tales. They are situated about 5km west of Fort Portal and are considered to be the reputable birthplace of the founding King of the Empire of Kitara that covered DR of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.
The Caves are named after the live stalactite formation Amabere Ga Nyinamwiru (literally, Breasts of Nyinamwiru), which supposedly resemble the twin breasts of a woman. The woman in question is Nyinamwiru, a legendary princess who would most likely live in the 14th century and is said to have been so beautiful that no man could leave her alone.
When Nyinamwiru’s father King Bukuku became weary of receiving marital requests from unsuitable suitors, he took the extreme measure of cutting off his daughter’s breasts to make her less attractive.
But even this proved to be insufficient to deter Nyinamwiru’s many admirers, so the king hid her away in the cave now known as Amabere. Here, she was discovered by the Batembuzi King Isaza, who impregnated her with a son. Since Nyinamwiru lacked breasts herself, she stayed on in the cave with her baby, feeding him on the cloudy limestone ‘milk’ that drips from its stalactites.
The child nurtured by the stalactite formation would grow up to become king Ndahura, founder of the Bachwezi dynasty that ruled over the Bunyoro Kitara Empire centuries ago.
2. Crater Lakes
From Amabere Ga Nyimwiru Caves, you can also take a scenic hike to the top of the Nyakasura hill which offers spectacular views of three beautiful crater lakes.
Fort Portal is a situated in the Crater Lake District and the area has over 40 crater lakes that are a wonder to explore. You can as well visit the marking of a large foot in the area believed to belong to one of the last Batembuzi dynasty people who were giants. Make sure that you have plenty of water, good shoes, insect repellent, sunscreen and long trousers.
3. Tooro King’s Palace
Tooro is the youngest kingdom in Uganda. It shares the same roots as that of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom up until the 1820s when a renegade prince of Bunyoro established the new Kingdom of Tooro. For this reason, the two kingdoms share almost identical cultures and traditions.
Fort Portal is the cultural centre and official seat of the kingdom and the Tooro Palace is the residence of Toro’s King Oyo, who ascended the throne in 1995 at the age of three.
The palace is perched on a Karuzika hill that offers 360-degree panoramic views of the town. A visit here also offers an opportunity to learn about the history of the kingdom and the cultural ceremonies that take place here, but you can’t go inside.
4. Karambi Royal Tombs
These royal tombs, 4km south of Fort Portal town, make for a peaceful excursion.
While from outside it is not much to look at, if you can find the caretaker he will let you in for a look at the tombs, which house drums, spears and other personal effects of several of the Toro kings (Kyebambe Kamurasi, Olumi Kaboyo II and Rukidi III) who are buried here. The cemetery outside is the resting place for various other royal family members.
5. Kibale Forest National Park
Fort Portal is situated just 30 minutes away from Kibale Forest National Park. This 776 km2 lush tropical rainforest is home to the highest density and diversity of primates in Africa.
With approximately 1500 chimpanzees, it is most famous for being one of the best places in the world to track wild chimpanzees. It is home to 13 primate species, with the rare red colobus, L’Hoest’s monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and Black and white colobus the other highlights.
There are also an incredible 375 species of birds that live here. Not surprisingly, the two key activities that are done in Kibale are Chimpanzee tracking and bird watching.
6. Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary
Bigodi Wetlands is located on the fringes of Kibale Forest. It is located just under an hour drive from Fort Portal. The wetland sanctuary is one of the leading examples of community-based approaches in preserving a natural resource which offers an alternative source of income for local residents.
It is managed by KAFRED (The Kibale Association for Rural and Environmental Development), an award winning Community Based Organization (CBO). KAFRED protects the 4km2 wetland by providing 3-hour guided walks in the area. The Swamp is home to about 200 species of birds, 8 species of primates and a variety of butterflies.
Also income generated from the nature walks helps in advancing health, education and economic growth in the wider local community. Other activities available include village walks and basket-weaving demonstrations, dance and drama performances, and fun interpretive meals.
7. Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is located in the very beautiful Semliki Valley, just under an hour from Fort Portal. The park is a little corner of Congo poking into Uganda.
It contains the only true tropical lowland rainforest in East Africa. And it is a continuation of the Great Ituri Forest in the DR Congo and forms a link between the heights of East Africa and the vast, steaming jungles of central Africa.
Semuliki covers around 220km2 of the valley floor and habours astonishing combination of weird, wonderful, endemic, and unusual wild creatures, though sightings are difficult due to the thick vegetation. It is most famous for its superb birding and primordial hot springs that are so hot that they can hard boil an egg in 10 minutes.
8. Semliki Wildlife Reserve
Also situated in the Semuliki Valley, Semliki Wildlife Reserve is Uganda’s oldest wildlife reserve.
It is a quieter reserve and visitors can likely enjoy the reserve’s wildlife without contending with other safari vehicles. The reserve is home to elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob. Semliki Safari Lodge runs boat cruises on Lake Albert to see the elusive and critically endangered shoebill stork. Chimpanzee treks are available here.
These chimps are less habituated than those of y Kibale Forest, but the chimpanzees in this reserve are of particular interest to the scientists of Indiana University’s Semliki Chimpanzee Project, as they survive in an unusually arid habitat.
Also the light forest cover here means that chimpanzee sightings tend to be clearer and the chimps here also frequently venture out into open savannah, where they are more likely to walk upright. If you are lucky enough to witness this then you’ll really feel as if you are watching animal evolving into man.
9. Queen Elizabeth National Park
And excursion can depart at 6 am and return to Fort Portal at 3 pm. Whole in the park, you will likely spend the morning on a game drive, observing the several species of wildlife present in the park, including lions, elephants, antelopes, leopards, and buffalos.
You can enjoy a picnic lunch under the shade of an Acacia tree and then embark on an afternoon boat cruise Kazinga Channel which is home to the world’s highest concentration of hippos, many crocodiles and countless waterbirds. The channel also attracts animals like elephants and buffaloes, especially in the dry season, when water is scarcer in the park.
10. Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The legendary, mist-covered Rwenzori Mountains were named a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994 because of their incredible beauty and biodiversity. It is the tallest mountain range in African and has several of the peaks are permanently covered by snow.
The range stretches for about 120km-long and 65km-wide and is a haven for an extraordinary number of rare plants and animals, and new examples of both are still being discovered. They are famed for being able to cater for casual walkers to technical climbers.
The Rwenzoris are presumed to be the Mountains of the Moon, described in AD 150, by Greek Geographer called Ptolemy, who proclaimed them to be the source of the Nile River.
They were placed on the map on 24th May 1888 by the British explorer Henry Stanley, who also named them ‘Ruwenzori’, a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”
Best Places To Stay During your Tour of Fort Portal
1. Kluges Guest House Farm
Kluges Guest Farm is located south of Fort Portal and just a few kilometers off the Fort Portal to Kasese highway. It is one the best eco-lodges in Fort Portal.
The lodge has 8 bungalows and 2 large family cottages with a total of 12 double / twin rooms featuring en-suite amenities to international standards. Also, the lodge locale is complemented by one of the most advanced camping facilities in Uganda. And all that marvel is situated on 70 acres of tropical forest and extensive botanical gardens.
It has a swimming pool, a shaded outside seating area, and a restaurant and bar serving an à la carte menu which are the perfect ways to wind down on a hot Ugandan afternoon.
2. Kyaninga Lodge
The stunning Kyaninga Lodge is located about 10km northeast of Fort Portal. It features 8 epic thatched-roofed log cabins that soar high upon stilts. Joined by a wooden walking platform, they are a spectacular sight – as are the views over Kyaninga Crater Lake.
The log cabins are spacious and private, with gleaming wooden floors and bathrooms with claw-foot baths, glass showers and marble countertops. The restaurant also has amazing views, both from the outdoor deck and in the cosy Nepali teahouse–like restaurant. It’s popular with non-guests for lunch. There’s a swimming pool and sundeck too.
3. Mountains of the Moon Hotel
Mountains of the Moon Hotel is located within walking distance from Fort Portal town. With its classic country-club feel, the hotel is a stately resort that features 33 comfortable and well-equipped rooms. The rooms are set among peaceful, well-maintained grounds. The hotel is the fanciest address in town. Grounds are extensive and lush. There is a pool, gym, sauna and steamroom in addition to a decent restaurant and lively bar.
4. The Dutchess boutique Hotel & Restaurant
The Dutchess boutique Hotel & Restaurant in Fort Portal offers great-value boutique rooms with plenty of flair, big beds, couches, power adaptors and safes for laptops. Sadly, the hotel has a few rooms, so it is a good idea that you book ahead if you want to stay here. The excellent downstairs restaurant is another reason to stay at the Dutchess, as is its central location.
5. Ruwenzori View Guesthouse
Ruwenzori View Guesthouse is situated in the green outskirts of Fort Portal. This blissful little guesthouse managed by a Dutch-Anglo couple has a pleasingly rural and homely atmosphere. Rooms with attached bathrooms have private patios overlooking the superb garden and Rwenzori-mountain backdrop. Rates include a hearty breakfast, while its social dinners is served around the family table are an institution (nonguests welcome).
Best Time To Visit Fort Portal
The best time to go for a tour in Fort Portal is during the dry season months; December to February and June to early September. This is considered the best time to go for the nearby safari activities like chimpanzee trekking, hiking and nature walks because the trails are less slippery and you are less likely to be affected by rainfall
Going to Fort Portal for a tour in the dry season can also increase your chances of seeing more wild animals if you plan on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park, as they will be in search of water and more likely to congregate around water sources.
How To Get To Fort Portal?
Fort Portal is approximately 300 Km by road from Kampala city and takes about 4 hours to arrive. From Mbarara city, it is a shorter 146 Km and takes 2-3 hours to drive.
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