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If you fly to Uganda, your safari adventure begins in the town of Entebbe. However, this relaxed town on the beautiful shores of Lake Victoria is much more than just the overnight stop from which you travel to the national parks of UgandaIt is an ideal place to recover from the outward journey, but is also the perfect base for relaxing on the water, eating fresh fish in one of the many restaurants, shopping for souvenirs or a tropical extension on the Ssese Islands. It is ideal for travelers who want to end their Uganda safari in a relaxing way or want to start it quietly.

Things to do in Entebbe

Did You Know?

Entebbe International Airport was the scene of the Operation Entebbe, a famous hostage rescue mission carried out by commandos of the Israel Defense Forces on 4 July 1976. On 27 June, an Air France Airbus with 248 passengers had been hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The hijackers had the stated objective to free 40 Palestinian imprisoned in Israel in exchange for the hostages. The flight, which had originated in Tel Aviv with the destination of Paris, was diverted after a stopover in Athens via Benghazi to Entebbe Airport. The Ugandan government under Dictator Idi Amin supported the hijackers and welcomed them. After moving all hostages from the aircraft to the airport building, the hijackers separated all Israelis and several non-Israeli Jews from the larger group and forced them into a separate room.

Over the following 2 days, non-Israeli hostages were released and flown out to Paris. 94 Israeli passengers and 12-member Air France crew remained as hostages and the hijackers threatened to kill them if their prisoner release demands were not met. This threat led to the planning of the rescue operation that took place at night. Israeli planes carried 100 commandos over 4,000 km to Uganda for the mission.

The operation, which took a week of planning, lasted 90 minutes. Of the 106 remaining hostages, 102 were rescued and 3 were killed. 5 Israeli commandos were wounded and one, unit commander. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, was killed. Netanyahu was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, who would later become Prime Minister of Israel. All the hijackers and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed.

Things To Do In Entebbe

This list of things to do in Entebbe covers a wide variety of options. Whatever your interests, we think you will find something to enjoy in this corner of Uganda.

1. Visit The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre

Things to do in Entebbe

Often referred to as Entebbe Zoo, the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center (UWEC) is a fantastic place to see the diverse animals of Uganda and the ecosystems they live in, and learn about how they live, eat, play and behave. UWEC was originally established in 1950 to care for seized and injured wildlife. Nowadays, UWEC is mainly concerned with information and nature education.

With the incomes from tourism activities, they offer many educational projects (school trips) for local schools, to involve the youngest generation in nature conservation and animal welfare. There are several activities you can do in the center that generate income for the center; including

  • Behind The Scenes Experience; under the guidance of the zookeepers of the UWEC, you’ll receive explanations about the care of the animals and be given the opportunity to meet and feed the animals such as giraffes, elephants, rhinos, tigers, zebras, lions, leopards, crocodiles, etc. You will learn how the health of the animals is monitored, what behavior the animals exhibit and how to report this. It is a very educational and interesting experience for young and old!
  • Chimpanzee Close-Up Experience: This is a great experience for people who love primates. UWEC is inhabited by traumatized chimpanzees. Here you can take a walk with the chimpanzees in a protected nature reserve. Some chimps will grab your hand or even climb on your back!! It is a special and rare experience where you make physical contact with the chimpanzees.

2. Explore Entebbe Botanical Gardens

Things to do in Entebbe

Found on the shores of Lake Victoria Entebbe, Botanical Gardens is a lakeside paradise of blooms, lush vegetation, gnarled old trees native to Uganda, birds, and troops of stunning colobus monkeys. 

The gardens were designed in 1898 when Uganda was still under colonial rule and are laid out in different zones. They are a lovely spot for a relaxing stroll. One of the gardens most amazing areas is the ancient rainforest zone, which is so perfectly wild and jungly that it was used in the 1940s as a location for the original Tarzan movie and you can see why! Walk along the unpaved paths and look for hornbills, turacos, kingfishers, sunbirds, and colobus monkeys, among other things. 

The gardens are also the habitat of marabou storks, the characteristic storks that were massively poisoned and cleared away due to their unattractive appearance prior to a state visit by the British Queen Elizabeth in 2007. A visit to a Ugandan city is not complete without seeing the marabou stork! 

If you come to the national botanical gardens in November, you have a chance to experience the Milege Music Festival, organized by a Ugandan Afrojazz band.

3. Watch Shoebill Birds in Mabamba Swamp

Things to do in Entebbe

Birders can enjoy the presence of a variety of feathered animals in Uganda.

One of the most special birds of Uganda is undoubtedly the Shoebill. This prehistoric-looking bird is indeed so different, with a huge, yellow, human-like eyes and that massive bill that looks like a shoe.

Only a few thousand shoebill storks remain in East and Central Africa, including Mabamba Swamp which is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda. Mabamba Swamp is accessible by motorboat from Entebbe and, in addition to seeing the endangered shoebills, also offers you the opportunity to spot numerous other water birds.

4. Meet Orphaned Chimps at Ngamba Island

Things to do in Entebbe

Many people visit Uganda to see wild chimpanzees, normally as part of long Uganda safaris. But, if you’re only in Uganda for a short period of time, it is not always possible to do a trek for wild chimpanzees as there are no trekking locations within a short distance from Entebbe. The good news, however, is that you don’t need to do a full chimpanzee trekking experience to see chimpanzees in Uganda.

You can instead opt to visit the chimpanzees at the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Ngamba is found in Lake Victoria, and is home to 52 orphaned chimpanzees. The island can be reached by boat (by either motorized canoe or speedboat) from Entebbe, and there are various trips available. You can go for a half day or full day, as well as stay overnight on the island if you have more time.

5. Boat Cruise On Lake Victoria

Why not treat yourself to a boat cruise on world’s largest tropical lake? With a surface area of just under 70,000 km, Lake Victoria is also the largest lake in Africa. The lake is locally known as Naluubale, but the English name comes from the British explore John Speke who named it after Queen Victoria. Entebbe was created by the presence of this lake, which shares its Ugandan waters with Tanzania and Kenya.

Lake Victoria guarantees an unparalleled sunset that makes the water sparkle in orange light, which is best experienced from a boat. In addition to this sunset boat cruise, there is a special cheese and wine cruise for foodies; an ideal moment to toast the end of a successful trip!

6. Sport Fishing On Lake Victoria

Things to do in Entebbe

Lake Victoria provides the livelihood for many locals, primarily through fishing.

Much of the fish you’re likely to eat in Uganda is either going to come from Lake Victoria, or the Nile River– the world’s longest river – which flows in and out of it. Lake Victoria offers the opportunity for hooking one of the world’s largest fresh water fish – the Nile Perch.

The Nile Perch was introduced to Lake Victoria in the 1950s and has since been fished commercially. Its introduction was ecologically disruptive and is attributed with causing the extinction or near-extinction of several hundred native species. It has distinctive dark-black eyes, with a bright-yellow outer ring. It reaches a maximum length of nearly 6 feet, weighing up to 200 kilograms.

You can have a half and full day fishing excursions in a fantastic location, in the middle of Lake Victoria. Sport fishing is a relaxing and soothing activity and a welcome change from the bumpy safaris. Fishing is done from a boat and you will be surrounded by birds, animals and silence.

7. Visit Gorilla Conservation Cafe

Things to do in Entebbe

Gorilla Conservation Cafe is located on Plot 13 Portal Road in Entebbe. It was established in partnership with award-winning Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH). The cafe serves excellent Ugandan third-wave coffee with proceeds going towards conservation of the Ugandan mountain gorilla population in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. Send a gift of Gorilla Conservation Coffee to show your love of the mountain gorillas in Bwindi. Buy single-origin, 100% Arabica from Uganda!

The coffee blend is named after Kanyonyi (RIP), the legendary silverback gorilla from of Bwindi Gorilla Families called Mubare. Keep his memory alive by visiting the Gorilla Conservation Cafe in Entebbe or buying coffee at numerous outlets across Uganda or online. You can order a fresh coffee or buy coffee beans to drink at home. Coffee is a great gift or souvenir too!

Gorilla Conservation Coffee is a social enterprise that buys the coffee of farmers – who live adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – at a premium price and gives a donation to sustain the critical health and conservation work of Conservation Through Public Health. Gorilla Conservation Coffee trains coffee farmers to improve their coffee quality and increase production yield. Helping farmers protect the forests and thus protect and conserve Ugandan mountain gorillas.

8. Relax on one of Entebbe Beaches

Things to do in Entebbe

Entebbe sits on the shores of Lake Victoria, and there are a number of stretches of beach that can be found all along the lake. You can enjoy a stroll along the shore side; sit on the beaches, and watching the birds. Maribou storks, little egrets, cattle egrets, and pied kingfisher are common birds you’ll see along the shore. You can also enjoy the beach views from a nice beachfront hotel, restaurant or bar, and enjoy the cool breeze coming over the lake as you sip a fresh glass of fruit juice or a fresh Nile Perch. 

If you like aviation, you may want to head over to Aero Beach where you will find a small collection of old airplanes and aviation equipment next to the beach area as well as a restaurant and bar. There’s also usually music and it’s a popular place for locals to come and hang out and swim as well.

9. Take A Walking Tour of Entebbe Town

A great way to get an overview of Entebbe town is to take a locally led walking tour.

It is one of the best ways to see the Entebbe highlights, learn about the culture and history, and get tips from locals on other activities. On the tour, you will take leisurely stroll through Uganda’s first capital, hear about the colonial history, check out some top tourist spots, the craft market, and grab lunch at the best street food locations.

Entebbe”, means a seat” in the local Luganda language and was possibly named that because it was the place where the Buganda chief of Buganda Kingdom sat to adjudicate legal cases. Entebbe first became a British colonial administrative and commercial center in 1893 when Sir Gerald Portal, a colonial Commissioner, used it as a base.

10. Shop At A Local Market

Kitooro Market in Entebbe is a fascinating place. A if you’re looking for local handicrafts and other souvenirs in a market setting, head for Entebbe Craft Village, which is reportedly the largest arts and craft retailer in Uganda. You’ll find items such as soapstone plates and ornaments, wood carvings, jewellery, clothing and bags made from colourful African fabrics, decorative tableware, place mats, sandals, oil and acrylic paintings, and original batiks. All prices are negotiable. 

You can also visit the Victoria Mall, a popular tourist stop. It was opened in 2013 and it is a good place to stop if you need to buy anything for your Uganda tripThere is also an ATM, a place to buy SIM cards (Airtel), and a Forex money exchange office. It’s a great place to pick up groceries or snacks, exchange currency, or buy any last-minute needed clothing, hiking, or camping stuff.

11. Relaxing On Ssese Islands

Things to do in Entebbe

The Ssese are a group of islands in Lake Victoria that consists of no fewer than 84 islands.

The small islands are not inhabited, but the larger islands such as Bugala and Bulago Island are suitable to stay after an intense safari through Uganda. Bulago Island is the closest to Entebbe and is easily accessible by a short boat transfer.

The area is wooded and green and has a tropical appearance due to the palm trees on the beach. Fishing is the main source of income for the local population. Because the islands are so densely forested, you will find a wide range of bird species, no less than 300!

Where To Stay In Entebbe?