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5 Landmarks to See in Uganda

Looking to taking a safari in Uganda? There are several monuments, natural wonders and cultural icons around the country.  Here are some of the best monuments and wonders that will make you get connected to the country. You can choose to include some of these into your Uganda safari itinerary and experience the very best of the country.

1. Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls are the most famous to foreign visitors with a spectacular to behold with the resounding roar through the rocks carved between Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga in the Albertine region on the White Nile. This is the major attraction in Murchison Falls National Park no wonder its where the park derives its name. The 43-metre-high and 7 meters wide Waterfalls share their name with the Murchison Falls National Park that is located in the northwestern part of Uganda. The falls have tumbled into the Victoria Nile around the rocks and have several bird species that live around it making it a generally good destination for both bird watchers and other water related sport activities. You can access the falls through the National park that has several lodges within and outside the park.

Not only is Murchison Falls famous for its height which is just 40m but also for its power. The Nile explodes violently through a narrow 6m gorge and upstream, the Victoria Nile hurtles through the rift’s hinterland down an explosive 80km of rapids that rafters consider one of the world’s scariest sections of white water, but provide a unique exhilarating experience. However, the most dramatic and interesting view of the water fall is found at top of the falls where the sight and sound of the Nile crashing through the 6m wide chasm is an unforgettable on the senses of the tourist.

2. Sezibwa Falls

Sezibwa was derived from the Luganda word “sizibwa kkubo”, which is translated as “my path cannot be blocked”. In local legend, the Sezibwa and Bwanda rivers were born as twins from a woman known as Nakkungu Tebatuusa. The Bwanda River flowed East towards the mother’s village but the Sezibwa River cut its own path and flowed West. On doing so, it passed a number of difficult obstacles hence its name. The Sezibwa Falls are approximately 20 miles east of Kampala- Jinja Highway. The site is a Buganda Heritage Site thought to be a powerful place where many go for blessings. It is marked with an out-span of sharp-edged rocks and the magnificent sound of soothing waters flowing down the steep ridged stones.

The River starts from the wetlands between Lake Victoria and Lake Kyoga west of the Victoria and flows in a general north direction into Lake Kyoga. The source of River Sezibwa is located in Buikwe district, near the town of Ngogwe. River Sezibwa enters Lake Kyoga in Kayunga District near the town of Galilaya. The length of this River is approximately 150 kilometres from source to end.

The falls are 7 metres high and the harmony of bird songs above the trees creates beautiful scenery for relaxation and enjoyment. Rock climbing and Bird watching are the main activities at the site. Geologists and other Scientists also visit the site for research purposes. Wildlife in the surrounding forest includes bush monkeys, red tailed monkeys and other primates.

The part that surrounds the falls is large, green and full of trails. For nature lovers, there are hikes along the river. These cut through dense and often muddy forests so it’s advisable to wear decent hiking shoes. A much-loved spot for bird watchers, the paths hosts all sorts of animals, most notably the bush and red-tailed monkeys.

For those that crave a little more excitement, there are walks that go up to and then over the falls. You cross right above the torrent of water cascading down a seven-meter drop. Further along you will find rock climbing and a number of geologic structures. If Earth Science is your thing, you will find plenty to gawk with large rock outcrops carved out by the river. In fact, the area is quite popular with geologists, so it’s common to see teams of scientists out collecting data from there. Nature walks and visits to sugar plantations and tea estates are just a number of options they have available.

To get to Sezibwa Falls, you simply take the Jinja-Kampala Road. The Falls are located in Mukono District about 30-60 minutes’ drive east of the city, depending on traffic. When you start seeing signs for sugar plantations everywhere, you are getting close. When you reach the Kayanja Trading Center turn right down the dirt road. You will go down this road for about 1.5km and you will come to a gate.

3. The Uganda Equator

Uganda is one of the few countries in the world where the imaginary line that divides the earth into two halves passes. The equator is an imaginary line that is seen on maps marking the equidistant from the North and South pole. At this point, there are two cement circles marking the equator line. Being located in Kayabwe, Mpigi district about 72 kilometers, you will find the poster for the Uganda Equator along Kampala- Masaka road 40 km from Kampala.

It is one of the most well- known landmarks in Uganda. Along the imaginary line of the equator, a magnetic needle like found on compass has no dip and stabilizes in perfect horizontal position. You are able to stand with one of your feet in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere at this point. For sure, it is such an amazing experience to stand at both sides of the world. The sun rises and falls rather so fast at the equator with equal number of hours in day and night time. The people around the equator experience only warm temperatures and tropical climate throughout the year and therefore quite difficult to tell the difference between seasons. In other words, the climate is constant throughout the year making it a pleasant place to visit. Water runs down in sinks clockwise in the Northern hemisphere and counter clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere.

It is at the equator where you will see water drain straight down. The movement and drainage of water will differ from the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres at the equator line. You will find out that you are 3 percent lighter while at the Equator line. One can raise a question that, how does it come about? There is no need to disturb your minds because the answer is here. Weight is a force of which gravity acts on mass. Along the equator, anyone’s weight will be less by 0.5 percent thus gravity is 0.5 percent less at the equator. This is inclined to the earth not being a perfect sphere. At the poles, it is flattened and you will be a few tons of kilometers away from the center of the earth while standing at the equator unlike when standing at the poles. Gravity is therefore only slightly less at the equator because it falls off with distance.


4. Uganda Independence Monument

A huge towering concrete sculpture stands behind the wall fence to the Sheraton Hotel, overlooking Speke Road and Nile Avenue. To the right it stares down at the Grand Imperial Hotel and Standard Chattered Bank to the left.

And here, on a concrete pedestal in front of overgrown grass, the independence monument looks over Kampala. It is an imposing work that shows a woman standing firmly on the ground with her legs slightly parted while hoisting a baby in the air. The woman with a wrapping all over her body pensively looks as the little boy in her hands raises his hand in triumph. The child seemingly beckons the sky in triumphant jubilation while its mother seems to ponder the future.

This monument was made from cement, sand, iron bars and wire mesh. It is the work of Gregory Maloba, a luhya sculptor from Kenya who studied and taught art at Makerere University from 1939-1965. He executed this work in the months preceding the independence day of October 9, 1962, says Dr. George Kyeyune, the dean, Makerere University school of Industrial and Fine Arts. He further says that Maloba was commissioned to execute this work following his long experience as both a student and teacher of sculpture in the country and his well- documented track record in art at that time. He was one of the best -known artists and some of his works include Ham Mukasa though now preserved in the Uganda Museum. This gave him an edge over the others.

Maloba was born in 1922. After working at Makerere University, he fled Uganda at the end of the 1960s, after the country degenerated into chaos. He then proceeded to the University of Nairobi, and from there, to Kenyatta University. He died in 2007, at his home in Eldoret in Kenya where he had retired on a large maize farm.

Sunada K. Sanyal, an America scholar who studied Maloba’s work and history suggests that this monument was influenced by this sculptor’s strong Christian background and the spiritual convictions of Margaret Trowel, his mentor. Indeed, it is the tree of life that Maloba presents from the enormous triangle of the mother’s planted feet emulating a powerful trunk to the universe form of the raised arms of the child signifying sprouting branches as its continuous flow of life across generations, says Sanyal. He adds: This image joyfully celebrates life and self determination. It displays the irresistible forces of life and freedom.

According to Marion I. Arnold, in his book, Art in Eastern Africa. The female figure with a child, growing from the earth like a giant forest tree signifies the motherland. The mother, standing astride, has both legs firmly attached to the ground strengthening her. Meaning, Uganda is firm through the ages and not given to be moved now or in the future.

For all its historical importance, the independence monument is still an abstract concept in the minds of many Ugandans. It is an accomplished piece of work technically and aesthetically but one that has yet found a place in people’s consciousness. The monument’s picture is prominently placed on the country’s legal tender, featuring on the faces of all new bank notes in circulation.

5. Nyero Rocks

Nyero rock paintings date to before 1250 CE. They were first documented in 1913 and later described by researchers as largely of geometric nature. This type of rock art is part of a homogeneous tradition often depicted in red pigment, spreading across east, central and parts of southern Africa, matching the distribution of the Late Stone Age hunter-gatherer culture.

This art is generally attributed to Batwa (Twa) hunter-gatherers who are of Pygmyorigin, and today are in Eastern Africa, only found in small groups near the Rwanda/Uganda border and Eastern Congo. It is likely that Twa communities once lived in the general area of these rock art sites, probably moving on due to the arrival of the Nilotic, Luo, and Bantu groups of people.

The rock art sites are believed to have been sacred places of the gods. The red and white paintings remain valuable to the people of Teso but are also mysterious since the painters are unknown. In the past, the Iteso people of Nyero would sacrifice and pay offerings to the gods for problems of rain, misfortune, blessings and child bearing. Individual and clan prayers were held on a seasonal basis. Nyero is where the fertility god was also found. There is the rock with space under which one could lay down. Those barren women used to go and lie while facing the rock as they asked the god to give them children. Upon getting a child, a couple would return and prepare a meal in thanksgiving to the gods. Traces of smoke from sacrifices are still visible in some of the caves. The association of a sacred prayer place in the buffer zone continues to draw nearby communities to the site.

Today, Panic has broken out in Kumi town over the possible eruption of the famous Nyero rocks. The Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah assured the people around Nyero rocks in Kumi that government is working to ensure their safety as reports emerge that the rock may erupt. Though the law protects such cultural sites, the government is yet to implement it to protect it from vandalism.

An entrance fee is collected and a guided tour is provided at the entrance gate (opened daily). A guide will recite the history of the place and take visitors around the caves. Nyero stones not only remind the residents of their heritage, but have also become a source of their survival. Though the community has no mandate to collect anything from anyone, when they take tourists around, they are tipped with some money which has significantly changed their lives.

All in all, the Nyero rock paintings are among the most important rock art in Uganda. This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on 10 September 1997, in the Cultural category. The rock paintings are easily accessible from the gravel road between Kumi and Ngora, approximately 1 km west of Nyero.

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