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A chimp in Kibale National Park
A chimp in Kibale National Park © Christian Boix

Gateway to many popular Ugandan tourist attractions, Fort Portal lies in the northern foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, about 300km west of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. It was named after British Consul General of Zanzibar, Sir Gerald Herbert Portal, who came to Uganda in the 1890s to formalise the British protectorate over Uganda.

Fort Portal provides easy access to stunning tourist attractions, including the nearby Kibale Forest – famous for chimpanzee trekking – and the magnificent Mountains of the Moon, (Rwenzori Mountains), source of the Nile River. From caves to waterfalls to crater lakes, Fort Portal has it all.

Fort Portal, Uganda
The dynamic and friendly town of Fort Portal © Dave Proffer

Here are some of the stunning sights of Fort Portal and the nearby tourist attractions

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is one of the most visited Ugandan national parks – primarily because it is one of the best locations in Africa for chimpanzee trekking. The park also has about 375 bird species – including the superb sunbird, white-spotted flufftail, yellow-spotted and yellow-billed barbets, western nicator, grey-winged robin-chat and white-tailed ant-thrush, amongst many other sought-after species.

Kibale National Park at sunrise, Uganda
The early morning view in Kibale National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park was designated a World Heritage site in 1994 to protect the highest parts of the mountain range and is home to over 70 mammal species and 217 bird species. The ‘Mountains of the Moon’ are probably best known for their stunning views and as a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination.

Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park, famous for the Sempaya hot springs, is home to 53 mammal species and 442 bird species, many of which can only otherwise be found in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the park doesn’t boast an abundance of mammal species, it is a mecca for bird-watchers. The park hosts the Semuliki and Lamia rivers, with Lake Albert to the north and the Rwenzori Mountains to the southeast.

Sempaya hot springs in Semuliki National Park, Uganda
Sempaya hot springs in Semuliki National Park
 Tooro Palace

Visiting the Tooro Palace on Karuzika Hill gives you sttunning 360-degree panoramic views of Fort Portal. The circular structure was built in 1963, but fell into ruin after the abolition of the royal kingdoms by Idi Amin. It was restored in 2001 after Colonel Gaddafi met the king and donated the money for repairs.

Amabere caves

The Amabere caves, also known as the Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru caves (which translates to “Breasts of Nyinamwiru”), are caves named after an ancient folklore where a local king had his daughter’s breasts cut off to make her less attractive to men. The king’s plan failed and his daughter fell pregnant. Legend has it that he then hid her in a cave. Visiting the Amabere caves gives tourists a chance to see waterfalls and three nearby crater lakes, as well as colobus monkeys who inhabit in the area.

Lake Albert

Located between the Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Albert is fed by both the Semliki River and the Victoria Nile River in the north. Although this is a large lake, there are no major towns on its shores on the lake’s Ugandan side, just a relatively small population living in nearby villages – including Buliisa, the largest town with a population of some 30,000.

Lake Albert, Uganda, stock image
The serene-looking Lake Albert

Karambi royal tombs

An excursion to the Karambi royal tombs is definitely a worthwhile trip. Several of the former kings of the Tooro Kingdom are buried here. The caretaker will let you in for a look at the tombs, which house drums, spears and other personal effects of several of the Toro kings. The cemetery outside is the resting place for various other royal family members.

Tooro botanical gardens

Walking through the Tooro botanical gardens you will come across a wide range of indigenous plants and trees. There is also an organic farming project that grows herbs, flowers, natural dyes and medicinal plants.

A crater lake in Fort Portal, landscape, Uganda
A crater lake in Fort Portal
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African Pearl Safaris

African Pearl Safaris is a leading tour company in Uganda. It was the first company to take tourists to Bwindi for gorilla trekking in 1993. African Pearl Safaris specialises in gorillas and chimpanzee tracking safaris, classic wildlife safaris, mountain hiking expeditions, cultural tours, boating and fishing in Lake Victoria, lodge/hotel bookings, family adventure tours, and excursions in Uganda and Rwanda.