Set within the elevated plains of western Uganda, Fort Portal is one of the most vibrant cities in the country. It is positioned at the heart of Kabarole district at an elevation of 1,523 off the Kampala – Mubende – Fort Portal highway. Fort Portal is the official seat for both Kabarole district and the Toro Kingdom.
One of the iconic features of Fort Portal is the beautiful natural scenery that sets her apart from many cities that you could ever visit in Uganda. The city is nestled between rugged rolling hills covered in lush green vegetation and surrounded by a series of crater lakes, tea plantations and even a touch of the majestic Rwenzori Mountain range.
Fort Portal has become a definite destination for tourists especially for those travelling between the western wildlife corridor. The city acts as a central point between North and South making it easy to access top game parks such as Kibale and Queen Elizabeth among others. Moreover, on 1st July, 2020, Fort Portal was elevated from municipality to a Tourism city status.
A rich history
Like many cities in Uganda, Fort Portal too has a rich and informative history dating back to the colonial times. In fact, it was named after Sir Gerald Portal, the British General of Zanzibar, and a fort that was erected around the kingdom of Toro. Although the fort nolonger stands, being in this city allows for a moment of walking the ancient colonial footsteps of the land.
What to do there:
Fort Portal promises the kind of adventure that you will not encounter else-where. It is not only a pivoting point while travelling between Uganda’s western wildlife corridor but a top destination for tourism as well. Here are some things you should never miss when in Fort Portal.
Kibale National Park is located just 30 minutes from Fort Portal city. This “primate capital” presents a rare opportunity to track and habituate Chimpanzees in the wild. In the company of a game ranger and a guide, you are able to venture into the deep set beauty of Kibale forest to find the Chimpanzees, and also meet 12 other primate species.
Tooro Botanical gardens were established with a sole aim of preserving trees and other plant life that were in danger of extinction in 2001. Currently, this beautiful destination spans an area of over 100 acres; harboring several native Fort Portal plant life. Tooro Botanical gardens are a hot spot for birding, nature walks, scientific research and education.
The Toro palace was built in 1063 but later fell into ruins after the abolishment of kingdoms by Idi Amin Dada. Upon the late Libyan President; Muammar Gadaffi’s visit, however, the Tooro place was rebuilt and currently sits on Karuzika hill offering magnificent views of the entire town. Cultural Uganda tours can be organized here to discover an interesting history and culture of the Tooro kingdom.
This activity is often coupled with Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale Forest. Bigodi wetland Sanctuary is located on the edge of Kibale forest about an hour from Fort Portal city centre. The wetland features nature walks on wooden walkways elevated from the ground with great sighting of a variety of birds and animals.
As one of Uganda’s remaining low land tropical forest, Semliki National Park is definitely worth visiting. Spend some time on a game drive in Semliki to encounter some animals and also discover some endemic and rare bird species in Uganda. It is equally the best time to make a stop at the Sempaya female and male hot springs.
From a distance, these caves are simply a stunning natural occurrence of stalagmites and stalactites but the natives speak of an ancient tale of a ruthless King and his daughter who lost her child. Discover all this and more on a nature trip to Amabere caves and also enjoy a scenic walk to the cave waterfalls.
Finish off your Fort Portal trip with a drive to the Ndali- Kasenda crater lakes. This area will make you think you are entirely on a different planet all together. Beautiful scenery entails clear blue skies set against deep blue waters surrounded by gallant hills. Hiking around the crater lakes offers views of Fort Portal city and the Rwenzori Mountain range in the distance.
How to get there:
Fort Portal is located in western Uganda and is easily accessible via the Kampala – Mubende – Fort Portal road about 311 kilometers from Kampala city centre. While in Mubende, you can have an en-route lunch, refreshments and fuel before continuing to Fort Portal. The entire journey lasts about 4 -5 hours.
When to go:
The best time to visit Fort Portal is in the months of January – February and June to July. Temperatures are warmer and the sky is often clearer.
Fort Portal is one of the most visited cities in Uganda; offering a variety of tourist activities such as Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale, Game drive in Semliki National Park and a cultural visit to Tooro Place among others.