Fort Portal is a town in Western Uganda, a four hours’ drive from Kampala, the capital city. The town sits at the foothills of Mountain Rwenzori and has many interesting things to see and do. These are The Top 10 Things to do in Fort Portal.
1. Visit the Tooro Palace
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The Tooro palace of the Tooro Kingdom in Uganda sits on one of the high hilltops of Fort portal. The palace was restored from its former ruins by donations from former Libyan president, Muammar Gaddafi. At the top of the hill, one can get a mesmerizing full view of the town below. Tourists are not allowed to enter the palace building but they can explore the grounds outside. Tour guides are present to show you around and narrate to you the interesting history of the Kingdom and its people. A number of traditional kingdom activities take place at the palace in addition to generation of income from tourism for the kingdom.
2. Tour the Karambi Royal Tombs
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This is a major historical and cultural landmark in Fort Portal. The tombs are along the Fort Portal-Kasese road, around seven kilometers south-west from the town center. It is where the Tooro kings are buried. There are three tomb houses for three previous kings. These are the Omukama Kaboyo II, Omukama Rukidi III, and Omukama Kyebambe. ‘Omukama’ is the word for king in the Rutooro language. Some of the former princes and princesses also have their graves here. They all have a lot of interesting history of their era as they ruled the kingdom. You can learn all about it here from tour guides and locals.
3. Tooro Botanical Gardens
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Visit the Tooro botanical gardens where various plant species are conserved. There are numerous plants and trees of all types and colors. The plants are well maintained for their beauty as well as educational purposes and scientific research. The staff is all well informed about the different plants and their origin and purposes. There are also many medicinal herbs that you can learn about. The gardens also have resting areas for a small picnic or rest. The environment is very relaxing with a lot of shade from the trees, beautiful well-scented flowers, and a cool breeze through the tree leaves.
4. Amabere Caves
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These are not necessarily caves but rather large stalactites hanging from a rock. They are locally referred to as the ‘Amabere ga Nyinamwiru’ which translates to ‘The breasts of Nyinamwiru’. The name is derived from an interesting folklore of a Tooro ancient king and his daughter. It is said that the king, Bukuku, chopped off the breasts of his daughter, Nyinamwiru to make her less attractive to men. This was in an effort to prevent a prophecy that his daughter would give birth to a son who would kill Bukuku. The breasts were apparently thrown at this location where they are believed to have transformed into the overhanging stalactites.
5. Tour Kibale Forest National Park
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The place to see some of Uganda’s wild animals while in Fort Portal is here. The park is located in Kibale forest which is a tropical rainforest with savannah grasslands and woodlands as well. It is famous for diverse species of chimpanzees with many tour operators in the area offering chimpanzee trekking guides through the park. There are many unique bird species to see there too for the bird watchers in addition to some of the famous big five animals like the buffaloes and leopards. Places for accommodation and lodging within the park are also available so you can enjoy tours through the park anytime.
6. See the Crater Lakes
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Fort Portal harbors some of the most beautiful crater lakes you will ever see. There are many different crater lakes you can find with different shapes and sizes. Most of them lie in a place called Kasandi-Ndali which is just thirty kilometers from the Fort Portal town center. The most popular is Lake Nyinambuga whose image is also imprinted on the twenty thousand Ugandan shilling note. There is also Ndali lodge here that is popular among tourists, offering an amazing view of the crater. Others you can find are Lake Nyabikere, Lake Nkuruba, Lake Nyamusagani, Lake Mubiro among others.
7. Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve
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This is a nature reserve set up next to the Nkuruba crater lake. The reserve is also near the Kibale forest and national park. There are therefore some animals that can be spotted from here. The most common animals being the Red Colobus together with the Black and White Colobus monkeys that jump around in the surrounding trees. You can take a nature walk while here and learn about the rare tree species that are being conserved. There are also day tours to the nearby national park and some other crater lakes in the area. There is also provision for camping with available tents for hire.
8. Explore the Wetland Sanctuaries
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There are two wetland sanctuaries both located within Kibale Forest. Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is the western end of the forest approximately forty kilometers from the town center on the Fort Portal-Mbarara road. There is also Kihingami Wetland Sanctuary, fifteen kilometers east of Fort Portal near a village called Sebitoli. Both sanctuaries have a wide diversity of bird species to discover on birdwatching walks. Some chimpanzees and monkeys can also be spied in the trees. The sanctuaries are community-based projects aimed at supporting eco-tourism. There are a number of eco-friendly crafted items like necklaces and armbands on sale near the sanctuaries.
9. Tour Semuliki National Park
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Semuliki park is along the Fort Portal- Bundibugyo road, a three hours’ drive from Fort Portal town. Fort Portal town is the closest town to the park, hence a good excursion when in Fort Portal. The park has two interesting hot springs, one being female and the other a male hot spring. The water that spews from the springs is really hot and can even boil eggs which are usually demonstrated to tourists. The park also features over sixty species of wild animals including pigmy flying squirrels, bush babies, elephants, and buffaloes in addition to four hundred different bird species.
10. Visit Mugusu Market
This is an open-air flea market held every Wednesday. The market takes place along Fort Portal-Kasese road in a small trading center called Mugusu which is twelve kilometers from Fort Portal town. The market is very vibrant with many people hoping to get a good bargain. Clothes sections tend to be the busiest with low priced second-hand clothes. The clothes are laid out on tents and buyers rummage through the piles for a good buy. There are also other items like bags, woven baskets, as well as foodstuff like raw meat pieces on sale at low prices.