Uganda

“The Pearl of Africa”

Uganda is often described as the Pearl of Africa and as a source of the River Nile has within its borders the second largest fresh water lake in the world, Lake Victoria. Uganda also possesses some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa, from its shining lakes, lofty mountains, mysterious forests and game-parks teeming with wildlife. In the north there are wonderful Murchison Falls, while in the west side of the country there is the dense forest and the splendid Ruwenzori ranges.

The attractiveness of Uganda can be considered its natural attractions and scenery. In terms of wildlife, Uganda’s main attraction is the endangered Mountain Gorillas. The mountain Gorillas are peacefully giants and the biggest of the primates. Currently, there are around 700 of these gentle giants world-wide and they can be found in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda-Congo border and in Bwindi Forest in Uganda.

National Parks

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is located in western Uganda near Fort Portal. The most accessible of Uganda’s major rainforests, Kibale is home to a remarkable 13 primate species, including the much localized red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey. This park covers 766 sq. km and runs contiguously with the northern end of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The main attraction of Kibale is the high density of primates that inhabit the rainforest. This forest supports the highest number of primate species in Uganda and one of the highest primate densities in the world. In addition to a large community of chimpanzees, there are 15 other primate species, including red and black-and-white colobus monkeys, L’Hoest’s, red-tailed, vervet and blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, olive baboons, as well as four species of nocturnal primates.

Nevertheless, the major attraction of this park is the chance to track habituated chimps. These delightful apes are tremendous fun to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees.

The elusive forest elephant, smaller and hairier than its savannah counterpart, moves seasonally into the developed part of the park, while other terrestrial mammals include buffalo, giant forest hog and a half dozen antelope species. More commonly encountered are bushbucks, duikers and montane sun and giant forest squirrels.

Murchison Falls National Park

This park covers an area of about 3840 sq km.  It is named for the dramatic Murchison Falls, where the world’s longest river explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment to plunge into a frothing pool 43m below.

Attractions of park include trips to the base of the falls that offer fine game-viewing and birdwatching. Boat trips to the Lake Albert delta provide the best chance in Africa of sighting shoebills.

Chimp tracking at Rabongo Forest, and en route from Masindi in the Budongo Forest. You can have a game drives on a good network of roads. Elephant, buffalo, giraffe and a variety of antelope are regularly encountered on game drives, while lion are seen with increasing frequency.  In the southeast, Rabongo Forest is home to chimps and other rainforest creatures.

The Nile itself hosts one of Africa’s densest hippo and crocodile populations, and a dazzling variety of waterbirds including the world’s most accessible wild population of the rare shoebill stork.

Lake Mburo National Park

This park covers an area of 260 sq km and is located in the south, near Mbarara.  It lies in the part of Uganda that is covered extensively by acacia woodland, which makes it to have markedly different fauna to other reserves.

The major attraction to tourists is the game viewing, as it is famous for its richness in biodiversity. It has about 68 different species of mammals. The common ones are zebra, impala, buffalo, topi, the gigantic eland antelope and roan antelope. Predictors like leopard, hyenas and jackals are also found in this park.  Lake Mburo is the best place in the country to see several acacia-associated birds.

The lakes within the park attract hippos, crocodiles and a variety of waterbirds, while fringing swamps hide secretive papyrus specialists such as the sitatunga antelope and red, black and yellow papyrus gonalek.

The lake is rich with a diversity of animal and plant species which can only be viewed clearly by taking a boat trip. The crocodiles, hippopotamuses and birds like pelicans, black crake, heron, cormorant, fish eagle, and the rare shoebill stork may also be observed.

Guided walks can also be arranged and the nature trail offers the visitor a chance to admire nature insitu. Visitors can walk in the circuit at his / her pace, but must be accompanied by an armed guide.

A walk to the near by salt location that is hidden in wood offers a chance to see at least four different species of animals at any one time while they lick the salty soil. Most interesting to note is that this is done without the animal’s conscience.

Ruwenzori National Park

The 120 km Ruwenzori chain is regarded to be the legendary snow-capped Mountains of the Moon. Reaching an elevation of 5,109m, it is also Africa’s tallest mountain range, exceeded in altitude only by the free-standing Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro.

The distinctive glacial peaks are visible for miles around, but the slopes above 1,600m are the preserve of hikers, who rate the Ruwenzoris to be the most challenging of all African mountains.

A variety of large mammals inhabits the lower slopes, but the Ruwenzoris are notable more for their majestic scenery and varied vegetation. The trails lead through rainforest rattling with monkeys and birds, then tall bamboo forest, before emerging on the high-altitude moorland zone, a landscape of bizarre giant lobelias, towered over by black rock and white snow, looking for all the world like the set of a science fiction film.

The Ruwenzori trekking is a tough but rewarding hike. However, the high peaks should be attempted only by experienced mountaineers.

Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park covers an area of 220 sq. km and it was gazetted in October 1993, as one of Uganda’s newest National Parks. The Park occupies a flat to gently undulating landform ranging from 670 -760 meters above sea level. All streams and rivers from the surrounding areas drain into the Park and the poor drainage and topography of the park makes many areas of the park to be flooded during the rainy season. The average annual rainfall is 1250 mm.

The park is located in the west, about 50km from Fort Portal. Semuliki National Park is an eastern extension of the vast Ituri Forest and forms part of the forest continuum during the climatic upheavals of the Pleistocene, this is one of the richest areas for both flora and fauna in Africa.

Fantastic scenery, hotsprings, forest jungle walk, birding, primate viewing and river Semuliki meanders are some of the ideal attractions of this park. Jungle life in Semuliki is breathtaking especially for birders, primate, butterfly and plant lovers. The jungle walk usually takes you up to River Semuliki meanders, you may see forest buffaloes and elephants, statungas, leopards, pigmy hippopotamus, crocodile primates and a wide range of forest and water birds. You can also come with fishing facilities for sport fishing along the river.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

This park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda bordering Rwanda and Congo, 14km from Kisoro town. The Park covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The Park is about 10 km south of Kisoro and is bordered to the south by the Republic of Rwanda and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. “Virunga Conservation Area” or VCA. Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 33.7 sq. km and consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. From far away, the huge cones of the virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape and beckon you as you approach. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate. Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler. The Virungas are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Gorilla tracking is the most thrilling tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The habituated gorilla in this park is called the Nyakagezi, which consists of 9 members, 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants. Gorilla tracking is an intensive experience that can take the whole day. The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way.

Free birding along the edge of the park is now available on request. The guides are happy to take you out from 5-6 p.m. if you book earlier. A stroll along the buffalo wall toward the Congo takes you through a wetland area where Ibis, Whydah, Speckled Mousebird, and Fire Finch are found. Stonechat, Grey Capped Warbler, Waxbills, and Yellow-Vented Bulbul are often seen around the campground.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park covers an area of 1,978 sq km. As one of the outstanding treasures of Uganda, The park has recently been designated as a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO. It is the most popular and easily accessible game reserve in Uganda.

This park is located in the southwest of Uganda, near Kasese. From open savannah to rainforest, from dense papyrus swamps and brooding crater lakes to the vastness of Lake Edward, it is little wonder that the park boasts one of the highest biodiversity ratings of any game reserve in the world.

Almost 100 mammal species and a remarkable 606 bird species makes this park the most attractive area to visit, with elephant, a profusion of hippos, the elusive giant forest hog all regularly sighted around the tourist village on the Mweya Peninsula – which also boasts a marvelous waterfront setting in the shadow of the Rwenzori Mountains.  It is the home of the famous tree-climbing lions in Ishasha, the Uganda Kob and other antelope species, as well as elephant, buffalo, hippos, baboons and chimpanzee.

A total of 547 confirmed and 15 unconfirmed bird species have been recorded in this park. This is one of the highest totals in the world and is truly remarkable for such a relatively small reserve. Species recorded include the Shoebill stork, black bee-eater, 11 types of kingfishers and a variety of raptors, including several falcons and eagles.

In the crater lakes, spectacular flocks of flamingos gather, creating the image of a moving pink carpet. The launch trip along the Kazinga Channel between Lakes George and Edward is a memorable way to view the abundant game in Queen Elizabeth and to see an astounding number of bird species.

In the eastern section of the park is Kyambura Gorge where visitors can climb through a tropical forest in hopes of catching a glimpse of a variety of primates, including chimpanzees.

The Maramagambo Forest is home to an alluring selection of forest monkeys and birds, and flocks of flamingo are resident on the crater lakes.

In the more isolated Ishasha sector of the park, visitors can move through the woodlands in search of tree-climbing lions perched on the boughs of ancient fig trees.

Kidepo Valley National Park

The Kidepo Valley National Park is one of Uganda’s most spectacular parks. It is 1,442 square kilometers and harbors scenery unsurpassed in any other park in East Africa. Tucked into the corner of Uganda’s border with Sudan and Kenya, the park offers breathtaking Savannah landscapes, which end in rugged horizon. A huge latitudinal range and correspondingly wide climatic conditions have evolved an extremely diverse flora. As a result the variety of animal species in the park is equally abundant including many which are found no where else in Uganda.

The vegetation can best be described as open tree Savannah which varies much in structure and composition. Mountain forest dominates some of the high places, while areas along the Lorupei River support dense Acacia geradi forest. The flora and fauna of the park are more typical of Kenya than the rest of Uganda. The landscape throughout the park is studded with small hills, rocky outcrops and inselbergs from which one can obtain stunning views in all directions.

Bwindi Impenetrable Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park covers an area of 331 sq km. The park is located in the South west of the country close to the town of Kabale. It is home to roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas.

The national park has 90 mammal species, including 11 primates, of which the black-and-white colobus, with its lovely flowing white tail, is prominent. The forest birding ranks with the best in Uganda, with 23 highly localized Albertine Rift endemics present.