Uganda is a small country but blessed with remarkable biodiversity that is compared to none. While her neighbors invest heavily in marketing and promoting their major tourism resources, Uganda sits quietly believing that eventually people will discover her on their own – call it being complacent. One clear example of this complacency is in regards to the Mountain Gorillas. Uganda is best country for gorilla trekking but when you make some research, you will be surprised to read somewhere that some other country is number one.
Uganda is not just about gorillas. During a Uganda Wildlife Safari, one can take park in several activities including spotting the big 5 (Lions, Buffaloes, Leopards, Rhinoceros and Elephants), going for boat cruises on lakes like Victoria (second largest in the world), rivers like the Nile (longest in Africa) or the Kazinga Channel and Lake Bunyonyi to mention but a few. Mountain hikers have several options including climbing Mount Elgon, Mount Sabyinyo, Mount Muhabira, Mount Gahinga, Mount Moroto and the Rwenzori Mountains.
Uganda is arguably the best country to track chimpanzees in the world. Kibale National Park has a population of about 5,000 chimps but the primates can also be spotted in Budongo forest, Kyambura Gorge, Kalinzu and Maramagambo forest. Uganda is one of the best countries in the world for birding. Birding tours in Uganda exposes birders to over 1050 resident and migratory species. While in Uganda, visitors can also go for biking, swimming, canoeing, bungee jumping or forest and guided nature walks. Did we mention that Uganda has more mountain gorillas than any county in the world? Yes and in two national parks. Talking about national parks, Uganda has 10 national game parks in Uganda. These national parks are spread around the country each with itown special attractions. Let us them in more detail:
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: Bwindi is found in the South Western part of the country next to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is UNESCO World heritage site because of the mountain gorillas and overall biodiversity. Gorilla trekking and the gorilla habituation experience are the most popular activities in Bwindi but visitors can also take part in nature walks, community visits and bird watching. Bwindi along with the Virunga National Park in Congo are the only places where chimpanzees and Mountain Gorillas can be sighted together. Read more about Bwindi Impenetrable National Park here.
Kibale National Park: Kibale Forest is known as the primate capital of Uganda. There are more primates here than anywhere else in Uganda – over 13 species including chimpanzees. Kibale Forest is arguably the best place for tracking chimpanzees in the world (over 5000 individuals). The key difference between chimpanzee tracking in Kibale and other national park lies in the success rate of finding the primates. Unlike gorillas, chimps are very mobile and locating a family can be difficult since they don’t stay in one place for too long. The chances of finding the primates in Kibale are very high. Unfortunately there are no gorillas in the park. Had it been the case, the number of visitors to the park would be phenomenal. Apart from primates, Kibale forest is a birders paradise with over 370 species. Visitors also have opportunities to take part in nature walks and community visits. For more information about Kibale National Park, check out this page.
Kidepo Valley National Park: Kidepo is one of Uganda’s true hidden gems. Located far away at the North-Eastern corner of the country, the park has vegetation, seasons and landscape that are similar to that found in Masai Maraa but with virgin wilderness and less crowds. Kidepo Valley National is the only park in Uganda where ostriches, cheetahs and wild dogs still thrive. The scenery and landscape in Kidepo is so stunning that CNN described it as one of the best national parks in Africa. Sadly, this amazing park is less visited by tourists in part because of its remote location and a past history of being a hideout for rebels. Game drives are the main activity in the park. A game drive in Kidepo Valley National Park provides opportunities to spot lions, leopards, buffaloes and Elephants, ostriches among others. A cultural visit can also be arranged to visit the Karamojong, Dodoth or the endangered Ik tribe. Other activities in the park include mountain climbing, nature walks and visiting hot springs. Read more here.
Lake Mburo National Park: Lake Mburo is the smallest savannah park in Uganda. The park is located in a strategic area on the main highway leading to Uganda’s major game parks like Bwindi, Kibale, Mgahinga and Queen Elizabeth. Tourists coming back from Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Parks usually make a stopover for a day before proceeding to Entebbe international airport for departure. Lake Mburo National Park is the only place in Uganda where Zebras can be spotted in great numbers. It is also the best place in Uganda to spot Leopards and Impala because of the high concentration in a small area. Lake Mburo National Park is also the only place where once can go to watch game on back of a horse of by just walking through sections of the park. Being the closest game park to Kampala city, Lake Mburo is perfect for those who have come for a workshop, seminar or business trip in the capital and desire to see some of Uganda’s wildlife before coming for a full safari later on. The other attractive activities in Lake Mburo are spot fishing, boat cruises along the lake, birding (among the best) and nature walks. Read hear for more about Lake Mburo.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park: Lying in the South-Western corner of Uganda near the border between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo, Mgahinga is the smallest national park in Uganda. It is the second home to mountain gorillas in Uganda. Gorilla trekking is without doubt the most popular activity in Mgahinga but golden monkey tracking is slowly catching up. Mgahinga is also the only place in Uganda where one can spot both mountain gorillas and the cute golden monkeys. Gorilla tracking in Mgahinga is thought to be better than in Bwindi because the one habituated group has many members and can easily be located. Mgahinga receives fewer tourists compared to Bwindi and hence there is no issue of large crowds or privacy. Apart from the primates, Mgahinga national park stands out because of its three inactive volcanoes – Gahinga, Sabyinyo and Muhabura. These volcanoes are part of the wider Virunga ranges of mountains that include Karisimbi, Bisoke and Nyiragongo. Hiking to the top of these volcanoes will reward tourists with breathtaking views of the Virunga ranges, Mount Rwenzori and game parks in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Reaching the summit of mount Muhabura allows one to step in Rwanda, Uganda and Congo at the same time. Apart from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Batwa pygmies are also found in Mgahinga. The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga is much more interesting than the Batwa visit in Bwindi. In Mgahinga, the Batwa lead the activity as guides and within the forest unlike in Bwindi where visitors go to meet the group of the park. Other attractions in Mgahinga include nature walks, visiting other cultural communities and off course bird watching. Read more here.
Mount Elgon National Park: This national park is a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve found at the border between Kenya and Uganda. Most of the park is found on the Uganda side of the border. Climbing Mount Elgon (8th highest in Africa) is the main activity in the park but there are several animal species that can be spotted at the foot of the mountain and surrounding areas. The mountain area receives good rains throughout the year and when combined with the fertile soils support the growth of vegetation and forests that provide food for primates, buffaloes and elephants among others.
Nature walks are organized to experience the beautiful scenery, animal and plant life around the park. Visitors who are interested in exploring caves or visiting waterfalls will not be disappointed while visiting Mount Elgon. The famous Sipi Falls are one of the over 50 waterfalls found at the slopes of the mountains. Cultural tours are organized to visit the Bagisu in their coffee farms or to witness their ancient circumcision ceremonies. The other activities arranged within and around the park are bird watching, game viewing, camping, sport fishing, abseiling, cycling or visiting the Matheniko Bokora and Pian Upe Wildlife Reserves. Read more about mount Elgon.
Murchison falls National Park: Murchison Falls National Park is one of the best places to go on a wildlife safari in Africa. It is the largest park in Uganda and found on the North-western part of the country. Murchison falls like Queen Elizabeth National Park is blessed with diverse features and landscape offering a whole lot of things to do. The key attraction is the beautiful Murchison Falls on the great river Nile. The park also attracts visitors because it is the only place where one can spot all the big five mammals. Although Rhinos are extinct in the park, they can be seen at the adjacent Ziwa Rhino sanctuary on the way to and from the park. Murchison Falls is a lion conservation unit and has more Roskilde Giraffe than any other park in Uganda. Apart from game drives and visiting the top of the falls, visitors can choose to track Chimpanzee in Budongo Forest or go for a boat cruise below the falls to spot one of the largest collection of crocodiles, hippos and birds. Apart from the game drives and boat cruises, visitor also have an oportunity to view wildlife from a hot air balloon or visit the local Boomu Women’s group to mingle with locals. Read more about Murchison Falls National Park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park: This is the most popular and visited national park in Uganda. The park stands out for its diverse landscape and wildlife. Queen Elizabeth receives good rains compared to the Masai Maara and Serengeti hence giving visitors more panoramic views for much of the year. Among the amazing features in the park include crater lakes, Gorges, Salt Lakes and rift valley Lakes like Gorge and Edward. Queen Elizabeth national park is famous for hosting the rare tree climbing lions but visitors can also spot chimpanzees at the Maramagambo and the amazing Kyambura Gorge. The Kazinga channel In Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best places to spot birds in the world. During certain months of the year the sheer density of birds within and around the channel will leave even the most seasoned birders very impressed. Other activist and attractions include nature walks at the Maramagambo forest, hot air balloon wildlife viewing, visiting the Katwe salt mining lake, cultural visits and taking part in wildlife research tours. Read more here.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park: This is another UNESCO World Heritage in the south-western corner of the country and next to the Virunga National Park in Congo. Although climbing the Rwenzori Mountains is the key attraction, the park is also known for the birds, animals and remarkable botany. A combination of heavy rains, cold weather and sunshine has led to the growth of rare vegetation commonly seen in cold countries. Rwenzori Mountains National Park is home to several primates and mammals like Colobus monkeys, buffaloes, chimpanzees, forest elephants and Leopards among others. Over 216 species of birds can be found in the park as well as rare reptile like the three-horned chameleon. Apart from mountain climbing, the park office arranges nature walks and visits to one the local Bakonzo tribe. Read more about the park.
Semuliki National Park: Semuliki National Park is found in the district of Bundibugyo along the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park has East Africa’s only remaining lowland rainforest. The forests in the park are an extension of the great Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo creating conditions typically seen in Central Africa. The forest extension has enabled the park to attract bird species not commonly seen in East Africa making the park one of the best places bird watching in Uganda. But it is not only birds and forest that attract tourists to the park. Semuliki National Park is home to two fascinating hot springs – the Sempaya Hot Springs. Visitor can go and take a bath in one of the hot springs or go for a game drive to see some of the animals found in the park. Cultural visits can also be arranged to see the Bakonjo, Batwa or Bamba tribes. Read more about Semuliki National Park.