Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
This park is home to more than half of the world’s wild mountain gorilla population and was declared a Natural World Heritage Site in December 1994. World Heritage Sites are internationally recognized as natural features of outstanding beauty or scientific value.
The landscape here is rugged, with deep valleys running between steep sided hills and ridges with barely a square kilometer of the park flat. There is a blend of both lowland and montane rainforest with a dense undergrowth of herbs, vines and shrubs (hence the name impenetrable).
This area is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa with the richest faunal community in East Africa. There are estimated to be 120 species of mammals (more than any other national park in Uganda except Queen Elizabeth) and is the only park where chimpanzees and gorillas co-exist together. There are an estimated 360 species of birds, including 23 localized species found only along the Albertine Rift Valley and 14 found nowhere else in Uganda .
The pristine rainforests of this park, one of the largest natural forests in East Africa, are home to approximately 300 species of butterfly (including two endangered species of swallowtails), 200 native tree species and many species of reptiles and amphibians (including one species of frog that may be new to science).
The rugged terrain makes gorilla trekking strenuous work and visitors should be prepared for up to 8 hours of hiking (good physical condition is a must).
When to visit: Any time, though conditions are more challenging during the rainy season.
Getting there: Bwindi can be reached from Queen Elizabeth National Park in the north (2-3 hours), from Kabale to the south (1-2 hours), or from Kampala via Mbarara (6-8 hours). Bwindi is 550 km from Kampala. The roads meet at Butogota, 17km from the Buhoma entrance gate.
Distance from Kampala: 550km; estimated transit time: 9 hours
Private chartered flights are also available.
Murchison Falls National Park
Uganda’s largest park covers over 4000 sq. km, and is one of the most spectacular parks in Africa. Renowned for its scenic beauty and the spectacular falls from which it gets its name, Murchison Falls National Park supports an abundance of flora and fauna to delight the visitor. From rolling savannah and tall grasslands to thick bush and woodlands, the diversity of this park never ceases to amaze visitors and residents alike.
No visit to Murchison Falls would be complete without a visit to the magnificent Falls. They can be viewed from the top where the Nile River narrows from 50 meters to crash through a 7-meter gorge, falling 45 meters to the rocks below. The three-hour cruise to the base of the Falls is also unforgettable. One can experience the majesty of the Nile while onboard, viewing abundant wildlife along the banks. The more adventurous traveler may want to hike the trails around the Falls, while the avid birdwatcher will want to seek out some of the 424 species identified in the park. Fishermen can test their skills above and below the Falls, waiting patiently for 20-100 kg Nile Perch. Other game fish found in the Nile include Barbel, Electric Catfish and Tiger fish.
Cape buffalo, Rothschild’s giraffe, Uganda kob, hartebeest and waterbuck are commonly seen on game drives. You may also spot oribi, bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, the shy sitatunga, bush duiker, warthog and bushpig. Large carnivores include lion, leopard and spotted hyena. Chimpanzees and olive baboons head the list of six species of primates found in the park. Crocodile and hippo will be seen along the banks of the Nile. Some of the more common birds that can be seen include Goliath heron, Egyptian geese, pelican, bee-eaters, kingfishers, hornbill, cormorant, saddle-bill stork and the rare Shoebill stork. A boat cruise to the delta is a highlight for the avid birdwatcher.
Distance from Kampala: 300km; estimated transit time: 5 hours.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
As one of the outstanding treasures of Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park has recently been designated a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO. It is the most popular and easily accessible game reserve in Uganda. The park covers 1978 sq. km and includes a remarkable variety of eco-systems, from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows, savannah and swamps. A total of 95 mammal species has been recorded here, the highest for any Ugandan national park. It is the home of the famous tree-climbing lions, 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 Queen Elizabeth. 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.
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. To the southeast, travelers can explore newly opened trails in the Maramagambo forest.
Distance from Kampala: 440km; estimated transit time: 6 hours
Kibale Forest National Park
The main attraction of Kibale is the high density of primates that inhabit the rainforest. In fact, 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 12 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. The birdlife is prolific, with approximately 400 species recorded for the area. Highlights include the crested guinea fowl, great blue turaco, grey parrot, green-breasted and African pittas, African crowned eagles and black bee-eaters.
Though elephants, buffaloes and giant forest hogs are found here, they live deep in the forest and are only seldom seen. More commonly encountered are bushbucks, duikers and montane sun and giant forest squirrels. This park covers 766 sq. km and runs contiguously with the northern end of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is located just south of Fort Portal.
Distance from Kampala: 360 km; estimated transit time: 5 hours.
Kidepo Valley National Park
In the Northeastern corner of Uganda lies this semi-arid park with an unlimited profusion of game. Navigating the dirt game tracks that lead through the golden grasses of this savanna park presents repeated opportunities to see around 475 bird species, some of the 77 mammal species including zebras, elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes and the cheetahs with an assurance of plenty of cape buffalo. Kidepo is “The True African Wilderness”
Mgahinga Gorilla Valley National Park
High in the clouds, yes right in the clouds sits Uganda’s smallest national park; the gold and shimmering Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Mgahinga is Uganda’s share of the Virunga Conservation Area and therefore shelters some of the world’s mountain gorillas making her another place in Uganda to enjoy a gorilla tracking safari. On a tour to Mgahinga you can also visit the enchanting Batwa (Pygmies) community for an experience of history in the present. This park also shelters about 79 bird species, the forest elephants but is even more popular for the rare golden monkeys. In Mgahinga National Park you can see monkeys with gleaming coats and mountain gorillas with “silver backs”. This is why this little park is “Where Gold Meets Silver”
Mount Elgon National Park
For an extinct volcano that erupted millions of years ago, you might expect nothing much, but Elgon beats the odds by erupting with an abundance of “wild life”.
This is the world’s largest volcanic base but it does not end at holding world records. Elgon offers visitors at least 300 species of birds, several mammal species including the forest monkeys and elephants that live on the mountain side. Adding to the priceless views from above and the fascinating montane vegetation, Elgon offers guests a healthy bonus of half of Uganda’s butterfly species.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Call them the “Mountains of the moon”, or the mountaineers’ delight or the third highest point in Africa with snowcapped peaks not so far from the equator line or call them the Rwenzori Mountains. Sitting at about 2,500 meters above sea level, a World Heritage Site (WHS) called Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects some of the world’s most iconic species of fauna and flora. The park protects mammals like the elephant, chimpanzee, the Rwenzori otter and the sporadic leopard has been sighted adding to 12 endemic mammal species. Whether here for a mystical challenge to the summit, or for a cultural visit to the botanical garden that forms Rwenzori National Park, this World Heritage Site is far from the ordinary.
Located in Southwestern Uganda, at the junction of several climatic and ecological zones, Semuliki National Park has a very high diversity of plant and animal species and many microhabitats, some of which are endemic to Central Africa. 53 mammal species including the hippopotamus, elephant, leopard and forest buffalo are found here. Inside the park, visitors can also take a trek to the Sempaya hot springs. But this park is more popular for its 441 bird species why she has been dubbed “The True Birder’s Haven”