Ugandan National Parks
Murchison Falls National Park
Uganda’s largest national park protects a chunk of untamed African savannah bisected by the mighty river Nile. 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. Wildlife populations have largely recovered from the poaching of the 1980s; in the lush borassus grassland to the north of the Nile, elephant, buffalo, giraffe and a variety of antelope are regularly encountered on game drives, while lion are seen with increasing frequency.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
From open savannah to rainforest, from dense papyrus swamps and brooding crater lakes to the vastness of Lake Edward, it is little wonder that QENP 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 superb safari territory, with elephant, a profusion of hippos, the elusive giant forest hog and handsome Uganda kob 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.
Elsewhere, the remote Ishasha Sector is famed for its tree-climbing lions, the Kyambura Gorge harbours habituated chimps, the Maramagambo Forest is home to an alluring selection of forest monkeys and birds, and flocks of flamingo are resident on the crater lake.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
A magnificent verdant swathe across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley, this ancient rainforest – one of the few in Africa to have flourished throughout the last Ice Age – is home to roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas.
Looking deep into the expressive brown eyes of these gentle giants is surely the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter that Africa has to offer – but we should not let it distract from Bwindi’s broader biodiversity, a result of its immense antiquity and an altitude span from 1,160 to 2,607m.
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.
Mgahinga National Park
Far southwest, bordering Rwanda and Congo, 14km from Kisoro town. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. 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. The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District.
Kibale National Park
The most accessible of Uganda’s major rainforests, Kibale is home to a remarkable 13 primate species, including the very localised red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey.
Kibale’s major attraction, however, is the opportunity to track habituated chimps – these delightful apes, more closely related to humans than to any other living creature, are tremendous fun to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees. A network of shady forest trails provides much to delight botanists and butterfly lovers, while birders are in for a treat with 335 species recorded including the endemic Prirogrine’s ground thrush. 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.
Kidepo Valley National Park
On the Sudanese border in the northeast. The Kidepo Valley National Park is one of Uganda’s most spectacular parks. It is 1,442 square kilometres and harbours scenery unsurpassed in any other park in East Africa. ‘It could not be any better’ is a common comment on the scenery by visitors who often promise and do come back to Kidepo. 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.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lying in the one part of Uganda covered in extensive acacia woodland, Mburo has markedly different fauna to other reserves. Lake Mburo is the best place in the country to see the gigantic eland antelope, as well as zebra, topi, impala, and several acacia-associated birds.
The five lakes within the park attract hippos, crocodiles and a variety of water birds, while fringing swamps hide secretive papyrus specialists such as the sitatunga antelope and red, black and yellow papyrus gonalek
Semliki National Park
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. (Especially for birds).
Semuliki National Park is situated in the remote corner of extreme west of Uganda, in bundibugyo District. It lies on Uganda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. The geographical coordinates are 0o 44′- 00 53′ N – 290 57-30o 11’E. To the southeast are the Rwenzori Mountains, to the west is DRC and to the north Lake Albert.
Semuliki National Park (220 km2) gazetted in October 1993, is one of Uganda’s newest National Parks. The Park occupies a flat to gently undulating landform ranging from 670 -760 metres above level. As all streams and rivers from the surrounding areas are flooded drain into the Park plus the poor drainage and topography, many areas are flooded during the rainy season. The average annual rainfall is 1250 mm with peaks from March to May and September and December. The temperature varies from 18o C – 30o C with relatively small daily variations
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The 120km Rwenzori chain is regarded to be the legendary snow-capped Mountains of the Moon, described by Ptolemy in AD150. 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 Rwenzoris to be the most challenging of all African mountains.
A variety of large mammals inhabits the lower slopes, but the Rwenzoris 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.
Mount Elgon National Park
Elgon is a 4,321m high extinct volcano which in prehistoric times stood taller than Kilimanjaro does today. Although the mountain straddles the Kenya border, its loftiest peak, Wagagai, lies within Uganda and is best ascended from the Uganda side.
Elgon is an important watershed, and its slopes support a rich variety of attitudinal vegetation zones ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the other-worldly giant lobelia and groundsel plants. Spectacular scenery is the main attraction for hikers on this oft-neglected and relatively undemanding mountain, but there is also a variety of forest monkeys and small antelope, along with elephant and buffalo. A checklist topping 300 birds includes many species not recorded elsewhere in Uganda