NATIONAL PARKS UGANDA
KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau. The park is home to a total of 70 mammal species, most famously 13 species of primate including the chimpanzee. It also contains over 375 species of birds. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park. The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore.
Kibale Forest Camp, Primate Lodge
LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK
Lake Mburo National Park (LMNP) is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and is located in Kiruhura District in Western Uganda. The park is situated about 30 kilometers by road, east of Mbarara, the largest city in the sub-region. This location is approximately 240 kilometers by road, west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. The coordinates of the park are: 00 36S, 30 57E (Latitude: 0.6000; Longitude: 30.9500).
LMNP is home to 350 bird species as well as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck. Once continuous with the plains of Northern Tanzania, Lake Mburo National Park host’s diversity found nowhere else in Uganda. The Ruizi River feeds 14 lakes and wetlands that support abundant herds of antelope. Enchanting Acacia woodland is increasingly a major part of the landscape. Alongside all the wildlife, LMNP is home to the Ankole cattle cared for traditionally by the Bahima pastoralists. Magnificent herds graze peacefully alongside the wildlife. There are distinct dry and wet seasons that determine animal movements.
Mihingo Safari Lodge, Rwakobo Rock, Mburo Safari Lodge, Kimbla Mantana, Arcadia Cottages and Mburo Eagles Nest Camp.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back over 25,000 years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 320 mountain gorillas – roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.
This biologically diverse region also provides shelter to a further 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees, as well as elephants and antelopes. There are around 350 species of birds hosted in this forest, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics. The neighboring towns of Buhoma and Nkuringo both have an impressive array of luxury lodges, rustic bandas and budget campsites, as well as restaurants, craft stalls and guiding services. Opportunities abound to discover the local Bakiga and Batwa Pygmy cultures through performances, workshops and village walks.
Buhoma Lodge, Bwindi Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Silverback Lodge, Gorilla Forest Camp, Mahogany Springs, Bwindi View Rest Camp, Nkuringo Gorilla Campsite and Wagtail Eco Safari Camp.
KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazette as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species.
Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated national park, but the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. From Apoka, in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape extends far beyond the gazette area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges. During the dry season, the only permanent water in the park is found in wetlands and remnant pools in the broad Narus Valley near Apoka. These seasonal oases, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location.
Apoka Safari Lodge, Nga’Moru Wilderness Camp.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The park’s diverse ecosystems, which include sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, make it the ideal habitat for classic big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds. Set against the backdrop of the jagged Ruwenzori Mountains, the park’s magnificent vistas include dozens of enormous craters carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel with its banks lined with hippos, buffalo and elephants, and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide lions ready to pounce on herds of unsuspecting Uganda Cob. As well as its outstanding wildlife attractions, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a fascinating cultural history. There are many opportunities for visitors to meet the local communities and enjoy storytelling, dance, music and more. The gazette of the park has ensured the conservation of its ecosystems, which in turn benefits the surrounding communities.
At the River Ishasha, Ishasha Jungle Lodge, Ishasha Ntungwe River Camp, Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Jacana Safari Lodge, Katara Lodge, Kingfisher Lodge Kichwamba, Mweya Safari Lodge, Simba Safari Camp, Tembo Safari Lodge, Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge.
SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semuliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Ruwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago.
The Semuliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semuliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous. Central African wildlife species, and the local population include a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, this park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda. While Semuliki’s species have been accumulating for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
Semuliki Safari Lodge.
MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK
Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna. First gazette as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds. The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids. The mighty cascade drains the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents.
Bakers Lodge, Budongo Eco Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, Heritage Safari Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Paraa Safari Lodge, Red Chilli Hideaway, Sambiya River Lodge, Shoebill Campsite.
MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK
At 4,000km² Mt. Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world. Located on the Uganda-Kenya border it is also the oldest and largest solitary, volcanic mountain in East Africa. Its vast form, 80km in diameter, rises more than 3,000m above the surrounding plains. The mountain’s cool heights offer respite from the hot plains below, with the higher altitudes providing a refuge for flora and fauna.
Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. Small antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants and buffalos also live on the mountainside. The higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area that has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. A climb on Mt. Elgon’s deserted moorlands unveils a magnificent and uncluttered wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains: the ultimate goal on reaching the top of Mt. Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40km² caldera.
Masai Backpackers (Kapkwai Village), The Crows Nest (Sipi Falls), Twalight Sipi Campsite (Kapchorwa).
RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The Ruwenzori’s – the fabled Mountains of the Moon – lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.
Ruwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Ruwenzori mountain range. The national park host’s 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the rarest vegetation in the world. The Ruwenzori’s are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.
Camp Norway, Ruboni Community Campsite.
MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey. As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled. Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation area that includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
Amajambere Iwacu Camp (Ntebeko), Bird Nest at Bunyonyi Resort (Bunyonyi), Bunyonyi Overland Resort (Bunyonyi), Mount Gahinga Safari Lodge.
SOURCE: UWA – For more information on Uganda’s National Parks please log onto the Uganda Wildlife Authority Website: www.ugandawildlife.org