National Parks

The information provided below is published by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Tourism Board

Wildlife Tourism

While the cultural diversity and effortless warmth of Ugandan people is remarked upon by all who visit the country, most itineraries revolve around the protected areas which cover more than 10% of the country. The 10 National Parks and 17 Wildlife Reserves are found all around the country and vary from the awesome vast expanses of savannah, teeming with antelope, buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra, forest hogs and big cats to the beauty of tropical rainforests, home to the largest number of primates species found anywhere in the world, and atmospheric lakes and rivers heaving with hippos, crocodiles and birds.

As yet untouched by mass tourism, Uganda’s parks are ideal retreats for the discerning eco-tourist. Uganda is the world’s premier primate viewing destination, home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas, large populations of chimpanzees and a dazzling variety of monkeys. For bird lovers, Uganda is practically peerless: it is the only African country that has a record of more than 1000 bird species. Each park offers a memorable experience!

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

This ancient rainforest is home to roughly half of the world’s mountain gorillas and offers visitors the opportunity to spend some time with these magnificent mammals in their native habitat. Looking deep into the expressive eyes of these gentle giants is surely the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter that Uganda has to offer. In addition, this park offers the chance to see many other mammal, bird and butterfly species as well as learn about the culture of the local communities and be entertained by their traditional songs and dances.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

This small national park lies in the south-western corner of the country, bordering Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo and is part of the Virungas, a chain of six extinct and three sporadically active volcanoes. Originally designated to provide sanctuary to the rare mountain gorillas, Mgahinga also supports diverse forest and moorland fauna as well as the localized golden monkey and at least 79 bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift. Trekking to the top of Mt. Sabyinyo will reward the walker with spectacular panoramic views of the western rift valley in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Edward and the snow-capped Rwenzori range of mountains. The borders of three countries converge on the summit of Mt. Sabyinyo and you will find yourself simultaneously in three parks, the Mgahinga national park (Uganda), the Virunga national park (DRC), and the Volcanoes National park (Rwanda).

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National park is a gem of a park, conveniently located close to the western highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. The varied landscapes of the park support a number of species like impalas, Burchell’s zebras, and elands that are not found in any other park in western Uganda. To view these and other species visitors have the option to take a game drive, a walking safari or even, for the adventurous, to ride a quad-bike!
In addition, the five lakes within Mburo attract hippo, crocodiles and a large variety of water birds that can be viewed, at close quarters, from the launch trips also on offer.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison is the largest of Uganda’s national parks located at the northern end of the Albertine Rift valley. As the Victoria Nile passes through the park it races down 80km of whitewater rapids before plunging 43m over the rift valley wall at the spectacular Murchison falls. After the falls, the river is transformed into a broad, placid stream that hosts one of Africa’s largest hippopotamus and crocodile populations and a dazzling variety of water birds including the rare Shoebill Stork. These can be viewed, close at hand, from launch trips to the bottom of the falls or on boat rides to the Lake Albert delta. On land, elephant, buffalo, giraffe and a variety of antelope are regularly encountered on game drives while lion and leopard are seen with increasing frequency.

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park supports a range of habitats and the highest density and diversity of primates in Africa. These species of primates, many of which are endangered, include both red and black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, grey cheeked mangabey, red tailed monkeys, olive baboons, bush baby, pottos, the rare l’Hoest’s monkeys as well as Kibale’s major attraction, the Chimpanzees. Visitors, led by the Park’s knowledgeable ranger guides, enjoy tracking these delightful apes – more closely related to humans than any other living creature. Trees rise to over 55m and exhibit a semi-closed canopy of stratified tree crowns. The undergrowth is sparse with shade tolerant herbs, shrubs, a variety of ferns and broad leaved forest grasses. The network of shady forest trails provides many delights for botanists, birders and butterfly lovers.

Semliki National Park

This national park is Africa’s most ancient park situated in the remote Semliki valley noted for its varied bird population; truly a birds paradise. The reserve also has magnificent hot springs that bubble up from the depths beneath Sempaya to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.

Guided walks from the park headquarters take visitors to the attractive springs and provide a chance to see the indigenous De Brazza’s monkey, Dent’s mona monkeys, and different species of antelope amongst the many mammals the forest harbors.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

The park lies on the rift valley floor where it rises 480m from 910m at the Kazinga channel to 1390m in the explosion crater field. It has different types of vegetation ranging from forest, grassland, bushy grassland, acacia woodland and lakeshore swamp vegetation. The park’s grassland residents include elephants, cape buffaloes, Uganda kob, waterbuck warthog, giant forest hog, lions, leopards, hyenas, topis and forest primates in Kyambura gorge and Maramagambo forest. Launch trips on the Kazinga Channel offer great game viewing as do game drives around Mweya and in Ishasha, famed for its tree climbing lions!

Rwenzori Mountains National park

A trip into the Rwenzori Mountains is a rewarding experience, which allows you to see the main peaks of the largest mountain range in Africa. The 120km Rwenzori chain, Africa’s highest mountain range, is thought to be the legendary snow-capped Mountains of the Moon, described by Ptolemy on AD150. These distinctive glacial peaks, only a few kilometers from the Equator, offer experienced mountaineers a serious challenge while the lower slopes provide hikers with a demanding walk through a range of vegetation and the opportunity to spot a variety of animals including elephants, buffaloes, chimpanzees, leopards and many colourful birds.
The most common trial, the so called central circuit, starts at the national park headquarters in Niakalengija and lasts on average seven days (six nights), reaching to an altitude of up to 4.372 metres at Scott Elliot Pass. You experience five different vegetation zones, including the tropical and bamboo forests up to the alpine zones. The hike does not require any specific climbing experience or training, but it is easy to whoever likes mountaineering. It is possible to complete the trial by ascending the main peaks, like Margherita on Mount Stanley (5.109 m), Mount Speke (4.890 m.), Mount Luigi di Savoia (4.627 m.). Visitors can also take community walks and learn more about the culture of the local people.

Mt. Elgon National Park

Mt. Elgon provides visitors with a trans-boundary hiking adventure – ascend the Ugandan slopes and descend on the Kenyan side (or vice versa). The park can be explored on foot, on routes that range from day walks to extended hikes over several days to reach the upper mountain.

The mountain is home to 296 species of birds including 40 restricted range species (birds whose Uganda range is restricted to Mt. Elgon). These birds include Hartlaub’s Turaco, Tacazze Sunbird and the Bronze-naped Pigeon. Mt. Elgon is one of the few places where endangered Lammergeyer can be seen, soaring above the caldera and Suam gorge. The park also supports a variety of wildlife including elephant, defassa’s waterbuck, oribi, leopard, spotted hyena, duiker and blue monkeys.

Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo valley is one of Africa’s last great wilderness areas creating an outstanding park which is located in the remote north-eastern corner of Uganda, bordering Sudan and Kenya. The perennial waters of the Kidepo and Narus rivers make this area an oasis that supports 86 mammal (28 occurring nowhere else in Uganda) and nearly 500 bird species. Open tree savanna habitat dominates the park, providing excellent game viewing.

Other places of interest

Source of the Nile

The River Nile is the longest river in Africa with Lake Victoria as its source, where it starts it 6,500km journey to the Mediterranean Sea (Egypt). A tour to the Nile will take you through another life of adventure. There is a golf course winding along the banks and the Source of the Nile provides a pretty focal point to the flow of water from Lake Victoria’s only outlet. A few kilometers downstream is Bujagali Falls, Uganda’s adventure capital with grade-five white water rafting, kayaking, river boarding and mountain-biking. These activities offer a unique way to explore the river banks, passing though farms, forests and villages beside the Nile.

Up along the Nile’s course is Lake Kyoga which also feeds the river with fresh water. The course then leads you to the great Murchison Falls, where the world’s longest river explodes violently through a narrow cleft in the rift valley escarpment plunging into a frothing pool 43 meters below. From this point, River Nile flows though Lake Albert to the northern part of Uganda, to Sudan and finally Egypt were it pours its mass into the Mediterranean Sea. This is the Victoria Source of the Nile, the source of adventure and excitement!

Ssese islands

The 84 lush Equatorial Ssese Islands form worlds of their own off the coast at Entebbe in Lake Victoria. There is a lot of wildlife to see, delightful empty beaches, friendly islanders and peaceful environment providing an excellent opportunity for fishing, bird watching, boating and walking.

Lake Bunyonyi

As its serpentine shape may suggest, Lake Bunyonyi is essentially a flooded valley system, extending northwards from Rwanda border over a distance of 25 kms through the contours of the steep hills that separate Kabale from Kisoro. It is thought to have formed around 8000 million years ago, as a result of lava flow from one of the Virunga Mountains which blocked off the Ndego River at present day Muko to create a dam.

The lake covers a total area of around 60km² but it forms the core of the 180km² wetland ecosystem, incorporating the Ruvuma swamp and several other permanent marshes. It lies at an altitude of 1840m, but several of the enclosing hills rise up to 2,500m, and although reported estimates of its depth vary wildly, it is probably nowhere greater than 45m deep. An all-weather road connects Kabale to Rutinda, the focal point of tourists’ activity on Lake Bunyonyi.

Dotted with at least 20 small Islands and encircled by steep terraced hills, Bunyonyi is a magical spot. Over the past few years, the lake has further gained in popularity with the proliferation of budget accommodation, campsites and resorts around the small fishing villages and nearby Islands. Its high altitude location ensures a moderate climate (often becoming quite chilly in the nights) and a relatively low incidence of malaria. The lake is safe to swim in as it is one of the few waterways in Uganda that does not have any crocodiles or hippos! Active travelers are catered for with canoes, kayaks and mountain bikes available for hire