Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park, locally known as Kabalega National Park is situated at the end of the Albertine Rift Valley. It is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, located in north-western Uganda, spreading over 3,893 square kilometres (1,503 square miles). It spreads from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma Falls. Murchison is the oldest and largest national park in Uganda. The park spreads over the Ugandan districts of Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Masindi. The park is 282 kilometres from Kampala city (5 hours’ drive) and can be accessed via road and chartered air transport. Murchison Falls National Park is home to 76 different mammals and 451 birds. The park is dissected by the magnificent Victoria Nile, which plunges 45 meters over the remnant valley with 80 kilometres stretch of rapids that flow into Lake Albert! This beauty to behold will offer you a calm connection with nature. It is easy to access from the numerous lodges located around it.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) was named after Queen Elizabeth of England in 1954 following her visit. It is found in western Uganda in the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge and Rubirizi laying between Lake George and Lake Edward, with the Kazinga Channel cutting across and magnificently overlooking the snowcapped Mount Rwenzori. This beauty borders the Kyambura Game Reserve to the East, Kibale National Park to the Northeast and Virunga National Park to the West. It spans 1,126 square kilometres (700 square miles) and is 389 Kilometres from Kampala city. It can be accessed by road and by chartered air transport. QENP has many beautiful lodges. It is the most popular savanna park destination for someone who wants a chance to see lions including the tree climbing lions (one of only two populations of them in the World). The Park is endowed with a great diversity of habitats such as forests, savannah grasslands, lakes, and wetlands and is home to 95 varieties of mammals and 10 primate species. The park has the highest diversity of birds in Africa; with 618 bird species, making it a perfect destination if your interest is birdwatching. You will enjoy the thrill of boat ride along the Kazinga Channel, where you will come in close proximity with animals such as African elephants, African buffalos, Nile crocodiles and hippopotamus. Another notable tourist activity in that area is Lake Katwe, a volcanic lake served with streams but with no outlet popularly known for high quality salt mining. You will have the opportunity of watching men and women mine salt, plus the beautiful rocks from the volcanic eruption that happened 10,000 years back. The journey to QENP will offer you the opportunity to pass via the Equator. QENP presents you with a range of beautiful sites and activities such as the Kyambura Gorge, Kalinzu Forest, Kasenyi Plains, tree climbing lions, Kazinga Channel, Chimpanzee tracking, Mweya Peninsular, Lake Katwe salt works, Katwe Explosion crater lakes; all in one package!
Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park spans 1,442 square kilometers in Kaabong district, Karamoja region in northeastern Uganda. It is approximately 692 kilometres from Kampala City – 11 hours’ drive. It can be accessed by road and chartered airplanes. Kidepo is rugged savannah, dominated by the 2,750 metres Mount Morungole and bisected by the Kidepo and Narus rivers. With the highest concentration of animals, it hosts over 75 species of mammals and 470 species of birds. During the game drives, expect to see animals such as buffalos, Savannah elephants, kobs, waterbucks, giraffes, lions, leopards, cheetahs, hippopotamus, warthogs, zebras, hyenas, eland among others. Some primate species such as the rare patas monkey can be sighted there. Kidepo offers a breathtaking plain with rolling hills at the borders; you will basically be able to view very far, while standing at one point! The indigenous Karamojong people are cattle keepers who have historically been nomadic. They offer a rich history and cultural heritage; a visit to their community can be arranged if preferred by you.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a large prehistoric forest and UNESCO Site located in Kanungu District, south-western Uganda. Located at the edge of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift, the forest is found at elevations ranging from 1,160 to 2,607 metres covering 331 square kilometres. It is 469 kilometres from Kampala city; 8.5 hours’ drive via the Equator. The forest is known for its exceptional biodiversity. The name Bwindi is derived from the Runyakitara word Mubwindi and means “a place full of darkness”. The darkness is as a result of the rich vegetation comprised of extensive stands of bamboo, vines, ferns and other plants that hinder direct access on foot. Bwindi is famous for the endangered mountain gorillas, with the most common activity being gorilla tracking and trekking. Did you know that mountain gorillas can only be found in 3 countries; Uganda, Rwanda and DRC? This expedition will give you the unrivaled experience of being one with these rare animals. Bwindi is home to a population of 320 mountain gorillas (more than half of their population in the world), making it the highest population in the world! Some of them are habituated, offering tracking to the visitors. Given the steep terrain of the park, one ought to be physically fit for this expedition. The park is also home to 346 bird species, 200 butterfly species, 324 tree species and over 120 mammals and primates. The animals include; elephants, chimpanzees, baboons, buffaloes, duikers, golden cats, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, clawless otter, side-striped jackal, civet among others. The indigenous people known as the Batwa are a community of hunter-gatherer pygmies who survive at Bwindi. This community has unique spiritual ties to the forest; which has their home for hundreds of years. A visit to their community will offer you a walk through their history as they tell tales while entertaining you. You can support this community by buying their beautiful handcrafts as mementos for yourself. The park has also a number of luxury lodges, budget campsites and restaurants in Nkuringo, Buhoma, Ruhija, Mgahinga and Rushaga gorilla tracking sectors. An expedition of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one not to be missed!
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is located in Western Uganda in Nyabushozi County, Kiruhura District near Mbarara City. With about 255 kilometres by road west of Kampala – 4 hours’ drive, it is one of the closest National parks to Kampala and located just along the Kampala-Mbarara highway. The journey to the park will offer you the opportunity to pass via the Equator. It spans an area of 260 square kilometers and is underlined with prehistoric Precambrian metamorphic rocks. The park is the only national park with a whole lake in it; the Lake Mburo which has a remarkable history. The trip there will offer you a boat ride on the lake, where you will come in close proximity with hippopotamus. The forested park hosts 68 mammal species such as impala, zebra, warthog, hippopotamus, crocodile, African buffalo, common eland and Rothschild giraffes. Predators include, leopards, hyenas, genets, civets, jackals among others. If you are lucky, you will be able to sight some lions as well. It also hosts over 350 bird species such as the crested crane, shoebill, woodpecker, stork, pelican, heron among others. Additionally, Kiruhura and Mbarara districts are famous for the graceful long-horned Ankole cattle, the pride of Ankole!
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in Kisoro district, south western Uganda. It spans 33.7 square kilometres and is part of the Virunga conservation area; with the other two parks being Virunga National park in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The park sits in the clouds at altitudes of between 2,227m and 4,127m and covers 3 of the extinct Virunga volcanoes; Mt. Muhavura (4,127), Mt. Gahinga (3,474), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645). Mgahinga is about 480 kilometres from Kampala city; 9 hours’ drive. The naming of the Park as Mgahinga comes from the Kinyarwanda word “Gahinga” that means “Pile of volcanic lava stone heaps where cultivation is carried out”. “Sabinyo” means “the old man’s teeth” and “Muhavura” means “Guide”. This park is home to mountain gorillas and the endangered golden monkey. Gorilla tracking permits can be obtained to track the Nyakagezi gorilla group. This group initially moved across the three countries but has settled in Mgahinga National Park. The park will also offer you the unforgettable thrill of hiking to the top of the mountains. Mt. Gahinga has a beautiful swamp at the top, while Mt. Muhavura has a crater lake. You will get to set foot on three countries; Uganda, DRC and Rwanda when you hike to the Mt. Sabinyo summit! The mountain slopes are covered with beautiful vegetation and dense forests. Hiking, trekking mountain gorillas and tracking golden monkeys are not the only things to look out for at Mgahinga National Park. It additionally has about 37 other mammals including, leopards, spotted hyenas, buffaloes, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, elephants, black fronted duikers among others. It also has around 79 bird species.
Mount Rwenzori National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ramsar Site located at the snowcapped Rwenzori Mountains. The Rwenzoris are home to Uganda’s highest point: Margherita Peak (5,109m) on Mount Stanley. It is one of the most challenging and at the same time adventurous mountain ranges to trek in the World. The park is located in Bundibugyo, Kabarole and Kasese districts, covering a surface of 998 square kilometres. It is about 450 kilometres from Kampala city, about 7 hours’ drive depending. The Rwenzori Mountains has the third highest peak in Africa with many waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and beautiful plant life. The word Rwenzori means “rain”, hence the good supply of rainfall and rich vegetation. Its plant life comprises bamboo woodlands, dense tropical rain-forest, montane cloud forests and high-altitude vegetation. These are in 5 attitudinal zones of vegetation; Afro montane vegetation zone, Bamboo zone, Heather zone, Moorland (Afro- Alpine) zone and Rocky glacier. The park is mostly renowned for mountaineering, trekking, hiking and climbing. If you are looking for a very special mountain trekking experience, you will be pleasantly welcomed by their remote location, fluctuating weather conditions, diverse vegetation and viewpoints. Both high altitude and low altitude hikes can be arranged for, that take a duration of approximately 2-4 days and 4-12 days respectively. The rich vegetation zones are home to 70 species of mammals, primates and 177 bird species. The animals include Rwenzori otters, leopards, elephants, chimpanzees among others. The dense forest makes it a bit difficult to catch sight of the animals. However, the primates (colobus and blue monkeys), smaller animals (such as antelopes and bushbucks) and reptiles (such as the three-horned chameleon) are easier to spot. The Rwenzoris are an Important Birding Area (IBA) with a variety of birds such as the Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Long-eared Owl, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Handsome Francolin among others. Tourists going for the high altitude hike can catch sight of black eagles and endangered lammergeyer.
Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park is found in Kibale district, western Uganda. It covers 766 square kilometres with an elevation ranging between 1,100 and 1,600 metres. This haven prides of an evergreen rainforest with a diverse array of landscapes. The park is located about 348 kilometres from Kampala City, 5 hours’ drive via the Equator and 26 kilometres from the beautiful Fort Portal City. It is located close to the serene Ndali Kasenda crater area. The Kasenda area is home to more than 50 crater lakes, surrounded by steep sided volcanoes giving a unique landscape. With a staggering population of 13 species of primates (the highest in Africa), Kibale National Park is most famous for primate (especially chimpanzee) trekking and tracking. These primates include the rare L’Hoest’s monkeys, the endangered red colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys, the black and white colobus, blue monkeys, grey cheeked mangabey monkeys, olive baboons, bush babies, potto among others. The park has a population of over 1,450 chimpanzees, some of them habituated, giving you over 95% chance of seeing them. You will have an almost sure opportunity to see these primates in their natural environment. Even though elusive, the park has other varieties of mammals such as buffaloes, leopards, bush pigs, elephants, and duikers. The park is also home to 325 bird species such as the crowned eagle, dusky crimsonwing, blue-headed sunbird, black-capped apalis, purple-breasted sunbird, red-faced woodland warbler and collared apalis among others. Birdwatching is an unforgettable activity you will experience at this park, with the Bigodi nature walk giving you the prospect of viewing over 138 bird species along the swamp. The park has over 351 species of trees; with shade tolerant herbs, a variety of ferns, shrubs and broad leaved forest grasses. It comprises the moist evergreen forest, the dry tropical forest, the woodland and savanna along the rift valley floor. With vegetation rising to over 55m, they offer a semi-closed canopy of massive stratified tree crowns giving a magnificent shade for you. You can go for a 2 to 6 days guided nature walk/ forest hike from Kanyanchu or Sebitoli. With its location, it takes a few hours’ drive to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks and the Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve for more expeditions.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is located at the Ugandan-Kenyan border and is bisected between the two countries. The park is a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve and covers an area of 1,279 square kilometres (494 square miles); with the Ugandan part of the park covering 1,110 square kilometres (430 square miles). The park is located in Eastern Uganda. It is 227 kilometres from Kampala City by road – 4 hours’ drive. Mount Elgon National Park is named after Mount Elgon, an extinct shield volcano; the oldest volcanic mountain in East Africa. The mountain has the largest surface area of any extinct volcano in the world, with the 8th highest peak in Africa at 4,321m. It is also a water catchment area for Nzoia River which flows to Lake Victoria, and for the Suam (Turkwel) River, which flows into Lake Turkana in Kenya. The most common activity at this park is hiking; with three main starting points or trails – The Salsa (Buddukiro) Trail, Pisa Trail and Sipi trail. The Salsa trail is the shortest trail, albeit very steep. Hiking takes between 4 to 6 days depending on the trail used. The park has over 400 species of vegetation that are layered according to the altitude. The slopes have a rich variety of vegetation like montane forest and moorland with the giant lobelia, groundsel and heather plants. The mountain slopes have Elgon olive, wet montane forest. Higher altitudes have olive, Afrocarpus gracilior forest, Afrocarpus, bamboo Arundinaria alpina zone, heaths Erica arborea, Erica trimera among others. These offer a beautiful and serene environment. At this calm and beautifully green environment, you will be able to view lots of bird species. The park is home to over 144 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer, the eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Jackson’s spurfowl, the Tacazze sunbird, Hartlaub’s turaco among others. The park also has half of butterfly species in Uganda and the endangered dragonfly (Maathai’s longleg). Mt. Elgon National Park is ideal for birdwatchers. The park is also home to some mammals such as the leopard, elephant, hyena, buffalo, small antelope, duiker, forest monkeys, including the black-and-white colobus, blue monkey and red-tailed monkey. The elephants and other mammals have been known to mine the mountain for salt, developing caves such as Kitum, Chepnyali, Mackingeny, Chebui, Kebenob-Teretit and the Kochonget caves. Some of these caves have ancient paintings that will give you a rich history of the area and its people. Other attractions at this park include hot springs in the crater which boil at temperatures of up to 48°C, Jackson’s pool and Jackson’s peak. Jackson’s Pool, a natural pool with shallow waters stands at 4,050m. It lies in the shadow of the 4,165m high Jackson’s Peak, a free-standing volcanic plug rising from the western flank of the mountain. If you visit during an even year (for example 2022, 2024 etc.), you may witness the famed male circumcision ritual; a transition to adulthood of the indignant male Bagisu people locally known as Imbalu. The beats, dances and thrill of the Imbalu ritual is something worth witnessing.
Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is a national park found in Bundibugyo district, Western Uganda in a remote part called Bwamba County. It covers 219 square kilometres of East Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest. It is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa! Semuliki lies on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. The Ituri Forest is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; and one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago. Semuliki sprawls across the floor of the Semuliki Valley on the remote western side of the Rwenzori Mountains and Southern side of Lake Albert, bordering Semliki and Lamia Rivers. The park lies within the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the East African Rift Valley, on a flat to gently undulating landform that ranges from 670 to 760 m (2,200 to 2,490 ft) above sea level. This gem is located 331 kilometres from Kampala City – 5.5 hours’ drive. Having two hot springs in a hot mineral encrusted swamp, the park attracts a large number of shorebirds and provide salt licks for many animals, making it one of the richest areas of floral and faunal biodiversity in Africa with a diversity of bird and butterfly species. The park has a rich variety of vegetation which is predominantly medium altitude moist evergreen to semi deciduous forest. The park hosts over 300 species of butterflies, 46 species of swallowtails, 235 moth species, 441 recorded bird species (23 of them are Albertine Rift endemics), over 60 mammals such as elephants, hippopotamus, crocodiles, antelopes and 8 primates such as baboons and chimpanzees. Some of the birds include 35 Guinea-congo forest biome bird species, Haartlaub’s duck, lyre-tailed honey guide, spot-breasted ibis, Congo sepent eagle, red thighed sparrowhawk, chestnut flaned goshawk, the western bronze-naped pigeon, yellow throated cukoo, Oberländer’s ground thrush, nine hornbill species among others. With such a rich biodiversity, this park is famous for birdwatching, nature walks, hiking through the 13 km (8.1 mi) Kirumia Trail and visiting the hot springs where you can boil eggs. Four distinct ethnic groups live near the park – the Bwamba farmers, the Bakonjo, the Batuku cattle keepers and the Batwa pygmies, traditionally hunter gathers who live on the edge of the forest. A visit to some of these communities will offer you rich lessons on the history and way of life of these interesting indigenous people. You can also buy beautiful handmade crafts that they produce.
Lake Bunyonyi is found in south-western Uganda in Kisoro and Kabale districts, close to the border with Rwanda. The word Bunyonyi means “Place of many little birds”. The depth of Lake Bunyonyi measures 40 m (130 ft), though some insist it is much deeper, at about 900 m (3,000 ft), making it the second-deepest lake in Africa. The road distance between Kampala and Lake Bunyonyi is 459.9 kilometres – 8.5 hours’ drive. Lake Bunyonyi has islands such as Akampene (Punishment Island), Bwama and Njuyeera (Sharp’s Island) Bushara Island. Punishment Island gets its name from the infamous history it holds; the indignant Bakiga people used to leave unmarried pregnant girls on this small island – to die of hunger or while trying to swim to the mainland or fend for themselves until a man who can’t afford dowry for a wife goes to pick up one woman from the island for “free”. The practice was long abandoned, though the Island still carries the name. Lake Bunyonyi is composed of ever green and lush terraced hills with over 200 water and migratory bird species. Animals such as the impala, zebra, water buck, the kob and the only debrasa monkey (referred to as the “President of this Island”) can be sighted. You can go to this breathtaking haven for birdwatching, and sports like swimming, boat cruising and riding, hikes and nature walks. Additionally, you can go for a community walk at the Bakiga Cultural museum, the blacksmith sites, visit the village of Bufuka for Batwa and Bakiga experiences.
Other tourist attraction sitesto visit while in Uganda include;
Source of the River Nile, Amabere ga nyina Mwiru, hot spots, Sipi Falls, Nyero Rock Paintings, Aruu Falls, Namugongo Christian Shrines, Cultural Palaces, Kasubi Tombs among others. These and so many others make Uganda the Pearl of Africa!