THE PEARL OF AFRICA
Uganda offers a greater diversity of wildlife, people and landscapes than any other African destination, placing Ugandan safaris amongst the richest experiences Africa has to offer. Uganda is home to quickly varying landscapes: semi-deserts in the northeast, lush lowlands fringing the shores of Lake Victoria, the mountain rainforests of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Rwenzoris (the Mountains of the Moon) in the south-west.
Such diverse topographies create habitats for a kaleidoscope of unique wildlife. Lion, leopard buffalo, giraffe, elephant giraffe and a variety of antelope common, including the endemic Uganda kob all roam the savannahs, whilst the forests are home to chimpanzees, ten species of monkeys and the mountains are the kingdoms of the endangered mountain gorilla.
Whilst the mountain gorillas are Uganda’s most talked about asset, Uganda is considered the continent’s finest birding country, with some 1,000 recorded species, and amongst them the extremely rare shoe-billed stork.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is thought to be one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa. It has an eco system that defines the very essence of the continent and has therefore been designated as a World Heritage Site. The forest floor is damp and laden with leaf mould, matted vegetation and fallen vines, which serve to trip you as you clamber up and down the slippery slopes in search of half the world’s population of mountain gorillas.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest is home to the greatest variety and highest concentration of primates in East Africa 13 species including 500 chimpanzees. There is an abundance of birds with 325 species and you will have an encounter of fluttering butterflies everywhere with the park boasting 144 different species. The swampy clearings and grasslands are home to buffaloes and antelopes, while the slopes hide the elusive forest elephant.
Murchison Falls National Park
Located in western Uganda, Murchison Falls National Park is an unspoilt area famous for where the Nile is suddenly forced through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment producing a torrent of white water. Go for an incredibly scenic boat ride on the Victoria Nile that takes you to the bottom of the falls. The boat ride will reward you with game associated with water such as crocodiles, hippos, elephants, buffaloes, and plenty of birds like the Kingfishers.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National park has an astonishing number of species almost 100 types of mammals and 606 different bird species with the Kazinga channel said to contain the world’s largest concentration of hippos. Other wildlife includes warthogs, buffalo, antelope, giant forest hog, kob, topi waterbuck, elephant and leopard.
Lake Bunyoni means ‘place of many little birds’ due to the varied bird life that lives along the shores and on the small islands. Visitors can enjoy canoeing, mountain biking, hiking or kayaking in the area.
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. Gazetted 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 gazetted 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.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is a compact gem, located conveniently close to the highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. It is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500 million years. It is home to 350 bird species as well as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck.
Together with 13 other lakes in the area, Lake Mburo forms part of a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders. Once covered by open savanna, Lake Mburo National Park now contains much woodland as there are no elephants to tame the vegetation. In the western part of the park, the savanna is interspersed with rocky ridges and forested gorges while patches of papyrus swamp and narrow bands of lush riparian woodland line many lakes.
Mgahinga Gorilla 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 which 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.
Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. 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 Semliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semliki 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 includes 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.