Administrator

Administrator

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.

Geography and Climate

Semuliki National Park is located in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo District in western Uganda. Semuliki National Park has an area of 219 sq km and is part of the Central African Congo Basin forest system of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), being separated from the Ituri forest of the DRC only by the Semliki River. It is separated from the rest of East Africa by the Rwenzori Mountain range and with it being located within the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the Great Rift Valley, it is included within the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot

The park experiences an average rainfall of 1,250 mm, with peaks in rainfall from March to May and from September to December. Many areas of the park experience flooding during the wet season. The temperature at the park varies from 18 to 30 °C, with relatively small daily variations.

The area that Semuliki National Park covers is a distinct ecosystem within the larger Albertine Rift ecosystem. The park is located at the junction of several climatic and ecological zones, and as a result has a high diversity of plant and animal species and many microhabitats. Most of the plant and animal species in the park are also found in the Congo Basin forests, with many of these species reaching the eastern limit of their range in Semuliki National Park.

Biodiversity

The flora and fauna show strong affinities with the Congo basin forest with many species reaching the eastern limit of their ranges in Semuliki Forest. The flora is dominated by a single tree species, Cynometra alexandri, mixed with tree species of a more evergreen nature. Swamp forest communities are also found. The fauna of the forest is outstandingly rich and includes more than 400 bird species of which 216 (66% of the country’s total) are true forest birds such as the rare Sassi’s Olive Greenbul (Phyllastrephus lorenzi) and Forest Ground Thrush (Turdus oberlaenderi). Nine species of hornbills have been recorded as well. 75% of the Charaxes butterfly genuses are found in this forest, 441 species of bird, one species of primate, and one of butterfly are only recorded from this area in the East African part of their ranges. The forest is home to 53 mammals of which 27 are large mammals. 11 species are endemic to the park including the pygmy antelope and two flying squirrel species. It is also home to the peculiar water chevrotain, known as the “fanged deer”

Mammals include leopards, hippos, elephant, forest buffalo, hippopotamus, civets, potto, bush babies, mona monkeys, water chevrotains, and nine species of Duikers, including the Bay Duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis) and the Pygmy Flying Squirrel (Idiuus zenkeri) that occur nowhere else in East Africa.

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season (December to March: It is hot and dry, April to June: It is relatively rainy, July to September: It is dry with occasional passing rain, where as October to November: there are short heavy rains) and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles while in the park, Note that seasons are changing in the world and very often no longer predictable as ever before. Available tourist accommodation in and around the park includes lodges notably Semuliki Safari Lodge, Ntoroko Game Lodge and Camp and alternative budget accommodation in Bundibugyo and Fort Portal towns.

The major tourist activities in the park include game viewing by vehicles on dirt roads, hiking and Nature Walks in Semuliki, Birding, and Cultural Encountersm as well as visiting the Sempaya Hot Spings.

Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park as well as how to pay for any of the activities you wish to get involved in. Note that you can book your activities from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or at any entry points of the park.

Semuliki National Park is approximately 6 hours from Kampala by road following the Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal road, with an alternative route of Kampala-Mbarara-Kasese-Fort Portal route taking approximately 9 hours drive. The park is about 2 hours from Fort Portal. Regular scheduled flights by Aero Link take about 2 hours and fly into the park at Semuliki Airstrip from Entebbe airport. Charters can easily be arranged as well by Aero Link, Eagle Air, Kampala Aero Club, and Ndege Jju.

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.

Park at a Glance

Size: 220km² with an altitude of 670-760m above sea level

Semuliki Forest Reserve was created in 1932 and upgraded to national park status in 1993.

It is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa, hosting 441 recorded bird species and 53 mammals.

Large areas of this low-lying park may flood during the wet season,a brief reminder of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of a lake for seven million years.

Four distinct ethnic groups live near the park – Bwamba farmers live along the base of the Rwenzori while the Bakonjo cultivate the mountain slopes. Batuku cattle keepers inhabit on the open plains and Batwa pygmies, traditionally hunter gathers, live on the edge of the forest.


Areas of Interest

  • AISNP2
    Sempaya
  • AISNP
    Sempaya Hot Springs
  • AISNP3
    Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve


Wildlife and birding

  • WSNP1
    Birds
  • WSNP2
    Wildlife

The Rwenzoris – 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.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.

The Rwenzoris 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.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

Geography and Climate

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in southwestern Uganda on the east side of the western (Albertine) African rift valley. It lies along Uganda's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and borders the DRC's Virunga National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for 50 km. It is situated in the Bundibugyo, Kabarole, and Kasese districts, 25 km from the small town of Kasese. The park is 996 sq km in size, 70% of which exceeds an altitude of 2,500m above seas level. The park is 120 km long and 48 km wide.

The Rwenzori Mountains straddle the equator along the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, extending north–south for about 110 km and east–west for about 50 km. Rising gradually from the highland plains of Uganda, the mountains fall steeply on the west to the Semliki River, the outflow of Lake Edward and a major tributary of Lake Albert, one of the sources of the White Nile. Geologically the mountains are young, created in the late Pliocene by an upthrust of crystalline rocks (mainly gneiss, amphibolite, granite and quartzite) that rose from within the western rift to divide palaeolake Obweruka and create present-day Lakes Albert and Edward. Hence, the range itself is not of volcanic origin although numerous craters (crater-lakes) of more recent age are found in the surrounding area.

The Rwenzori are wetter than other East African mountains, with annual rainfall varying with altitude from 2,000 to 3,000 mm, and being heaviest on the eastern slope, which faces the prevailing winds. On the Uganda side heavy rain can occur any time of year, but the rainiest periods are from mid-March to May and from September to mid-December. This therefore means those on Rwenzori Mountain Hiking Safari should target the dry period of June to September. The equatorial position of the mountain range creates daily air temperature oscillations between −5°C and 20°C in the Alpine and Nival zones, an order of magnitude greater than the seasonal variation in maximum daytime temperature. Occasional night-time freezing occurs from 3,000 m altitude (the present-day boundary between Bamboo and Ericaceous zones); to 4,000 m (the Ericaceous–Alpine zone boundary) freezing occurs on 80–90% of the nights

Biodiversity

The Rwenzori, like other tropical mountains, have a range of exotic vegetation organized in discrete vegetation belts distributed across the altitudinal gradient. The montane forest zone extends from about 1,800 to (2,200) 2,400 m, and varies from dense forest (mainly confined to valley bottoms and ridge tops), through bracken or shrub dominated areas with scattered trees, to grassy glades. Common trees include Albizia spp., Dombeya spp., Olea spp., Podocarpus milanjianus, Prunus africana and Symphoniaglobulifera. The bamboo zone, which is dominated by Sinarundinaria alpina, reaches its upper limit at about 2,600 (2,800) m on the west and 3,000 m on the east side. The Ericaceous zone (Fig. 2a), extending from the end of the bamboo up to (3,800) 3,900 m, is characterised by broad-leaved trees (Hypericum spp. or St. John’s Wort, Hagenia abyssinica and Rapanea rhododendroides), arborescent heathers (Erica spp.) draped with Usnea spp. (Old Man’s beard, a lichen), flowering shrubs (typically Helichrysum guilelmii), scattered tree groundsel (mostly Senecio longeligulatus), and giant lobelias (chiefly Lobelia stuhlmannii). The dominant mosses are Breutelia stuhlmannii and Sphagnum spp.

Common plants in the Alpine zone include Carex runssoroensis tussocks, as well as Helichrysum stuhlmannii (everlasting flower) and Alchemilla spp. (Ladies Mantle). Most celebrated in this zone are the so-called ‘giant rosette’ plants of the genera Senecio and Lobelia (primarily S. adnivalis, S. friesiorum and L. wollastonii), which are well-developed in ravines and other sheltered or well-watered sites. Almost all rock surfaces in the Nival zone, if not overlain by glaciers, are covered by lichens of the genera Umbilicaria and Usnea and mosses, such as Rhacocarpus humboldtii forming bright orange carpets.

Rwenzori is exceptionally rich in endemics: it harbours at least 1 hawkmoth, 6 butterflies, 19 bird species and 12 small mammals that occur only here and/or in a few other highlands on either side of the Albertine Rift (including the Rwenzori hyrax Dendrohyrax arboreus ruwenzorii and Rwenzori Leopard Panthera pradus ruwenzori). Twelve species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals including the ‘vulnerable’ Moon striped Mouse (Hybomys lunaris), the ‘vulnerable’ Rwenzori Horse-shoe Bat (Rhinolophus ruwenzori), the ‘near threatened’ Rwenzori Otter Shrew (Micropotomogale ruwenzori) and the ‘least concern’ Rwenzori Turaco (Ruwenzorornis johnstoni)

The park is home to 70 species of mammal, including six Albertine Rift endemics; 12 are endemic to the park and three are rare species. Other mammals include the elephant, chimpanzee, Rwenzori otter and leopard. Though wildlife is difficult to spot in the dense forest, do look out for primates such as colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both present) and blue monkeys; small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.

Tourism

The park is owned by the Ugandan government through Uganda National Parks. It is protected, although extraction may be sanctioned by a board of trustees. Kasese, 437 km west of Uganda's capital Kampala, is the gateway to the park. The town has hotels and lodges, while the park has camping, a good trail network and huts for hikers. The park has excellent trekking and climbing opportunities with spectacular views and unusual scenery. The major tourist activity here is mountain climbing although you are required to spend an overnight at the base of the mountain or in Kasese town.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

Park at a Glance

  • Size: 996km2
  • The park was gazetted in 1991 and was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008.
  • Highest point: 5,109m above sea level on Mt Stanley's Margherita Peak. Mt. Stanley is bisected by the border with the DR Congo.
  • The Rwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but is a block of rock upfaulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley.
  • The Rwenzoris were christened the "Mountains of the Moon" by the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150.
  • The explorer Henry Stanley placed the Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888. He labeled it ‘Ruwenzori’, a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”
  • The oldest recorded person to reach Margherita Peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.

Areas of Interest

  • ruboni-bridge
    Ruboni Bridge
  • ruboni-village
    Ruboni Village
  • peaks
    Peaks


Wildlife and birding summary

  • colobus
    Colobus
  • chameleon
    Chameleon
  • turaco
    Turaco

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 Rwenzori 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 kob.

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 gazetting of the park has ensured the conservation of its ecosystems, which in turn benefits the surrounding communities.

Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is truly a Medley of Wonders!

History

The area currently occupied by the Queen Elizabeth National Park was previously a grazing area for local Basongora pastoralists. When British explorers Stanley and Lugard toured the area towards the end of last century, both reported the area to have been largely depopulated as a result of cattle raiding (from the Bunyoro and Buganda kingdoms) and epidemics of rinderpest and smallpox. The Basongora social economy could not recover from these events and with the exception of remnant villages around the two lakes, the area was almost completely depopulated. Those who did remain were forced to turn to fishing. These events allowed the game populations to increase and vegetation to change significantly, and played an important role in determining the creation of the national park by the Protectorate administration. In 1906, the area to the north of Lake George was declared a Game Reserve, in order to prevent what some administrators believed to be unregulated hunting by Africans and Europeans and growing pressure for development of cotton and wheat production.

By 1912, the whole of the Lake George and Ishasha areas (Lake George Game Reserve) were declared restricted areas, agricultural and fishing communities moved out to other non-affected areas and the area was largely abandoned. Further outbreaks of sleeping sickness continued up until the mid 1930s. The National Park Ordinance was passed on 31st March 1952 and Queen Elizabeth National Park then, Kazinga National Park was legally gazetted later that year, following intense lobbying by the Chief Game Warden of that time, Bruce Kinloch, and the Governor. As a result, the land area protected within the Lake George Game Reserve area was expanded considerably to include a large area to the east of Lake Edward and Kazinga Channel.

Geography and climate

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located within the Albertine Rift Valley in western Uganda near the Rwenzori Mountains. It covers a total area of 1,978 km2 of hills, plains, forest, and swamp. QENP is continuous with Parc National des Virunga in Congo and therefore forms one of the largest protected area systems in eastern Africa, in the Greater Virunga Landscape. The park has two rainy seasons, from March-May and from September-November, but rainfall varies greatly within the park. The highest is about 1,250 mm per year and occurs in the Maramagambo forest but only about 750 mm per year falls in the area along the Kazinga channel. This probably results from interference with air circulation patterns by the Rwenzoris to the north, and the Kichwamba escarpment to the east.

The area around Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) has two pronounced rainy seasons, due to its location on the equator and the annual migration of the Inter tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The onset of the first rains is typically around late February for all four stations. The onset of the second rains is typically around mid-August. There is no significant difference in the duration of the two rainy seasons at any station. There is equally no significant difference in the amount of rainfall received during the two rainy seasons at any station, except for at Kitwe, where more rainfall occurs during the second rains than during the first rains.

Biodiversity

The Queen Elizabeth National Park has been designated a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO auspices. The park, includes a remarkable variety of ecosystems, from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows, savannah and swamps. It is the home of the famous tree climbing lion as well as the Uganda Kob, other antelope species, elephant, baboons, hippos, buffalo and chimpanzees. Over 600 species of birds have been recorded, making the park a magnet for bird watchers. The bird species include the black bee-eater, 11 types of king fisher, Shoebill storks and several species of falcons, eagles and other raptors. In the crater lakes to the north, flocks of flamingos can be found. A favorite way to view the game is by launch trip on the Kazinga Channel between Lakes George and Edward.

Tourism

Tourists can go on Queen Elizabeth national Park Safari any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles to access the park. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Mweya Safari Lodge, Kyambura Game Lodge, Kyambura Gorge Lodge, Enganzi Lodge, Jacana Safari Lodge, Katara Lodge, Ihamba Safari Lodge, and alternative budget accommodation at Simba Safari Camp and the Mweya Hostel.

The major tourist activities in the park include game viewing typically around the kasenyi area and game drives in the Ishasha sector in search of the tree climbing lions, chimpanzee tracking in the Kyambura Gorge and the nearby Kalinzu forest reserve, Launch cruise along the Kazinga channel rewards you with sights of a diversity of bird species as well as wildlife, there are also forest walks in the Maramagambo forest which has a bat cave. Queen Elizabeth national Park is surrounded by communities where cultural interactions are possible.

Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park as well as how to pay for any of the activities you wish to get involved in. For those interested in Chimpanzee tracking, note that the permits are booked at the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala and it is on first come first served basis.

Park at a Glance

Size: 1,978km².

Queen Elizabeth spans the equator line; monuments on either side of the road mark the exact spot where it crosses latitude 00.

The park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, and renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.

The park is home to over 95 mammal species and over 600 bird species.

The Katwe explosion craters mark the park's highest point at 1,350m above sea level, while the lowest point is at 910m, at Lake Edward.

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 gazetted 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.

Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals.

History

Murchison Falls Conservation Area is one of the oldest, and is the largest, protected area (PA) in Uganda. It is comprised of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Refuge and Karuma Wildlife Refuge. Currently, the national park itself encompasses 3,893 sq.km. Bugungu Wildlife Refuge (501 sq.km) and Karuma Wildlife Refuge (678 sq.km) are adjacent and act as buffer zones for the park. In addition is Budongo Forest Reserve which overlaps parts of both wildlife reserves, and covers an additional 591 sq.km. This makes a total of 5,663 sq.km of space that is under some level of protection through controlled use. The national park and the two wildlife reserves are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) and the Budongo Forest Reserve is managed by the National Forestry Association except where it overlaps with UWA-managed lands.

Between the years of 1907 and 1912, the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 sq.km were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tse-tse flies. This paved the way for the establishment of the Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910, which encompassed roughly the area south of the Nile River that is now part of the National Park in Masindi District. In 1928 the boundaries were extended into Gulu District north of the river, and the resulting protected area (PA) became known as the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve. As the human population had already been evacuated due to sleeping sickness, it was possible to establish this game reserve without displacing any of the local people for the sake of the park. In 1932, the Budongo Forest Reserve was established. This became the first commercial logging concession in Uganda, and to date is one of the most intensively studied “working” forests in the world. The boundaries of this forest continued to expand over the next thirty years until they reached the current size of 825 sq.km. Much animosity was created by this process as locals lost land and never quite knew where the boundaries were due to the frequent changes.

In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. After forty years of reduced hunting in the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve, the animal populations had expanded to an extent that justified upgrading the reserve, which became Murchison Falls National Park, one of the first two national parks, along with Queen Elizabeth NP. By the mid-1960’s, Murchison Falls had become the premier safari destination in all of East Africa, with over 60,000 visitors per year.

Geography and climate

The park lies in north western Uganda, spreading inland from the shore of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile. Together with the adjacent 748 square kilometers Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and the 720 square kilometers Karuma Wildlife Reserve, the park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area MFCA. Murchison Falls National Park is located in Buliisa District in western Uganda and in Nwoya District in northern Uganda. The park is situated approximately 300 kilometers, by road, northwest of Kampala, Uganda's capital city.

The climate in Murchison Falls is tropical and hot. Being close to the equator, temperatures are quite uniform throughout the year. The area around Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) has two rainy seasons. These seasons are not as pronounced as they are at more equatorial regions in Uganda.

Biodiversity

Murchison Fall National Park houses a combination of grasslands, wooded savannah, tropical forests, wetlands, and open water covering approximately 39,000 ha at an altitude of more than 600m. The park houses 109 species of mammals including; hippopotamus, antelope, giraffes, hartebeest, oribi and Uganda kob, 145 tree species and 0ver 476 bird species. Murchison Falls NP is one of the best places in Africa to find the shoebill stork. The boat trip on the Victoria Nile is a great start for many water-associated birds. With 53 species recorded, raptors are also very well represented. The park's impressive checklist contains more than 450 species. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

The park supports four of the "Big Five", only rhino being absent. Buffalo and elephant are particularly common. There is a very healthy population of lions that like to prey on the abundantly available Uganda kob. Hyena is present but rare but zebra is absent. The Victoria Nile is a magnet for wildlife and it teems with crocodiles and hippos. Chimpanzees can be tracked in neighboring Budongo Forest Reserve. Large herds of the localized Rothschild's giraffe are found in the park. The rare Patas monkey can sometimes be spotted on the grassy plains.

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles while on your Murchison Falls safari. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Paraa Safari Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, Nile Safari Lodge, Sambiya River Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Budongo Eco Lodge, Bakers Lodge, and alternative budget accommodation at Red Chilli Rest Camp.

The major tourist activities in the park include game viewing typically around the delta circuit, chimpanzee tracking in the Budongo Forest, Launch cruise along the Nile to the bottom of the falls rewards you with sights of a diversity of bird species as well as wildlife, and there is also an interesting walk to the top of the falls.

Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park as well as how to pay for any of the activities you wish to get involved in. Note that you can book your activities from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or at any entry points of the park.

Park at a Glance

Size: 3,840km2

Murchison Falls became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952

At Murchison Falls, the Nile squeezes through an 8m wide gorge and plunges with a thunderous roar into the "Devil's Cauldron", creating a trademark rainbow

The northern section of the park contains savanna and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland. The south is dominated by woodland and forest patches

The 1951 film "The African Queen" starring Humphrey Bogart was filmed on Lake Albert and the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park


Areas of Interest

  • murchisonfalls
    Murchison Falls
  • elephant
    Buligi Game Tracks
  • Kaniyo Pabidi Forest
  • Nile Delta


Wildlife and Birding

  • wb4
    Birds
  • Game
  • Primates

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 which 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.

Geography and Climate

The climate is moist to moderate dry with an annual rainfall of over 1,270mm. The dry season runs from June to August, and December to March, although it can rain at any time of the year on the mountain.

Mt. Elgon, a solitary volcano, is one of the oldest in East Africa. It was built up from lava debris blown out from a greatly enlarged volcanic vent during the Pliocene epoch and rises to a height of about 4320m above sea level. The geology of the area is dominated by basaltic parent materials and strongly weathered granites of the Basement Complex.

The area receives a bimodal pattern of rainfall, generally, with the wettest period occurring from April to October. The mean annual rainfall ranges from 1500 mm on the eastern and northern slopes, to 2000 mm in the southern and the western slopes. The mean maximum and minimum temperatures are 23° and 15 °C respectively. Mid-slopes oriented towards the east and north, at elevations between 2000 and 3000m tend to be wetter than either the lower slopes or the summit.

Biodiversity

The vegetation of Mt. Elgon reflects the altitudinal controlled zonal belts commonly associated with large mountain massifs. Four broad vegetation communities are recognised, namely: mixed montane forest up to an elevation of 2500m studded with the giant lobelia and groundsel plants, bamboo and low canopy montane forest from 2400 to 3000m, and moorland above 3500m. The botanical diversity of the park includes giant podocarpus, pillarwood Cassipourea malosana, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperus procera, elder Sambucus adnata, pure stands of Podocarpus gracilior to mention but a few.

Elephants and buffalo can be found on the lower slopes of the mountain. The park is also home to a variety of small antelope and duiker, as well forest monkeys, including the blue monkey, black and white colobus. The red-tailed monkey have been reported after being thought to be locally extinct. In the late 1990s, it is believed that both leopard and hyena existed there.

Mount Elgon is home to at least 300 bird species including; the Jackson's francolin, Hartlaub's turaco, the eastern bronze-naped pigeon, the Tacazze sunbird and the endangered lammergeier, due to their restricted range.

Maathai's longleg, an endangered dragonfly was discovered in the park in 2005 and named after Nobel Prize winner Wangari Mathaai.

It’s quite apt to note that half of Uganda's butterfly species have been reported in Mt. Elgon.

Tourism

Together with the fauna and flora, the park has a variety of scenery; this includes cliffs, caves, gorges, waterfalls, hot springs, mesas, calderas, and the mountain peaks. The most popular areas are the four explorable, vast caves where frequent night visitors such as buffaloes and elephants come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls, enters 200m into the side of Mt. Elgon. At the Endebess Bluff there a panoramic view of the areas' escarpments, mesas, gorges, and rivers.

Tourists on a Uganda safari circuit can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles to access the park. Available tourist accommodation include; Lacaam Lodge, Sipi River Lodge, the UWA Bandas, and a number of accommodation facilities in Mbale town.

The major tourist activities in the park include; game viewing, caves exploration especially Kitum, Chepnyali, and Mackingeny, primates and bird watching, butterfly watching, Hiking to the peaks, self guided walking trails, and camping photography. There are also visits to the hot springs in the former volcano's crater which bubble at temperatures of up to 48 °C.

Park at a Glance

Size: 1,121km²

This extinct volcano is one of Uganda's oldest physical features, first erupting around 24 million years ago.

Mt Elgon was once Africa's highest mountain, far exceeding Kilimanjaro’s current 5,895m. Millennia of erosion have reduced its height to 4,321m, relegating it to the 4th highest peak in East Africa and 8th on the continent.

Mt Elgon is home to two tribes, the Bagisu and the Sabiny, with the marginalized Ndorobos forced to dwell deep within the forest of Benet.

The Bagisu, also known as the BaMasaba, consider Mount Elgon to be the embodiment of their founding father Masaba and refer to the mountain by this name.


Areas of Interest

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    Sipi Falls
  • Forestcenter
    Forest Exploration Centre
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    Cave
  • vegetation
    Vegetation


Wildlife and birding

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    Wildlife
  • birdong
    Birding

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.

History

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which has one habituated trans-boundary gorilla group was declared a game sanctuary by the British administration in 1930; it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.

Geography and climate

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has three volcanoes, which are part of the Virunga volcanic range in East Central Africa, expanding to the Albertine Rift on the Rwanda, DRC and Uganda border, north and north east of Lake Kivu. The three volcanoes in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are thought to have arisen in the early to mid-Pleistocene era, and to have formed through a deposition of layers of ash and cinders from successive lava flows. Sabyinyo is believed to be the oldest volcano, followed by Gahinga, which is younger, and with a swamp crater of about 180m diameter at the summit. Muhabura is believed to be the youngest volcano. It is cone-shaped with a small crater lake approximately 36m in diameter at its summit. There are numerous caves on the slopes of the mountains, caused by lava tubes.

Because of its protective vegetation cover, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is an important water catchment area. Apart from the numerous streams flowing northwards from the mountains, there is a crater lake on Mt Muhabura and a swamp crater on Mt Gahinga summit. There are also swamps in the saddles between the three volcanoes that retain water all year round, while the plains at the foot of the volcanoes are characterised by deep volcanic ash, and run-off from the mountains rapidly disappears underground.

Biodiversity

In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, there have been 39 mammal species recorded, although it is believed that up to 89 do occur in the park. The larger mammals include the mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei), elephant (Loxondata africana) and buffalo (Syncerus caffer). There is also the rare golden monkey (Cercophithecus mitis kandti) known only to occur in the Virungas and two other forests in Central Africa, also recorded is the blue monkey. Other mammals include; the spotted hyena (Crucuta crocuta), the golden cat (Felis (Profelis) aurata), leopard (Panthera pardus), serval cat (Felis (Leptculurus) serval), side-striped jackal (Canisadustus), giant forest hog (Hylocheorus meinertzhageni), black-fronted duiker (Caphalophus nigrifrons), and bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus).

The park provides haven to about 79 bird species, including several endemic to the East Congo Montane region. A total of 185 bird species have been recorded in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and most are likely to occur in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is an afromontane forest, covering the smallest area as a vegetation type on the continent. The vegetation in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park consists of woodland, and only a small area of pure montane forest still remains at the base of Mt Muhabura following encroachment in the 1950s. Above the montane forest belt is the bamboo zone that stretches from the western boundary on Sabyinyo to the lower slopes of Muhabura. The Hagenia-Hypericum zone appears above the bamboo zone on Mt. Sabyinyo and below it on Gahinga. The Afro-Alpine Belt, characterised by giant Senecio and Lobelia species, occurs above the Ericacious Belt and reaches its maximum development on Mt. Muhabura.

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Lake Mutanda Chameleon Hill Lodge, Gahinga Safari Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Safari Lodge, all these are located close to Bwindi and with easy access to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Alternative accommodation can be sought in Kisoro town. The park is in a remote location, and reaching the park involves a long journey accessing it from Kampala the capital of Uganda.

Gorilla Tracking Safari is the park's main tourist attraction although it is less popular than the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park due to the one habituated gorilla family having a tendency of moving across to DRC or Rwanda. Tourists wishing to track gorillas must first obtain a permit to do so. Seek advice from your local Uganda Safari operator on selection of the gorilla permits based on the time of visiting. Otherwise gorilla permits are purchased at Uganda Wildlife Authority. Gorilla Tracking Safaris generate much revenue for Uganda Wildlife Authority and neighboring communities which is crucial for gorilla conservation. The gorillas seldom react to tourists. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of diseases passing from them to the gorillas. At Mgahinga, there is much more on offer on top of the Gorilla Tracking Safari which include; golden monkey tracking; volcano trekking in the stunning Virungas; Batwa Trail Experience and cave explorations. All activities are booked through Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kisoro.

Park at a Glance

Size: 33.7km2, making it Uganda’s smallest National Park.

The park takes its name from "Gahinga" - the local word for the piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes.

The British administration declared the area a game sanctuary in 1930; it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.

Mgahinga has one habituated trans-boundary gorilla group.

The Batwa were self-sufficient – and visitors can see how during a fascinating tour with a Batwa guide to learn the secrets of the forest.


Areas of Interest

  • caves
    Caves
  • Centre
    Centre
  • mgnpA1
    Virungas


Wildlife and birding

  • monkey
    Gorillas
  • doldenmonkey
    Gold Monkeys
  • bird
    Birds

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.

History

Lake Mburo was originally gazetted in 1933 as a Controlled Hunting Area and upgraded to a Game Reserve in 1963. The Banyankole Bahima residents continued to graze their cattle in the Reserve until it was upgraded to National Park status in 1983. The Obote government's decision to upgrade the Park was reportedly in part intended to weaken the Banyankole, who supported anti-Obote rebels. As the evicted pastoralists were not compensated for lost grazing land or assisted with resettling, many remained hostile to the Park's formation. The rangeland outside the park was subsequently subdivided into small ranges and subsistence farming plots.

In 1985 the second Obote regime fell and the previous residents of Lake Mburo re-occupied the Park's land, expelling park staff, destroying infrastructure and annihilating wildlife. Less than half of the Park's original land area was eventually re-gazetted by the NRM government in 1986.

Geography and Climate

Pre-Cambrian rocks underlie Lake Mburo area, with the rocks comprising of a mixture of Cenozoic Pleistocene to Recent rocks, wholly granitized–Granitoid and highly granitized rocks, and Karagwe – Ankolean system. Argillite rocks predominate but are more arenites and silty rocks, which are regularly, distributed as thin bands throughout the area. The area is predominated by ferrallitic soils which are mainly sandy loams and sandy clay loams.

Lake Mburo National park contains a wide variety of habitat types, which gives it a surprisingly high diversity of animals and plants for its size. The system is a unique habitat, which lies at the convergence zone of two biological zones. It supports globally threatened species of birds, supports two of the endangered cichlid fish species which have gone extinct in the main lakes and it is the only system in Uganda in which the Impala is found. The system also provides refuge to 22 species of Palaearctic and Afro-tropical migrant birds during adverse conditions.

The Lake Mburo wetland system is of immense socio-economic value. It is a source of water for domestic use, livestock and wildlife. The system is source of pasture for the local herds during droughts, a source of fish and source of materials for crafts and thatching. The park's location near the Masaka-Mbarara highway makes it easily accessible from Kampala.

Lake Mburo National Park has a tropical climate found in the Ankole-Southern climatic zone. Lake Mburo National Park lies in a rain shadow area between Lake Victoria and the Rwenzori Mountains. The park has two marked seasons, the rain and dry seasons and receives a bi-modal low rainfall ranging between 500 and 1000 mm. But the rainfall tends to be erratic and unreliable, causing shortage of pastures and thus affecting the behaviour of wildlife, including birds, and creating demands on the park by local Pastoralists. Temperature ranges between 23 – 25 degrees Celsius. Evapotranspiration of areas northwest, north, and north east to east, ranges between 1450 – 1600 mm. However, areas south and south west of the park experience a much lower evapotranspiration ranging between 1300 – 1450 mm.

Biodiversity

                                          
Lake Mburo National Park 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.

Lake Mburo National Park supports globally threatened species of birds, including two of the endangered cichlid fish species which have gone extinct in the main lakes and it is the only area in Uganda in which the Impala is found. The park also provides refuge to 22 species of Palaearctic and Afro-tropical migrant birds during adverse conditions, within the wooded Savanna with Acacia/Commiphora thicket and grasslands.

The Flora is Acacia hockii which is one of the dominant tree species. Fivespecies of wetland dependent plants belonging to 5 genera have been recorded in the Lake Mburo area.

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Mihingo Lodge, Mantana Tented Camp, Arcadia Cottages, Rwakobo Rock, Mburo Safari Lodge, Mpogo Lodge, Eagle’s Nest Lodge, Rwonyo Camp Site, and many other options in the nearby towns of Mbarara and Lyantonde. The Park is well situated on the Kampala – Mbarara highway and is a great stop over while connecting to the attractions of the further western part of Uganda.

Activities in Lake Mburo National Park include; Game drives in the rolling hills and open grasslands, Boat trip along Lake Mburo, Nature walk, sport fishing, Forest walk in Rubanga which offers an opportunity to view different bird species, as well as adventure activities like horseback riding and quad biking. Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park and also how best to book a particular activity for some of these activities require prior booking.

Park at a Glance

Size: 370km2

Altitude: 1,220m - 1,828m above sea level

Wetland habitats comprise 20% of the park's surface

The parks' precarious past has seen wildlife virtually eliminated several times: firstly in various attempts to rid the region of tsetse flies, then to make way for ranches, and finally as a result of subsistence poaching.

20% of the park's entrance fee is used to fund local community projects such as building clinics and schools.


Areas of Interest

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    Lake Mburo
  • floralakemburo
    Rubanga Forest
  • Game-Tracks
    Game Tracks


Wildlife and birding

  • Icon 01
    Birds
  • Icon 01
    Wildlife

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.

History

Dodoth pastoralists and Ik farmers lived in the area before it was gazetted as a game reserve by the British colonial government in 1958. The purpose was both to protect the animals from hunting and to prevent further clearing of bush for tsetse fly control. The game reserve was converted into the Kidepo Valley National Park in 1962.

The first Chief Warden of the National Park was Ian Ross, a Briton. In 1972 Paul Ssali, a Ugandan, replaced him. Their handover and training was the subject of the 1974 American documentary film, "The Wild and the Brave."

Geography and Climate

The park consists of the two major valley systems of the Kidepo and Narus Rivers. The valley floors lie between 910 m and 1,200 m above sea level.

Kanangarok is a tepid hot spring in the extreme north of the Park, beside the South Sudanese boundary. This spring is the most permanent source of water in the park. The park predominantly has clay soils although in the Kidepo Valley, black chalky clay and sandy-clay loam predominate, while the Narus Valley has freer-draining red clays and loams.

Kidepo Valley National Park’s climate is divided into one short wet season and a long dry spell. The wet season falls between April and October and the dry season fills the remainder of the year. On average 800 mm of rain is received annually. The dry season is characterised and dominated by very hot north-easterly monsoon winds which results in extreme drought with no green vegetation. At this point temperatures can reach over 40 degrees Celsius and average 30 degrees Celsius. Water is primarily a temporary phenomenon, flowing only during the wet season. However, throughout the length of the Narus River Valley, surface water flow alternates to subterranean flow and emerges at few permanent water points throughout the year. The climate can be summarised as arid but changes to semi arid towards the Narus Valley, which is the only region of the park containing water during the dry season.

The relief of the park rises dramatically from 900-1200m above sea level. on the border with Sudan, to 2750m above sea levell. at the top of the forested mountains of Morungole and Zulia. It comprises of semi-arid plains intersected with hills, rocky out crops and mountain ranges. Two great valley systems divide the park into almost two equal parts. The Narus Valley in the south and west of the park occupies one third of the park and is much favoured by wildlife due to the permanent availability of water. The Kidepo valley system in the east and north-east occupies the remaining two thirds of the entire park. Nyangea-Napore hills and Morungole and Zulia hill ranges hold the sources of most rivers in Karamoja, including River Nalakas and River Kidepo.

Biodiversity

The vegetation of the park can be categorised into four associations; the Narus Valley contains grey-haired acacia (Acacia gerrardii) savannah woodland that emerges in the south and into a fire climax grassland, tree and shrub steppe and slowly graduates into bush lands with forests on the higher mountain slopes. The borassus palms (Borassus spp.) follow ridges that are associated with water and sand alluvial soils, and are common along the major rivers of Kidepo, Lopirpir and Kulao. Much of the park is composed of open savannah grassland, dominated by a mixture of acacia and other perennial grasses, such as Themeda, Chloris, Panicum and Seteria species. Dry thickets composed of numerous short trees and shrubs also common. This vegetation is usually dry for more than a half of the year and antelopes such as Guenther’s dik-dik (Madoqua guentheri), which is found nowhere else in Uganda, are common in such habitats.

Kidepo Vally National Park has high biodiversity, with at least 86 mammal species, 475 bird species and 692 plant species, second only to Queen Elizabeth NP in terms of its known plant diversity and third behind Queen Elizabeth and Murchison for its mammal and bird diversity. Twenty-eight of the 86 species of mammals in KVNP are not found in any other of Uganda’s national parks. Some of the animals unique to this park include striped hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), aardwolf (Proteles cristata), caracal (Caracal caracal), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), greater and lesser kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros and Ammelaphus imberbis), klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus), dik-dik, Bright’s gazelle (Nanger granti brighti) and Chandler’s mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula chandleri). The beisa oryx (Oryx beisa) and the roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) are believed to have been extirpated from the region. African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have been observed to come into the park from Sudan occasionally but are not resident in the park. Many of the other large mammals found elsewhere in Uganda such as African elephant (Loxodonta africana), zebra(Equus spp.), buffalo (Syncerus caffer), waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), Jackson’s hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus jacksoni), lion (Panthera leo), leopard (Panthera pardus), and both black-backed and side-striped jackal (Canis mesomelas and C. adustus), are found here.

The park is outstanding for its birds of prey, of which 58 species have been recorded including lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus), Verreaux’s eagle (Aquila verreauxii), the pygmy falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus), and Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Fourteen raptors are unique to this park in Uganda. Of the hornbills (Bucerotidae) which are characteristic of the savannah habitat, five species are represented. Some of Africa’s rarest and most sought after birds occur in KVNP, including the the Karamoja apalis (Apalis karamojae) and black-breasted barbet (Lybius rolleti).

The Narus valley is very important for the elephants in the park and also holds a population of Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus), which, during the dry season, is restricted to a 10 km long section of the Narus River that retains water intermittently in depressions or pools. Perhaps due to limited availability of food, water and space, the crocodiles have a diminutive size with a maximum length of 2.5 m. (Nile crocodiles regularly exceed 4m in other parts of the species range).

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season (Jan to May, and Oct to Dec: It is Quite hot and generally dry, where as June to Sept: Rain is more prevalent, temperatures still warm and storms generally don't last more than an hour) and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles while in the park. Available tourist accommodation in and around the park includes lodges notably Apoka Safari Lodge, Nga Moru Wilderness Camp, and alternative budget accommodation at Apoka Rest Camp managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority.

The major tourist activities in the park include game viewing by vehicles on dirt roads that crisscross the southern and western parts of the park. A few trunk roads are improved with murram and are passable in all weather.

Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park as well as how to pay for any of the activities you wish to get involved in. Note that you can book your activities from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or at any entry points of the park.

Kidepo Valley National Park is approximately 12 hours from Kampala by road. Regular scheduled flights by Aero Link take about 2 hours and fly into Kidepo from Entebbe airport. Charters can easily be arranged as well by Aero Link, Eagle Air, Kampala Aero Club, and Ndege Jju.

Park at a Glance

Size: 1,442km2

The park’s altitude ranges between 914m and 2,750m above sea level.

The park contains two rivers – Kidepo and Narus – which disappear in the dry season, leaving just pools for the wildlife.

The local communities around the park include pastoral Karamojong people, similar to the Maasai of Kenya, and the IK, a hunter-gatherer tribe whose survival is threatened.


Areas of Interest

  • KVNPAI1
    Kidepo Valley
  • KVNPAI2
    Narus Valley
  • Apoka
    Apoka


Wildlife and birding summary

  • Ostrich
    Birds
  • lions
    Wildlife

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. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Geography and Climate

Kibale National Park is located in the districts of Kabarole and Kamwenge, approximately 320 kilometres, by road, west of Kampala, Uganda's capital and largest city. Fort Portal in Kabarole District is the nearest large city to the national park. The geology consists of rocks formed in the Precambrian period which are sedentary, strongly folded and metamorphosed. The Toro system overlaying these rocks forms prominent ridges of quartzite and sometimes schists and phyllites, which are intruded by amphibiolites, gneiss and granites. Some hills have layers of hard laterite exposed on them. About 90% of the Park is overlain by red ferralitic soils of which 70% are sandy clay loams in the North and 30% are clay loams in the South. These soils are deeply weathered, show little differentiation in horizon and are of very low to moderate fertility. The remaining 10% is where fertile eutrophic soil occurs on a base of volcanic ash limited to Mpokya and Isunga areas on the western edge of the park.

The park has a tropical type of climate with two rainy periods, March to May and September to November. The annual mean temperature range rises from 14° - 15°C, - minimum to 26° - 27°C maximum. The annual rainfall is 1,100 - 1,600 mm. There is a pronounced dry season in December to February. Rain falls more in the North than in the South.

Biodiversity

The forest cover in Kibale National Park is broadly classified into three. It is mid-altitude, moist evergreen in the north, gradually decreasing in elevation to moist semi-deciduous in the south and a mixture of deciduous and evergreens in the central parts.

Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey considered Endangered and the rare L'Hoest’s monkey that are considered Vulnerable. The park is also home to over 325 species of birds, 4 wild fellids, 13 species of primates, a total of at least 70 other species of mammals, and over 250 tree species.

There are 13 species of primates in Kibale National Park. The park protects several well-studied habituated communities of common chimpanzee, as well as several species of Central African monkey including the Uganda mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae), the Ugandan red colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles) and the L'Hoest's monkey. Other primates that are found in the park include the black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza) and the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis). The park's population of elephants travels between the park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other terrestrial mammals that are found within Kibale National Park include red and blue duikers, bushbucks, sitatungas, bushpigs, giant forest hogs, warthogs, and buffalo. The carnivores that are present include leopards, african golden cats, servals, different mongooses and two species of otter. In addition, lions visit the park on occasion.

Bird life in the park is so prolific, boasting over 375 sited species of birds, including the western green tinker bird, olive long-tailed cuckoo, two species of pittas (African and green-breasted) and the African grey parrot, Imperative to note that the ground thrush (Turdus kibalensis) is endemic to Kibale National Park.

The park boast over 229 species of trees found within the moist tropical forests of the park. Some endangered timber species of trees include; Lovoa swynnertonnii, Cordia millenii, and Entandrophragma angolense. The forest understory is dominated by shade-tolerant shrubs and herbs, which include Palisota schweinfurthii and Pollia condensata, in addition to ferns and broad leaf grasses.

Tourism

Tourists can visit Kibale any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Ndali Lodge, Primates Lodge, Kibale Safari Lodge, Chimps Nest, Kyaninga Lodge, Kibale Guest Cottages, Crater Valley Kibale, Chimpanzee Guest House, and many other options in and around Fort Portal town. The park can either be accessed following the Kampala-Mbarara-Kasese-Fort Portal road or a direct route from Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal.

Chimpanzee tracking is the park's main tourist attraction although a number of forest walks can be arranged not forgetting the chimpanzee habituation experience. Tourists wishing to track the chimps must first obtain a permit to do so from the Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters in Kampala. Chimpanzee tracking Safari in Kibale is done in two shifts including the morning and afternoon shift with permits allocated based on that too, and the number of visitors is tightly controlled to prevent degradation of the habitat and risks to the chimpanzee. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of diseases passing from them to the chimpanzees as well as maintain their habitat.

The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semuliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.

Park at a Glance

Size: 795km2

Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip, which stands 1,590m above sea level. The lowest point is 1,100m on the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley to the south.

351 tree species have been recorded in the park, some rise to over 55m and are over 200 years old.

Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest on the Fort Portal plateau to woodland and savanna on the rift valley floor.

Kibale is one of Africa’s foremost research sites. While many researchers focus on the chimpanzees and other primates found in the park, others are investigating Kibale’s ecosystems, wild pigs and fish species, among other topics.


Areas of Interest

  • bigodi
    Bigodi Wetlands
  • chimps
    Kanyanchu
  • fungus
    Sebitoli


Wildlife and birding

  • chimp
    Chimps
  • baboons
    Baboons
  • birds
    Birds
  • butter
    Butterfly

 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 400 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.

History

In 1932, two blocks of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest were designated as Crown Forest Reserves. The northern block was designated as the "Kayonza Crown Forest Reserve", and the southern block designated as the "Kasatora Crown Forest Reserve". These reserves had a combined area of 207 square kilometers. In 1942, the two Crown Forest Reserves were combined and enlarged, and renamed the Impenetrable Central Crown Forest. This new protected area covered an area of 298 square kilometers and was under the joint control of the Ugandan government's game and forest departments.

In 1964, the reserve was designated as an animal sanctuary in order to provide extra protection to its mountain gorillas and renamed the Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve. In 1966, two other forest reserves became part of the main reserve, increasing its area to almost 321 square kilometers. The park continued to be managed as both a game sanctuary and forest reserve.

In 1991, Impenetrable Central Forest Reserve along with Mgahinga Gorilla Reserve and Rwenzori Mountains Reserve was designated as a national park and renamed Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It covered an area of 330.8 square kilometers. The national park was declared in part to protect a range of species within it, most notably the mountain gorilla. Gorilla tracking became a tourist activity in April 1993, and the park became a popular tourist destination. In 1994, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List and a 10 square kilometer area was incorporated into the park. The park's management changed: Uganda National Parks, since renamed Uganda Wildlife Authority, became responsible for the park. In 2003 a piece of land next to the park with an area of 4.2 square kilometers was purchased and incorporated into the park.

Geography and climate

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda covering an area of 331 square kilometers. The park is bordered by The Democratic Republic of Congo in the western side of the park; Kabale town to the southeast is the nearest main town to the park, 29 kilometres away by road.

The park is located at the edge of the Western Rift Valley in the highest parts of the Kigezi Highlands, which were created by up-warping of the Western Rift Valley. The topography of the park is very rugged, with narrow valleys intersected by rivers and steep hills. Altitudes in the park range from 1,190 to 2,607 meters above sea level, with 60% of the park having an elevation of over 2,000 meters above sea level. The highest elevation in the park is Rwamunyonyi hill at the eastern edge of the park and the lowest part of the park is located at its most northern tip.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest has a tropical climate with the annual mean temperature ranging from a minimum of 7–15°C to a maximum of 20–27°C. Its annual rainfall ranges from 1,400 to 1,900 millimeters. Peak rainfall occurs from March to April and from September to November. The park's forest plays an important role in regulating the outside area's environment and climate.

Biodiversity

The park is most recognized for the 340 Bwindi Mountain Gorillas, half of the world’s population of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas, although it is sanctuary for the chimpanzees, many birds and the colobus monkeys.

This afromontane forest is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, and the diversity of species is an attribute of the park. The park provides habitat for some 120 species of mammals ten of which are primates and more than 45 small mammal species, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos and many endangered species. In terms of fauna, the Bwindi area is amongst the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns. The northern sector which has a lower altitude is rich in species of the Guineo-Congolian flora. These include two species internationally recognised as endangered that is; Brown mahogany (Lovoa swynnertonii) and Brazzeia longipedicellata.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest became a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its ecological importance. The park has a large variation of altitude and habitat types, there by supporting a variety of species of trees, reptiles, butterflies, birds, moths, and small mammals.

Mountain gorillas

The park is inhabited by a population of about 340 individuals of Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), commonly referred to as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas remaining in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga Mountains which is shared by Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The major threat to these mountain gorillas is poaching, habitat loss and disease, however, since 1997; there has been a gradual increase in the mountain gorilla population in Bwindi from 300 individuals to about 340 individuals in 2006.

Recent research has shown that the Bwindi gorilla's diet is patently higher in fruit than that of the Virunga population, and that the Bwindi gorillas, even silverbacks, are more likely to climb trees to feed on foliage, fruits, and epiphytes. In some months, Bwindi gorilla diet is very similar to that of Bwindi chimpanzees. It was also found that Bwindi gorillas travel further per day, particularly on days when feeding primarily on fruit than when they are feeding on fibrous foods. Additionally, Bwindi gorillas are much more likely to build their nests in trees, nearly always in, a small understory tree.


There are no mountain gorillas recorded in captivity explaining why they are indeed an endangered species with an estimated total population of about 650 individuals.

Conservation

Managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), replaced Uganda National Parks (UNP) that was the management authority of the park at the time of designation), Bwindi is protected under the provisions of various national laws (The Constitution (1995), Uganda Wildlife Act Cap 200 of 2000, National Environment Act (2000), Local Government Act (1997), The Land Act (1998), the Forest and Tree Planting Act 2003 and the Uganda Wildlife Policy (1999). All these laws mentioned above were not in place by the time the property was inscribed as a World Heritage Site. However, the Uganda National Parks Act (1952), and the Game Act were already in place to support its creation) and international conventions (Convention of Biological Diversity 1992 (CBD), Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Ramsar convention 1971 and the World Heritage Convention 1972). The park has an approved management plan and is highly respected and supported by local communities as a conservation site. The park attracts substantial support from a number of local and international NGOs. The Park has a permanent research institute located within the site which is engaged in research and continued monitoring of the site’s integrity. These factors as well as strong political support provide an assurance for the park’s long-term protection and conservation. The management of the park has developed ecotourism programmes that support community livelihoods, a major reason for community support. The Park is a model for integration of community sustainable resource management in the country and possibly in the East African Region. However, there are still strong long-term needs for greater primate protection given the new tendency of trafficking mountain gorilla babies and chimpanzees. As the mountain gorilla is so closely related to people, it is also threatened by transmission of human diseases as a result of tourism activities. UWA is closely monitoring these threats and working with stakeholders and NGOs to mitigate these threats. Continued enhancement of conservation is required in law enforcement and monitoring.

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. Available tourist accommodation includes lodges notably Lake Mutanda Chameleon Hill Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Gorilla Safari Lodge, all these serve the southern Bwindi with several habituated Gorilla groups, On the side of Ruhija, Gorilla Mist Canmp and Ruhija Gorilla Lodge stand out and on the side of Buhoma Northern side we have Gorilla Forest Camp, Buhoma Lodge, Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, Engagi Lodge, Gorilla Resort, Mahogany springs, Silver Back lodge and many other budget options. The park is in a remote location, and reaching the park involves a long difficult journey. Roads are in a bad condition. But if driving to the southern Bwindi, the Road from Kampala to Kisoro is all paved and first class. The bad section of the road is only about 35 Kms to the forest.

Gorilla Tracking is the park's main tourist attraction. Tourists wishing to track gorillas must first obtain a permit to do so. Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on selection of the gorilla permits based on which section of Bwindi you would be visiting. Otherwise gorilla permits are purchased at Uganda Wildlife Authority. Selected gorillas families have been habituated to human presence and the number of visitors is tightly controlled to prevent degradation of the habitat and risks to the gorillas. Gorilla Tracking Safaris generate much revenue for Uganda Wildlife Authority and neighboring communities which is crucial for gorilla conservation. The gorillas seldom react to tourists. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of diseases passing from them to the gorillas.

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Park at a Glance

Size: 321km2

Altitude: 1,160m - 2,607m above sea level.

Bwindi was gazetted as a National Park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Mubare gorilla group was the first to become available for tourism in Uganda in April 1993. Nine groups are now habituated for tourism, and one for research.

Spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys, Bwindi is the source of five major rivers, which flow into Lake Edward.

 

 

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