UGANDA NATIONAL PARKS

Uganda offers ten organized National Parks , plus a number of Natural Forests and Natural Reserve areas, with a broad range of different safaris and wildlife experience. Among the significant attractions are: the boat - launch trips (in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo), nature walks and game drives in any park.

This park lies on 2.056 kms of land situated South of the Rwenzori Mountains, bordering Congo and including two lakes, George and Edward, which are connected through the natural Kazinga Channel. It is an ecosystem made of wetland and open savannah areas, on an altitude of 910m at Lake Edward.

Species:
Queen Elizabeth records a large number of animals, including 95 mammal species (among them elephants, lions, leopards, Uganda kobs, buffaloes, jackals, spotted hyenas) and 10 primate species, like chimpanzees, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus, olive baboons. The list of birds is of 606 species recorded, possibly the highest in any African National Park and in the world.

Activities:
Launch trip from Mweya along Kazinga Channel for a wonderful wildlife experience: expect to see hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, warthog and many water birds species. Game drives in Kasenyi Plans (Northern Sector) and in Ishasha (Southern sector, searching for the typical lions climbing the fig's trees). "Chimpanzee tracking" in Kyambura Gorge and bird watching in Maramagambo Forest.

Murchison Falls Conservation Area is the largest protected area in Uganda, 5.025kms, including Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Reserve, Karuma Wildlife Reserve and, in the South, Budongo Forest. The altitude range from 619m at the delta on Lake Albert and 1.292 m at Rabongo hill. The area is traversed by the river Victoria Nile, which connects Lake Kyoga with Lake Albert. The park is named after the marvellous falls on the river, which encounters a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley Escarpment, then it is transformed into a froth of thunderous white water, with no comparison to any other site in East Africa. The vegetation is characterized by savannah, riverine forest and woodland.

Species:
There are 76 mammal species, including giraffes, elephants, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, kobs, bushbuck, waterbuck, oribi, jackal. The list of birds counts 450 species.

Activities:
Launch trip from Paraa along the river Nile up to the Murchison Falls (17 km), to see elephants, buffaloes, waterbuck, hippos, crocodiles, water birds like cormorants, pelicans, herons, fish eagle, shoebill stork. Hike to "top of the falls", to see closer from the top the exciting and spectacular Murchison Falls. Game drives North of river Nile and at Lake Albert Delta (Buligi, Albert and Queen's tracks). Sport fishing (Nile Perch and tiger fish), on the river Nile above and below the Falls. "Chimpanzee tracking" and bird watching in Budongo Forest and Kanyiyo Pabidi Forest Reserve.

Bwindi Impenetrable bnational park, 331 kms, is located in South Western Uganda, on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley, on an altitude range from 1.160 m to 2.607m. This is a real tropical rainforest, spread over a series of steep ridges and valleys. It is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse forest in Africa. In the local language "bwindi" (from "mubwindi") means "dark place", referring to the impenetrable nature for human beings to the swamp located the South East of the actual Park, according to legends.

Species. There are 11 species of primates, including chimpanzee, Hoest's, red-tailed and blue monkey, black and white colobus, olive baboon. Particularly, Bwindi is home to 360 mountain gorillas, a half of the total remaining world population. There are 346 species of birds recorded (Bwindi contains 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics, difficult to see in any other place in East Africa) and 200 of butterflies. Mammals count only 30 (buffaloes, leopards, elephants). There are 324 species of tree.

Activities. The main activity is "gorilla tracking" to the habituated 6 families of mountain gorillas. Hiking trials are open to people to sight birds, butterflies, primates, trees (along the Munyaga, Waterfall, Rushura, River Ivi and Bamboo zone trials). Specially recommended for bird watchers are the River Ivi and Mubwindi swamp nature walks. Cultural walk to Buhoma village community, to see the traditional homestead, the local healer, the banana brewing, handicraft and cultural performance.

This park is 370 Sq KM and is located in Mbarara District, with an altitude range from of 1220m to 1828m above sea level. The park is named after the lake which lies in this territory.

Species . This little park hosts a variety of animals, that is to say 68 mammal species, including a large number of impalas (the antelope from which "Kampala" is named after), Uganda kobs, zebras, Ankole cattle, buffaloes, topis, leopards, spotted hyenas, waterbucks, warthogs, oribi, bushbucks, duikers. There are 315 bird species, including red faced barbet, crested crane, shoebill stork, papyrus yellow warbler. The vegetation is dominated by an open Savannah of Augur trees, Olea and Boscia.

Activities.
Boat trip on lake Mburo, to see crocodiles, hippos, cormorants, fish eagle, pelicans, herons and many birds species. Game drives along the Park to see the animals (following the Impala, Zebra, Kazuma or Lakeside tracks). Nature walk and bird watching.

RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK (RMNP) 

The park, 996 kms, protects the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains, which run for 120 km along the Congo border. It is a bloke mountain they are a result of the formation of the Rift Valley. The Rwenzori is the highest mountain range in Africa, with six glacial peaks: Mount Stanley, Mount Speke, Mount Emin Pasha, Mount Gessi, Mount Luigi da Savoia and Mount Baker. The main peaks, Margherita (5.109m) and Alexandra (5.083m) on Mount Stanley, are exceeded in altitude elsewhere in Africa only by Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya. The first European who climbed the peaks was in 1906 the Italian Prince Luigi Amedeo da Savoia, Duke of Abruzzi.

Species. The interest for Rwenzori is also on the vegetation, which is divided into several altitude zones: the forest zone (between 1.800 and 2.500 m), the bamboo forest (up to 3000 m), the heath and Alpine zones (3000-4.500 m), with forests of giants heath plants, giant lobelias and groundsels. There are 70 mammal species recorded (elephants, golden cat, chimpanzee, yellow - backed duiker) and 177 birds, especially Albertine Rift endemics (Rwenzori turaco, cuckoo, owl, francolin, robin).

Activities. Most of visitors undertake the excellent "central circuit" trial, which takes 6 nights 7 days to complete and takes you to the main peaks. However, other shorter hikes are possible in the central area and in the North of Rwenzori.High mountain equipments are required, as the trials reach an altitude of 4.000m above.

MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK (MENP) 

Mount Elgon is an extinct volcanic mountain with the largest surface area in the world (50km by 80km) and a caldera with a diameter of about 8 km. The highest peak is Wagagai, 4.321 m. It lies at the border with Kenya. The National Park is 1.145 kms in extension. The local people, Bagisu used to call the mount "Masaba", while "Elgon" is named after the Anglicisation of the Maasai "El Kony". The best time to visit Mount Elgon is May and September, November and December.

Species. While ascending Mount Elgon, there are four different forest zones: the lush montane forest, the mixed bamboo belt, the heath and the spectacular moorland hyrachs, which contains rare species like the giant Lobelia Elgonensis and clusters of groundsels which are unique to Africa. At least 300 species of birds are recorded, including Jackson's francolin, guinea fowls, sunbirds and turacos. The checklist for mammals includes atleast 24 species.

Activities. There are several trekking trails around Mount Elgon, all open to everybody as this is not a difficult mountain to climb (Sasa, Sipi and Piswa trials). The full trekking circuit to the peaks takes 5 to 6 days to complete. The nature walks allows you to see flora and fauna, the enormous caves, gorges and hot springs. One day hikes are possible from the Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkway. Particularly fascinating is the hike from Sipi trading centre to the Sipi Falls, a series of four pretty waterfalls culminating in a 99m drop at an altitude of 1.775 m, along the river Sipi, which originates from Mount Elgon.

Kibale National Park, 766 kms, forms a contiguous block with Queen Elizabeth National Park, on an altitude of 1.100-1.590m above sea level. The vegetation is dominated by the tropical rainforest.

Species. At least 60 mammal species are present, including elephants, buffaloes, hippos, warthog, bushpigs, duikers. Kibale is well known for sighting primates, counting 13 species. Particularly, it hosts a large population of chimpanzees; also there are vervet, red-tailed, Hoest's and blue monkeys, red colobus, black and white colobus, grey - cheeked mangabey, olive baboons. The bird list records 335 species, of which four are only found here (Nahan's francolin, Cassin's spinetail, blue-headed bee eater and masked apalis). Furthermore, more than 250 species of tree have been recorded.

Activities. The main attraction of the park is the "chimpanzee trekking" from Kanyanchu gate. The second main activity is bird watching at "Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary", at Bigodi, a trading centre just outside the Park's boundary; the activity consists of a guided walk through the Magombe swamp, with the possibility to see among others the great blue turaco and the papyrus gonolek. Nature walks are open in the Park, to see primates, birds, reptiles, medicinal plants.

Mgahinga National Park, only 33 Sq kms in size, is the Ugandan part of the bigger Virunga Conservation Area, which is a jointly protected area with Congo and Rwanda. It includes three extinct volcanoes: Mount Sabinyo (3.669 m.), Mount Gahinga (3.474 m.) and Mount Muhavura (4.127 m.). "Mgahinga" is named after Mount Gahinga plus the initial of Mount Muhavura.

Species. The vegetation is the one typical of afromontane areas, with a consistent bamboo forest. There are 76 mammal species recorded, including buffaloes, elephants, bushbucks, golden monkeys, leopards. 115 bird species have been recorded, including Rwenzori turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane. Mgahinga hosts a population of golden monkeys and a few families of mountains gorillas.

Activities. Each of the three volcanoes can be climbed with a day trip hike, without a special mountain equipment. Visits are organised to the Garama Cave, near the Park Head Quarter in Ntebeko, which is 432 m. in length and was once inhabited by the pygmies population. The main attraction was the "Gorilla tracking" to the only one habituated family of mountain gorillas, which in 2005 has migrated into Rwanda. A number of one day nature walks are available from the gate at Ntebeko (the Sabinyo Gorge trail and Rugezi Swamp trail), especially for bird watching activities.

Kidepo, 1.442 kms in size, is among the most spectacular parks in Uganda, though it is not very accessible, as it is located in the North-East of the country, bordering Sudan and Kenya, in the Karamoja region. It lies at an altitude range between 914 m. and 2.750 m. above sea level. Charter flights are booked from Entebbe to reach Kidepo.

Species. The vegetation is dominated by an open Savannah, with dry mountain forest and Augur forest. The park hosts at least 86 mammal species (elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, bushpig), including many predators, like black backed jackal, African hunting dog, bat eared fox, cheetah, caracal, lions, leopards. There are 17 antelope species. The bird checklist is of 463 species recorded, including 56 raptors, like pygmy falcon, tawny eagle, secretary bird, vultures.

Activities. A number of game drive loops direct visitors to wildlife viewing locations in the Narus valley in the South West of the Park.

This park, 220 kms, lies along the Congolese border following the Semliki river, within the Western arm of the Albertine Rift Valley, in the North of Rwenzori mountains. The altitude is on the average 700 m above sea level.

Species . There are 336 tree species recorded, of which 24 are restricted to the Park (like Isolana Congolana and Ejacis Guineesis); 435 bird species (at least 40 of them are found nowhere else in Uganda); 63 mammals, like elephants, leopards, buffaloes (nowhere else are found flying squirrels, pygmy antelope and six types of bats); 9 primates (chimpanzee, blue monkey, vervet monkeys, baboon); at least 374 species of butterflies.

Activities . Natural walk from the headquarter at Sempaya gate down to the river Semliki, enjoying bird watching, butterflies, flowers and trees. Moreover there are two "hot springs" (one male, one female), situated in a tract of hot mineral encrusted swamp land, where visitors see a jet of hot water and a pool of boiling water.