Game Parks and Wildlife Reserves in Uganda, Uganda Game Sanctuaries
Uganda Game Parks and National Reserves
Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP)
Murchison Falls National is the largest park in Uganda, covering over 400 sq. kms since the inclusion of the adjoining game reserve. It is one of the most spectacular parks in Africa. Renowned for its scenic beauty and the spectacular waterfalls from which it gets name. MFNP has abundant Flora and Fauna to delight the visitor. From rolling savannah and tall grasslands to thick bush and woodlands, the diversity of this park never ceases to amaze.
No visit to Murchison Falls would be complete without a visit to the magnificent waterfalls. They can be viewed from the top where the Nile River narrows from 50 metres to crash through a 7 metre gorge, falling 45 metres to the rocks below. The three-hour cruise to the base of the Falls is unforgettable. One can experience the majesty of the Nile while onboard, viewing exuberant wildlife along the banks.
The more adventurous traveller may want to hike the trails around the waterfalls, while the avid birdwatcher will want to seek out some of the 424-species identified in the park. Fishermen can test their skills above and below the Falls, waiting patiently for 20-7kg. Nile Perch. Other game fish found in the Nile include Barbel, electric Catfish and Tiger fish.
On game drives Cape buffaloes, Rothschild's giraffe, Uganda kob, hartebeest and waterbuck are commonly seen. You may also spot oribi, bushbuck, Bohor reedbuck, shy sitatunga, bush duiker, warthog and bushpig.
Large carnivores include lion, leopard and spotted hyena. Chimpanzees head the list of six species of primates found in the park. Crocodile and hippo will be seen along the banks of the Nile. Some of the more common birds that can be included Goliath heron, Egyptian geese, pelican, bee-eaters, kingfishers, hornbill, cormorant, saddle-bill stork and the rare shoebill stork. A boat cruise to the delta is a highlight for the avid birdwatcher.
White water rafting above the Falls and flat water canoeing on the placid Nile below the Falls may be of interest to the adventure traveller.
APPROXIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA: 300KM
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME: 4 1/2 - 5HRS
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK (QENP)
Queen Elizabeth N.P. is one of the outstanding treasures of Uganda. QENP has recently been designated a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO. The park covers 2000 sq. kms and includes a remarkable variety of eco-systems; from semi-decidious tropical forest to green meadows, savannah and swamps. It is the home of the famous tree-climbing lions, the Uganda kob and other antelope as well as elephant, buffalo, hippos, baboons, and chimpanzee.
Over 500 species of birds have been recorded here making it prime target for birdwatchers. Species recorded include the shoebill stork, black bee-eater, 11 types of kingfishers and a variety of raptors including several falcons and eagles. In the crater lakes, spectacular flocks of flamingos gather, creating the image of a moving pink carpet.
The launch trip along the Kizinga Channel between Lake George and Edward is a memorable way to view the variety of game in Queen Elizabeth. North of the main gate is the crater area, one of the most scenic parts of the park. To the East, in Kyambura Gorge, visitors can climb through tropical forest and catch a glimpse of a variety of primates, including chimpanzee. In the more isolated Ishasha sector of the park, search the woodlands for the tree-climbing lions perching on the boughs of ancient fig trees. To the Southeast, travellers can explore newly opened trails in Maramagambo forest.
APPROXIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA 440KM
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME: 6 HRS
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
Bwindi is located in south-western Uganda on the edge of the western rift valley covering 331 sq. kms. It is one of the largest natural forests in East Africa, supporting large number of plants and animals not found elsewhere. About half the world's population of 600 mountain gorilla reside in Bwindi.
The vegetation, as the park's name implies, is composed of tropical rainforest with dense undergrowth. This rugged terrain makes hiking in search of gorilla strenuous work. Visitors who trek should be prepared for up to 8 hours of hiking. Good physical condition is required. A maximum of only 6 permits per day are available for advance booking, so confirmation 4 - 12 months in advance is required to avoid disappointment.
Along with the gorillas, there are nine other species of primates including chimpanzee, blue monkey, redtail monkey, L'hoest's monkey, black and white colobus, potto, demidoff's and needle - clawed galago.
Three hundred and forty-seven species of birds have been recorded in Bwindi; seven species are listed as endangered. Species of particular interest include the Kivu ground thrush, white-bellied robin chat, red-throated alethe, collared apallis, short-tailed warbler, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Rwenzori batis, blue headed sunbird, strange weaver and the Shelley's crimsonwing. Over 200 species of butterflies have also been recorded here.
Many visitors also enjoy the hiking trails in the park. The most popular are the Munyaga River Trail, the Waterfall trail and the Rushuura Trails.
APPROXIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA 550KM
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME; 8-10 HRS
MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
This park is in the far south-western corner of Uganda, is the smallest park, only 33.7sq. kms. As the Ugandan part of the Virunga Conservation Area, where half of the world's mountain gorillas make their homes, this park shares boundaries with Rwanda and Congo (Zaire). The park is comprised of parts of three extinct volcano mountains, Mt. Muhavura (4127m), Mt. Gahinga (3475m) and Mt. Sabyinyo (3645m).
The vegetation of Mgahinga is typically afro-montane, with a forest belt, a bamboo zone, an ericacious belt and an alpine zone. The park supports a variety of animal species including gorilla, rare golden monkey, buffalo, elephant, leopard and serval cat. There are also over 180 species of bird found in the region. Among these are the handsome francolin, the Rwenzori touraco and the side-breasted tit.
About 45 mountain gorillas use the Mgahinga sector of the Virunga Conservation Area seasonally. Gorilla trekking is available here when the gorillas are in the park. They are usually resident in the months of April, May and June and October, November and December. The rest of the year the gorillas are on the Congo side of the Virungas. Book 4-12 months in advance to avoid disappointment. Trekking is strenuous; therefore good physical condition is necessary.
Mgahinga is an interesting park. In addition to gorilla trekking, it offers a number of other exciting half-day hikes and the challenge of a full-day climb to the summit of Mt. Muhavura or Mt. Gahinga, or the breathtaking Sabyinyo Gorge. Also of interest are the three swamps: Rugezi, Kabiranyuma and Kizibakye.
APPROXIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA: 510KM
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME: 8-10 HRS
RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The Rwenzori Park is a splendid world of ice and snow, with its massive ice-rime sculptures and mind-boggling vegetation, and arguably surpasses other afro-alpine areas in its beauty, wonder and interest to mountaineering enthusiasts. This park, covering 996 sq. kms. provides a magnificent environment for both experienced climbers and casual day hikers. These legendary mountains exhibit spectacular scenic beauty and provide a unique habitat for many rare and indigenous plants and animals. The Highest mountain in the range, Mt. Stanley, is the third highest in Africa after Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya. Its highest peak, Margharita, rises 5109 m above sea level. The giant lobelia and the groundsell are hallmarks of the Rwenzori. All of the above make this park an unforgettable visitor destination.
Decreasing temperature with increasing altitude have resulted in marked zoning of vegetation, which is of great interest to scientists and a delightful experience for visitors. In fact, more people visit the Rwenzori to explore and experience the fascinating vegetation than to climb the peaks and glaciers.
The usual trip lasts not less than 6 days, just long enough to hike the Central Circuit Trail. Longer and shorter trips can be arranged. No special climbing equipment is necessary unless you intend to climb one of the summits. However, hiking the trails is arduous work, and weather conditions are unpredictable and rainy. The driest months are July, August and December, January and February. Hiking should be undertaken only by the physical fit.
APPROXIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA: 60 KM
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME: 6 HRS
LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK
Lake Mburo National Park (260 sq. kms) lies along Mbarara road within easy access of Kampala. It is ideal for a transit stop to / from the gorilla sanctuaries or QENP. It is an attractive park of rolling hills and open grassy valleys, interspersed with thickets, woodlands and rich wetlands.
Find here herds of Zebra, Cape buffalo and eland. Oribi and topi are easily approached. Along with a game drive, many visitors enjoy a boat trip on Lake Mburo. Self-guided nature trails are also available. Birdwatchers will enjoy the more than 250 species of birds found in Lake Mburo.
APPROXIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA: 230 KM.
ESTIMATED TRANSITTIME: 3-4 HRS
KIBALE NATIONAL PARK
This National Park covers 766 sq. kms and runs contiguous with the northern end of QENP, but Kibale is much wetter with a unique moist forest habitat and an extremely high diversity of animals and plants.
This mature tropical rainforest supports the highest number of primate species in Uganda, and one of the highest primate densities and diversities in the world. There are 13 species of primates located here which include red colobus monkey, black-and white colobus monkey, redtail monkey, L'hoest's monkey, mangabey, pottos, olive baboons and several communities of chimpanzee.
About 400 species of birds have been reported in Kibale. A number of these species are found only in this park. In addition, over 150 species of butterflies and a large number of moths can be discovered here.
APPROXIMATELY DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA: 350 KMS / 550 KMS
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME: 5 HRS / 7 HRS
SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK
Semuliki was formerly a game reserve and covering 220 sq. kms is virtually untouched by man. Its lush tropical lowland habitat provides an inspirational setting for hikers and nature lovers to spend a few quiet days relaxing and exploring unspoiled Africa.
The eco-system of tropical lowland forest is continuos with the Ituri forest of Zaire, divided only by the Semuliki River. This location, as a kind of stepping stone between East and West Africa, helps explain the great diversity of wildlife in the park, possibly the greatest in all of East Africa. The park contains elephant, buffalo and vervet monkey. In addition, there are 400 species of bird and around 300 different species of butterfly. Enjoy many walking/hiking trails and a trip to Sempaya Hot Springs.
APPROXIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA: 400/585 KMS
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME: 7 HRS / 10 HRS
KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Kidepo is one of Uganda's most spectacular parks with a wealth of wildlife and scenic beauty. It lies in the north-eastern horn of Uganda in Karamoja district and covers an area of 1442 sq. kms. Being drier than Uganda's other parks, this impressive natural reserve contains a different eco-system from any other area in Uganda, giving visitors a more complete understanding of Uganda's vast bio-diversity. Its secluded location provides the traveller a certain air of peace and tranquillity in which to relax and enjoy the dramatic scenery and wildlife of northern Uganda.
With 80 species, Kidepo supports a wider diversity of mammals than any other Ugandan park. Some of the animals you can expect to see include lion, Zebra, large herds of elephant, eland lesser kudu, dik-dik and Cape buffalo. Oribi are abundant, as well as the almost -tame Apoka waterbuck. A surprising 28 of the 80 species are not present in any other park in Uganda. These include cheetah, greater kudu and Bright's gazelle.
Enthusiastic ornithologists will be enchanted with the birdllife. The official checklist includes 462 species. Both kopjes and forest patches provided refuge for interesting species. Two found only to Kidepo are ostrich and kori bustard. Find here five species of hornbill, including the giant ground variety. Bird of prey in the park includes Verreaux's eagle, lammergeyer and Egyptian vulture.
ESTIMATE DISTANCE FROM KAMPALA: 400/585 KMS
ESTIMATE TRANSITTIME: 7HRS/10HRS
MT. ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Mount Elgon is the shell of an ancient volcano. Its highest peak, Wagagai, reaches 4321 m, making it the 4th highest peak in Africa. Though much erosion has taken place, the remaining oval shaped caldera now measures roughly 7 by 8 kms, one of the largest in the world. This 1145 sq. kms park shares its eastern border with Kenya.
One of the primary goals of the park is to conserve and restore the valuable natural resources of the areas including the water shed and the bio-diversity. Conservation of this land provides an opportunity for visitors to enjoy the wonderfully wild and exciting scenery of this mountainous area. Its main attractions are its waterfalls, caves once used by indigenous people, Hot Springs, the mountains vegetation, the various peaks, the Suam Gorge and the cladera itself.
Many animals are found in the park, but because of earlier harassment by poachers, they are shy of humans. You may spot Cape buffalo, bushbuck, black-fronted duiker, tree hyrax and bushpig. Leopard and hyenas also live in the park, and elephants have recently been returning to the areas from neighbouring Kenya. Primates that are found there include blue monkey, baboon and black-and white colobus. Some interesting birds that are often sighted Ross' touraco, casqued hornbill, gregarious hornbill, crowned eagle and lammergeyer.
APPRIXIMATE DISTANCE KAMPALA: 400KM
ESTIMATED TRANSIT TIME: 5 HRS