U01 Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago.
The Semliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species, and the local population includes a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, this park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda.
While Semuliki’s species have been accumulating for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
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.
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.
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.
U02 Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a Ugandan national park and UNESCO World Heritage Sitelocated in the Rwenzori Mountains. Almost 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi) in size, the park has Africa's third highest mountain peak and many waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers. The park is known for its beautiful plant life.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park was established in 1991. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of its outstanding natural beauty. Rebel militias occupied the Rwenzori Mountains from 1997 to June 2001. The park was inscribed on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger between 1999 and 2004 because of insecurity and a lack of resources in the park.
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 (31 mi).
It is situated in the Bundibugyo, Kabarole, and Kasese districts, 25 km (16 mi) from the small town of Kasese. It is 996 km2 (246,117 acres) in size, 70% of which exceeds an altitude of 2,500 m (8,202 ft). The park is 120 km (75 mi) long and 48 km (30 mi) wide.
The park comprises most of the centre and eastern half of the Rwenzori Mountains, a mountain range rising above dry plains located just above the equator. The Rwenzori Mountains are higher than the Alps and are ice-capped. Mount Stanley is located in the park. Margherita Peak, one of Mount Stanley's twin summits, is Africa's third highest peak with a height of 5,109 m (16,762 ft). Africa's fourth and fifth highest peaks (Mount Speke and Mount Baker) are also located in the park. The park has glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls, and lakes and is one of Africa's most beautiful mountain areas.
The park has many species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift system, and there are several endangered species in the park. It has a high diversity of plants and trees. The park is noted for its botany, which has been described as some of the most beautiful in the world. There are five distinct vegetation zones in the park, which change according to changes in altitude. The park has 89 species of birds, 15 species of butterfly, and four primate species. The park's wildlife varies with elevation, and its species include the forest elephant, chimpanzee, hyrax, black-and-white colobus, L'Hoest's monkeys, duiker, and Ruwenzori turaco.
U03 Queen Elizabeth National Park
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!
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.
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.
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.
U04 Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is a national park in Uganda and managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. The park is in northwestern Uganda, spreading inland from the shore of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile. Together with the adjacent 748 square kilometres (289 sq mi) Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and the 720 square kilometres (280 sq mi) Karuma Wildlife Reserve, the park forms the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA).
The park is in Buliisa District in western Uganda and in Nwoya District in northern Uganda. The park is approximately 300 kilometres (190 mi), by road, northwest of Kampala, Uganda's capital city. The coordinates of the park are 02 15N, 31 48E (Latitude:2.2500; Longitude:31.8000).
The explorers John Speke and James Grant were the first Europeans to visit the present day MFCA in 1862. It was more thoroughly explored by Samuel and Florence Baker in 1863-4. Baker named the falls Murchison Falls after the geologist Roderick Murchison, then the president of the Royal Geographical Society.
Winston Churchill and Theodore Roosevelt visited the falls in 1907 and 1909, respectively.
The park is sometimes referred to as Kabalega National Park. Kabalega was the Omukama of the Kingdom of Bunyoro, around the end of the 19th century. He resisted colonization by the British, was arrested, and was exiled by the British to the island nation of the Seychelles. Kabalega died in Jinja in 1923 en route to Bunyoro from exile.
The Murchison Falls park is Uganda's largest national park. It measures approximately 3,840 square kilometres (1,480 sq mi). The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from east to west for a distance of about 115 kilometres (71 mi). The park is the location of the famous Murchison Falls, where the waters of the Nile Riversqueeze through a narrow gorge, only 7 metres (23 ft) wide, before plunging 43 metres (141 ft) below. Also in the park, adjacent to the Masindi-Gulu Highway, are the Karuma Falls, the location of the under-construction 600 megawatt Karuma Power Station, which will be Uganda's largest power station when it comes online around 2018.
In the park, four of the "big five" (Cape buffalo, elephant, lion, and leopard) can be seen, especially in the northern part (above the Nile). Because of excessive hunting and poaching, black rhinoceros became extinct by 1983, but were re-introduced into Uganda in 2005 by Rhino Fund Uganda. White rhinoceros are now being bred again in the 7,000 hectares (27 sq mi) Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which is located 70 kilometres (43 mi) south of the park. Their mission is to reintroduce small herds of rhinos (around five at a time), while retaining a nucleus breeding herd in the sanctuary.
MFCA and the adjacent Bugondo Forest Reserve have 76 species of mammals as well as Uganda's largest population of Nile crocodile. 450 bird species are present ranging from easy variety of waterbirds, including the rare shoe-billed stork. to Bugondo's 59 'restricted range' species, dwarf kingfisher, Goliath heron, white-thighed hornbill and great blue turaco are some of the species among them.
The park is also home to the large African wildlife including hippopotamus, giraffes, antelope, Uganda kob, hartebeest, and oribi.
U05 Mount Elgon National Park
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.
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. Elon.
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.
U06 MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
SIZE: 33 sq km
LOCATION: Far southwest, bordering Rwanda and Congo, 14km from Kisoro town.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. The Park covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The Park is about 10 km south of Kisoro and is bordered to the south by the Republic of Rwanda and to the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ or VCA. Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA. The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 33.7 sq. km and consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. From far away, the huge cones of the virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape and beckon you as you approach. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate. Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler. The Virungas are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Where to stay: If you are the ‘go camping tourist’, then there is ample space at the park gate and Mt. Gahinga Rest Camp for ‘Do it Yourself Camping’, besides that, there is also excellent traditional Bandas managed by the local community.
Kisoro Town which is 14 kms to the gate of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park offers a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from the basic Camp-site to the luxurious full board hotels, these include Traveler’s Rest, Sky Blue, Mt. Gahinga Rest Camp, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Safari Lodge, Rugigana Campsite and Mubano Hotel among others. Be rest assured that you have big choice here.
Getting there: Road:
Kisoro is about 540 km from Kampala (Uganda’s capital city), it takes about 8 hours via Kabale by car.
For public transport, there are daily buses/minibuses, which set off at 7.00pm from Kampala. Once in Kisoro Town, you can hike to the park if you are strong enough or hire a cab to the park gate.
What to do:
This is the most thrilling tourist activity in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The habituated gorilla in this park is called the Nyakagezi, which consists of 9 members, 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants.
Gorilla tracking is an intensive experience that can take the whole day. The guide leads you through the gorilla’s world, explaining aspects of their ecology and behavior along the way.
We must stress that, while you have a very good chance of seeing gorillas, success is NOT guaranteed. They are wild creatures with no fixed routine, and finding them requires the skill and experience of your trackers and guides, as well as luck.
The trackers and guides have helped to habituate the gorilla groups and know them intimately. They will take you to the area where they left the gorillas the day before. Before leaving they may be able to suggest how long the hike might be. While walking, please feel free to ask guides to slow down if they are going too fast and if you need a rest. Feel free to stop and look at birds or flowers, the guide will ensure that you don’t get left behind.
Gorilla Tracking can be strenuous walk, so go prepared. It is advisable that you:
- Wear shoes with good traction, suitable for steep muddy slopes
- Carry rain gear, sunscreen and a hut, as the weather is unpredictable.
- Carry water and food
- Carry binoculars, you will see much more, you can hire from the park office
- When taking photos, remember your subjects are black animals in dim light, and flash is not allowed.
Good Manners for Gorilla Watchers
- Keep your voice down or be quiet. You will see and hear if you do.
- Don’t point or waive your arms- this can be seen as a threat. Move slowly.
- If approached by a gorilla, back away slowly to keep 5m separation.
- Don’t use flash, this could threaten the gorillas and bother other visitors.
Mt. Sabyinyo (366m)
‘Old man’s teeth’
Like an old man, time has eroded Mt. Sabyinyo’s crown. This volcano offers 3 challenging peaks to climb. A climb up the mountain takes one up a ridge along the eastern side of the climb to peak. If you are to continue, the climb to the peak 11 involves walking a ridge with breath-taking drops into gorges of Rwanda and Uganda, a dual experience you will achieve here.
Finally, the hike up to the peak 111 is steep with several ladders and mush scrambling. You are guaranteed to get your hands dirty en-route to peak111! Once on top, you will be in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, what a triple experience this is!!! The journey takes about eight hours round trip to cover the 14km stretch.
Mt. Gahinga (3474m)
On your way to the park, look out for small piles of stones in the garden fields. The local people call such a pile a ‘Gahinga’.
Mount Gahinga is quite bigger than the average ‘gahinga’ but sitting next to Mount Muhavura does make it look small. A hike, which takes you about, six hours round trip, goes through a good example of a pure Bamboo forest. Gahinga once had a Crater Lake on top but time has changed it into a Lush swamp. Distance to the swamp is 8km.
Mt. Muhavura (4127m)
Seen from all over Kisoro, this volcano acts as a guide. The typical cone-shaped Mountain provides some of the best views in the country. Much of the climb passes a rocky surface covered by grasses and small shrubs. Once at the top, hikers are rewarded with the view of the Virunga volcanoes, Lake Edward in queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi and the peaks of Rwenzori Mountain. The hike takes approximately 8 hours round trip covering 12km.You are advised to camp at the Muhavura base camp the night before the site has no facilities so you need a tent, water, food and sleeping gear.
This is one of the caves where once the crafty Batwa (who were warriors) lived and fought their neighbors, the Bantu. The distance to the cave entrance from the park headquaters is 3 km long and it takes about 4 hours. Your guide will show you how the Batwa lived and fought out of the cave. The cave is 342m in length and 14m deep, and is now inhabited only by bats.
This is about 800 metres from the Park gate. Once on top, you will have a good view of the Park and the surrounding areas. A guide is not necessary and the activity is free. Displaying panels at the hill point will give some information about what you can see.
Border Trail – Visa Not Required
This hike takes you first toward Sabinyo. The trail climbs up the base of Sabinyo for a while through fine montane forest before turning toward the Congo. Along the way you will get a great view of Sabinyo’s gorge and peaks. Upon reaching the Congo you cut back along the international border. The return leg to the Park Head Quarters is a great section for birding. The two rest huts along the way are good places for a break. Look closely for the golden monkeys and signs of elephants.
Hiking time is 5 hours and distance 10 km.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is blessed with a unique bird fauna; 79 bird species have thus far been recorded within the park, including several species endemic to the East Congo Montane region.
For the Virunga Conservation Area as a whole, over 295 species in the Virungas are endemic to the Albertine Rift Afromontane region representing 59% of the total of known endemic species.
Remember to contact the Park Management for a guide who will take around for a good viewing of birds, do not forget your binoculars!!
Free birding along the edge of the park is now available on request. The guides are happy to take you out from 5-6 p.m. if you book by 10 a.m. that morning. You can choose where the walk will take you, or simply relax in the campground. A stroll a long the buffalo wall toward the Congo takes you through a wetland area where Ibis, Whydah, Speckled Mousebird, and Fire Finch are found. Stonechat, Grey Capped Warbler, Waxbills, and Yellow-Vented Bulbul are often seen around the campground. Ask your guide where the best spots are. Feel free to take your time and go at your own pace, there is no hurry when birding.
U07 Lake Mburo National Park
Size: 260 sq km
Location: Lake Mburo National Park, situated in the south, is Uganda's fourth national park, was designated in 1982, and is situated between the towns of Masaka and Mbarara. Lying in the one part of Uganda covered in extensive acacia woodland, Mburo has markedly different fauna to other reserves. It is the only one to contain an entire lake.
The attractive acacia-dotted savanna (158 square miles) is home to huge herds of impala, as well as uncommon topi, eland, klipspringer and other antelope. Zebra and buffalo also graze these peaceful acres. At the lake there are hippo and crocodile and a wonderful diversity of birds. Because of the different habitats of the lakeshore and the broad savanna, the variety seems endless. Catch a glimpse of waterbirds diving for fish, the maribou stork, bee-eaters and the cheeky bronze-tailed starling, as well as the majestic crowned crane. Lake Mburo is the best place in the country to see the gigantic eland antelope, as well as zebra, topi, impala, and several acacia-associated birds.
The five lakes within the park attract hippos, crocodiles and a variety of waterbirds, while fringing swamps hide secretive papyrus specialists such as the sitatunga antelope and red, black and yellow papyrus gonalek.
Two brothers, Kigarama and Mburo lived in a large valley. One night, Kigarama dreamt that they were in danger. When he awoke the next morning, he told his younger brother Mburo of his dream and said they should move. Mburo ignored this advice, but Kigarama wisely moved up into the hills. The valley flooded and a lake was formed, drowning Mburo. Today the lake is named after him, and the hills are called Kigarama after his brother. The word mburo is similar to the "mboro", the Runyankole name of the cassine tree which has a powerful aphrodisiac effect. One such tree, showing signs of bark and branch removal, may be seen close to the Kigambira Loop crossroads
Lake Mburo is the largest of five lakes which, together with the surrounding wetlands, account for 20% of the park's surface of 260 km². This makes this small park very interesting for birding all the year round (310 recorded).
The rest of the park is covered with acacia savannah and notable for supporting a wide variety of antilopes. It is the only place where the impala still occurs and it is the best place to see the eland, Africa's largest antilope. Large herds of buffalo and zebra's are common in this park but there are no lions (they are extinct), elephants or giraffes.
Lake Mburo Luxury Tented Camp Conveniently located in the heart of Uganda's Ankole district between Kampala and the attractions in the southwest of the country. There are ten fully furnished Selous tents with verandas, twin bedrooms, dressing areas and ensuite bathrooms. There is a mess tent with bar and a full staff to take care of you. You may include Lake Mburo in your personalized Uganda Safari itinerary.Accommodation is available at park headquarters, where chalets are available for single or double occupancy. Meals are available or visitors may carry their own food that the camp staff can help to prepare. Hurricane lamp lighting and warm water bucket bathing are provided. Campfire may be organised on request.
The Lake View Hotel in the nearby town of Mbarara is a modern locally-owned hotel. All rooms have private facilities. The hotel has a bar, restaurant, terrace, swimming pool and sports centre. The hotel's own small lake is often surrounded by marabou storks.
Mantana Camp, run by Mel and Paul has stunning vistas over 3 lakes, It offers good service whilst retaining the authentic safari spirit. Each tent has twin beds and a bathroom. Each verandah is placed so as to take advantage of stunning African sunsets. The dining room is built on stilts so as to offer guests bird's eye views across the treetops to the lakes. Climate Lake Mburo National Park lies in a rain shadow between Lake Victoria and the Rwenzori Mountains, and receives an average of only 800mm of rain a year. Being near the equator, the rainfall pattern is bimodal, with the long rains occurring from February to June, and the short rains from September to December.
Lake Mburo National Park has 4 tents at Rwonyo park headquarters.
There are also 3 public campsites, all strategically located to facilitate and enhance scenic viewing and easy access to water. Lake Mburo dining shelter provides meals on order.
For luxurious accommodation: Agip Motel Mbarara, Hotel Classic Ltd.
The rains are rather erratic and unpredictable, but most rain tends to fall in April and November. The average recorded temperature is 27.50C with daily variation ranging from 21.50C to 34,00C. July and August are the hottest months.
Meals: Neither the Rest Camp nor hostel stock food, visitors are therefore advised to carry sufficient food and drinks for the duration of their stay in the park. The Rest Camp staff can arrange for the cooking. However other supplementary diet such as chicken and goat meat can be arranged from the nearby community for visitors who intend to stay longer.
Getting there: Road Transport: Lake Mburo National Park is found in Mbarara district, 3.5 hours drive from Kampala on Mbarara Kampala highway. Turn left at 13 km (Akageti) past Lyantonde, which then brings you to Sanga gate. Both junctions have clearly labeled signposts. It is 13 km from Sanga trading center of Sanga gate, 5 km from the main road to Nshara gate and about 20 minutes drive from Rwonyo Park Head Quarters.
What to do:
Game Viewing is the major tourist activity in this Park, it is famous for its richness in biodiversity. It has about 68 different species of mammals. The common ones are Zebra, Impala, Buffalo, Topi, and Eland as herbivores not to leave out the rare slightly of Roan antelope and leopard, Hyenas and jackals as predictors.
Boat Rides The presence of Lake Mburo within the park is a blessing worth mentioning. The lake is rich with a diversity of animal and plant species which can only be viewed clearly if you take a boat trip. The crocodiles, hippopotamuses and birds like Pelicans, Black crake, Heron, cormorant, fish eagle, you may also sight the rare Shoebill Stork and all these will furnish your visit with pride. The duration of each boat cruise is negotiable.
Guide walks The nature trail offers the visitor a chance to admire nature insitu. Visitors have the opportunity in walk in the circuit at his / her pace although in company of an armed guide. The trail is interpreted in form of a brochure in both English and Runyankole.
Salt Lick A walk to the near by salt is a summary of it all. Strategically located wooden hide (Observation point) offers a chance to see at least 4 different species of animals at any one time while they lick the salty soil. Most interesting to note is that this is done without the animal's conscience. Visitors may also walk to area of their own choice.Note: Walks inside the park must be in company of an armed park official.
Rubanga Forest You can also explore this forest by making arrangements with the Park Management to have a Ranger accompany you. The Rubanga Forest is very small but a true forest with a closed canopy in places. A common tree is Markhamia platycalyx (grey-brown truck with irregular flaky patches, divided leaves, yellow flowers stripped and spotted with red; brunches of extremely long (up to 1.3 m podlike fruits). Palms, figs, sapium (a tall tree whose leaves turn red before falling) and the flame tree Erythrina abyssinica occur towards the edge of the swamp.
First-time visitors to Lake Mburo National Park are fascinated by the variety of large mammals and colorful birds. For many people, birds are the most interesting to watch. As common species become familiar, you will begin to notice smaller, less spectacular birds; the real experts seem to get most excited by 'Little Brown jobs' ('LBJs') which are the hardest to identify. Although many birds are wild spread, others are more fussy in their choice of habitat. For example, most of the park's 310 recorded species are 'generalist' and can be seen almost anywhere. However, they are 5 species of bird, which are found only in the forest, and 60 specialist water birds. Others prefer short or tall grasslands, or are found mainly in woodlands.
This Park has Open water birds, Lakeshore and papyrus swamp birds, Seasonal swamp birds, Woodland birds, Grassland birds and Forest birds.
Birds of the Open Water in this Park include; Pink-backed pelican, Darter, White pelican, Yellow-billed duck, Long-tailed cormorant, White winged black tern and Greater cormorant
Lakeshore and papyrus swamp birds They are over 26 species of lakeshore and papyrus swamp birds recorded in this Park. Some of them include; Fish eagle, Pied kingfisher, African finfoot, Great white egret, Night heron.
U08 Kidepo Valley National Park
SIZE: 1,442 sq km
LOCATION: On the Sudanese border in the northeast
The Kidepo Valley National Park is one of Uganda's most spectacular parks. It is 1,442 square kilometers and harbors scenery unsurpassed in any other park in East Africa. 'It could not be any better' is a common comment on the scenery by visitors who often promise and do come back to Kidepo. Tucked into the corner of Uganda's border with Sudan and Kenya, the park offers breathtaking Savannah landscapes, which end in rugged horizon. A huge latitudinal range and correspondingly wide climatic conditions have evolved an extremely diverse flora. As a result the variety of animal species in the park is equally abundant including many which are found no where else in Uganda.
The vegetation can best be described as open tree Savannah which varies much in structure and composition. Mountain forest dominates some of the high places, while areas along the Lorupei River support dense Acacia geradi forest. The flora and fauna of the park are more typical of Kenya than the rest of Uganda. The landscape throughout the park is studded with small hills, rocky outcrops and inselbergs from which one can obtain stunning views in all directions.
WHERE TO STAY:
At the Park itself, there are 16 self-contained chalets at Apoka Rest Camp. There is also a hostel comprising of 14 bandas each with two beds; these bandas are not self contained. Both Apoka Lodge and the Bandas are managed by the park. Make your reservations through Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters in Kampala.
For visitors who like camping, the park has two 'Do it yourself' campsites. You must bring your tent and other camping equipment.
Neither the Rest Camp nor hostel stock food, visitors are therefore advised to carry sufficient food and drinks for the duration of their stay in the park. The Rest Camp staff can arrange for the cooking. However other supplementary diet such as chicken and goat meat can be arranged from the nearby community for visitors who intend to stay longer.
- Kampala-Lira-Kotido-Kidepo-705 km
- Kampala-Mbale-Soroti-Moroto-Kidepo-792 km
- Kampala-Mbale-Sironko-Kotido-Kideop-740 km
- Kampala-Soroti -Kotido via Amuria 656 km
Driving is more rewarding as vast parts of Karamoja are scenic and total wilderness. However road conditions are some times difficult and 4-wheel drive vehicles (4WD) are recommended. Visitors should note that the road mainly in use from Kotido to Kaabong passes via Kanawauat.
Visitors intending to travel by road are advised to contact UWA headquarters to seek advice about conditions and safety on the roads.
Chartered aircraft are available from Entebbe International Airport to the Park Headquarters. The Civil Aviation Authority manages an airstrip at Lomej about 3 km south of the Park Headquarters.
WHAT TO DO:
The park harbours a great diversity of animal species than other parks. Of the 80 species of mammals listed in 1971, 28 were not known to occur in any other Ugandan park. Carnivore species unique to Kidepo and Karamoja region include the bat-eared fox, striped hyena, aardwolf, caracal, cheetah and hunting dog. Less common ungulates include the greater and lesser kudu, Chandlers Mountain reedbuck, klipspringer, dikdik and bright gazelle; beisa oryx and roan antelope have been severely depleted by poachers in the recent years. Among other large ungulates are elephant, burchell's zebra, bush pig, warthog, rothschild giraffe, cape buffalo, eland, bush buck, bush duskier, defassa water buck, bohor reed buck, jackson's hartbeest and oribi. Five species of primate are found in the park of which the Kavirondo bush baby is endemic. Carnivores present include lion, leopard, several small cats, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal and side-striped jackal. The easiest to see being the jackals.
There are high chances of viewing tree climbing lions that always sits on sauces trees along Narus valley or on rock just as you enter the Apoka Park Headquarter. Other wildlife include elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bush buck, bush pig, kavirondo bush baby, buffalo and much more that are some times seen right from the veranda of Apoka Rest Camp.
The park boasts an extensive avifauna. 465 species have been recorded (three new species were added to the list in 1995). Of particular interest, the ostrich and the Kori bustard are principally associated with arid regions.
The park is outstanding for its birds of prey. Of 58 species recorded 14 are believed to be endemic to Kidepo and the Karamoja region. These include Verreaux's eagle, Egyptian vulture and pygmy falcon. Also of note are four species of hornbills. The redbilled, the yellow-billed and Jackson's hornbill are peculiar to Kidepo, while the giant Abyssinaia ground hornbill is quite common. There is however no comprehensive survey in Kidepo and keen visitors stand a good chance of adding to the current list.
Hiking and Scenery viewing
Hiking can be carried out on Lamoj Mountains just a few kilometers from the Park Headquarters. Visitors can also go to view the splendid Kidepo River Valley dominated by Borassus palm forest; its wide flat bed is dry for most of the year. From Kidepo Valley, you may also visit the Kanangorok Hot Springs, which are located only 11 km from Kidepo river valley.
The mountain and Savannah landscape of the park is spectacular. The Narus valley is situated in the South West of the park; the rugged Napore-Nyagia mountain range forms its western boundary. Separating it from the Kidepo Valley in the northeast, are the Natira and Lokayot Hills. To the north in the Sudan are the Lotukei mountains and the Morungole range marks the southern boundary of the park.
To add flavor to your visit to Kidepo River, take time and visit the picnic site located on the sand and you won't also miss the sound of palm leaves in constant motion in the wind.
The local community has a group of cultural entertainers who on request are always available to perform. The performers have a large menu for you, traditional dances such as the Emuya of the Naporre and Nyangia, ethnic groups and Larakaraka and Apiti dances of the Acholi are waiting for you. The money that this group earns is used for uplifting their welfare.
If you are interested in increasing your knowledge on African culture, visits to the Karimajong manyattas (homesteads) and probably kraals to see traditional costume, stools, spears headdress, knives, bows and arrows and jewelry can be arranged. Some of the above mentioned items can be purchased from the park tourist office. It's advisable that you make arrangements for the nature walk two days in advance. This booking can be done from the park headquarters in Apoka or from Uganda Wildlife Authority Headquarters in Kampala.
Visitors who choose to follow the Soroti-Moroto road will be enthralled by the view of the steep volcano of Alekilek about midway Moroti and Soroti. And for those who take the Lira-Kotido road will enjoy the scenery of the Labwor hills and in particular the massive and bare Alerek (Kidi Rwot) rock about 55 km to Kotido.
U09 Kibale National Park
SIZE: 776 sq km
LOCATION: In the west, near Fort Portal
GETTING THERE: Fort Portal lies 320km from Kampala along a mostly surfaced direct road, or an hour's drive from Kasese (near QENP). Kanyanchu Visitors Centre, 35km from Fort Portal, is reached via a dirt road and is accessible on public transport..
WHAT TO DO: Chimp tracking and other guided forest walks, even night walks. Birders shouldn't miss Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, a superb community development fringing the park. A field of beautiful crater lakes lies between Fort Portal and Kibale Forest.
WHEN TO VISIT: Any time of year
WHERE TO STAY: Primate Lodge (former Kanyanchu rest Camp), with a luxury tented camp and upmarket lodge nearby. Budget lodges at Bigodi, the crater lakes, and Fort Portal. The density and diversity of primates in Kibale National Park is the highest in the whole of Africa. The most well known of its 13 species are the chimpanzees, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzee indicate Uganda’s biggest population of this threatened primate. Additionally Kibale is home to the uncommon I’Hoest’s monkey as well as East Africa’s biggest population of the endangered Red Colobus monkey. The black & white Colobus, red tailed monkey, blue monkey, olive baboon, grey cheeked mangabey, bush baby and Potto are among the other primates.
Kibale's major attraction, however, is the opportunity to track habituated chimps - these delightful apes, more closely related to humans than to any other living creature, are tremendous fun to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees. A network of shady forest trails provides much to delight botanists and butterfly lovers, while birders are in for a treat with 335 species recorded including the endemic Prirogrine's ground thrush.
The elusive forest elephant, smaller and hairier than its savannah counterpart, moves seasonally into the developed part of the park, while other terrestrial mammals include buffalo, giant forest hog and a half dozen antelope species.
Other mammals are also present, though they are hardly seen. These consist of buffalo, leopard, bush pig elephant, and duiker. A neat viewer could also see amphibians and reptiles and a colorful variety of butterflies.
The park is a home to 325 variety of bird species, including 6 that are native to the Albertine Rift destination, that is to say dusky crimson wing, black-capped Apalis, blue-headed sunbird, collared Apalis, red-faced woodland warbler and purple-breasted sunbird. Other Kibale specials are the green breasted Pitta, African Pitta, black bee-eater, Abyssinian ground thrush, yellow spotted Nicator, little Greenbul, black-eared ground thrush, brown chested alethe, yellow-rumped tinker bird, blue-breasted kingfisher, along with the crowned eagle.
The people living around Kibale National Park are mostly Batoro and Bakiga. The Batoro are native to the region while the Bakiga are just immigrants from the thickly populated southwestern part of the country. The Batoro carry pride in the ethnical heritage of the Kingdom of Toro, a scion of the ancient kingdoms of the Great Lakes region un Africa. The king (Omukama) and the kingdom personify the traditional along with cultural values of the Batoro. The immigrants (Bakiga) still hold their culture and tradition as expressed in their dance, folklore, as well as language.
U10 Katonga Wildlife Reserve
SIZE: 207 sq km
LOCATION: Central, 200km west of Kampala.
GETTING THERE: Katonga is three hours from Kampala, branching from the Fort Portal or Mbarara Road. Buses connect Kampala to Kabagole, a short canoe ride and walk from the entrance gate.
WHAT TO DO: Day hikes, overnight hikes and canoe trips can be arranged.
WHEN TO VISIT: Any time of year.
WHERE TO STAY: The campsite, or a budget hotel in Kabagole.
Katonga is a recent addition to Uganda's list of protected wildlife areas. Only recently developed for tourism, the reserve protects a network of forest-fringed wetlands along the Katonga River.
The reserve protects a network of forest fringed wetlands(along the Katonga River) and is best explored by foot and by canoe. Home to over 40 species of mammal and over 150 species of birds(many specific to wetland habitats) it is an ornithologist's haven. Commonly sighted are elephant, waterbuck, reedbuck, Colobus monkeys and river otter, as well as the shy Sitatunga, semi-aquatic antelope with web hooves. Viewing this game from a canoe, whilst they come to the water's edge to drink is a thrilling and memorable experience.
U11 BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
SIZE: size: 331 SQ
LOCATION: Southwest. The closes large town is Kabale.
GETTING THERE: Bwindi can be reached from QENP in the north (2-3 hours), from Kabale to the south (1-2 hours), or from Kampala via Mbarara (6-8 hours). The roads meet at Butogota, 17km from the Buhoma entrance gate. 4x4 recommended during the rains.
WHAT TO DO: Gorilla tracking is the main attraction; permits must pre-booked at the UWA office in Kampala. Other guided forest walks are available: one popular trail leads to a pretty waterfall, others focus on birding and monkey-viewing.
WHEN TO VISIT: Any time, though conditions are more challenging during the rainy season.
WHERE TO STAY: Two up-market tented camps, a lodge, community-run budget rooms and camping are available near the Buhoma entrance gate.
A magnificent verdant swathe across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley, this ancient rainforest - one of the few in Africa to have flourished throughout the last Ice Age - is home to roughly half of the world's mountain gorillas.
Looking deep into the expressive brown eyes of these gentle giants is surely the most exciting and poignant wildlife encounter that Africa has to offer - but we should not let it distract from Bwindi's broader biodiversity, a result of its immense antiquity and an altitude span from 1,160 to 2,607m.
The national park has 90 mammal species, including 11 primates, of which the black-and-white colobus, with its lovely flowing white tail, is prominent.
The forest birding ranks with the best in Uganda, with 23 highly localised Albertine Rift endemics present.
U12 Mihingo Lodge
Mihingo is a luxurious, family owned lodge in a magical setting adjacent to Lake Mburo National Park. Perched high on a rocky kopje, whose pre-Cambrian granite boulders were formed over 500 million years ago, it has spectacular views over a vast savannah landscape. Designed to blend in with its fragile surroundings, this environmentally friendly lodge offers comfort, relaxation and the experience of being at one with nature.
An infinity pool overlooks the valley below where buffalo, eland, impala, warthogs, bush buck and zebra can be seen at the waterhole. On the rocks you may have the rare chance of seeing the resident family of Klipspringers. We cannot guarantee that you will see a leopard, but on a night game drive you do have a good chance. As Rungwe Kingdon (the son of the well-known wildlife author, Jonathan Kingdon, and one of Mihingo’s guests) once told us “I have seen more leopards in Lake Mburo National Park than any other park in East Africa”.
To further enhance your experience of wild Africa, Mihingo is the only lodge in Uganda to offer daytime and overnight horse safaris into the national park.
The only regret that many of our guests have is that they wish they had booked to stay longer than only a night or two. We hope this website will help you to see how many wonderful things there are to do when you stay at Mihingo Lodge.
GREEN THINGS WE DO
- Heat all our water, make our electricity, and power all our fridges and freezers using the sun.
- Catch all the rain water on the rocks in a 200,000 litre water tank and also use the run-off from the large roof area at the stables.
- Grow our own herbs and salads in our small organic kitchen garden.
- Buy as much locally as possible including milk, tomatoes and onions from the surrounding farms.
- Buy special vegetables that we can’t buy locally from an organic farm in Mukono district.
- Recycle our general lodge waste – turn bottle tops into funky animals, and give our empty bottles (we love Bombay Sapphire) to Paper Craft who turn them into beautiful necklaces and earrings.
- Decant all our drinking water from 20 litre bottles to avoid waste of more than 10,000 small plastic bottles a year.
- Buy all our soap from Paper Craft – it is totally natural, tested in the Netherlands and PH perfect!
- Buy all our candles from The Candle Light Foundation that was set up to help street girls find a way to earn money.
- Sell as many locally produced Ugandan crafts in our craft shop.
- Train our staff to give the best massage ever – the money from the massages supports the Leopard and Hyena project.
- Train staff from this area how to look after our horses and how to ride them.
- Use local transport to receive our weekly shopping supplies from Kampala.
- Compensate farmers for livestock killed by leopard and hyena.
THINGS WE BELIEVE IN AT MIHINGO
- Recruiting as many staff as possible from the neighbouring communities.
- Employing lots of women; they are lovely and hard working.
- Making sure our staff are happy and inspired by what they do so that you will feel it too.
- Supporting some children with their secondary education.
- Supporting the local school.
WE LOVE ANKOLE COWS
- They give us milk, yoghurt, cheese and the best home-made Mihingo ice cream ever!
- Ankole cows are incredibly beautiful and have the biggest horns in the world.
- Ankole cows are an important part of the culture of the Bahima people.