Guest post by Johnnie Kamugisha
Although many people think only about Mountain Gorillas when they think of Uganda, the country also offers some of the best birding and wildlife watching experiences in Africa. From the incredible savannas of Kidepo National Park (NP) to the mountainous Bwindi Impenetrable NP there is an adventure awaiting you in Uganda.
Uganda is a land-locked country found in east-central Africa with a total area 236,040 sq. km. The country shares a border with South Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and DRC.
Uganda’s has both a wet and dry season with a diversity of ecosystems such as sprawling savannas, sparkling lakes, forests and fertile wetlands among others leading to an amazing diversity of wildlife.
Uganda’s ten national parks protect some of the most spectacular natural areas in the country. These parks cover a wide diversity of habitats and are well developed for tourism. There’s also an eleventh national park, Katonga Wildlife Reserve, on the way!
The National Parks
Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park covers 1,442 square kilometers in the Karamoja region in the northeastern corner of Uganda bordering Kenya and South Sudan. It’s a savanna park, dominated by Mt. Morungole at height of 2,750 meters above sea level and transected by the Kidepo and Narus Rivers. The park is about 700 km from Kampala.
It was created as a game reserve in 1958 and converted into a national park in 1962. 77+ mammals and 475+ bird species have been recorded in the park.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park covers 1,279 square kilometers and is bisected by the border of Uganda and Kenya. It is the oldest and largest solitary, volcanic mountain in East Africa. At 4,000 square kilometers, it is the largest volcanic base in the world. Its highest peak, Wagagai, is 4321 meters.
It is home to 300+ species of birds, elephants, buffalos, and antelopes among many other creatures.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest and oldest national park. It’s also one of the best conservation area. The park covers 3,893 square kilometers and is located in the northwestern part of the country. This is where the mighty Nile River explodes through a narrow gorge and cascades down to become a placid river whose banks are full of hippos and crocodiles. It was first created as a game reserve in 1926. It is home to 450+ bird species, 76+ mammals, and more.
Kibale National Park
Kibale is well-known for its incredible primates Kibale National Park. It is home to 13 incredible primates including Chimpanzee, L’hoest’s Monkey, Black & White Colobus, Red Colobus, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, and Red-tailed Monkey.
The Chimpanzees are the main attraction here and people travel from around the world to go trekking to see them! They are more closely related to man than any other living creature and are a delight to see as they go about their daily life in their home.
It is also home to 375+ bird species, 200+ butterfly species, and is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests.
Samuliki National Park
Samuliki National Park is one of the most remote national parks. It sits across the floor of the Semuliki Valley on the western side of the Rwenzori Mountain.
Samuliki is mainly dominated by the eastern most extension of Ituri forest in the Congo Basin.
It is home to 440+ bird species, 53 mammals, and 300+ butterfly species.
Rwenzori National Park
Rwenzori National Park is one of Uganda’s newest national parks and was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
It is home to more than 215 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics and 70 mammal species as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation species.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second largest national park in Uganda. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth herself in 1954.
This is one of the best national parks for birding. It’s home more than 600 bird species, 10 primate species including Chimpanzees, and many other mammals.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is located in southwestern Uganda covering an area of 331 square kilometers.
It’s one of Uganda’s oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests containing more than 1,000 flowering plants species including 163 trees.
Even with all this diversity, Bwindi is really famous for one thing, Mountain Gorillas.
It is inhabited by an estimated 400+ Mountain Gorillas which is approximately half of the world population of this species. There 12 habituated groups that visitors can see making this one of the best places in the world to see these incredible creatures.
Bwindi is also home to 350+ bird species including 23 Albertine Rift endemics, 120 mammals, including several species of primates like Blue Monkey, L’hoest Monkey, and Chimpanzees, making it the only forest in the world where gorillas and Chimpanzees live together, elephants, and antelopes among others.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is only 33.7 square kilometers, making it the smallest in Uganda. It was declared a game sanctuary in 1930 and was made a national park in 1991.
As it sounds like from the name of the park, it was created to protect the endangered Mountain Gorillas that live there. It’s also a great place to find the endangered Golden Monkey. It is also home 180+ species of birds and 89 mammal species including elephants, buffaloes, African Golden Cats, Bushbuck, and porcupines.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is a compact 260 square kilometer gem.
It was originally a controlled hunting ground before becoming a game reserve in 1963 It was finally dedicated as a national park in 1983.
Lake Mburo is the smallest of Uganda’s savanna national parks and underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks, which date back more than 500 million years. It is home to 68 mammal species and 354+ bird species.