Uganda Wildlife parks
UGANDA WILDLIFE NATIONAL PARKS
Described by Sir Winston Churchill as the “Pearl of Africa”Uganda boasts ten(10) national game parks and a number of Game reserves the best of which I have highlighted here.Uganda Wildlife image is synonymous with rich,fertile landscapes,rolling hills and dense forest and is perhaps best described as East Africa’s unspoiled green belt.
BWINDI INPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
260km,South West of Kampala;331sq.Km(1160m – 2607m).
The third largest,forested park in Uganda Wildlife,it shares a border with the Virunga national park in neighboring Congo,but,more importantly it offers some of the best opportunities for sightings of Mountain Gorillas and there is really no experience quite like it.Situated along the Great Rift valley Bwindi extends over a series of steep ridges,its massive rainforest almost impenetrable,its secretive interior providing the perfect habitat for over half of the word’s gorrilla population.Other wildlife includes a large variety of primates,including chimpanzee,Blue monkey and Black & White colobus monkey,antelope and forest elephant as well as remarkably high number of bird species.Terrain varies from swamp and bamboo forest to dense thicket from the ankle up which makes up 90% of the park,thus making gorilla trekking work hard! However there is no doubt in my mind that this cathedral of vegetation is a magical place,the confines of which hold many sercrets.
MGAHINGA GORRILA NATIONAL PARK
290km,South West of Kampala – 33.7sq.Km.
Sharing a border with neighbouring Congo(Parc National des Virunga) and Rwanda(Parc National des Volcans),Mgahinga is the country’s smallest national park and protects the Ugandan part of the ‘Virunga mountains;a range of extinct and active Volcanoes that straddle the border.A tropical rain forest,much of the lower slopes have been depleted by the encroachment of farms,however,the bamboo and alpine forests remain largely intact and offer refuge to visiting gorilla groups from neighbouring Congo and Rwanda.These Gorilla groups frequently ‘pop in’ and take temporary residence for a couple of months at a stretch.Additional wildlife includes Blue Monkeys,Black & White colobus monkey,leopard,forest elephant,giant forest hog as well as numerous species of birds.As well as being famous as a refuge for ‘Gentle Giants’ Mgahinga is also a favourite with hikers who come to explore the many caves and the three volcanoes,which lie partly within the park’s borders.
QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
200Km,South West of Kampala – 1978 sq.Km.
One of Ugand’s oldest,richest and most popular park,it is a labyrinth of open Savanna,bush lands,extensive forest,wetlands,rivers and lakes including Lake Edward,the Kazinag channel & Lake George.Like many other parts of Uganda its wildlife was severely depleted during years of instability,however with the return of peace the situation is clearly reversing,and a total of over 90 mammal species within its boundaries is evidence of this.Its deverse scenery is home to a multitude of game and the wonder of searching out the many different species within the boundaries of this contrasting habitat is great fun and put Queen Elizabeth National park in a class of its own.Wildlife includes chimpanzee,L’Hoest monkey and Black & White colobus monkey,a large number of predators,elephant,buffalo,numerous antelope including the elusive,semi-aquatic Statunga, and perhaps Uganda’s greatest concentration of bird-life with over 600 species of bird recorded as well as one of Africa’s largest congregations of hippo,along the Kazinga Channel.A trip on the channel should not be missed!
KIBALE NATIONAL PARK
180Km,South West of Kampala – 766 Sq.Km.
A fairly new park,Kibale in essence is a migratory route and corridor between Queen Elizabeth National park and parks to the north such as Murchison Falls National Park.Probably the most accessible of Uganda’s large forests it is home to an extremly large diversity of flora and fauna and secret trails,within it’s recesses,pounded by generations of elephant,giving credit to old wives tales of ‘elephant grave yards’ and big tusked,solitary bulls.Chimpazee groups have been habituated and can be visited with relative ease.Accommodation is available at near by Ndali Lodge as well as inside the park.
RUWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
“MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON” 200Km,West of Kampala – 996 Sq.Km.
As the name implies the magic of the Ruwenzori snow-capped peaks,glaciers and forestation has long inspired mankind’s spirit of adventure.Its slopes shrouded in mist lend it an eerie atmosphere that has earned it the additional name”The land of Mist’ and it’s a must of the serious hiker,and there is a mistariousness about it neither Mt.Kenya nor Kilimanjaro share.It is also thought to be the origins behind the legend of’ the Mountains of the Moon’ which Roman geographer Ptolemy wrongly claimed to be the source of the Nile in AD 150! Home to largest mountain range in Africa only Mt.Kilimanjaro and Mt.Kenya in neighboring Tanzania and Kenya overshadow it but only in elevation.The Ruwenzori mountains are unique,in the fact that they are not volcanic in origin,but were forced ‘up’ during the upheaval and formation of the Great Rift Valley.Primarly attracting hikers and climbers,the park also supports an impressive number of mammals including elephant,cats,chimpanzee,giant forest hog and many of the shyer species of antelope such as duiker,as well as a diverse and colourful variety of bird-life.Like its neighboring mountains in East Africa the Ruwenzori range consists of several altitude zones: a forest zone at 1800m which is home to the majority of the parks resident mammals,dense bamboo forest(3000m/4500m),moorland(4375m),steep glacial passes to the Mountains of the Moon’s highest paeaks(5109m).This mountain range is described as being perhaps the toughest hiking challenge in East Africa,requiring above average fitness and stamina.
SEMLIKI NATIONAL PARK & SEMLIKI WILDLIFE RESERVE.
50Km from Fort Portal – 221 Sq.Km & 558 Sq.Kms respectively.
Situated within the remote Semliki Valley,the park protects an extension of the Congo’s vast Ituri rainforest.It abounds with birds,including 40 essentially Congolese species found nowhere else in Uganda.The Sempaya Hot Springs,named after the river what forms the Congolese border are also situated in the park.The forested area harbours many mammals,ranging from elephant,chimps and the more localized De Brazza’s monkey.
Formerly known as the Tor Game Reserve this large reserve adjoining site of the Sempaya Hot Springs has a large variety of plains game including giraffe that have made this part of the Nile their regular watering hole.Lake Albert and the northern base of Rwenzoris is a rich mosaic of grassland,savanna,forest & wetlands.Of 400 bird species recorded,Shoebill are regularly spotted.Both of these secluded wildlife areas are of prime importance to bird enthusiasts,and therefore a major destination for visiting ornithologists from around the world.
MBURO NATIONAL PARK:
A 2 hours drive west from Kampala along the Mbarara Road 1Sq.Km & 558 Sq.Kms respectively.
Lake Mburo is the best place in Uganda Wildlife to see gigantic eland antelope as well as most plains game including the rusty coloured top,which always stand like a sentry ready to sound the alarm at any sign of approaching danger from carnivores.The park boasts a huge number of migrant and habitual species of birds,and the five lakes within the park attract hippos,huge crocodiles as well as waterbirds.Fringing swamps area perfect habitat for the rare and shy Sitatunga antelope and red,black and yellow papyrus gonalek.Mburo is the closest park to Kampala and offers the perfect stopover for those travelling to or from western parks and reserves.
KATONGA WILDLIFE RESERVE
200Km West of Kampala – 211 Sq.Km.
Katonga is a recent addition to Uganda Wildlife list of protected wildlife areas.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.