10 National Parks in Uganda – Jewel Uganda Safaris
Uganda also referred to as “The Pearl of Africa” is one of the top tourist destinations in Africa endowed with magnificent nature and wildlife spread across in the different national parks situated in different regions within the country.
The 10 National parks in Uganda include; Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Semuliki National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Kibale Forest National Park.
List of Uganda National Parks
Murchison Falls National park
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest protected area in Uganda with an area cover of 3893 square kilometres lying north of the Albertine Rift Valley in the districts of Nwoya, Bulisa, Kiryandongo and Masindi being the nearest to the park.
The park is part of the 5072 square kilometer protected area which incorporates Karuma and Bugungu Wildlife Reserves.
The park is intersected by the Victoria Nile which races 80km over water rapids before exploding through a narrow gap over the rift valley wall at Murchison falls, the focal point of the park.
The Victoria Nile divides the park into the park into two comparable areas and that is; the North which consists of tall green grasslands, acacia trees and he south which consists of mostly woodlands.
Murchison Falls National Park is home to a diverse number of attractions including several wildlife species such as elephants, lions, buffaloes, hippos, Jackson’s hartebeest, Uganda kobs, warthogs, Oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopards and the park has the largest population of Nubian giraffes in the world and all these animals can be seen while on a game drive.
The park is also known as a birder’s paradise that habours about 400 bird species and some of these include the Black-headed Lapwing, African skimmers, Blue-headed Coucal, Giant Kingfisher, Red-throated bee eater, Black-billed barbet with sightings of a shoebill all of which can be spotted while on a game drive or the boat cruise.
Other highlights in the park include the top of the falls, chimpanzees in Kaniyo Pabidi forest and other primates such as olive baboons, Red-tailed monkeys and blue monkeys.
Kidepo Valley National park.
Named Africa’s 3rd best wilderness national park in the 2013 CNN Travel Awards, Kidepo Valley National Park is situated in the jagged dry lands in the valley between Uganda’s frontiers with South Sudan to the northeast and Kenya to the east. The protected area was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1958, with two main aims of clearing the bush to control tsetse flies and protecting its wildlife from hunters. Following independence in 1962, Kidepo was upgraded to a national park status and seven years later expanded to span over 1,442 square kilometers, making it the 3rd largest national park in the country.
The park is the most isolated protected area in Uganda but the most captivating, combining both sceneries of jagged mountain scenery and an evoking wilderness aura, perfect for game viewing particularly in the Narus valley which harbours a wealth of lions, buffaloes, elephants to mention a few. Kidepo boasts of about 75 mammal and 470 bird species, including over 60 birds not recorded in any other national in Uganda. The Kidepo specials include the common ostrich, fox kestrel, red-billed hornbill to mention a few. Kidepo is also inhabited by the Karamojong pastoral communities renowned for their love of cattle and cattle rustling.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Situated in the Western part of Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s second-largest, most diverse and popular conservation area. With over 95 mammal species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is also home to over 600 bird species and prides in varied ecosystems including savannah grasslands, leafy forests, lakes and wetlands which attract the biggest variety of mammals in the country.
The park also offers a background view of the ragged snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel whose banks are coated with large schools of hippos, herds of buffaloes and elephants and spectacular scenery of multiple craters set into the undulating lush hills. The boundless plains in the Southern sector of the park harbour the tree climbing lions lazily hanging out in the fig trees as they monitor the movement of their unsuspecting prey.
In addition to its exceptional wildlife, Queen Elizabeth National Park boasts a charming cultural history where visitors can indulge in a variety of cultural activities including storytelling, dance, music and much more.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is situated in South Western Uganda and is known to be the most biologically diverse forest in Africa with over 120 mammal species, making it second in mammal numbers to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The park harbours more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas are Uganda’s premier attraction and one of the world’s most exceptional expedition is an encounter with these gentle giants on the secluded slopes of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Not only does Bwindi Impenetrable National Park harbour more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population but also 11 other primate species which include; the black-and-white colobus, chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s monkeys, Red-tailed, Greater Potto, Demidoff’s galago, Blue monkeys and baboons to mention a few.
Other residents of the park include forest elephants, a variety of antelope species and a several number of bird species such as; grauer’s broadbill, strange weaver, yellow-eyed flycatcher and many others.
The park has about 19 habituated mountain gorilla groups, open for tourism in the four tracking sectors which are; Rushaga in the south, Nkuringo in the southwest, Buhoma in northwest and Ruhija in east. All these offer unique mountain gorilla trekking experiences.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is located in South Western Uganda in the districts of Kabarole and Kamwenge, Kibale Forest National Park is also referred to as “The Primate Capital of the World” with the largest chimpanzee population in Uganda. FortPortal in Kabarole district is the nearest city to the national park.
Kibale National Park covers an area of 795 square kilometres and extends southwards to connect with Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park has two main tourism sites, the main one being Kanyanchu (Focal point of most tourist visits) and Sebitoli.
Kibale forest has one of the highest number of primates including the endangered chimpanzees, red colobus monkeys, L’hoest’s monkey, red-tailed monkey, olive baboons, grey-cheeked Mangabey (Ugandan Mangabey) and many others. There are also mammals present in this rainforest and some of these include; elephants, buffalos, giant forest hogs.
Kibale Forest National Park is a significant birding destination with bird species like the Green Breasted Pitta, Pale Breasted Nigrita, Black-billed Turraco, Narrow-tailed Starling, Yellow-billed Barbet, Black Bee-eater, White-spotted Flufftail, Blue-shouldered Robbin-chat, Turner’s Eremomela, Shinning-blue Kingfisher, Tambourine Dove and others.
Other attractions include the craters situated near the park with scenic views and animal sightings including primates, birds and butterfly species.
The rainforest is also inhabited by the Batooro and Bakiga local people communities and these offer an insight on their cultures through different traditional/cultural activities.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in South Western Uganda in the district of Kisoro at the borders of Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda in the Virunga mountains incorporating 3 volcanoes; Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhavura.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is adjacent to Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in Congo forming the trans-boundary Virunga Conservation Area.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to several animal species including Black-fronted Duicker, Forest elephants, Side-stripped Jackal, forest buffalo, giant forest hog, black and white colobus monkey, golden monkey, vervet monkey, Red-tailed monkey and the main attraction being the endangered mountain gorillas.
Mgahinga is on the list of great birding destinations in Uganda inhabited by various species such as; Rwenzori Turraco, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Double-collared sunbird, Archer’s Francolin, Strange weaver, African Hill Babbler, Crested Mantled Flycatcher, Dusky Crimsonswing, Shelly’s Crimsonswing, Doherty’s Bushrike.
The other attractions include the 3 inactive volcanoes; Gahinga, Sabinyo and Muhavura. The Ntebeko visitor centre and cultural visits to the Batwa/Pygmy local communities.
Rwenzori Mountain National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is situated in south-western Uganda on the east side of the Albertine Rift Valley, along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo where it borders Virunga National Park and runs for about 120km South of Lake Albert and North of Lake Edward. Rwenzori Mountains National Park is Uganda’s most captivating hiking destination with two major six to nine-day trail circuits traversing it.
The park is also known as Mountains of the moon, a name given to it by the geographer Ptolemy in AD 150 and locally known as “Ruwenzori” which means “rain maker” or “cloud-king”. The highest point of the mountain is at Margherita peak with an elevation of 5,109m above sea level, making it the third highest and it is also the hardest to climb in the African continent. Rwenzori is characterized by varied vegetation covers of bamboo forest, tree heath, montane forest, hagenia-rapanea scrub and afro-alpine moorland which harbour about 18 mammal species, 217 bird species, 9 reptile species and 6 amphibian species.
Mountain Elgon National Park
Mountain Elgon National Park is situated in Eastern Uganda bordering Uganda and Kenya with the largest surface area of any extinct volcano and a caldera that covers 40 square kilometres.
Mount Elgon is the 8th highest mountain in Africa and it acts as a watershed supporting the various vegetation zones and the surrounding areas.
The mountain can be climbed from either side of the border but the trailheads in Uganda are more accessible.
The tallest peak on the mountain is Wagagai (4,321m) and is in Uganda on the Southwest, Sudek in the South, Mubiyi in the North and Masaba in the East.
Mount Elgon is home to the Bagisu and the Sabiny and also live in the surrounding areas.
The Park is inhabited by wildlife species in the lower slopes and these include; elephants, buffaloes, black and white colobus monkey, blue monkey which are rarely seen.
The bird list in Mount Elgon National Park stands at more than 300 species and some of these include; Ayre’s hawk-eagle, Taccaze sunbird, Montane nightjar, white wagtail, Pearl spotted owlet, Pink-footed puffback, Crested Guinefowl, Crested malimbe, Golden crested wood pecker,
Other attractions in the park include; the caves and Sipi falls.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is located in Western Uganda and the closest park to Kampala. It is the smallest savannah park in Uganda and an ideal destination for tourists who wish to make stopovers while a transferring from Kampala to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park or to Kibale Forest National Park.
Lake Mburo National Park is one of the parks in Uganda where the local communities co-exist with the animals.
Wildlife in Lake Mburo National Park
While visiting Lake Mburo National Park, you are likely to see many large mammals and bird species as you advance through the park. The park is rich in several mammal species including large herds of burchell’s zebras, Defassa waterbuck, Bohor’s reedbuck, Common duiker, topis, Oribi, African cape buffalos, hippos, klipspringer, Savannah baboons, Harnessed Bushbuck with absence of elephants. Aquatic animals like Nile monitor lizards, crocodiles maybe seen on the shores of the lake and for those with great interest in birding, you will spot species like Coqui Francolin, Red-Faced Barbet, Spot-flanked Barbet and Black-bellied Bustard
Lake Mburo National Park is largely covered by grasslands and acacia trees that harbour all these animals.
All these stunning attractions can be explored on a game drive, boat cruise, and horseback ride, on foot and by cycling in the park.
Semuliki National Park
Lying within the Albertine Rift on the western arm of the East African Rift, Semuliki National Park is located on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C).
Semuliki is one of the oldest and bio-diverse tropical rainforests in Africa and a true birder’s haven with over 415 species, of which 216 are forest birds and two hot springs which attract a number of birds as well as a source of salt licks for many animals. The park is partly occupied by the Ituri forest which extends eastwards into the Congo River, thus a variety of tree species in the park are similar to those found in Congo. The 220 sq. km protected area is also home to about 60 mammal species, some of which include elephants, dwarf antelopes, bush pigs, bush babies, forest buffaloes and Sitatunga to mention a few. Other than wildlife, Semuliki is inhabited by four ethnic groups which line the park frontiers; the Bamba, Bakonjo, Batuku and Batwa