What Wildlife Can I see on a Safari in Uganda?
Travelers will be amazed by the numerous number of animals found in Uganda in the different rainforest and savannah parks and these include: Murchison Falls National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Kibale Forest National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Rwenzori Mountain National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Semuliki National Park
All these parks are rich in wildlife species (mammals) categorized into; Primates, Carnivores, Herbivores, Reptiles, and birds. The weather in Uganda is ideal to view all these animals all year round on a Game drive, Boat cruise, and walking safari.
These are the most frequently seen animals in Uganda with species like apes, monkeys, and nocturnal primates. Apes. Under this category, we have the famous mountain gorillas and the common chimpanzee. The big powerful gorillas live in small groups and share 98% of human DNA. The home of mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, National Park. Our closest playful cousins the chimpanzees can be found in Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest, Kalinzu Forest, and Kyambura gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
In this category, we have Baboons, Blue monkey, vervet monkey, Patas monkey, Red-tailed monkey, Black and White Colobus (guereza), L’hoest’s monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey. Nocturnal primates include Bushbaby and potto.
Cheetahs. A lightly built spotted cat with a small rounded head and long thin legs. It is known as the fastest land mammal. Cheetahs can be seen in Kidepo Valley National Park. Leopards. Powerfully built with rosette-shaped spots, relatively short legs, and a broadhead. Leopards can be seen in several national parks in Uganda but mostly in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Lion. Commonly referred to as the king of the jungle. Lions can be spotted in Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and “The tree climbing lions “in Ishasha Queen Elizabeth National Park. Lions usually prey on Uganda kobs, buffaloes, and antelopes that are hunted by the females.
Jackals. The side-striped jackal is mostly in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Kidepo Valley National Park. In Kidepo Valley National Park, the Black-backed jackal can also be spotted.
Spotted Hyena. Can be seen in most national parks but is popular in Queen Elizabeth National Park with extraordinary hunting skills. Bat-eared fox. This is a small striking silver-grey animal with huge ears and a black eye mask. A bat-eared fox can be found in Kidepo Valley National Park. Other carnivores include; African golden cat, African wild cat, Serval cat, and African hunting dogs.
Common eland. The largest antelope with short-spiraled horns and can be found in Lake Mburo National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and other areas. Hartebeest. Commonly known as Lelwel hartebeest/ Jackson’s hartebeest. A flat-faced animal is frequently seen in Murchison Falls National Park, Ishasha in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and Kidepo Valley National Park. Defassa Waterbuck. A grey-brown coat, a white rump, and large curved horns and can be seen in most of the savannah national parks grazing along with water sources.
Greater Kudu. A grey-brown coat with thin white side stripes and striking spiral horns. It is known as the 2nd largest antelope and it can be seen in Kidepo Valley National Park. Lesser Kudu is more similar to the greater kudu but it is smaller and less stripped.
Uganda Kobs. The small reddish-brown antelope is closely related to the reedbuck and waterbuck. They are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Katonga Wildlife Reserve, and Semuliki National Park. Grant’s gazelle are large with long horns, legs, and white coloring on the hindquarters. They have been spotted in Matheniko, Pian Upe, and Bokora wildlife reserves.
Sitatunga. Found in six national parks and can be commonly seen in Katonga Wildlife Reserve. It has a shaggy oily coat and long splayed hooves.
Reedbuck. Reddish-brown with crescent-shaped horns and can be found in the savannah parks. The mountain reedbuck is seen in Kidepo Valley National Park. Impala. Slender with a chestnut coloring and a sleek appearance that distinguishes it from the gazelle. The impala possesses broad jump skills and can be seen in Lake Mburo National Park.
Oribi. Found in all savannah parks around the grasslands. It has a reddish-brown coat with a white line of fur over its eye and a dark patch under the ears. Klipspringer. Lives in pairs have goat-like habits and a dark-grey coat. Can be seen in Kidepo Valley National Park and Lake Mburo National Park. Guenther’s dik-dik. Small, pretty, big eyes, long nose, long back legs, and a dark red-brown coat. This small antelope can be found around Kidepo Valley National Park.
Common duiker. Also known as grey duiker because of its grey-brown coat. Lives around woodlands and savannah grasslands and can be seen in Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Lake Mburo National Park.
African Elephant. This is the world’s largest land mammal and can be seen in several national parks like Lake Mburo National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and others. Burchell’s zebra. Has black and white beautiful stripes and can often be seen in large herds in Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Kidepo National Park.
Hippopotamus. A huge water animal and also the 3rd largest land mammal that spends most of its time in the water. Hippos are territorial and can be seen in herds that are led by the male. They can best be seen in Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
African Buffalo. Categorized among “The Big Five”, the buffalo is the easiest to spot on a safari in Uganda. It is characterized by heavy horns and large fringed hairy ears. Large herds of buffaloes can be seen in the savannah and fewer numbers can be seen in the forests. Buffaloes can be seen in almost all the national parks in Uganda.
Giraffe. Also known as the Nubian giraffe is the world’s tallest mammal with a spotted coat, long sturdy legs (the front legs are longer than the back legs). Giraffes are common in Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and the Northern part of Murchison Falls National Park. Rhinoceros. Uganda has white rhinos that can be seen at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary located along the Kampala-Gulu highway. The African pig species include the warthog, bush pig, and the giant forest hog. The warthog: Have tusks on either side of the mouth and are frequent in all the savannah national parks.
Bushpig: These are bigger with more hair on the body and can be found in dense woodlands and thickets. These nocturnal animals can be seen in all national parks in Uganda except Rwenzori National Park.
The giant forest hog: The largest among the African pigs. Just as the bushpig, the giant forest hogs are also nocturnal and can be rarely seen. Found in parks in western Uganda, often seen along the Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Nile crocodile. This is the largest living reptile and they prey on fish and other mammals that live in water. These can be seen on a cruise along the Nile in Murchison Falls National Park, along the Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and in Lake Mburo National Park.
Monitor Lizards. These can be seen along the Kazinga channel, Murchison, and along the Nile. There are also different kinds of snakes that can be spotted in forested areas and in the savannah. Some of these include; pythons, vipers, cobras, egg-eating snakes, mambas, and the green snakes. Chameleons like the three-horned chameleons can be seen in the Rwenzori Mountain ranges. Other reptiles that can be commonly spotted while in Uganda include geckos and tortoises.
Uganda is a phenomenal destination for birders with easily accessible birding destinations which include:
Semuliki National Park, Budongo Forest, Mabira Forest, Kibale Forest National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Botanical gardens in Entebbe, Rwenzori Mountains, Magombe Swamp in Bigodi wetland, Mabamba Island, Murchison Falls National Park – And many more other places
Uganda prides itself with a diversity of more than 1000 bird species with some endemic species like the Fox’s Weaver. Below is a list of bird species that can be identified in different destinations on a wildlife safari to Uganda.
Lilac-breasted Roller, Great-blue Turaco, Jackson’s Francolin, Yellow-eyed black flycatcher, Common ostrich, Hamerkop, Flamingos, Ross’s Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, Yellow-Billed Barbets, Narina Trogon, Swamp Warbler, Black-headed Gonolek, Black-billed Turaco, Pied Hornbill, Lappet-faced Vulture, African-pygmy Kingfisher, Marabou stork, White-spotted Flufftail, Magpie manikin, Red-headed Bluebill, Chattering Yellowbill, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Dusky-long tailed cuckoo, Lizard Buzzard, Shoebill, Fox’s Weaver (Endemic), Saddle-billed stork, Bateleur, Pied Kingfisher, Goliath heron, African darter, Pelicans, African-fish Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Red-throated bee-eater, Black-headed Lapwing, African Jacana, Piapiac
A wildlife safari to Uganda can be done all year round due to the favorable weather conditions. However, the best recommended time is during the dry season in June to August and December to February. You can easily catch sight of animals since the vegetation is thin and can also be spotted gathering around freshwater sources. In the rainy season, roads may be inaccessible and also making the walking and hiking trails slippery.