| There are also savanna parks, where classic African wildlife can be found, including
giraffes, lions, hippos, zebras and others. Both the bird life and the flora are very
rich in species.
Uganda is situated on the African inland plateau, in a transition zone between the eastern
savannas and the south-western rainforests. Northern Uganda borders Sudan and has a
much drier landscape, but some wildlife can still be found in these areas. To the east
lies 4,300 m/14,108 ft high Mount Elgon, to the west the Rwenzori Mountains, where Mount
Stanley reaches 5 109 m/16,762 ft above sea level and is the third highest mountain
in Africa. The Rwenzori Mountains are 'the Mountains of the Moon', searched for by explorers
during the 1800's in their quest for the source of the Nile River.
The Western Rift, which is the western arm of the East African Great
Rift Valley, follows Uganda's western border (facing Congo), and Lake Victoria,
the second largest freshwater lake in the world, is found in the south-east, where it
is shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. This is the lake that the explorers mentioned
were looking for; the Nile River begins at Jinja Town at the northern tip of Lake Victoria,
and flows north through Uganda.
The country has a good number of rivers, lakes and wetlands. The landscape ranges from
dry scrub, savanna and grassland to lowland forest, mountain forest and alpine moorland.
The safari destination Uganda
It is relatively easy for safari-goers to visit Uganda. A safari industry with established
operators and a fair transports infrastructure allow for visits to parks and
wildlife areas throughout the country. The most remote parks may be accessed by air
instead of spending several days on the road.
There are hotels, lodge
camp offering the full range from basic to luxury accommodation. Less expensive
accommodation, such as camping
is also available. The international airport in Entebbe (40 km/25 mi south of the capital
Kampala) has connections to for example London and Brussels in Europe, and to for example
Nairobi in Kenya and Dar
es Salaam and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. That is, you may combine for example gorilla
trekking in Uganda with a safari in the prime parks of the neighbouring countries, or
with a beach holiday on the Kenyan coast or Zanzibar.
Uganda was a good safari destination during the 1950's and 1960's, but lost its tourism
during the 1970's, when the country suffered dictatorship and internal unrest. The infrastructure
degenerated, and the wildlife was depleted.
Since the mid 1980's, when the country had begun stabilizing, the tourist industry has
been rebuilt and the nature and wildlife has recovered. There are now ten national parks
and a number of other nature protected areas, allowing visitors to experience a beautiful
nature and a good wildlife. There are good opportunities for traditional safaris, gorilla
and chimpanzee tours, bird watching and trekking. Any travel
company or travel agent specialized in tours to East Africa should be able to
offer packaged or tailored tours to Uganda.
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) is close to extinction. A small
population of less than 1,000 individuals still survives in the mountain forests of
south-western Uganda, north-western Rwanda and eastern Congo.
There are two gorilla populations: one in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in
Uganda, and one shared by Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda), Volcano National
Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Kongo), a combined area of some 300 km2/115
sq mi. Each of these populations are estimated to between 300 and 400 gorillas. Their
life and future is threatened by deforestation, by hunting for bushmeat and macabre
souvenirs, and by diseases.
The savanna type safari parks (where you may see species such as zebras, giraffes and
lions) of Uganda can't compare with the prime parks of Tanzania or Kenya, such as Serengeti
and Masai Mara as to wildlife. The Ugandan parks have
fewer visitors, though, and may offer a more serene experience.
The forested parks of Uganda offer many monkeys (while Kenya and Tanzania are not very
good for monkeys). Several areas are also inhabited by chimpanzees, or by mammals that
are very rare in the neighbouring countries, such as sitatunga and kob.
Uganda has many types of nature, i.e. many different habitats for birds, and the birding
opportunities are very good. More than 1,000 species have been recorded in the country.
Parks in Uganda
Uganda has 10 national parks and many other nature protected areas and reserves.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (330 km2/127 sq mi) is situated in south-western
Uganda and is one of the country's two gorilla parks. It borders the Western Rift, and
is 78 hours' drive from Kampala.
The park's main attraction is of course the mountain gorillas. A few groups of gorillas
may be visited, and are found in a demanding mountain terrain; the park's altitude varies
from 1,150 m/3,773 ft to 2,600 m/8,530 ft. There are also lower forests that are home
to chimpanzees (Bwindi is said to be the only park in Africa where you may see both
gorillas and chimpanzees). The gorillas are estimated to be 300 individuals, while the
chimpanzees are between 350 and 400.
Some 100 mammal species, including seven different monkeys, have been recorded in the
park. These are mainly smaller mammal species, though, as Bwindi isn't a traditional
safari park. About 350 bird species, 200 butterfly species and more than 300 tree species
have also been recorded.
Apart from gorilla trekking tours, there are routes for guided day tours through forests
where you may see monkeys, forest antelopes, rivers and waterfalls. Most rain falls
from March to April and from September to November.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (34 km2/13 sq mi) is a small park in south-western Uganda,
on the border to Congo and Rwanda. Besides Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
National Park, it's the only park in the country where you may see mountain gorillas.
It's a mountainous area, comprising three volcanoes with a number of peaks: Mount Sabinyo
(3,700 m/12,139 ft), Mount Mgahinga (3,475 m/11,401 ft) and Mount Muhavura (4,125 m/13,533
Much of the park is covered in rainforest and bamboo forest, and one of the gorilla
groups living here, the nyakagezi group, may be visited. Other animals seen are elephants,
African buffalos, monkeys and a number of bird species.
The park has two rainy seasons: from February to May, and from September to December.
The travel time by road from Kampala is 8 hours. You may also get there by air.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park (1,980 km2/764 sq mi) is Uganda's most popular safari
park. It is situated along the Western Rift in western Uganda, on the equator south
of the Rwenzori Mountains. Lake Edward and Lake George that border the park have many
crocodiles and hippos.
600 bird species
The altitude varies from 900 m/2,950 ft to 1,850 m/6,070 ft. The landscape has lowland
forests, woodlands, grass plains, lakes, wetlands and rivers. Some 600 bird species
have been recorded, which is the highest number of any park in East Africa. Shoebill,
African skimmer and black bee-eater are some highly interesting species seen. The mammal
wildlife includes chimpanzees, leopards, elephants, kobs and other species, and the
remote southern parts of the park are known for its tree-climbing lions.
The travel time by road from Kampala is 56 hours.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest park in Uganda (close to 4,000 km2/1,550
sq mi). Together with the neighbouring reserves Bugungu and Karuma Falls, it covers
a large and rich wildlife area in north-western Uganda, bordering Lake Albert close
to the border to Congo.
Murchison Falls is dominated by savannas, woodlands and gallery forests. The Victoria
Nile flows through the park, and an impressive waterfall where the river hurls through
a narrow gap has given the park its name.
The wildlife includes large herds of elephants, lions, leopards, African buffalos, antelopes,
rothschild giraffes, hippos and crocodiles. The forest reserves bordering Murchison
Falls have populations of chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys and black-and-white colobus
monkeys. There are many bird species, and the river offers fishing for two interesting
game fish, the Nile perch and the tiger fish.
The travel time by road from Kampala is 6 hours.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is 34 hours by road from Kampala and covers 550750
km2/210290 sq mi (the specifications vary). Three quarters are covered by forests
and rainforests, and the rest mainly by grasslands and wetlands. The park's altitude
varies from 1,100 m/3,600 ft to 1,600 m/5,250 ft.
300 bird species have been recorded in Kibale Forest, and 60 mammals, including lion,
leopard and sitatunga (a wetland antelope). Game viewing in forested parks is always
difficult, though, and your best chances are seeing smaller mammals such as mongoose
and monkeys. The latter are represented by a number of species, such as black-and-white
colobus, olive baboon, red-tailed monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey and L'Hoest's monkey.
There is also a large chimpanzee population. Guided tours for tracking and visiting
chimpanzee groups are offered.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is situated in northmost Uganda, which borders southern
Sudan and north-western Kenya. The park covers 1,450 km2/560 sq mi of mountains and
valleys, scrubs, savannas, woodlands and mountain forests. Its altitude varies from
900 m/2,950 ft to 2,750 m/9,020 ft. Most wildlife is seen in the south-western parts
of the park, where the altitudes are lower.
Heavy poaching during the second half of the 1900's reduced the wildlife populations,
and some species were lost altogether, including beisa oryx, lesser kudu and Grant's
gazelle. Other species have recovered, such as elephant, zebra, African buffalo, reedbuck,
giraffe, waterbuck and hartebeest. Hyaenas, lions, leopards and jackals are regularly
observed, while other predators, such as bat-eared foxes, caracals and cheetahs, are
seen less often. More than 450 bird species have been recorded. There are also many
Getting there by road means driving for 12 hours or more from Kampala, which in practice
means more than one day. Four-wheel drive is required. An option is flying there in
Lake Mburu National Park
Lake Mburu National Park (260 km2/100 sq mi) is situated in southern Uganda, 34
hours by road from Kampala. There are undulating grasslands, lakeshores, galley forests
along the waterways, wetlands and valleys covered in acacias. 300 bird species have
been recorded in the park, where you may also see zebras, impalas, elands, African buffalos,
hippos and other mammals. You may explore the park by car, on foot or from a boat on
the lake, where you may encounter crocodiles.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon, straddling the border between eastern Uganda and western Kenya, is the
fourth highest mountain (4,321 m/14,177 ft) in Africa. It is an interesting nature area
rather than a safari or wildlife area, even if there are monkeys, African buffalos,
forest antelopes and leopards in the park.
Mount Elgon National Park covers 1,150 km2/444 sq mi, which has mountain forests, bamboo
forests and afro-alpine moorland, where macro vegetation such as the giant lobelia may
be seen. The bird life is rich and, like the vegetation, varies with altitude. The lammergeir,
a huge vulture, may be seen.
Visitors come to walk the park, watch the wildlife and flora, enjoy waterfalls, hot
springs and caves, and scale the peaks, which doesn't require any proper climbing.
Semliki National Park
Semliki National Park (220 km2/85 sq mi) is situated in western Uganda, 68 hours'
drive from Kampala. The road is poor and requires four-wheel drive, and the park itself
lacks most facilities for visitors.
Much of the park is forested, and you will not only need your pair of binoculars, but
also a machete. Some mammals can be seen, such as elephants and many monkeys, including
grey-cheeked mangabey, black-and-white colobus, olive baboon, black-faced vervet monkey,
red-tailed monkey, mona monkey and blue monkey. There are also chimpanzees, but these
apes are rarely seen. 400 bird species have been recorded.
Mount Rwenzori National Park
Mount Rwenzori National Park (1,000 km2/390 sq mi) is bordering Congo in western Uganda.
The Rwenzori Mountains is a 120 km/75 mi long mountain range, which unlike the other
high mountains in East Africa isn't volcanic. The altitudes within the park vary from
1,700 m/5,577 ft to 5,109 m/16,762 ft. The highest point is Mount Stanley, the third
highest mountain in Africa.
The vegetation is mainly mountain forest, which is replaced by bamboo forests and afro-alpine
moorland as altitudes increase. Some 200 bird species have been recorded, and mammals
such as chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus monkeys, leopards and elephants inhabit
the forests. The park is not very good for game viewing, but is rather a destination
for bird watching and trekking.
Other nature areas of interest
Uganda has not only national parks, but also many nature protected areas and reserves,
such as Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve, which thanks to its landscape and vegetation
has many mammal and bird species. Other such areas are known for its nature or conservation
projects, for example Matheniko Wildlife Reserve, Bokora Wildlife Reserve, Pian-Upe
Wildlife Reserve, Ajai Wildlife Reserve, Asws-Lolin Wildlife Reserve, Katongo Wildlife
Reserve and Kyambura Wildlife Reserve.
Cities and towns
Kampala is the capital of Uganda, and is situated some 40 km/25 mi north of the country's
international airport in Entebbe (EBB/HUEN). Kampala's name comes from the local name
given by the Baganda tribe, kasozi kempala, meaning 'antelope hill'. The
city is, like Rome, built on seven hills at altitudes varying from 1,150 m/3,773 ft
to 1,320 m/4,330 ft, from where you can see Lake Victoria. It was founded by a local
chief towards the end of the 1800's, and has today a population of more than a million.
It is a mix of the traditional Africa, including markets, banana stalls and swarming
crowds, and the business centres, malls and five-star hotels of the modern Africa.
Entebbe is mainly known for its international airport, but the town was formerly
the capital of Uganda. Some national authorities, and the president's residence, are
still found here. Entebbe is situated on the shore of Lake Victoria and has fine hotels
and restaurants, lakeside avenues and interesting buildings from the 1930's and 1940's.
Jinja is the second largest city in Uganda, situated on the northern shore of Lake Victoria
80 km/50 mi east of Kampala. It is an industrial city and an important centre for trade.
The countryside surrounding the city produces much sugarcane and tea.
The people of Uganda belong to a number of different tribes, and many tribal traditions
and customs survive, even though much of today's population considers itself mainly
Ugandan. Baganda is the largest tribe. Its former kingdom has played an important role
in the Ugandan history. The tribes of the north, close to the border to Sudan, are nomadic
pastoralists, just like in northern Kenya. The areas around Mgahinga
Gorilla National Park are populated the farmer tribe Bafumbira, but there is also
a minority of Batwa pygmies.
Some two thirds of the Ugandans are Christians. 15 % are Muslims, and about as many
confess to traditional local faiths.
| The main tribes/ethnic groups of Uganda:
| · Baganda and Basogo
|| Central Uganda
| · Acholi
|| Northern Uganda
|· Batoro and Banyoro
|· Basamia and Bagisu
The main seasons in Uganda are the rainy seasons from April to May and from October
to November, with the dry seasons in between. This is similar to the seasons in Kenya
and Tanzania. Mountains may generate more rain locally, and the areas around Lake Victoria
receive rain during much of the year.
Uganda has a pleasant and sunny climate, where the temperatures rarely exceed 30ºC/86ºF,
and rarely drop below 15ºC/59ºF (except for at higher altitudes in the mountains).
The nights are cool, as most of the country is situated at some altitude. February is
generally the hottest month.
Uganda straddles the equator, which means that the sun is strong. Use sun block and
This web page on Uganda is a stand-alone introduction page that comes outside the main
scope Safari in Kenya and Tanzania of Safari Patrol. Information found
elsewhere on this site might not be fully applicable to Uganda or safaris in Uganda.