UgandaUganda shares its borders with Sudan (to the north), Kenya (to the east), the Democratic Republic of Congo (to the west), and Tanzania and Rwanda (to the south). Home to several national parks and protected nature areas, Uganda has several natural resources and offers unique beauty and biodiversity. Visitors come to Uganda to experience its incredible African game, the amazing primates, tropical rain forests, bustling cities, adventure tours, birding, biking, and hiking Africa’s tallest mountain range!

When pioneer tourist Winston Churchill set foot in Uganda in 1902, he was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the country he called it the ‘Pearl of Africa’. He was right. This where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. Where else but in this uniquely lush destination can one observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippos and crocodiles before setting off into the misty mountains to visit the majestic mountain gorillas?

Besides all these, Uganda is also blessed with a vast bird population of more than 1,000 species. Uganda is Africa condensed, with the best of everything the continent has to offer packed into one small but stunning destination. Uganda is home to the highest mountain range in Africa, the Mountains of the Moon in the Ruwenzori National Park. It is the source of the mighty Nile, and around Jinja offers the best white-water rafting in the world.

Bwindi National Park (331 sq. km), christened the Impenetrable Forest, is home to half of the world’s known mountain gorillas, about 330 of them – there’s just one Bwindi gorilla for every 20 million people! Penetrating the Impenetrable Forest is no picnic, as the terrain is steep and the foliage unforgiving, but what a reward. All the hardships are forgotten in an instant with the first glimpse of the gorillas in their mountain kingdom. No bars, no cars – this is not a safari park but their world, and you become their privileged guests.

A country with fantastic natural scenery and a rich mosaic of tribes and cultures, Uganda is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the southwest by Rwanda, and on the south by Tanzania. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National ParkBwindi Forest

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is situated in south western Uganda, on the edge of the Western Rift Valley (Albertine rift) and is shared by the Kanungu, Kabale and Kisoro districts. It is 331 sq. km in size and on an altitude range of 1,160 meters (Ishasha Gorge) to 2,607 metres (Rwamanyonyi Peak). The annual average temperature range is 7°C – 20°C with the coldest period being June and July.

Of the local people neighbouring the park, the majority are Bakiga and Bafumbira, constituting the densest settlements in Uganda (350 people/sq. km). A few Batwa are also found.

Species Diversity: Bwindi is home to 326 gorillas, almost a half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas. There are also 346 species of birds and over 200 species of butterflies. This afromontane forest has a dense under storey of fern, vines and shrubs. About 324 tree species have been recorded here, 10 of which occur nowhere else in Uganda.

Bird Watching: Bwindi is the bird watchers haven! It holds 346 species of birds and contains 90% of all Albertine rift endemics, difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa and seven IUCN red data listed species. An experienced bird watcher can identify up to 100 species in a day! Visit Ruhija and Buhoma for this dream. Indicate your interest to the Park Management so that appropriate early morning departures can be arranged.

Size: 321 km² / 124 mi²
Altitude: 1160-2607 m / 3806-8553 ft

Pros and Cons
✓ Excellent gorilla tracking with almost guaranteed sightings
✓ Superb birdwatching available with knowledgeable guides
✓ Pristine rainforest
– Limited, expensive accommodation options
– Access roads are bad in the rainy season
– Very expensive gorilla tracking permit and limited availability

Wildlife: Aside from the endangered mountain gorillas, eleven other primate species are found in the forest. These include chimpanzees, olive baboons, black-and-white colobus and l’Hoest monkeys. Elephants are present, but seldom seen. Bushbuck and several types of forest duikers can sometimes be spotted. The park has a very impressive bird and butterfly checklist.

Scenery: Bwindi is a pristine rainforest on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley. The terrain is a string of ridges and valleys covered in very dense impenetrable forest.

Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale forest is the best place for chimpanzee tracking in Uganda. 13 species of primates are recorded in the park, which is the highest number in Uganda. Aside from chimps, several species can usually be found on the primate walks. Birds and butterflies are abundant.

Size: 795 km² / 307 mi²
Altitude: 1106-1619 m / 3629-5312 ft

Pros and Cons
✓ Very reliable chimpanzee tracking available
✓ Chimp habituation experience and night walks also available
✓ Excellent birding in the forest and wetland with knowledgeable guides
✓ Pristine forest
– Relatively high fees

Wildlife: Kibale is one of the best places in Africa to view many primate species. Visitors can expect to see five or six species in addition to chimpanzees. Diurnal species include vervet, red-tailed, l’Hoest and blue monkey, black-and-white colobus, olive baboon, red colobus and grey-cheeked mangabey. Other mammals including lion, elephant and buffalo are present, but rarely seen.

Scenery: Kibale supports a range of habitats over different altitude zones. The tropical forest on the Fort Portal plateau changes to savanna in the Albertine Valley floor in the south.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls NP offers excellent wildlife viewing. Most big safari animals are easily seen, including 4 of the Big Five. The park is very scenic and is bisected by the Victoria Nile. Boat trips to the spectacular Murchison Falls are a highlight.

Size: 3840 km² / 1483 mi²
Altitude: 500-1292 m / 1650-4240 ft

Pros and Cons
✓ Top wildlife viewing
✓ Very scenic with the Nile River bisecting the park
✓ One of the few places to find the Shoebill stork
✓ Boat trip to the falls available
✓ Relatively remote and not crowded
– A long drive from Kampala and far away from the other parks
– Some roads may become impassible in the wet season

Murchison Falls: At Murchison Falls the Nile gets channeled through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley escarpment. This is perhaps the most impressive waterfall in East Africa. Daily boat trips are conducted by the park authorities to the base of the falls.

Wildlife: The park has a very healthy wildlife population. Four of the Big Five can be seen, but rhinos are absent. Huge herds of elephants and buffalo are common and lions are easily spotted. Many antelopes can be seen including Jackson’s hartebeest, waterbuck and Uganda kob. Large herds of giraffe are a specialty, as Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley are the only parks in Uganda where they can be seen. Similar is the case of the localized patas monkey. Chimps and several other primates can be tracked through the forests in the south of the greater Murchison Falls Conservation Area, including Budongo Forest Reserve.

Scenery: The park is bisected by the very scenic Victoria Nile. A boat trip takes you to the base of the Murchison Falls where you can see the Nile squeezing through a narrow gorge before dropping down into the “Devil’s Cauldron”. North of the river is a savannah habitat dominated by grassland dotted with borassus palms. South of the river the habitat changes to woodland with forest patches.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most popular savanna reserve. The variety of habitats include grassland savanna, forests, wetlands and lakes. This makes for a wide range of large mammals and primates. Four of the Big Five are present and regularly seen. Rhinos are absent.

Size: 1978 km² / 764 mi²
Altitude: 910-1350 m / 2986-4429 ft

Pros and Cons
✓ Top wildlife viewing
✓ Boat trips on Kazinga channel available
✓ Tree-climbing lions in the Ishasha sector
✓Excellent birding with 600 species recorded
✓Several accommodation options for different budgets
– A main road bisects the park and people live along the boundaries
– The Mweya peninsula area can get busy in high season

Wildlife: Leopard sightings are common and the Isasha sector is famous for its tree-climbing lions. Huge herds of buffalo and elephants are found in the savanna areas of the park. An amazing number of hippos inhabit the Kazinga channel on which daily boat trips are conducted. Chimps can be tracked and several antelope and other primate species are present. Giraffe and zebra are absent. In Uganda, giraffe can be found in Murchison Falls, zebra in Lake Mburo, while Kidepo Valley supports both.

Scenery: The park is set against a backdrop of the Ruwenzori Mountains. Additional scenic points are Kazinga Channel between Lake Edward and Lake George and at least 10 crater lakes. The most accessible part of the park is open savanna, but large forest areas are open to the public. These include the forested Kyambura gorge and the extensive Maramagambo forest in the southeast.

This is the major activity in Bwindi, with four Gorilla groups currently available daily for tourists. Mubare group (10 gorillas, 1 silverback) was opened for tourism in 1993, Habinyanja group (18 gorillas, 1 silverback) opened in July 1998, and Rushegura group (10 gorillas, 1 silverback) was opened in July 2002, while Nkuringo group (19 gorillas, 2 silverbacks) was opened for tourism in April 2004.

Book at least 6 months (but not more than two years) in advance to ensure that requested dates are available.

Gorilla tracking in Bwindi can be challenging, therefore ensure fitness. The tracking experience starts at 8:30 am local time and can last from a few hours to a whole day! Registration at the gate commences at 7:45 am.

What to bring:

  • Wear jungle shoes suitable for steep muddy slopes and carry a rain jacket because the park is often wet.
  • Put on ear plugs for those who feel uncomfortable with jungle sounds.
  • Carry rain gear, sunscreen lotion, a hat (as the weather is unpredictable) and insect repellent.
  • Carry a packed lunch.

For conservation reasons, visits to the gorillas are tightly controlled. The following rules apply and must be strictly adhered to:

  • No one with a communicable disease (e.g. flu, diarrhoea) is allowed to enter the park.
  • Stay together in a tight group while with the gorillas, don’t surround them.
  • Don’t get closer than 7 metres (21 feet) to the gorillas.
  • Don’t eat or smoke when with the gorillas or within a distance of 200 metres from the gorillas.
  • Turn away from the gorillas if you have to sneeze or cough. Cover your nose and mouth in the process.
  • Burry all human faeces a minimum of one foot deep and ensure that the hole is properly covered.
  • If a gorillas moves into your direction, please move out of his way slowly.

Best Game Viewing Months:
Game viewing is generally better in the dry seasons. The peak safari time is in the dry winter months because the game concentrates around the available sources of water. These months include June through to October, and December to February.

Quick facts

Best time to go:  June to August and December to February (All parks)
High Season:  June to September (It’s rarely crowded, but you’ll need to book your gorilla permits long in advance)
Low Season:  March, April, May, October, November (Some lodges and camps in high rainfall areas close down; roads and forest trails can be in poor condition)
Best Weather:  June-July and January-February (Little rainfall)
Worst Weather:  March, April and May (Peak of wet season)

June to August and December to February – Dry Season
✓ This is the best time for gorilla tracking, because these are the drier months.
✓ In the savannah reserves, vegetation is less and animals gather around water sources, making wildlife easier to spot.
✓ Even during the high season (June to September) the parks don’t feel crowded.
✓ The skies are clear, there is less rain and more sunshine.
– Gorilla permits need to be booked very far in advance.

March to May and September to November – Wet Season
✓ The scenery of the savannah reserves is greener and it’s low season, resulting in lower rates.
✓ Although wildlife in the savannah reserves is easier to spot in the dry season, you’ll still see plenty, including newborn animals.
– Some of the roads get very bad and cars often get stuck. Forest trails can become slippery and challenging.
– You won’t be able to change your expensive gorilla permit if it pours with rain. Departures go as scheduled.

Best time to go to Uganda by major park
All parks are best visited in the dry season from June to August and December to February.

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