Uganda the “pearl of Africa” has got 10 national parks and other more wildlife game reserves. Below are the 10 national parks that exist in Uganda. The Lonely planet voted Uganda as the best destination 2012 Uganda Tours Voted Lonely Planet’s Number One destination for 2012
1. Murchison Falls National Park
The Murchison Falls National Park is must see for its famous magnificent Murchison Falls and Karuma Falls, with wildlife including chimpanzee, Nile crocodile, elephant, giraffe, lion, leopard, birds etc. Activities in the park include launch cruises along the Nile, visit the top of the falls, game viewing, bird watching and nature walks and chimpanzee trekking at Kaniyo-Pabidi Eco site in Budongo forest and visit to Ziwa Rhino sanctuary for Rhino tracking, Birding, Sport fishing, Nature walks and wedding trips in wild.
2. Queen Elizabeth National Park
The park is named after Queen Elizabeth II and was established in 1954. Hub of the wildlife of East Africa, It is world famous for Ishasha Tree-climbing lion, elephant, Uganda Kobs, Kyambura gorge for chimpanzee trekking, Nature walks, Savannah birds, topi, and crater lakes with flamingo watching at Lake Katwe, breath taking scenery and natural forest, game drive and launch trip on Kazinga Channel, wedding trips in wild.
3. Kidepo Valley National Park
It is located in the remote north eastern Uganda with an amazing range of wildlife that include cheetah, kudu, elephants, zebra, over 200 bird species (the only Ugandan park with ostrich), fishing, and spectacular scenery. Activities include: game drives or game viewing, birding, cultural visit.
4. Lake Mburo National Park
Smallest savanna park in Uganda with wildlife that include Impala, topi, klipspringer, buffalo, zebra, eland, birds (offers both dry land and water species – crested crane, marabou stork and bronze tailored starlings). It is the most accessible park, close to major towns. Activities to do include the game drives, Nature walks, Boat cruise, Horse riding, birding, Sport fishing, wedding trips in wild.
5. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
The most visited and renowned national park in Uganda, home to the half of Mountain gorillas, chimpanzee, blue-tailed and red-tailed birds, butterflies, reptiles, dense undergrowth contains rare herbs and shrubs. Gorilla tracking, forest walks, Birding, Mountain biking are the major activities in the park.
Uganda’s 8 Habituated Gorilla Groups that are tracked by tourists
- 1. Mubare Group Family
Family size: 6 members with 1 Silverback.
- 2. Habinyanja Group Family
Family size: 20 members with 2 Silverbacks.
- 3. Rushegura Group Family
Family size: 20 members with 1 Silverback.
- 4. Bitukura Group Family
Family size: 13 members with 4 Silverbacks.
- 5. Nkuringo Group Family
Family size: 18 members with 2 Silverbacks.
- 6. Nshongi Group Family
Family size: 25 members with 2 Silverbacks.
- 7. Mishaya Group Family
Family size: 12 members with 1 Silverback.
From the main headquarters in Rushaga, clients will often set off on foot or take a 30min drive to the trailhead. The Silverback Mishaya left the Nshongi Group with 9 others in July 2010 to establish the Mishaya Group.
- 8. Oruzogo Gorilla Family
Family size: 16 members including 1 silverback
Location: Buhoma – Ruhija
The Oruzogo group is one of the newest gorilla families that opened up for tourism in Bwindi National Park. This family is situated between Buhoma and Ruhija and is lead by the dominant Silverback Tibirikwata. The group consists of 16 individuals including two babies that were recently born.
There are more new groups for gorilla trekking and research that is Busingye, Kahungye and Kyaguriro families
Nyakagezi Group-not reliable since it crosses to Rwanda and Congo.
Family size: 9 members (incl. 3 Silverbacks)
Location: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Gorilla groups in Rwanda-These can be tracked from Volcanoes National Park and just next to Uganda’s borders and so clients can track Uganda’s gorillas and track also for Rwanda or vice versa.
Rwanda’s 8 Habituated Gorilla Groups that are tracked by tourists
- 1. Susa-A Group-Family size: 28 members with 3 Silverback.
The Susa Group was famously studied by Dian Fossey and was the largest gorilla group consisting of young twins named Byishimo & Impano. The group was named after the Susa River which lies within their home range. The group, however, have now split into 2 separate groups, the Susa-A Group and the Karisimbi Group-Susa-B Group. The Susa-A is now usually found relatively low down in the forest.
- 2. Karisimbi Group-Susa-B-Family size: 15 members
The Karisimbi Group is better suited to visits from more serious hikers. It appears that they have established their home range high up on the slopes of the Karisimbi caldera. Thus, a visit to this group may well end up as a full-days trek.
- 3. Sabyinyo Group-Family size: 12 members with 1 Silverback.
The Sabyinyo Group is usually found relatively close to the edge of the forest (about 20-40mins) in the gentle slopes between Mt. Sabyinyo & Mt. Gahinga, and thus are normally easily accessible. The family is led by the powerful Silverback Guhonda. Guhonda has kept his main challenger, Ryango, out of his group as a lonely Silverback.
- 4. Agashya Group formally known as Group 13-Family size: 26 members with 1 Silverback.
Group 13 was the first habituated group. The group has expanded in number from the initial 13 members to 25 individuals. The Silverback of Agashya Group is particularly relaxed.
- 5. Amahoro Group-Family size: 17 members with 1 Silverback.
The Amahoro ‘peaceful’ Group is a tranquil family led by Ubumwe. The Amahoro Group, is the most peaceful of all the gorilla groups. However, peace comes at a price. Ubumwe, the group’s Silverback is so peaceful and calm; he has lost group members to Charles in the Umubano group. The trek to see the Amahoro group can be challenging up fairly steep terrain.
- 6. Umubano Group-Family size: 12 members with 1 Silverback.
Meaning ‘neighborliness’s, the Umubano group was formed by members of the Amahoro family led by Charles, now the dominant Silverback. Charles, fed-up of being given orders by Ubumwe, of similar rank, challenged Ubumwe for leadership. Finally, Charles formed his own group snatching a number of females from the Amahoro Group. Since then, Charles has commanded respect and recognition from Ubumwe.
Both the Amahoro and the Umubano Group’s usually live between the Karisoke & Visoke peaks. Both are usually further from the park headquarters than the Sabyinyo and Agashya Groups, but easier to reach than Susa-A and the Karisimbi (Susa-B) Group.
- 7. Hirwa Group-Family size: 12 members with 1 Silverback – from the Susa Group.
Meaning ‘lucky one’, Hirwa is a relatively new group that emerged in June 2006, formed from 2 different families, the former Group 13 (now Agashya Group) and Sabyinyo Group. Despite being recently formed, Hirwa exhibits strength and holds its own amongst all the other established groups.
- 8. Kwitonda Group-Family size: 20 members with 2 Silverbacks.
The Kwitonda Group was habituated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2005 the groups crossed the border into Rwanda and have since remained there. The Kwitonda family is named after the dominant Silverback of this group and it means the ‘humble one’.
6. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
This is another park home to the rare mountain gorillas, birds, giant forest hog, golden monkey, buffalo, bush buck, leopards, caves, mountain climbing, trekking and the Batwa cultural heritage. Accommodation can be found at Kisoro town. Cultural tourism at this park is so much stunning from the Batwa “pygmies” once the forest dwellers.
7. Mountain Rwenzori National Park
The Rwenzori – the fabled Mountains of the Moon – lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene. It hosts Uganda’s highest mountains the Rwenzori Mountains. Home to various birds, and plants. Offer opportunities for mountain climbing or trekking, wonderful and unique scenery for nature walks, luxuriant vegetation, hyrax, giant forest hog, blue monkey, unique bird species, and Pygmy villages.
Below are lodges available-Rwenzori Mountains Safari Lodge, Ruboni Community Camp, Ruboni Turaco View Camp, GeoLodges Equator Snow and Trekkers Hostel.
8. Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau. It is hosts the highest density of chimpanzees in Africa. Home to chimpanzees, monkeys, birds. Renowned for chimpanzee trekking and habituation, bird watching and nature walks. It also contains over 375 species of birds. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park.
The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains and Semliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve.
The activities at this destination are chimp trekking, chimpanzee habituation, Bird watching at Bigodi wetland and Sebitoli trail, camping at fabulous Kanyanchu site, visit crater lakes, visit staltimites and stalagmites caves, cultural sites, nature walks/forest hike and kids activities like pond dipping, cyanotype, photography and batik making.
9. Semliki National Park
Semliki National Park and the beautiful Semliki wildlife reserve lie on the southern shores of Lake Albert and offer a mosaic of different habitats with some excellent birding opportunities. The Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve (formerly called the Toro Game Reserve) is stunningly different and shows affinities with the northern savanna woodland with over 400 bird species “The true birders’ Haven” and a captivating landscape. No visitor to the reserve should miss a boat trip on Lake Albert for nowhere else in Uganda do you stand a better chance of seeing the mighty shoebill. Located in the rift valley, this park occupies part of the vast Ituri Forest. Home to elephants, buffaloes, crocodiles, chimpanzees, lions etc. Renowned for chimpanzee trekking, Hot springs and bird watching, day and night game drives.
10. Mountain Elgon National Park
At 4,000km² Mt. Elgon has the largest volcanic base in the world. Located on the Uganda-Kenya border it is also the oldest and largest solitary, volcanic mountain in East Africa. Its vast form, 80km in diameter, rises more than 3,000m above the surrounding plains. The mountain’s cool heights offer respite from the hot plains below, with the higher altitudes providing a refuge for flora and fauna.
Mount Elgon National Park is home to over 300 species of birds, including the endangered Lammergeyer. Small antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants and buffalos also live on the mountainside. The higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area which has been declared a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. Renowned for activities like mountain climbing, hot springs, primate viewing, Birding, caves, and waterfalls notably Sipi Falls.
In addition, also places for beach vacations exits and include the Lake Bunyonyi “Switzerland of Africa” in Kigezi region , Ssese islands-Kalangala, Samuka island, Jinja town where you visit the source of the River Nile, Itanda and Kalagala falls, experience white water rafting and Bungee jumping, Visit Mabira historical forest, also visit to Buganda and religious sites like Kabaka’s lake, The Bulange and Mengo Palace, Namasole and Kanyange Tombs, Nagaalabi coronation site , Katereke ditch, Kasubi and Wamala Tombs, Namugongo Uganda martyrs shrine, Bahai temple, Uganda museum, Makerere art gallery, Ssezibwa falls that was born by a woman and a man in Buikwe district, visit Mabamba birding wetland and Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary.
Other Uganda Must-see places
About Ngamba island chimpanzee sanctuary
Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established in October 1998 to care for orphaned chimpanzees that have been rescued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Many of the chimpanzees were rescued from poachers and are unlikely to survive reintroduction to the wild. Ngamba Island is 100 acres (approximately 40 hectares) of rainforest situated 23 km from Entebbe, near the Equator in Lake Victoria, Uganda. It supports a rich diversity of natural wildlife and provides a variety of natural foods for the chimpanzees.
The island is set up as an eco-friendly project with compost toilets, rainwater collection, proper waste management practices and solar energy for electricity and hot water. The Sanctuary is a non-profit organization which is co-ordinated and managed by the Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust. CSWCT is a partnership with six organizations committed to the welfare and conservation of wildlife. Which include: Born Free Foundation, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Jane Good all Institute, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST) and Uganda Wildlife Society.
The sanctuary is open all year round to visitors who pay a nominal entrance fee to view one or both of the chimpanzee feedings, guided forest nature walk with chimps, conservation programmes. Day and overnight visits (staying in luxury tents) are available and can be booked through us. To access this Eco-tourism site is much amazing due to the use of either speed or traditional boat, for birders while at this destination you will be over joy!
About Ziwa Rhino sanctuary
Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch located in Nakasongola district is the proud home of the only wild rhinos in Uganda. The Rhino re-introduction project is a project of Rhino Fund Uganda and Uganda Wildlife Authority. It is conveniently located 176km (100 miles) north of Kampala on the Gulu highway towards Murchison Falls (branch off at Nakitoma trading centre). Ziwa is the only place where you will be able to see rhinos in the wild.
Presently the sanctuary is home to twelve (12) southern white rhinos – seven (7) and five (5) adolescents. Two of the adult females are also expected to give birth over the next few months. The sanctuary has become increasingly popular with tourists; for rhino tracking, bird watching, nature walks and relaxation. The site has numerous accommodation facilities for tourists and volunteers.
Lake Bunyonyi-“Switzerland of Africa”
Lake Bunyonyi (“Place of many little birds”) lies in south western Uganda between Kisoro and Kabale close to the border with Rwanda. Located at 1,962 m above sea level, it is about 25 km long and 7 km wide. The depth of the lake is rumored to vary between 44 m and 900 m, which if true would make the lake the second deepest in Africa. It is one of the few lakes in the region that is free of bilharzias and safe for swimming. The lake appears on the 5,000 Ugandan shilling notes under the title “Lake Bunyonyi and terraces”. Towns on its shores include Kyevu and Muko, while its 29 islands include Punishment Island and Bushara Island. It is a popular location for water sports and is known for the surrounding terraced hillsides. It is popular with both foreign and domestic tourists and there are a wide variety of tourist accommodations.
Uganda’s Tours/ safaris/ adventures/ holiday Services
The services include;
- Famous mountain Gorilla/Chimpanzee trekking, feeding and Habituation
- Ornithologists tours/Bird watching
- Wildlife Photographic Safaris, Guided nature walk/ forest hike, Game drives both day and night
- Care Hire/ Car Rentals of all sorts required for safaris and corporate vehicles
- Hotels/Safari Lodges and Camps Reservation
- Sustainable-Eco tourism in Uganda
- Mountain trekking/climbing
- Bungee jumping and white water rafting, Kayaking
- Cultural safaris-Batwa, Karamojong communities and Northern Uganda trail
- City excursions-cultural tours and performances
- Education and Filming tours
- Wedding tours in wild national parks
- Beach vacations to lovers and honey mooners
- Victoria cruise-Ngamba island chimp sanctuary
- Fishing tours along Lake Victoria and River Nile
- Mobile Camping safaris
- Home stay tourism and Volunteering programmes with Rural Schools Support, Private Non-Governmental Organizations like Ngamba Island Chimpanzee and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuaries, Health Care Centers, Local Community Projects, Rural Youth Organizations, Women Fight Poverty, Youth Save Lake Victoria
- Incentive and international Conferences, seminars and events arrangement
How to travel to Uganda
Airport Entebbe International is a local airport in Uganda. The airport is used by passengers traveling to Entebbe, which is 37 km away from Kampala Capital City. Travelers’ often use airport Entebbe International for weekend breaks. Airlines refer to airport Entebbe International under the code EBB. The airport has only one terminal.
Airport Entebbe International offers flights within Uganda, international flights and long-haul flights. Airlines British Airways, South Africa airways, Ethiopian Airways, Brussels Airlines, Emirates, KLM and Qatar Airways offer flights to EBB.
The neighbouring countries like Kenya (Kenya airways), Rwanda (Rwanda air) and Tanzania (Tanzania air) offers flights to Entebbe international airport on regional and international level. Uganda can be accessed from these neighbouring countries either by Road or air transport. For travelers’ interested using water transport it is available but only from Tanzania-Mwanza port to Bukoba Masaka Uganda.
Passport and Visa
For any visitor to enter Uganda, a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry is required by all nationals. Entry may be refused to passengers not holding sufficient funds, return or onward tickets, and other necessary travel documents.
Requirements for Uganda visas and entry into Uganda differ from country to country, are subject to change, and each Uganda visa application is treated as an individual case. Always make visa inquiries before travelling to Uganda.
A Uganda visa is a clearance permitting an individual to proceed to visit Uganda. Uganda visas are issued at Missions/Embassies abroad and also at the entry and exit points of Uganda like Entebbe airport, Busia border, Malaba border.
In 1999 Uganda introduced visa requirements for all visitors and people entering Uganda except nationals of a few countries. There are different types of visas needed depending on what you are going to do in Uganda: Student Visas, Single Entry visas, Multiple Entry 6 month’s visas, Multiple Entry 1 year visas, or Inland Transit visas.
If you arrive or enter Uganda without a valid travel visa, you may be fined and immediately deported at your own expense. You must obtain a Uganda Government VISA before entry into Uganda. To obtain a Uganda Government VISA the following are required:-
Fill out both sides of Visa Application Form “J”. Submit your passport and two (2) passport-size photographs.
A passport issued by your government valid for at least six months. Your passport must also be valid past the date of your expected departure from Uganda. (Passport must be signed.)
One completed Uganda visa application form, Two passport-size photo taken within the past six months, International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever and Letter from applicant’s company if travelling for business (on company letterhead and signed by someone other than the applicant).
At this point customs and immigration officials of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) are polite and efficient to all the visitors to the country. A visa can be purchased on the spot at Entebbe International Airport or at any overland border. Foreign exchange and ATM facilities are available at the airport, which is also serviced by several shops and restaurants. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination is required. All visitors should take malaria prophylactic drugs. It is advisable to drink bottled rather than tap water. At the airport there is a variety of Airport taxes which can take you on town service, but is much advisable to our clients to request for our standard vehicles to any destination of choice.
There is no Customs desk on departure at Entebbe International airport. Departing passengers are required to present a valid passport or other travel document and completed departure embarkation card to the immigration officer. The officer will ascertain that the traveler obtained the relevant Visa.
The travel document is duly stamped and returned to the passenger. Passengers then proceeds to the departure-transit concourse for duty-free shopping and refreshments. After the final security formalities, passengers get into the holding-area where one can ascertain their belongings, tickets, passports, traveler’s checks.
Where to Stay
Uganda has a number of hotels and safari lodges that offer meals and overnight accommodation to both budget and luxury travelers. You can do your booking to Uganda Hotels, Safari Lodges, Guest houses and apartments in Uganda through the booking agents none other than us.
Precautions should be taken as in any major city. Unless safety deposit boxes are available in your hotel or lodge, always carry travel documents, travelers cheque’s, cash and other valuables with you at all times. We recommend that you do not walk late in the night but instead take a taxi if you have too though Uganda is extremely safe, we can’t guaranty you safety.
The unit of currency is the Uganda shilling. The US dollar is traditionally the hard currency of preference, but Euro and Pound Sterling are also widely accepted. Hard currency cash can be changed for local currency at banks and private forex bureaus in all large towns. However traveler’s cheques are not widely accepted outside Kampala.
When to Visit
Uganda has a beautiful climate all year round and can be visited at any time. The temperatures range from 21 degrees Celsius to 30 degrees Celsius in the day and 16-20 degrees Celsius in the night. The hottest months are from December-January and the wettest and coolest months are March-May and the mid-September to November. Activities like mountain hikes, gorilla tour which involving tracking through steep slopes with dense foliage and undergrowth and other forest walks are more challenging during the rainy seasons, which generally peak over mid-September to November and March to May.
What to Bring
Visitors to Uganda are required to have valid passports, and visa requirements should be checked with the customs and immigrations at the Airport on arrival before you travel. Binoculars and tour guides will enable you reap the most of game reserves and national parks tours and game drives. Zoom lens for Photographers who intend to capture the beautiful wildlife and scenery (70-300 or similar). Printing film and developing facilities are available in Kampala. Toiletries and other essential commodities can be purchased at any of the numerous supermarkets and shopping centers in the cities.
What to wear
During the day, temperatures are generally warm depending on which region of the country one is at, so bring lots of light clothing. Evening temperatures are cooler at especially high altitudes, so it is advisable to bring a couple of light sweaters as well. For the tourist intending to hike or climb on the mountains, you are advised to pack accordingly due to the alpine temperatures. You would do well to carry solid walking shoes and strong clothing, a sun hat, sunglasses, waterproof jackets which are ideal for forest walks, game drives and national park tours.
Visitors who wish to do self-drive are advised that driving in Uganda is done on the left side. There are numerous car hire service providers within the city with attractive rates although the fuel prices are fairly high, considering that Uganda is a landlocked country. For visitors that have no experience of African roads, you are advised to arrange for a vehicle with Trekking adventure Uganda plus a driver.
Tipping is not culture that is practiced often at local hotels, bars and restaurants, but it is always appreciated. The amount depends on the tourists’ discretion, although tour guides and drivers should always be tipped.