Best places to see wildlife in Uganda
Kenya or Tanzania comes to our mind when thinking about safari destinations in Africa, however, Uganda has a lot to offer with very diverse landscapes of savannahs, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and forests all home to interesting wildlife. Uganda has 10 national parks and 5 wildlife reserves, in this blog post, we collected some of the most exciting wildlife experiences in Uganda!
Vervet monkeys can be seen all around Uganda, Photograph: Ivan Sabayuki/Unsplash
Visit Murchison Falls National Park, the most picturesque national park in Uganda
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest and oldest (established in 1926) national park in Uganda. The park is located on the Northwestern part of Uganda, spreading from the shores of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile, until Karuma Falls and Karuma Wildlife Reserve on the North. The main attraction of the park is the spectacular Murchison Falls, also known as Kabalega Falls, where the Nile flows through a narrow rocky gorge of 7 meters to tumble 43 meters into the "Devil's Cauldron", creating the fascinating trademark rainbow.
Hippos in Murchison Falls National Park, Photograph: Francesco Ungaro/Unsplash
The Victoria Nile eventually flows into Lake Albert through an 80km stretch of rapids, which area is the most remarkable place to see wildlife. From the 76 mammal and 451 bird species, many animals, like the elephants, giraffes, and buffalos are regular visitors around the riverbank, while hippos, Nile crocodiles, and aquatic birds are regular residents. Besides game drives the highlight of the park is to go on a boat trip on the Nile to admire the wildlife around the riverbank. Also, you can do hikes and nature walks in Rabongo or Budongo forests that are excellent places to see primates like chimpanzees.
Giraffe in Murchison Falls National Park, Photograph: Musiime P. Muramura/Unsplash
Meet with mountain gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the only three countries that are home to the last remaining mountain gorillas on Earth. Mountain gorillas live in two different parks in Uganda, the most popular is the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located on the Southwestern part of Uganda, bordered with DRC. This misty ancient rainforest is home to more than 400 gorillas, which is approximately half of the world's mountain gorilla population. The main activity in the park is gorilla trekking however, this biologically diverse region is also home to 120 mammals, especially primates and 350 bird species.
Mountain Gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Photograph: Francesco Ungaro/Unsplash
Another place to see gorillas is the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park located in the Virunga Mountains, which encompass 3 mountains ranging between 2,227 to 4,127 meters. The National Park is contiguous with Virunga National Park in DRC and Volcanos National Park in Rwanda, the most famous places to see mountain gorillas in the world.
See the widest variety of wildlife at Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular national park in Uganda with the biggest concentration of wildlife. The park has a diverse landscape; sprawling savanna, fertile wetlands, sparkling lakes, humid and shady forests all can be found here. The highest points of the park are the Katwe explosion craters, which are also interesting places to drive around and to visit the Katwe Salt Lake. The park has a lot to offer; beyond game drives, nature trails and hikes, chimpanzee trekking, bird watching trips, and hot air balloon safaris are not to miss experiences.
Lion sitting on a tree in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Photograph:Maarten van den Heuvel/Unsplash
Regarding wildlife, the park is home to 4 of the big 5, 10 primate species, and over 600 bird species. From the large mammals, 5000 hippos, 3000 African elephants and over 10000 Buffaloes are the inhabitants of the park. Other interesting species are the several waterbucks, Uganda Kobs, topis, warthogs, and over 620 incredible bird species, including black bee-eaters, martial eagles, African skimmers, and white-winged warblers. Some of the rare and spectacular primates are the chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, baboons, who live in the forested areas of the park.
Leopard in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Photograph: Musiime P. Muramura/Unsplash
See primates at Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park is home to over 60 mammal species and over 350 bird species. The highlight of the park is the 13 different primate species, including Hoest’s and blue monkeys, red colobus, olive baboons, grey-cheeked mangabeys, black-and-white colobus, and chimpanzees. Guided walks are possible in the lowland forest area, but another spectacular and less well-known thing to do are the swamp walks, for instance in the nearby Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, which is an excellent example of tourism having an impact on a grassroots level, or inside the park in Sebitoli and the Kihingami Wetlands.
Chimpanzee in Uganda, Photograph: Francesco Ungaro/Unsplash
Experience endless beautiful savannah-landscape with mountains in the background at Kidepo Valley National Park
It is a long drive to reach Kidepo Valley from the central parts of the country, as it lies in a very isolated place, however, the experience is very rewarding, as it is considered to be one of the best national parks in Uganda. This less-visited national park has a Lion King-like scenery, exactly how you would imagine Africa from the movies, with endless plains of savannah and mountains in the background where animals are roaming around freely.
Elephants at Kidepo Valley National Park, Photograph: Rod Waddington/Flickr
KIidepo is not as densely populated with animals as other famous parks in East Africa, however, the scenery compensates for all, as well as, because there are not too many safari vehicles in the park, you can move around and feel like you are the only visitor. Kidepo is home to 75 mammal species and 470 bird species, which is an exceptional number even in Uganda and is also home to some rare species. From the big mammals, elephants, lions, buffalos, and giraffes have the largest number in the park, but it is more and more common to see cheetahs, and numerous ostriches, that can only be found in Kidepo in Uganda.
Buffalos in a savannah landscape in Uganda, Photograph: Lisette Verwoerd/Unsplash
Go birdwatching at one of the lakes in Uganda
Uganda is an excellent birdwatching destination. All the national parks contain a large number of birds from different species, especially forests and wetlands, but for bird enthusiasts, the best places to visit are the different lakes. Uganda is home to Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Uganda, an excellent place to see birds while visiting islands and doing boat trips. Other lakes are Lake Albert, located on the edge of Murchison Falls National park and Lake Bunyonyi, the most picturesque lake with many small islands.
Grey crowned crane, commonly known as the crested crane is the national bird of Uganda, appearing on the flag as well, Photographed at Mbamba Swamp by Musiime P. Muramura/Unsplash
Lake Mburo National Park is home to 13 lakes, the biggest is Lake Mburo itself, and it is one of the best bird-watching areas. You can see the different bird species while doing boat trips on the lakes and visiting the swampy valleys and forests. Some of the birds that you could have a chance to see include the emblematic Grey Crowned Crane, Coqui Francolin, Rufous-bellied Heron, Emerald-spotted Wood, R Bateleur, Brown-chested Lapwing, Red-faced Barbet, t, Bare-faced Go-away-bird. Other notable wildlife in the park include lions, leopards, zebras, giraffes, warthogs, jackals, elands, and hippos.
Pied Kingfisher catching a fish in Lake Mburo National Park, Photograph: Musiime P. Muramura/Unsplash
Experience mountain wildlife while hiking in the Rwenzori Mountains
The Rwenzori Mountains' highest peak is the third highest peak of Africa, and the mountain range's snowy peaks are often called the Mountains of the Moon. It is a challenging but very rewarding and breathtaking 9-12 days trek to reach the Margherita peak, the largest point of the mountains. The lower slopes of the mountain contain bamboo and a rich, moist montane forest hosting several mammal species including leopards, elephants, and chimpanzees, more than 200 bird species, and 9 reptiles.
Rwenzori three-horned Chameleon at the Rwenzori Mountans, Photograph: Musiime P. Muramura/Unsplash