Uganda National Parks
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It lies in the south western part of Uganda covering an area of 321 Sq. Km at an altitude of 1,160 – 2,607 Km above sea level. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, covers 32,092 ha, and is one of the largest areas in East Africa which still has Afromontane lowland forest extending to well within the montane forest belt. Located on the eastern edge of the Albertine Rift Valley and believed to be a Pleistocene refugium, the property is a biodiversity hotspot with possibly the greatest number of tree species for its altitude in East Africa. It is also host to a rich fauna including a number of endemic butterflies and one of the richest mammalian assemblages in Africa. Home to almost half of the world’s mountain gorilla population, the property represents a conservation frontline as an isolated forest of outstanding biological richness surrounded by an agricultural landscape supporting one of the highest rural population densities in tropical Africa.
Kibale National Park – is positioned in the west of Uganda in Kabarole and Kamwenge districts 358km about 7 hours’ drive from Kampala. Kibale National Park stretches to a surface coverage of 795km2 and is considered to be among the Uganda’s last surviving tropical forests with great bio-diversity concentration. Kibale has 351 tree species with trees that are 50m tall and 200 years old, 70 species of mammals, 13 species of primate including the common chimpanzee and 375 bird species. Established in 1932 as a forest reserve, Kibale was later upgraded to National Park status in 1993 to enhance biodiversity protection.
Kidepo National Park is situated in the north west of Uganda in the district of Kaabong 220km north west of Moroto and 700 km from Kampala, the country’s capital. Established in 1962, Kidepo National Park covers a land surface of 1,442km2 and is a habitat to 77 species of mammals and 475 species of birds which makes it second to Queen Elizabeth National Park and 60 of these bird species have been recorded in no other park in Uganda. Five species of primates have been recorded in the park including the localized patas monkeys. 20 predator species exist in te park including the bat eared fox, aardwolf, black-backed jackal, chhetah and caracal which are endemic to Kidepo on Ugandan standards.
Established in 1952, Murchison Falls National Park is the largest national park in Uganda. Positioned in the north west of Uganda at the tip of the Albertine rift, Murchison falls National Park is 311km about 5 hours’ drive from Kampala city. The park covers 3,440km2 of land while the greater Murchison Conservation Area that incorporates both Bugungu and Karuma wildlife reserves stretch to 5,308km2. The nearest town to Murchison falls National Park is Masindi 85km about 2 – 3 hours’ drive. The Nile River which is also the longest river in the whole world bisects the Murchison Falls National park leaving a permanent landmark the Murchison falls which is considered to be the greatest natural thing to ever happen on the Nile. Named after Sir Roderick Murchison the then president of the Royal geographical society by an early British explorer Sir Samuel Baker, the Murchison Falls is a natural wonder that every traveller on safari in Uganda should not miss to encounter. Squeezing its self to pass through an 8m gorge before falling 43m below, the Nile River splashes out in a plume of spray forming a thunderous roar marked by a trade mark rainbow. Regarding wildlife, Murchison Falls is a home of the Big five land animals namely; Lion, elephant, leopard, Buffaloes and Rhinos in the neighboring Ziwa rhino sanctuary.
Covering an area of 1,121km2, Mount Elgon National Park is positioned in the east of Uganda on the 4th tallest mountain in East Africa. Initially, Mount Elgon was the Africa’s highest mountain far from Mount Kilimanjaro before it was eroded to 4,321m above sea level where it stands up to today. Mount Elgon is recorded as the largest and the oldest stand-alone volcano on Ugandan and East African standards with the last eruption occurring 24 million years ago. Also important to note is that Mount Elgon contains the largest mountain caldera in the whole world covering an area of 42Sq.km alongside the biggest world’s volcanic base of 4,000 km2. The area was first established as a forest reserve in 1929 and became a crown forest in 1940 while in 1951; the area was regarded as a central forest reserve. The government later dagazetted 6000 hectares of the reserve to the Benet-Ndorobo people in 1983, who were encroaching on it. However at the time receiving the national park status in 1993 other 1500 hectares had been further encroached on.
Lake Mburo National Park; Initially, two brothers Kigarama and Mburo settled on the surface coverage that is currently occupied by Lake Mburo National Park. One night, one of the brothers Kigarama dreamt of floods that would fill the whole area and in the morning he warned his brother Mburo to consider relocating from the area. However, Mburo despised the warning and remained in place whereas his brother left the place for the nearby hill. In return the floods became a reality and the valley which Mburo had remained in was filed by water and Mburo drowned as a result leading to the formation of a lake that took up the name Lake Mburo. Kigarama had settled in the adjacent hill which also took up his name as Kigarama hill. This legendary tale characterized the land and local people would offer sacrifices to Mburo if they wanted to fish or use the water resources.
Established in 1991, Mgahinga National Park stretches to 33.7km2 qualifying it as Uganda’s smallest National Park. Mgahinga National Park is the second home for the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda after Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mgahinga National Park adjoins the other eight volcanoes in the region to form the greater Virunga massif that forms a natural boundary between the three states of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Besides, mountain gorillas, Mgahinga National Park is also a home to the world’s rare and endangered golden monkeys which only exist in the Virunga volcanoes. The park is situated 14km south of Kisoro town and 519km about 11hours drive south west of Kampala the country’s capital. The entire Mgahinga National Park is located in the county of Bufumbira in Kisoro District at the extreme tip of south western Uganda. The three volcanic peaks exist in Mgahinga National Park that is Mount Muhavura, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga. First established in 1930 as a gorilla game sanctuary with the eviction of 2,000 people, Mgahinga is now a fully established National park with 76 species of mammals including the rare golden monkey, black and white colobus, leopard, mountain gorilla, giant forest hog, elephant, buffalo, bush pig, black-fronted duiker, bushbuck alongside species of rodents, bats and small predators. Besides wildlife, Mgahinga has 115 species of birds of which 12 are endemic to the Albertine rift.
Established in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park is positioned in the west of Uganda adjacent to the re-known snowcapped mountains of the moon – Rwenzori Mountains standing at 5,109m above sea level.
Queen Elizabeth National park stretches across the western rift valley floor covering 1,978km2 of land. It is apparently the most visited park in Uganda and has been recorded as a world biosphere reserve. The national Park contains 95 mammal species, 600 bird species making it the first in Uganda in terms of bird count, 10 species of primates and 20 predator species.
The Rwenzori Mountains also known as the fabled mountains of the moon as recorded by an ancient Greek geographer Ptolemy in 150AD are among the natural wonders that you will ever have while on safari in Uganda. Established as national Park in 1991, Rwenzori Mountain National Park stretches over a geographical coverage of 996km2 with its Margarita peak standing at 5,109m above sea level making it the highest point in Uganda covered by snow throughout the year regardless of its close range to the equator.
The park received a world heritage site status by UNESCO in 1994. Mount Rwenzori is a mountain range that has been listed to be among the world’s challenging mountains to climb by the Africa Travel Magazine. The range of glaciers flowing from the upper slopes including; the famous River Nyamwamba which impressive views of its slopes. The National Park is a home of 70 species of mammals, 217 species of birds of which 19 are endemic to the Albertine rift alongside unique diverse vegetation distribution featured in its five zones.
The zones range from the montane zone to bamboo zone, tree heath zone and Afro-alpine moorland zone. Extending to an area of 99,600 ha with 70% of this rising above the elevation of 2,500 m, Rwenzori Mountains present exclusive craggy and sheer range resulting onto three major peaks I.e. Albert (5.101 m), Alexandra (5.083 m) and Margherita (5,109 m) which is the third highest in Africa. The geography of Mount Ruwenzori National Park is built by ancient Precambrian rocks that piled up during the process of rift valley formation.
The Bamba and the Bakonzo are the indigenous inhabitants of Rwenzori area who have modeled their life style to adapt to the mountain landscapes of which they thrive in. They have unique means of carrying luggage as well as water and firewood to the upper slopes – something interesting to encounter while on safari in Uganda.
Established in 1993, Semuliki National Park stretches over a geographical coverage of 220km2 in the county of Bwamba Bundibugyo district, west of Uganda. The park is a habitat for 441 species of birds and 53 mammal species. Semuliki National Park is spread across the Semuliki valley in the Albertine rift in the west of Rwenzori Mountains and its flora is greatly the extension of the Ituri forest from the Democratic Republic of Congo basin. Having managed to survive the last ice age 12 – 18,000 years ago, Semuliki forest is among the diverse and intact ancient forest groupings in Africa.
The forest of Semuliki and the National Park in general contain a range of ecology that is inclined towards the central Africa setting rather that the east of Africa. The forest is marked by West African oil palms, the alignment of River Semuliki draws much attachment to the Congo River, and the fauna species have great ancestral attachment to Central Africa while the forest dweller pygmy people are indigenous inhabitants of the Ituri forest.
Therefore, one can argue that Semuliki is a duplication of Central African environment in East Africa which gives Uganda safari travellers an opportunity to gain an insight of the central African setting. Semuliki National Park is also a home to the famous Sempaya hot springs a product of the older volcanic processes dating to 25,000 years ago a continuation of the powerful subterranean forces that have shaped the rift valley for 14 million years past.