UGANDA NATIONAL PARKS

Managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the parks offer ‘traditional’ savanna safaris along with boat tours, forest hikes, mountain climbing and wildlife research activities. Uganda is unrivalled on the continent as a bird watching destination with over 1,000 species of birds – several of which are found nowhere else on the planet. It is also home to 13 types of primates including over half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas; and our closest relative – the chimpanzee.

Explore the wild Kidepo Valley; spot Queen Elizabeth’s tree-climbing lions; trek up the Virunga Volcanoes; summit the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains; take on Bwindi’s “impenetrable forest”; learn ancient tribal traditions and crafts – or just relax at your lodge surrounded by the wonderful sights and sounds of Africa’s most hospitable destination.

Explore Uganda – on the tip of discovery with the safest and most hospitable parks in Africa!

Welcome to Bwindi Forest National Park in Uganda. This information guides you on how to get there, attractions, where to stay, securing a gorilla safari permit, travel tips, what to wear, when to go.

Mountain Gorilla Families of Uganda, The Habituated Gorilla Groups

Meet the Habituated Gorilla Groups of Uganda

Below is a List of the Habituated Gorilla Groups and where they are located

The groups listed below are those currently available for Gorilla Tracking within Uganda

Buhoma Area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  • Mubare Group:  this Mubare group (also called the M-Group) – was the very first group to actually be habituated for tracking by tourists and the habituation started in 1991 and this group received its very  first tracking visitors in 1993.  Mubare group is actually named after the stunning Mubare Hills in which this group was discovered.
  • Habinyanja Group: This Habinyanja Group was in 1997 habituated for tracking and received tourists in the year 1999. In the start it was a huge group, however a family was split from it named the Rushegura Group.  These two groups crisscross each other now and again and co-exist peacefully.
  • Rushegura Group:  This Rushegura Group was in 2000 habituated for tracking and received tourists in the year 2002.  It is a huge group within the Buhoma area of Bwindi Forest.

Ruhija region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – habitat of the Bitukura Gorilla group

  • Bitukura Group:   This Bitukura Group is among of the newest groups in Bwindi Forest- it is found and roams the verdant forest within the Ruhija area. There is restricted lodging in this area – although that available is offered in moderate plus high-class lodges.

Rushaga region of Bwindi Forest  – habitat of the Nshongi Group as well as the Mishaya Gorilla Family

  • Mishaya Group:  following a family dispute- the Mishaya Gorilla family Split from the then biggest Gorilla Group in Bwindi Forest – the Nshongi Gorilla Family – which two still live within the Rushaga  region in Southern Bwindi Forest.
  • Nshongi Group:  This currently is the biggest habituated gorilla family in Uganda with 25 members , at the opening of the group for visitors after Habituation it comprised of 25, and 10 left to form another family  called the Mishaya Group.

Nkuringo Region of Bwindi Forest – which is among the more physically challenging although rewarding regions in the of forest to enjoy Gorilla Tracking – habitat to the Nkuringo Gorilla Family

  • Nkuringo Group:   The accommodation facilities found at Nkuringo – offer a breathtaking worth the cost of the gorilla-permits- this is among of the most challenging hikes in Uganda – although undoubtedly worthwhile- as it is the most pleasing.  The Group comprises of 19 members and is a favorite to people who have tracked over one group.

Best Time to Visit The Mountain Gorillas & Uganda

Uganda is known as a whole round travel destination to any tourist planning to travel. This is due to its climate and location to the equator. The other factor making Uganda a travel destination throughout the year is Lake Victoria and its unique weather patterns to the climate. Uganda mainly has two rainy seasons; the short season starts from October to November and the long rainy season starts from Mid-march to the end of May.

The best  time of the year when you should visit the gorillas is June, July, August and September. If that is not possible, January and February should be relatively okay too.

With the best months to visit Uganda, many tourists choose to travel from May to September to February since in these months, the amount of rain has reduced and it’s sunny in most of the destinations. December is one of the busiest months of the year in most national park and it’s advisable to book the accommodation in time to avoid disappointments. During the Christmas season, most Uganda plan to take vacations to national parks so it’s always a peak season in the month of December.

 No matter what your explanation is, experience reveals that gorilla trekking can be enjoyed all year round and you will surely enjoy a great experience.

The park has a variety of Flora and Fauna and it’s acknowledged to be a habitat for over 95 mammal species with about 612 species of birds. The various species in this park, has made it a unique park most liked by tourists. Geographers will say that the park has around 57 vegetation but in actual sense, it has five levels of vegetation. Namely bushy grassland, Acacia woodland, Lakeshore or swamp vegetation along with forest grassland.
The grasslands of the park settles wildlife such as Cape buffalo, Uganda kob, waterbuck, warthlog, lion, leopard, hyena, giant forest hog as well as elephants.Topis can only be discovered in Ishasha and forest primate found in Kyambura gorge in addition to Maramagambo forest.

Africa has some protected areas. Therefore the park’s remarkable birdlist that to exceed that of the neighboring Virunga National Park. Among these include African skimmer, Chapins flycatcher, Pink-backed pelicans, Papyrus canary, Shoebill stork, martial eagle, black-rumped buttonquail as well as the great flamingos.

Mweya Peninsula

The peninsula is the heart of sightseeing activities with excellent accommodation in the park. The only way to enjoy your tour in this park is by touring with a ranger guide. This person helps you explore the park as well as the distant parts of the peninsula. Mweya information center organizes all the activities that tourists may want to get involved in. The most exciting aspect about this peninsular is the fact that its overlooks Katwe bay of Lake Edward. Morestill, it has a souvenir shop full of Uganda safari items that will always remind you of park

Kazinga Channel.

The Kazinga channel is about 40m long adjoining Lake Gorge to Lake Edward. It has the perfect view of the parks’ major wildlife ventures. The shores of the lake attracts a large concentration of mammals, birds as well as reptiles all year around. The animals can be viewed well by the Nile cruise or probably at the entrance of Lake Edward. The operation of the cruise run from 15.00 and 17.00, furthermore voyages run 11.00 and 13.00 depending on the demand of the tourists.
Kazinga channel has parts for instance North Kazinga as well as Kasenyi. Its acknowledged that the plains of channel are focal points for game viewing. Tracking is the only way that will enable you see all the wildlife in its nature setting for example buffalo, elephants and other animals that dwell in the grassland thickets of the Northern Kazinga close to Mweya. The most accessible spot for lions is in the eastern part of Kasenyi plains and the Kasese road where they quarry on the big inhabitants of Uganda Kobs. The most favorable time for game drives is during morning and late afternoon hours. The work of the range guide is to help you get enough information about the park and still get the most memorable experience in Uganda.
The Equator and the Queen’s Pavilion

The Uganda’s Equator provides a beautiful place for photo shooting along with craft shops that can make you buy a souvenir .The Queen’s Pavilion is easily spotted by the northern entrance to the Crater Drive. In 1954 Queen Elizabeth gave a provision shelter for this site until in 1959 when a permanent pavilion was constructed for the visit of Queen Elizabeth. Renovations were made by second visit of Duke of Edinburgh in 2007 with better facilities such as coffee shop and internet facilities.

Ishasha Tree Climbing Lions

Ishasha covers an area of about 100km south of Mweya. The Park’s distant southern segment gives a genuine Africa wilderness experience. Among the inhabitants in this place include savannah woodland, Ishasha River along with Lake Edward that has a diversity of wildlife such as climbing lions, rare shoebill stork and many others.

Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) comprises of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu and Karuma Falls Wildlife Reserves.
This is where the Nile explodes through a narrow gorge and cascades down to become a placid river whose banks are thronged with hippos and crocodiles, waterbucks and buffaloes. The vegetation is characterized by savannah, riverine forest and woodland. Wildlife includes lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kobs, chimpanzees, and many bird species

The Murchison Falls, also referred to as the Kabarega Falls, is a waterfall found on the course of the great Nile. It actually breaks the stunning Victoria Nile, that flows across Uganda’s northern region from the vast Lake Victoria to the deep Lake Kyoga and continuing to the northern tip of Lake Albert within the western arm of the great East African Rift. right on the peak of the Murchison Falls, the waters of the Nile force their way through a small slit within the rocks, which is just 7 meters or 23 feet wide, and topples to 43 meters or 141 feet below with a thunderous roar forming a residual water stray that forms a beautiful rainbow; the view is very breathtaking! From here it then continues its westward into the stunning Lake Albert.

Lake Victoria outlet sends about 300 cubic meters per second or 11,000 ft³/s of water to these falls and all this volume squeezed through this gorge that is actually less than 10 meters or 30 feet wide. These waterfalls are located within the Murchison National park which was actually named after these eye- catching waterfalls. The park is located in the northern region of the Albertine Rift Valley. This is the area where the huge Bunyoro escarpment joins together into the vast Acholi plains. The park is recognized as one of the best National parks in Uganda and as well it is well visited. In 1926, the park was a game reserve established to shelter the savannah grassland which was pointed out by Winston Churchill in the year 1907 as the grand Kew Gardens together with the wildlife combined on a confined land.

Lake Mburo National Park is a compact gem, located conveniently close to the highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. It is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500 million years. It is home to 350 bird species as well as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck.

Together with 13 other lakes in the area, Lake Mburo forms part of a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders. Once covered by open savanna, Lake Mburo National Park now contains much woodland as there are no elephants to tame the vegetation. In the western part of the park, the savanna is interspersed with rocky ridges and forested gorges while patches of papyrus swamp and narrow bands of lush riparian woodland line many lakes.

Lake Mburo National Park throughout can be visited the whole year and the conditions in the park are more difficult especially during the rainy season. There are also available accommodation facilities including; Mihingo lodge/ Mantana tented camp/ the Rwakobo Rock, Arcadia cottages, the Mburo safari lodge, Mpogo lodge/ Rwonyo camp and the Eagle’s nest and many more lodge options that are nearby in Mbarara as well as Lyantonde. The park is also located on the Mbarara- Kampala highway and it’s a great stop over as it connects the attractions of the western part of Uganda.

The main activities in Lake Mburo National Park include; the game drives with in the rolling hills as well as the open grasslands, the boat cruise along the lake, the forest walks in Rubanga that offers an opportunity of viewing many different bird species, nature walks, sport fishing, horseback riding and quad biking.

Birding in Lake Mburo National Park

This lake is also home to over 350 bird species like the red faced barbet that can only be found in this national park. There is also the endemic African finfoot as well as the rare shoebill, the papyrus yellow warbler, brown chested lapwing, carrother’s cisticola, Tabora cisticola, saddle billed stork, the Africa scops, and Abyssinian ground hornbill as well as the white winged warbler. The park is a birders paradise in and a visitor’s delight with variety of colorful bird species.

Wildlife species in Lake Mburo National Park

The wildlife species are about 69 that are found in this park including the Impalas, Elands, antelopes, zebras, giraffes, Rothschild, Burchell zebras and many more. You can also view the Buffalos, warthogs, reedbucks, leopards, lions, hyenas, hippos and crocodiles. The park gives a good taste of the wild of Africa so close to Kampala and it’s just three and half hour drive that make it accessible for those that have limited time so want to view some wildlife before leaving the country.

Horse Riding tours in  Lake Mburo National Park

You can take one of the best horse back wildlife safari in Lake Mburo national park and is one of the most amazing adventures with in Uganda’s national park.this park is the only national park where you go for horse riding in Uganda.

Within Uganda, you can adventure the real African Wild from horseback on safari in Lake Mburo National park. This activity will take 2 to 5 hours across the African savannah stressed at Lake Mburo Park with the rolling hills, valleys as well as the various lakes in and around Lake Mburo Park. The horse ride safari will give you a good feeling of the African wild on the horseback.

Lake Mburo National park is a safe and more stable adventure with well-trained guides as you enjoy your time with in the rolling savannah of Lake Mburo National park.  You will experience many animal sightings including; the giraffes, the topis, elands, duikers, bushbucks, the waterbucks, zebras, and many more. You will enjoy the scenic beauty, the birds as well as the vegetation. The time on the horseback safari will be one of the highlights of your real time in Uganda.

Lake Mburo Community Tourism Association-LMCTA

The community tourism enterprises that are around Lake Mburo National park have put up a collective support as well as a survival strategy so that to improve community benefits from tourism around the protected Areas. These enterprises have also formed an association and then developed this association constitution to guide this advancement. Even though the number of visitors coming to the community enterprise is still low, the community has remained so optimistic due to the growing demand trend that is towards the community experience worldwide. This community is also waiting for the product testing safaris in order to improve the standards of services offered.

Nestled in the wild frontier region of Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park is apparently the most isolated national park in Uganda but still stands out to be one of the best virgin places every wildlife viewer can ever visit in Uganda. This virgin national park is undoubtedly among the best wilderness areas in Africa, harboring a couple of extinct species of wildlife that can’t be found in any other Ugandan national park. Kidepo is right at the core of a Savannah landscape right next to a few mountainous bodies. The reasons for planning your safari here are endless, something you will definitely see when you set foot on Uganda’s soil. Besides the exceptional wildlife safari experience, this national park is another great spot for a cultural trail especially to those who would like to see the Karamojongs, Acholis plus other great tribes. Some of the other exciting tourism activities in the wilderness of this area include nature walks, birding and hiking. The outstanding lodging / accommodation options of Apoka safari lodge, Kidepo Savannah Lodge, Nga’Moru Wilderness camp coupled along with the cool environment, exceptional views of the Savannah grasslands plus so many more attractions, Kidepo Valley National Park was truly gifted by nature.

Kidepo national park is a true gem with huge abundance in wildlife. It remains a true unexploited park known by only a few tourists and very wild and virgin in Uganda but remains unknown to many! Kidepo Valley National Park was gazetted into a national park in the year 1962 and currently hosts over 75 species of mammals and 470 species of birds. All these fall in a prime game viewing location. This national park is situated in Kaabong district in Northeastern Uganda. By estimate, it is about 510 Kilometers by road from Kampala – Uganda’s capital and Moroto is apparently the largest town in the sub region. Being named the 3rd best national park in Africa, this national park is definitely a must visit for any traveler to Uganda.

Apoka tourism centre

Apoka is the heart of tourism and every traveler on tour into Kidepo Valley National Park often makes errands at the Apoka tourism centre. The park offices are at Apoka where travelers make clearance for all park tourism services and other administrative issues. It is an ideal place to book a ranger to escort you on game viewing safari, guided walk, birding safaris, community tour, camping safari or any inquiries. There is an airfield for light aircraft and Apoka is the main gateway to Kidepo Valley National Park by air. Apoka safari lodge is a luxury safari camp that offers high quality hospitality services to travelers, Apoka Rest Camp offers basic accommodation for budget travelers while there is a campsite for travelers with high preference for camping. Apoka is a hill with commanding views of a man made dam where wildlife species congregate to cool the irritating heat of the day.

The Karamojong herdsmen

The Karamojong is an indigenous community inhabiting the Karamoja region. The Karamojong traditionally lived a nomadic lifestyle roaming the vast plains of Karamoja with large herds of livestock; cattle, sheep, goats and chicken. Dogs are important in a Karamojong homestead; manyatta for they alert the family of intruding wildlife species. The Karamojong take pride in their livestock. The size of a herd is a symbol of wealth and social status. In the African traditional lifestyle setting where there was no currency, livestock was a medium of settling social as well as business transactions. The Karamojong nomads and wildlife coexisted in the Karamoja region, their livestock grazing on the side of herbivores and share watering holes. In the past Karamojong violently raided the neighboring communities’ livestock to increase the size of their herds. The raids have subsided with sensitization about dangers of violence and arms’ embargo in the Karamoja region. The Karamojong settled in permanent homes but still hold their traditional customs and cultural beliefs in high esteem. Travelers on tour into Uganda often visit the Karamojong manyatta to share life experiences, learn about the survival games in the wilderness and explore authentic lifestyle of an indigenous African community.

At just 33.7km2, Mgahinga National Park is Uganda’s smallest national park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. The Park covers the northern slopes of the three northern most Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The Park is about 10 km south of Kisoro and is bordered to the south by the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and to the west by the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The park is part of the larger Virunga Conservation area that spreads over the three countries. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ or VCA. Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA. The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 33.7 sq. km and consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. From far away, the huge cones of the Virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape and beckon you as you approach. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate.

Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler. The Virungas are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

There are lots of things to see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. From the endangered mountain gorillas to golden monkeys, three of the Virunga Volcanoes and unique flora and fauna.

UGANDA GAME RESERVES

The game reserves in Uganda are quite many and the number might grow in the future depending on how fast the Ugandan tourism industry is growing. These game reserves are dispersed in various regions of the country and harbors a lot of wildlife leaving aside the national parks. In fact with time, some of the game reserves in Uganda will be transformed into national parks depending on how busy they get. Among the game reserves are Toro – Semliki, Matheniko, Katinga, Pian Upe, Ajai, Bokora, Aswa – Lolim plus more.

These game reserves are nice for game viewing safaris in Uganda (also referred to as wildlife viewing) and are alternate place where you can carry out wildlife safaris from in Uganda. They might be less visited but still, they will give you an experience to explore the less explored wilderness of Uganda or carry out more activities like birding or nature walks.

Bugundu game reserve is found in Uganda near Masindi district. It is accessed by road from Kampala. It is located at the edge of Murchison Falls Park. It is reached throughout the year. No accommodation available however, clients can stay in accommodation in Masindi town. Wildlife in this reserve includes; buffalo, elephant, hartebeest, kob, lion, waterbuck and a wide variety of birds.

Unlike the other Game Reserves, Ajai Game Reserve / Ajai wildlife reserve is located North-West of Uganda in a district called Arua. The terrain elevation of the game reserve is claimed to be 658 meters above sea level. As per history, Ajai Game Reserve was put under the personal watch and protection of a local powerful leader by then named Ajai in the year 1937. Up to 1980, the game reserve has protected one of the less remaining populations of White Rhinos in Uganda, that are now extinct in this reserve. Several plans to reintroduce the Rhino in this Ugandan future park are underway and head by the Ugandan Government & Rhino Fund.

Ajai Game Reserve is made up of plains of grasses, a couple of wood lands and swamps. It is a bit hard to access because of the poor road that leads to it but is very accessible by road from Gulu. Apparently, there is no accommodation available at the reserve. Tourist who visit Ajai Game Reserve either connect to Murchison Falls National Park or Gulu Town for an overnight.

This game reserve was established to protect the white rhinos which are very few in numbers here in Uganda due to poaching. Several animals live along in the park with the white rhinoceros. These animals include the Uganda Kob, Common Duiker, Olive baboon, Black & White Colobus, bush-buck, buffalo, hartebeest, warthog, hippopotamuses, waterbucks and a large species of bird. Ajai Game reserve is also a great spot for birding tours.

Ajai Game reserve lies on the west bank of the Albert Nile and is covered grass land. It’s climate is tropical. and mainly receives heavy rain in the months of April, May, October and November. Reaching Ajai game reserve takes approximately 6 and 1/2 hours by road from Kampala and a few minutes by flight in case a tourist opts for a flight from Kampala to Arua.