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The national Parks of Uganda

Crowned the Pearl of Africa by Sir Winston Churchill in 1909, the national parks of Uganda are an amazing African destination choice whose natural beauty is beyond any words. Churchill’s sentiments about Uganda are echoed more in the country’s diversity of people, ecosystems and wildlife.

Uganda is strategically situated in a special geographical position where western and eastern Africa come together, the country’s savannah plains are home to several species of wildlife, mountainous forested region is home to the endangered mountain gorillas. It also teems with several primate species including chimpanzees, olive baboons and black and white colobus monkeys and several bird species.

Uganda encompasses a wide range of habitats including woodlands, moorlands, mountains, rivers and lakes, approximately 20% of Uganda is covered by water.  

Uganda is one of the most popular wildlife destinations in Africa, it is also one of the most popular birding destinations on the continent with around 1,050 species – 50% of those on the continent and 11% in the world.

Here is a list of Uganda National Parks to explore on an African Safari. 

Queen Elizabeth National Park

     Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular wildlife safari destination in Uganda located in the southern region of the country, at a size of 1,978 square kilometers it is the second-largest national park in Uganda. The park encompasses of savannah, acacia woodlands, tropical forests, fertile wetlands and lakes within its borders.

    Queen Elizabeth National Park was first gazetted as a Kazinga National Park in 1952, later the name was changed two years later in honor the visit of Queen Elizabeth – the then leader of Britain.

    The park’s popularity is attributed to its breathtaking biodiversity, Queen Elizabeth National Park is spread across the Albertine Rift Valley and its savannah plains are habitat to over 60 bird species and 95 mammals include 4 of the Big Five (lions, leopards, buffaloes and elephants) and 10 species of primates. Because of the huge number of bird species recorded in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the park has been recognized as an International Birding Area by Birding International.

    Queen Elizabeth National Park offers amazing safari experiences including game drives safaris, birding safaris, chimpanzee trekking in the Kyambura Gorge, guided walks through the Maramagambo Forest and cultural encounters with local communities like the salt workers at the Lake Katwe evaporation pans.

    Queen Elizabeth National Park offers visitors a chance to see the rare tree climbing lions found in the Ishasha Sector – Southern region of the park.  

    Murchison Falls National Park

    Spanning 3,840 km², Murchison Falls National Park is the largest protected area in Uganda found approximately 300 kilometers northwest of Kampala. The park is also the oldest protected area in Uganda originally established in 1952.

    Murchison Falls National Park is famous known as the location where Murchison Falls – the world’s most powerful waterfalls where the Nile River squeezes through a sox-meter gap and then plunges 43 meters with a thunderous roar.

    Murchison Falls National Park attracts birders and animal lovers, there are over 450 species of fowl recorded here including the pre-historic and rare shoebill stork and many endemics and 76 mammals including four of the Big Five (lion, leopards, elephants and buffaloes). For travelers interested in a full Uganda Big Five Safari, you can visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary for rhino tracking experience. 

    Uganda Safari activities to do in Murchison Falls National Park include game viewing safaris, birding safaris, boat cruise on River Nile, hiking to the top of Murchison Falls and guided nature walks.

    Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

    Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the best place to see mountain gorillas in the world as it is home to the world’s largest population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas, the park hosts about one-third of the 1,060 plus mountain gorillas arrive today with the remainder thriving in the Virunga Conservation Area shared by Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and DR.Congo’s Virunga National Park.

    Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to 18 habituated mountain gorilla families on Uganda gorilla trekking safari.

    At a size of just 321 km², Bwindi Forest is preserved on the edge of the Rift Valley in southwest Uganda. The park was established in 1991 as part of the conservation effort to save the mountain gorillas, three years later the forest “one of Africa’s richest and oldest forests dating back about 25,000 years” was recognized as a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 

    In addition to gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is full of other life. The park is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa with 120 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, 200 tree species, 310 butterfly species, 51 reptile species and 27 frogs, geckos and chameleons.

    The huge list of bird species recorded in Bwindi Forest earned the forest the title of the Best Birding Destination in Africa, humans of Bwindi are notable. The Batwa people used to live in Bwindi Forest until they were forcefully evicted from the forest as a way of protecting mountain gorillas, now they reside in an adjacent buffer zone from which they lead cultural tours that teach visitors about their age-old hunting, hut-building, honey-harvesting, agricultural, sharing traditional music and dance as well as trapping practices.

    Kibale National Park

    Dubbed the Primate Capital of Africa, Kibale Forest National Park is the best place to see the world famous endangered chimpanzees. The park is home to 13 primate species including black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons among others and the largest number of chimpanzees in East Africa.

    At a size of 795², Kibale National Park is a rare expanse containing both lowland and montane forests including the last large tract of pre-montane forest in East Africa and it is contiguous with Queen Elizabeth National Park. Altogether, more than 350 species of primates have been recorded in Kibale‘s lush and variable woodlands.

     Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park are visited on chimpanzee trekking experience, the park has set a side groups of chimpanzees that have been habituated to make them used to the presence of human beings.

    In addition to the chimpanzees, more than 50 other terrestrial mammals and over 350 species of birds thrive in Kibale National Park and take advantage of their freedom of movement along the 180-kilometer-long wildlife corridor which is part of the park.  

    Rwenzori Mountains National Park

     Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a scenic park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in western Uganda stretching on the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains, the park was gazetted in 1991 and later UNESCO gazetted as a heritage site thanks to its mountain flora biodiversity which is the greatest in Africa.

    At a size of 996 square kilometers, the park lies against the border of Uganda with the Democratic Republic of Congo and serve as a stunning backdrop to Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

    The park is dominated by the famous Rwenzori Mountains which are the source of River Nile, because of the Rwenzori Mountains range the park is a world-class destination for hiking and mountaineering. The climbers here move through a mixture of ecosystems that include rainforests, alpine meadows and a wonderland of glacier-carved and lake-filled valleys. These abound with rare montane vegetation and more than 70 mammal species and 217 bird species.

    Kidepo Valley National Park

    Kidepo Valley National Park is the most isolated national park in Uganda set in far north, the park encompasses of semi-arid valleys and is home to some of Africa’s most isolated stunning wilderness.

    At a size of 1,442, Kidepo Valley National Park is divided across two river valleys that is the Kidepo and the Narus. In the dry season, the water turns to seasonal oasis – wetlands and remnant pools near Apoka in the Narus Valley.

    Kidepo Valley National Park is a perfect destination for watching the 475 species of birds and 77 mammal species inhabiting in the park including ostriches and cheetahs.

     Uganda Safari activities to do in Kidepo Valley National Park include game viewing safaris, guided nature walks, birding, hiking mountain Morungule and cultural encounters.

    Lake Mburo National Park

     Covering 370 square kilometers of wetlands and woodlands making the smallest savannah park in Uganda, Lake Mburo National Park is an amazing Uganda Safari destination and the only park in the country situated close to the capital – Kampala. The park is situated in a short distance of about 235 kilometers west of Kampala off the main highway. 

    Lake Mburo National Park encompasses a long chain of 14 lakes with Lake Mburo as the biggest Lake, the park is home to over 350 bird species and 69 wildlife species including zebras, buffalo, leopards and hippos. Lake Mburo National Park is also the only park in Uganda with impalas.

    Lake Mburo National Park was protected in 1983 and in 2006, it was declared a Ramsar Wetland in 2006. The wetland system in Lake Mburo dominates only a fifth of the park area, the rest is dominated by savannah and woodlands. 

    Uganda Safari activities to do in Lake Mburo National Park include game viewing safaris, boat cruise safaris on Lake Mburo, horseback safaris, guided nature walks and cultural experiences with local Banyankore community groups.  

    Semuliki National Park

     Semuliki National Park is a great destination to visit for tourists interested in having a taste of Central Africa without leaving Uganda, the park is situated in western Uganda sitting in a wide, flat valley to the west of the Rwenzori Mountains right along the border of Uganda with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Geologically, this is the eastern edge of the Congo Basin’s vast and ancient Ituri Forest which is popular for its biodiversity.

    Semuliki National Park covering an area of 220 km² is home to over 441 recorded bird species and 53 types of mammals and one of the few African forests to have survived the last Ice Age. The park also protects a true lowland tropical forest – the only of its kind in East Africa and savannah grasslands, much of the park is prone to flooding during the wet season.

    Uganda Safari activities to do in Semuliki National Park include game viewing safaris, primate walks, birding safaris and guided walks to the Sempaya hot springs which run hot and it is possible to boil eggs in the waters and the Mumbuga spring geyser.

    Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

     This second gorilla trekking destination and the small national park in Uganda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the incredible national parks in the country located in the far southwest. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the Great Conservation Area that spreads for thousands of square kilometers across the Virunga Mountains Chain found in Uganda, DR.Congo and Rwanda.

    Dubbed as a place where Gold meets Silver, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of the only two places in the world where the endangered mountain gorillas and golden monkeys thrive peacefully. The park is home to one habituated gorilla family by the name of Nyakagezi gorilla family.

    Mgahinga Gorilla National Park features a dramatic scenery which includes three extinct volcanoes (Mount Sabinyo, Mount Gahinga and Mount Sabyinyo. The Virunga Range is known for its rich biodiversity. 

    Mount Elgon National Park

       Dominated by dormant – Mount Elgon, Mount Elgon National Park is a scenic national park in Uganda located in in Eastern Uganda on the border with Kenya, Mount Elgon is the massively eroded remains of an extinct shield Volcano that was once Africa’s tallest mountain.

      At 4,321 meters, Mount Elgon is now the tallest in Africa with a based that is still the largest in the world. Mount Elgon is also the largest and oldest solitary Volcanic Mountain in East Africa measuring 80 kilometers in diameter, with a caldera of more than 40 square kilometers.

      Mount Elgon National Park covers an area of 1,279 km² across both Uganda and Kenya, though the biggest area (1,121 square kilometers) are in Uganda. This area is home to a wide variety of climates which are greatly influenced by elevation, both small and big mammals and over 300 bird species.

      Check out our Uganda safaris for a variety of options to visit any of these national parks.

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