The East African gem of a country Uganda, is known as the “Pearl of Africa” and not without reasons. This extraordinary destination is known for its natural beauty and abundant wildlife that Africa is famous for, but seeing Africa through Uganda is an experience you would cherish all your life! Our friend Tim from Africa Homestays helped us put together this piece and we are so thankful to him! There are over ten national parks here teeming with wildlife and unique landscapes that are absolutely breathtaking. There are dense forests, snow clad peaks and fauna, as diverse as it gets. Oh! did we tell you there is shopping scene too in the forests!!?? Uganda was named as the Best destination for trips by National Geographic and one of the top 10 places to observe wildlife in the world.
Even lonely planet recognised Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda as the ultimate wildlife destination for families! Still not convinced? Come along with us and we bet we will get your springy feet all inspired to make a trip to Uganda! We are covering the extraordinary wildlife and national parks of Uganda this time……
Murchison Falls National Park
Famous for: Boat and classic safari, waterfall, abundant wildlife.
Tucked away in the countryside of Uganda, Murchison is huge and teeming with wildlife! You can take a peek into the very famous and exotic Rabonga forest here. World’s longest river, The Nile flows through Murchison so it hardly comes as a surprise that these forests are truly alive….it is a Jungle party of sorts! You will find hippos, chimps and plenty of crocodiles to do shimmy with here. Within the National Park, there are some must-do activities that include boat cruise along the Nile. This cruise gives you priceless opportunity to get really close to bathing elephants, water buffaloes and lazying hippos. The boat cruises cross the top of Murchison’s falls and it is quite stunning!
There are special game drives through Savannah grasslands that will give you glimpses you thought only existed in those fancy movies! Towering tall giraffes, Chimps, honey badger, funny baboons, Warthogs……and sometimes if you are lucky, the King of the Jungle might come to say hello! Some tours also run bird watching sessions so if you are somebody who is a bird watcher, well go on and you are sure to catch a glimpse of the very rare shoebill stalk. The most incredible thing is when we were told about the shopping opportunity in the Jungle’s precinct. Yep! it seems the local Boomu Women’s group, a unique women collective initiative makes hand-made souvenirs here and you can pick these attractive and unique pieces at a great price.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Famous for: Boat and classic safari, abundant wildlife.
What makes Queen Elizabeth National Park different from others is the existence of volcanic craters here. This volcano lends a surreal beauty to the landscape and supports diverse life forms in this national park. Queen Elizabeth boasts of having the highest concentration of hippos in the world! And that is not all, this forest harbours Chimpanzees, antelopes, elephants and the King of the jungle too! Apart from the wildlife, it is the spectacular scenery of Queen Elizabeth National park that steals the heart of visitors here. Volcanic peaks, Ishasha river camp, dense foliage of African forests, endless Savannah grasslands and crater lakes make this forest more of a conglomeration of Jungles! This national park has loads to offer and is particularly suited to visitors who are traveling with families and kids. Like we mentioned earlier that lonely planet has recognized Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda as the ultimate wildlife destination for families. We surely agree!
Budongo Forest Reserve Forest
Famous for: Walks through the jungle, large chimp population, no chimp tracking, birding hot spot
If you are headed to Murchison from Capital City Kampala then you are sure to cross Budongo reserve on the way which is located on the North East Escarpment North East of Lake Albert. This forest used to have an extraordinary number of Mahogany trees, today the number has dwindled yet there is a lot to see here. For example- an 80 meters (260 ft) tall tree which has a circumference of 20 meters! Budongo is also home to a huge population of Chimpanzees and affords a rare opportunity of witnessing them in their natural habitat. To give you an idea of how rich Budongo’s flora and fauna is, let us throw some unbelievable figures at you- there are more than 360 bird species, 290 butterfly species, 130 moths, 465 trees, and 24 mammals, of which 9 are primates here!
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Famous for: Gorilla tracking and bird watching
The density of the forest in Bwindi need not be discussed as the name itself says impenetrable”! You would be surprised to know that nearly half the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It also holds the honor of being one of only three places in the world where travelers can see these endangered animals in the wild and also of being a UNESCO world heritage site. Visitors start their trek in the morning to spot and observe Gorilla families. On the way, you can enjoy the marvelous views of Virunga volcano and the Albertline rift.
Located in Southwestern Uganda, Bwindi covers 124 square miles (320 square kilometers) of plains and mountain forest famous for its biodiversity. Besides the iconic gentle giants, some 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds and 202 species of butterflies live amid 200 trees and 100 fern species. Bwindi is also known as the paradise for birdwatcher and stats say that spotting 150 species in a day is common here! You can also choose to interact with locals living in this area to understand more about them and their lifestyle.
Katonga Wildlife Reserve
Famous for: Canoe and walking safari, antelope species, elephants and buffalo
Located in the western part of Uganda, Katonga Wildlife reserve gets its name from the Katonga River, on whose banks this mighty reserve is situated. Fairly new forest reserve, Katonga was established in 1998 over approximately 211 square kilometers (81 sq miles). Katonga’s habitats are made up of wetlands and therefore most of the species you find here are quite unique and include Sitatunga, Reedbuck, Waterbuck, Warthog,Bushbuck, Colobus monkeys, elephants and Otters. There are over forty animal species and 150 bird species within the reserve. Exploring this reserve on foot is highly recommended and if you are an adventurer then take the river canoe. Visitors can camp inside this forest reserve as there are designated camping sites and also a restaurant in here.
Kibale Forest National Park
Famous for: Chimpanzee tracking and Leopard
Known for its humongous Chimpanzee population and lush green tropical forests, Kibale is one of the richest areas of biodiversity spread over 300 square miles,in all of Uganda. Kibale National Park and Queen Elizabeth National parks are adjacent to each other and so without any doubt they are are about the best expanses for Jungle safaris! Other animals in the area include elephants, buffalo, warthogs, bushbucks, leopards, Uganda Mangabey, red colobus monkey, L'Hoest's monkey, mongoose, and more than 375 species of birds.
The journey to Kibale is also absolutely fantastic with a drive over unpaved and asphalt road winding through the traditional Ugandan villages. It is a great way to take a sneak peek into a typical day in a Ugandan villager’s life! Tending to their crops that include millet, sorghum, beans, maize and going about their day. The landscape and views on the way are also stunning with lush greenery and verdant coffee plantations that you would encounter in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains as you approach fort Portal. Fort Portal is famous for weaving and basketry…..we are already thinking gifts and souvenirs.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Famous for: Classic safari, giraffe, cheetah, antelope species.
If you are a traveler who lusts after magnificent landscapes that are unique, precious and rare, then Kidepo is a National park you cannot afford to miss. When it comes to natural wonders playing in their glory, nothing comes close to Kidepo. Kidepo National Park is also named after a river called Kidepo. In fact, Kidepo and Narus rivers intersect each other inside this park. Kiddepo is famous for its rugged Savannah landscape with towering Mount Morungole which rise up to a mind blowing height of 2,750 metres (9020 feet)!
Lake Mburo National Park
Famous for: Boat, walking and classic safari, mainly antelope species, lions are present but rare
Lake Mburo National Park Lake is a place where serenity embraces beauty. En route to the park, one can have local experiences at the Igongo Cultural Centre and learn about the culture of the Western Uganda tribe. A trip to this national park is incomplete without taking a 2-hour boat ride that will take you along the wildlife-rich eastern banks. Lake Mburo is famous for harboring unique species and animals, some of whom you cannot find anywhere else in Uganda, namely Burchell’s Zebra. There are many leopard sightings along the lake too. The best thing about Lake Mburo is scant tourist rush because many Safaris bypass it for larger and more famous attractions. But the secret is that there is better chance of seeing different types of large mammal here than anywhere else. If some calm and me-time are what you are due for, then Mburo is a perfect place for you. Like other national parks, this one also indulges birds and the last count was 315 species! It is common to spot hippo, crocodiles, buffalo, waterbuck, and bushbuck and Otter species in the park. You will also get to see water birds such as African fish eagle, marabou stork, Narina trogon and very elusive African finfoot.
Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve
Famous for: Classic safari, chimp tracking, birding, large animals present but scarce.
At Semliki Wildlife reserve range one can indulge in Game drives, Guided walks, boat trips and Bird watching. The game drive is something every traveler in Uganda must experience. Game reserves are smaller than the usual national parks and they are built for additional protection to animals that live there. You can see free animals in their natural habitats without any worry about the human aggression which is the biggest threat to animal kingdoms across the world. You can get to see open plains with thriving wildlife that includes a variety of raptors and Abyssinian hornbill. Here in Semliki, you can also spend time admiring different kinds of tree species especially the rare leaf-love!
Famous for: Misty mountains, awesome treks and unique wildlife
The Rwenzori mountain chain is also known as the “Mountains of the Moon” and is famous for their ethereal beauty. Due to their lofty heights, most of the peaks are always resting in a white blanket of fog and mist. They are the highest mountain ranges in Africa and its highest peak is Margherita which touches 5109 meters (16,762 feet)! Anything higher and you will be at Mt. Kenya or Kilimanjaro! Contrary to popular belief, Rewenzori is not volcanic in origin even though it rises from rift valley floor. It goes without saying that unique geography enables Rewenzori to be a home to various bird species (177 of them) and mammals that are typical to mountains here. When in Uganda, make way to this trek because it is one of its kind and visually so stunning that you may not want to come back!
With a hearty tour to the heartland of Uganda, it is time to say bye but not before we tell you how to reach Uganda and important information on Tim, our African home-stay guy!
How to Reach
The nearest Airport to Capital City Kampala is Entebbe which is 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Kampala city. Airport shuttle and taxi services are available to drop you at Kampala. You can also ask your hotel to arrange this airport pick and drop though they may add a charge. Do not get intimidated by the fares that run into 5 digits because as soon as you exchange the local currency, you will find that USD 1 equals to over UGX 3500!
Meet Tim, one of the people offering Home-stay services In Uganda, he is a traveler and entrepreneur , after having traveled the world , he saw that most travelers wish to spend less during their trips more so on accommodation and that is why he came up with an idea of home-stay in his home country Uganda, to make it affordable for fellow travelers.
This is one of the most inexpensive and low budget accommodations for travellers but without compromising on hospitality, ambience and quality. Home-stay adds flavor to your trip by giving you a real local experience. Staying in a home with locals is the best way of discovering the soul of your destination during your adventure.
At $15 per night you enjoy accommodation at home Tim with Free airport pick up, and free transportation across the country, all you need to do is fuel up the car and just mention the destination!
Now tell us, Is Uganda just climbed up on that bucket list? It did for quite a few of us and we loved every bit of this fantabulous country! When we think of Africa, it always stops at Kenya or South Africa, but it is the lesser known like Uganda, where the true African experience awaits you!!
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