UGANDA’S NATIONAL PARKS

 UGANDA’S NATIONAL PARKS

Ugandaoffers a wildlife experience that is totally un spoilt by overdevelopment and commercialisation. The country realises that, while its natural beauty can be turned to its economic advantage, great care must be taken to ensure this priceless asset is fully protected from exploitation.Ugandahas 10 National Parks, enabling discerning visitors to enjoy fully the pristine wilderness environment.

BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK

This intriguingly-named park in South-Western Uganda offers visitors the African jungle experience often depicted in classic movies set in the “dark continent”. It is so called because the dense ground cover of vines and shrubs makes it both mysterious and awesome. Huge trees are festooned with creepers and parasitic plants such as mistletoe and orchids while the vegetation struggles to reach for the light above the canopy. Giant thickets of bamboo thrive in the humid atmosphere and, where the sunlight breaks through, the elegant heliconia or lobster claw, spreads its colourful petals. This is one of the richest areas for flora inEastern Africa.

The forest is sanctuary for almost half the world’s population of mountain gorillas (between 330 and 600 of them), the rarest type of gorillas. Gorilla tracking is very strictly controlled to ensure no disturbance to the gorilla families, and only a very limited number of visitors is allowed on one day. It is advisable to make reservations at least three months in advance. Colobus monkeys and chimpanzees may be seen as well as many bird types including endangered species.

KIBALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK

The drama of life in a rainforest can be observed in this National Park, situated to the North-East of theQueenElizabethNational Park. In addition to forest, there are also areas of grassland and swamp. The park is noted for its primate population-11 different species inhabit the park including many families of chimpanzees and several types of colobus monkeys. Bushbuck, waterbuck, Duicker, buffalo, African civet, warthog, and giant forest hog may also be seen. The forests and the grasslands support abundant bird life-almost 300 species have been identified- and 144 types of butterfly.

KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

The scenery in this park, a spectacular mixture of mountains and savannah, is said to be unsurpassed by any other in the whole ofEast Africa. Remote and tranquil, and covering 1,344 sq. km., it is inhabited by a rich array of wildlife, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, various antelope species, baboon, bushbaby and over 200 species of bird. On the park’s Northern borders are the kananorokHot Springs.

LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK 

Situated between the towns of Masaka and Mbarara, this comparatively small park (256 sq. km.) is composed primarily of grassland, wetland and acacia woodland. At the center lies LakeMburo, which together with 14 other lakes, forms part of an extensive wetland area. Huge herds of impala live on the acacia-dotted savannah as well as the eland, Kipspringer plus other antelope such as the rare Topi and Sitatunga
Zebra and buffalo also graze her, while leopard are amongst the predators. Crocodile and hippo can be seen on the shores of the lake, which attracts a profusion of bird life including the marabou stork and the crested crane.

MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK

This is another refuge inUgandafor the endangered mountain gorilla. On the slopes of theVirungaMountains, in the extreme south west corner ofUganda, 33.7 sq. km. of land has been set aside to provide a secure habitat for these massive, but gentle creatures. Again access is strictly limited. Leopard, giant forest hog, bushback, buffalo and golden monkey are other residents in this park. The summit of the volcanicMountMuhaburahas a small crater lake and forms the highest point (4,127m) in the Park.

MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK

This is the largest National Park in Uganda-covering 3,480 sq. km- and one of the most spectacular inAfrica. At theMurchisonFalls, the River Nile plunges through a narrow crevice and over a 40 meter drop. In the eastern sector of the park, before theMurchisonFallsthemselves, are theKarumaFalls, where the Nile cascades over a breathtaking 23 km of rapids, creating some of the most exciting white-water rafting opportunities inAfrica.  A cruise upstream to the Falls is an unforgettable experience. On the banks prolific wildlife, including elephant, lion, giraffe buffalo, crocodile and countless antelope and birds can be observed, while in the water are hippo and crocodile. TheRabongoForest, to the south, is home to several families of chimpanzees.

MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK

OnUganda’s eastern border withKenyais an extinct volcano, Mt Elgon, which, at 4,321 meters, is one of the highest mountains inAfrica. It is possible to climb to the peak in as little as three days, on less strenuous ascent than other peaks inEast Africa. On the wooded slopes, caves, gorges, waterfalls andhot springsare features of the most stunning scenery inUganda. Birdlife is particularly abundant. Elephant, leopard, hyena, buffalo, bushbuck, waterbuck, duiker and tree hydrax may also be encountered.

QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

This is one of the outstanding treasures ofUgandaand has been designated a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO auspices. The park, in the western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley, covers 1,978 sq. km and includes a remarkable variety of eco-systems, from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows, savannah and swamps. It is the home of the famous tree-climbing lion as well as theUgandakob, other antelope species, elephant, buffalo, hippos, baboons and chimpanzees. Over 500 species of bird have been recorded, making it a magnet for bird-watchers. They include the shoebill stork, the black bee-eater, 11 types of kingfisher, and several species of falcons, eagles and other raptors. In the crater lakes to the north, spectacular flocks of flamingos congregate, creating the impression of a vast, pink carpet. The launch trip along the Kazinga Channel between Lakes George and Edward is a memorable way to view the game.

SEMLIKI VALLEY NATIONAL PARK

This is the only park inUgandato be composed primarily of tropical lowland forest. The forest is very dense and quite flat, creating a startling contrast to the ruggedRwenzoriMountainsnearby. TheSemlikiRiverattracts many animals. The park is home to eight species of primate, 400 bird and 300 butterfly species. Elephant, buffalo, leopard, civet, bushbaby and flying squirrels are also found.

RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

The mist-shrouded peaks of Mountains of the Moon provide a stunning backdrop to this magnificent park, located onUganda’s western border. In the center of the range, some of the peaks are permanently covered in snow and glaciers, while the lower slopes are covered with dense forests. Here the third highest peak inAfrica, Mt Magherita, rises some 5,100m above sea level. Walking tours in the foothills are a feature, although only the fit and experienced should attempt an ascent on the peaks that rival theAlpsin difficulty. The main attraction is the luxuriant vegetation found above 3,000m which includes giant forms of lobelia, heather and groundsel. Chimpanzees may be seen here along with blue monkey, hyrax, giant forest hog and many unique bird species such as the Rwenzori touraco, the francolin and the olive pigeon.

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