What Makes Each National Park in Uganda Unique? What Is Special About Uganda National Parks
Wondering what makes each National Park in Uganda unique?, we have put for you what is special about all the Uganda National Parks, leading to the everlasting popularity of Uganda safaris that constantly becoming top Africa safari tour options by most travelers, because of the uniqueness in this country filled with diversity that saw it gain the slogan the Pearl of Africa.
If you would like to choose which park to visit on your Uganda tour and are not sure of what you will see, here is a guide on what makes each Uganda safari park unique from the other, to help you when making your choice of which one to visit.
You cannot find the diversity of the Uganda National Parks in many other places on your Africa safari. Rain Forests, Rivers, Lakes, Wetlands, Woodlands, Mountains, Valleys, and savannah plains all make up the National Parks of Uganda. Each Park is unique and remarkable in its own way – offering something special that is not found in the other. It could be the animals, terrain, vegetation, or an experience to do!
Uganda’s safari parks are not only places where you can enjoy wildlife safaris in Uganda but have the best facilities including lodges, camps, and other accommodation. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) oversees all the 10 national parks of Uganda. UWA gives 20% of all park revenues to communities that border the parks to develop facilities such as schools, hospitals, water infrastructure, and roads.
And any money spent on Uganda wildlife safaris or any other things you can do in Uganda – safari activities in Uganda Parks are also helping to improve the quality of life and establish a more stable equilibrium between humans and wildlife. If you’re planning to explore Uganda National Parks on your safaris in Uganda, here is what makes each Uganda National Park unique:
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
What Makes Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Unique?
Bwindi National Park is located in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Great East African Rift Valley. The park is about a 500km (8-9 hours) drive from Kampala city, the capital of Uganda. Just 321km2 in size, Bwindi is a truly special Uganda safari destination – here’s why!
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park was established in 1991 and because of its outstanding natural beauty and exceptional biodiversity, it was declared a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 1994. The park is where half the world’s 1063 endangered Mountain Gorillas live. Other Mountain gorillas live in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park, and Virunga National Park in Congo.
Thousands of travelers on Africa gorilla safaris visit this Uganda gorilla safari park each year for a life-changing gorilla trekking experience to see Gorillas in their natural habitat. Gorillas in Bwindi live in families and share very similar social behavior patterns to humans. The one main difference is their weight – a large Silverback can weigh up to 220 kilograms. Bwindi is also the only gorilla safari park where you can participate Gorilla Habituation Experience. You can undertake a Rwanda gorilla safari or a Congo gorilla safari but you cannot take part in the thrilling habituation experience.
Beyond the gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (the best Uganda gorilla safaris destination) is full of other Uganda wild animals. In fact, it is one of the richest ecosystems in Africa, with 120 species of mammals, 351 species of birds in Uganda including 23 Albertine Rift endemics, 200 tree species, over 1000 species of flowering plants, 100 species of ferns, 310 butterfly species, 88 species of moths, 51 reptile species, and 27 frogs, geckos, and chameleons.
The humans of Bwindi National Park are also unique! The indigenous Batwa people were exiled from this ancient forest when it was designated a national park. They now live in an adjacent community from which they lead Uganda safari tours that teach visitors about their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, as well as share traditional music and dance.
Still, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park remains best known for:-
- Gorilla trekking in Uganda
- Gorilla habituation Experience
- Incredible conservation efforts have seen gorilla numbers increasing.
- Superb bird-watching in Uganda
2. Kibale National Park
What Makes Kibale National Park Special?
Kibale National Park is situated in western Uganda, about 326km/6 hours’ drive from Kampala.
A medium-sized park (766km2), Kibale Forest has several special qualities that make it a unique Uganda safari destination. It is a place where lowland and montane rainforests meet.
The park is most remarkable for its primates. It has the highest diversity and density of primates in any natural habitat in Africa – a record 13 primate species including, Chimpanzee (our closest cousin), red Colobus, Black-And-White Colobus, Potto, Blue Monkey, Red-tailed Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, Olive Baboons, Potto, Bushbaby, and the rare L’Hoest’s Monkey.
Kibale is the best African safari destination for chimpanzee tracking on foot, with over 1500 chimps. The key difference between Chimp trekking in Uganda Kibale Forest and other African chimpanzee tracking destinations like Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda and Tanzania’s Mahale Mountains and Gombe National Parks lies in the success rate. Kibale boasts a 95% success rate of finding wild chimps.
Kibale is also home to a prolific 375 Uganda bird species including 4 that have not been recorded in any other park in Uganda! Not surprisingly, the two key Uganda safari activities in Kibale National Park are:-
- Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda, and
- Uganda bird watching tours
You can also take a unique night walk to see nocturnal creatures in the forest.
3. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
What Makes Mgahinga National Park Special?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in south-western Uganda, about 510km (9 hours) drive from Kampala. Mgahinga is the smallest Uganda National Park, but one of the most spectacular. The 33.7km2 park is situated amid magnificent Virunga Volcanoes at the confluence of the Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo (DRC) borders.
It’s part of the much larger and extremely important Virunga Conservation Area, which includes Virunga National Park, where gorilla trekking in Congo is done, and Volcanoes National Park, where gorilla trekking in Rwanda is done. The most notable resident animals of this Uganda gorilla trekking safari destination are, of course, the Mountain Gorillas.
The small park is proud to host the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family. An interesting feature of this Uganda gorilla family is that its Silverbacks are unusually tolerant of each other, and as a result, there 3 giant Silverbacks (adult male gorillas) in the family.
Also, the world’s only Golden Monkeys can be found in the bamboo forests of the Virunga Mountains. And Mgahinga is the only place to go golden monkey tracking in Uganda. Another striking feature that sets this small protected area apart from other Uganda National Parks is its 3 extinct volcanic cones:
- Mt Sabinyo at 3,645m
- Mt Gahinga at 3,474m
- Mt Muhavura at 4,127m
Hiking to all three peaks offers you panoramic views of the Rwenzori Mountains, Queen Elizabeth Park, and the neighboring Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. At the summit of Mt Sabinyo, you can curiously stand in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo at the same time!
Mgahinga is also part of the ancestral territory of the Batwa. The Batwa Trail in Mgahinga is much more interesting than the Batwa visit in Bwindi. Here, the Batwa guides lead within the forest as you learn about their ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
4. Queen Elizabeth National Park
What Makes Queen Elizabeth National Park Unique?
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second-largest and most popular Uganda wildlife safari park. The park is located in south-western Uganda, about 400km/7 hours’ drive from Kampala. Here are some of its special qualities:
Queen Elizabeth Park’s 1,978km2 was first gazetted in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, but its name was changed two years later in honor of a visit by Queen Elizabeth II of England.
It is the only Uganda National Park crossed by the Equator.
However, the park’s popularity is principally due to its breathtaking scenery and biodiversity. Spread across the Albertine Rift Valley floor, it offers savannah grassland, tropical forests, acacia woodlands, saline crater lakes, freshwater lakes, rivers, and wetlands within its borders.
These incredible habitats provide a haven to 611 species of birds in Uganda (the largest checklist of any protected area in East Africa) and 95 species of mammals including over 5000 hippos, four of the Big Five, and Chimpanzees. It is one of the best places for birding watching in the world and almost features all Uganda birding tour packages.
Queen is also famous for hosting rare tree-climbing lions, a specialty of the Ishasha sector of the park, where they can often be found resting in ancient fig trees. The park’s Kazinga Channel is home to Africa’s largest concentration of hippos! In fact, the Kazinga Channel boat cruise is one of the top highlights of Uganda safaris to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
5. Murchison Falls National Park
What Makes Murchison Falls National Park Unique?
The park is situated in northwestern Uganda about 311km (5-6 hours) drive from Kampala. Its sprawling 3,840km2 makes it the largest Uganda National Park. It is also the oldest, originally established in 1952. Murchison Falls National Park is, however, unique as a home for the world’s most powerful waterfall, where the longest river in the world, the Nile bursts through an 8-meter rocky gap and then plunges 45 meters into the Devils’ Cauldron, as it is known.
This Uganda wildlife safari park is also the best place in Uganda to look for classic big game species such as elephants, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, and Hippo. The world’s largest population of Rothschild’s giraffes and Uganda’s densest concentration of Nile crocodiles is also here. Rhinos are missing but can
be spotted in a nearby special protected Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
Murchison is remarkable for exceptional birdlife. It is a great destination for birding in Uganda with nearly 500 species of birds including the rare pre-historic shoebills. Game drives are a customary means of scouting for wildlife. You can also take a Nile River boat cruise to spot Nile crocodiles, hippos, and shoebills. Don’t forget a visit to the top of the falls.
6. Kidepo Valley National Park
What Makes Kidepo National Park Special?
Wild and wonderful Kidepo Valley National Park is located in the remote northeastern corner of Uganda, about 520 kilometers/740km or 12/10hours’ drive from Kampala. There are plenty of things that make Kidepo National Park unique.
It is the most remote of all national parks in Uganda. The park’s scenery ranks among Africa’s finest wilderness and is unsurpassed by any other Uganda safari park. Because of its remote location, the park is also less visited than other Uganda wildlife safari parks. So it has remained untouched and absolutely worth visiting. Its location in a semi-arid region, makes Kidepo’s landscape very different compared to other areas of the country, offering dry and vast savannahs next to gorgeous mountains.
Kidepo also has a rich variety of Uganda wildlife. It’s home to 475 species of birds and 77 Uganda mammal species including many that are found nowhere else in Uganda such as Cheetah, Bat-eared fox, Black-backed jackal, Aardwolf, Caracal, Greater Kudu, Lesser Kudu, and Mountain reedbuck. It is also home to all three African Big Cats – Lion, Cheetah, and Leopard. Finally, this area is also the ancestral lands of the ethnic Karamojongs and Ik People. If you visit, you’ll have an authentic
cultural experience that you’ll not get anywhere else in Africa let alone Uganda.
7. Lake Mburo National Park
What Makes Lake Mburo National Park Unique?
Lake Mburo National Park is the closest park to Uganda’s capital city. The park is located about 240km/3-4 hours’ drive from Kampala. It is situated in a strategic area on the main highway leading to the major Uganda National Parks of western Uganda like Bwindi, Kibale, Mgahinga, and Queen Elizabeth.
Travelers coming back from their Uganda safaris in Bwindi and Queen usually make a stopover for a day before proceeding to Entebbe international airport for departure.
Covering just 370km2, Mburo is home to 5 lakes, wetlands, and extensive acacia woodlands. Once a controlled hunting area and then a game reserve, it became Uganda’s smallest savannah national park in 1983. It is now the protected home of 350 birds of Uganda species hence a serious Uganda birding safari sport and 68 animal of Uganda species.
Unique to Lake Mburo Park is the availability of horseback safaris, cycling tours, game walks, and
amazing night game drives in the park which allows for closer viewing and exceptional photographs of the abundant plains game.
It is also the only Uganda safari park where you can see Impala and has the largest population of Zebras. Other animals in Lake Mburo National Park include Common Eland, Giraffe, Topi, Oribi, Reedbuck,
Warthog, Hyaena, Leopard, and the mighty Buffalo. There are also boat cruises on Lake Mburo and exceptional cultural experiences with local Banyankole people.
8. Rwenzori Mountains National Park
What Makes Rwenzori Mountains National Park Unique?
Rwenzori Mountains National Park was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its incredible natural beauty and mountain flora biodiversity (the greatest in Africa).
Its 996km2 in western Uganda is flush against the border with DR Congo and serves as a stunning backdrop to Queen Elizabeth Park. Rwenzori has the highest mountain range in Africa. Its highest point lies at 5109m above sea level on Mt Stanley’s Margherita Peak which is the third highest in Africa. It lies astride the equator with six peaks and three of these i.e. Mt Stanley, Mt Baker, and Mt Speke are permanently covered with snow!
Rwenzori is also the legendary ‘Mountains of the Moon’ described by the ancient Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150. Locally known as Ruwenzori Mountains, is translated as “rainmaker” or “cloud-king.” They are not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but are a block of rock faulted through the floor of the western Rift valley.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a world-class destination for hiking safaris in Uganda. The hike moves 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 endemic birds. You will also find the discovery of Bakonzo culture through village walks to be just as captivating.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park covers 998km 2 along Congo -Uganda border with spectacular vegetation including the beautiful huge tree-heathers and multi-dotted mosses. This non-volcanic mountain has irresistible ice-capped peaks. These are the highest Mountain ranges in East Africa and offer the best hiking experiences. The backdrop is scenic with several Albertine rift endemic species that can be sighted.
9. Mount Elgon National Park
What Makes Mount Elgon National Park Unique?
Mount Elgon National Park is located about 235km/4-5 hours’ drive east of Kampala.
The unique and dominant feature of Mount Elgon National Park is, of course, Mount Elgon itself, the massively eroded remains of an extinct shield volcano that was once Africa’s tallest mountain.
At 4,321 meters, it is now the eighth tallest in Africa, with a base that is still the largest in the world. This 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.
Located in eastern Uganda on the border with Kenya, Mount Elgon National Park’s 1,279 square kilometers fall across both countries, though most (1,121 square kilometers) are in Uganda.
It is home to a variety of Uganda animals and 300-plus bird species. Visitors to the park look to explore the park’s waterfalls, gorges, hot springs within the caldera, explorable caves, and, especially, the mountain peaks on a 4-5 days hike. You can also tour Arabica coffee plantations.
10. Semuliki National Park
What Makes Semuliki National Park Unique?
Semuliki National Park is unique from other Uganda National Park because it possesses many features that are more common in Central Africa.
In fact, if you need a taste of Central Africa without leaving Uganda, visit Semuliki. This park sits in a wide, flat valley to the west of the Rwenzori Mountains, right along the border with the Congo (DRC). Geologically, this is the eastern edge of the Congo Basin’s vast and ancient Ituri Forest, which is notable for its biodiversity.
The bird is remarkable for its variety of unique bird species. It is home to over 440 species of birds in Uganda with almost 50 Guinea-Congo biome species that are found nowhere else in East Africa! Visitors can take Uganda birdwatching tours here while hiking the 13km Kirumia Trail.
The park is also home to 53 types of mammals and is one of the few African forests to have survived the last Ice Age. Semuliki National Park‘s 220 square kilometers include a true lowland tropical forest (the only one in East Africa). You can also check out the well-known Sempaya Hot Springs, which are so hot – they can hard boil an egg in 10 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions About Uganda National Parks
How Many National Parks In Uganda?
Uganda has 10 National Parks including Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Kibale National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Semuliki National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
What Is The Biggest Park In Uganda?
MFNP is Uganda’s largest national park. It measures approximately 3,893 square kilometers (1,503 square miles). The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from east to west for a distance of about 115 kilometers (71 mi).
What Is The Second Largest National Park In Uganda?
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second-largest national park in Uganda covering an area of 1978 square kilometers. It is located about 400 km (6-7 hours) drive southwest of Kampala. The park is home to over 95 species of mammals and 611 bird species.
Which Is The Smallest Game Park In Uganda?
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest park in Uganda covering an area of 33.7km2. It is located in the southwestern tip of Uganda in the Kisoro district. The park adjoins Rwanda’s volcano and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national parks and is part of the Virunga conservation area.
Uganda, after decades of hardship under politically oppressive regimes, is finally coming back into its own and trying to right many wrongs. As one of the core sectors driving the country’s socio-economic transformation, tourism plays a big part in that.
With this in mind, remember that the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), which oversees National Parks in Uganda, gives 20% of all park revenues to communities that border the game parks in Uganda to develop facilities such as schools, hospitals, water infrastructure, and roads.
And any money spent on wildlife safaris in Uganda National Parks is also helping to improve the quality of life and establish a more stable equilibrium between humans and wildlife. Finally, don’t forget the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary near Murchison Falls National Park. It is the only place where you can go rhino tracking in Uganda and the wild southern white rhinos on foot.
For more information about Uganda safaris in the national parks of Uganda, feel free to contact us on email and phone.