Gorillas, chimpanzees, birds, butterflies and some of the last untouched areas in the world - that's what safari in Uganda offers. But the lush rainforests and endless savannahs are also home to the famous Big 5.
Uganda is one of the last countries on our planet where there is still real, untouched rainforest. And in these lives a sensation: some of the last remaining mountain gorillas. But apart from the proud apes, safari in Uganda reveals quite other unique experiences, including the fall of the longest river in the world.
Tip: To make the safari a success, you should be clear in advance about the best time to travel, necessary equipment and prescribed rules of conduct. Which animals can be seen in which national parks can also be helpful for planning.
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Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda is the world's premier destination for gorilla trekking, as half of the world's mountain gorilla population has found a protected haven here. Almost all the rest of the critically endangered apes live in Vulcano National Park in Rwanda and the nearby Mgahinga Gorilla Park, also in Uganda. In the latter, however, only a few families still live.
Bwindi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can be reached from Kampala in 6-8 hours by car. Knowledgeable guides lead visitors into the dense Ugandan jungle, where they encounter the fascinating primates (often only after several hours of walking). They have accepted humans in their territories and willingly allow themselves to be observed in the wild - an absolutely unforgettable experience!
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Also at the foot of the free-standing volcanoes in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park - as the name suggests - the apes are the main attraction. In contrast to the Bwindi National Park, however, only a few families still live here and the chance of encountering them is much lower. On the other hand, the gorillas have accepted humans in their territory and tolerate their presence without fleeing or becoming aggressive.
Located about 15km south of Kisoro, the journey to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park from Kampala takes about 8 hours by car. Apart from the gorillas, there are also guenons, leopards, buffalos, forest elephants and about 80 different bird species living in the national park.
Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park is the first place to see chimpanzees in Uganda. Firstly, there are over 1000 chimpanzees here, living together in more than 10 groups, and secondly, many of them are equipped with a transmitter that tells the rangers on game drives where they are. Chimpanzee tracking in Kibale National Park is therefore crowned with success in the vast majority of cases.
Apart from the chimpanzees, 13 other primate species live in Kibale National Park, including various guenons, baboons and mongooses. The number of bird and butterfly species is also enormous! Lions, elephants and buffalos are also indigenous here, but are rarely seen.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Established in 1952, Queen Elizabeth National Park in the southwest of the country is Uganda's most biodiverse national park. With its lakes, savannahs, forests and wetlands, it offers a range of ecosystems populated by a variety of large mammals and primates. Accordingly, it is accessible by paved roads and excellently developed with camps and lodges.
With (the fascinating tree) lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant, almost all animals of the Big 5 are represented, except for the rhino, and chimpanzee tracking is also possible here. In addition, bushbuck, warthogs, hippos and numerous water birds live in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, which can best be spotted on the banks of the Kazinga Channel.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park in the north of the country is the largest game park in Uganda, covering an area of 3,900 square kilometers. Its inhabitants include many classic safari animals, including lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, antelopes, bushbucks, hippos and plenty of waterfowl.
Apart from the wildlife, Murchison Falls National Park holds a special attraction. Its namesake is a spectacular waterfall where the Nile, the longest river in the world, plunges almost 50 meters into the depths - right into the wide-open jaws of numerous crocodiles that make easy prey of the foaming waters.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park has a very special highlight to offer besides its exotic wildlife: There are no predators here that could be dangerous to humans. The few leopards are very shy of humans and hardly ever show their faces. Therefore, its acacia forests, lakes and swamp landscapes can be explored on foot or on horseback without any danger, in addition to excursions by boat.
On an unforgettable trek through the wilderness you will encounter eland, water buffalo, hippopotamus, zebra, impala, giraffe, crocodile, hyena, jackal, warthog, pelican, osprey and the curious shoebill.
The Budongo Forest is part of the Murchison Falls National Park, but should be mentioned here. Because apart from the classic safari animals, it is mainly known for two species: Chimpanzees and birds. Between the up to 80m high mahogany and ironwood trees and cavort several groups of the fascinating apes next to mute monkeys, guenons, baboons and over 350 different bird species.
Each of them has its own base in the Budongo Forest. In Kaniyo pabidi you can spend up to a whole day with the chimpanzees in their natural environment. Prices are also slightly lower than in the better known Kibale National Park. Busingiro, as part of the Royal Mile, is one of Uganda's best places for bird watching.
Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve
The small Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve in western Uganda was established in 1932 as Uganda's first wildlife sanctuary. It is located north of the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park and attracts mainly amateur ornithologists. The number of bird species is enormous, with over 400. Some of them are endemic, i.e. do not occur anywhere else in the world.
With its spectacular location between the Albertine Rift Valley, the Blue Mountains of DR Congo and the Ruwenzori Mountains to the southwest, the scenery of Toro Semliki Game Reserve is nothing to sneeze at either! Chimpanzee tracking is also possible here and the more than 300 species of butterflies often cover the savannah with colorful fluttering carpets.
Kidepo Valley National Park
The wild and remote Kidepo Valley in the Uganda/Sudan/Kenya triangle rewards adventure-loving safari tourists with some species of animals not seen anywhere else in Uganda, for example the cheetah, jackal and some of the 20 or so antelope species. Lions, leopards, elephants, zebras, giraffes, rhinos and buffalos (and thus the Big 5) are also present in Kidepo Valley Park.
The scenery is also spectacular and ranges from rugged mountain massifs to acacia-covered savannah. Tourism has hardly found its way here yet, and so you can still find real African outback without asphalt roads or artificial light in the Kidepo Valley. Accordingly, two of the most isolated tribes of the country, the Ik and the Karamojong, have retreated here - which can also be visited exclusively in the company of rangers.
Katonga Wildlife Reserve
Although "only" 5-6 hours by car from Kampala, Katonga Wildlife Reserve is hardly visited by tourists. Perhaps because there are hardly any classic safari animals to be seen here, but mainly birds, monkeys, hippos and antelopes, including the extremely rare Sitatunga antelope. On the other hand, the Katonga Wildlife Reserve can be explored on foot without any danger - there are no tracks and certainly no roads in the rainforests, savannahs and swamps.