5 Best National Parks in Uganda to Visit for the First Time
Also known as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is a stunning country rich in natural and cultural treasures. Because of its location near the Equator, the country enjoys a pleasant environment that encourages the growth of a diverse range of flora and wildlife, attracting many tourists throughout the year.
When you visit any of Uganda’s national parks, you will have a unique experience, as they are all unique. With approximately ten national parks, some contain scarce animal species, such as mountain gorillas, and others have fascinating histories that you will learn about from knowledgeable tour guides.
Planning a trip to a new place for the first time may be exhilarating and challenging. It’s natural to feel nervous when you don’t know what to expect, what to bring, or even where to begin your visit. However, exploring fascinating areas in Africa is fun, especially if you have the right pointers.
Are you considering going on your first safari in Uganda? It would be best to pack your bags as soon as possible because the beauty that greets you here is something to behold. Below is a list of the 5 best national parks in Uganda to visit for the first time.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a national park in southwestern Uganda, bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park is recognized for the endangered mountain gorillas and other primates in the area, offering fantastic gorilla trips. The park covers 321 square kilometers and is part of the Virunga Mountains, which Rwanda and Congo share.
The word ‘Bwindi’ means ‘impenetrable,’ which is appropriate given the area’s dense undergrowth, making travel challenging. The inside of the forest is darker due to the compacted tree canopies, which block adequate light rays from reaching the ground.
However, the forest’s conditions have created an ideal setting for gorillas to thrive. Since its inception, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park can be visited at any time of year; however, the dry season is the best time to go.
The gorillas are the park’s major attraction. The park offers a gorilla trekking experience, which allows you to see the famous mountain gorillas in their native habitat, the Bwindi forest. However, trekking permits must be reserved in advance through the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s Kampala office.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is also a great place to go birding. The woodland is home to 300 bird species, including African green broadbills and black-billed turacos.
Walking safaris are very popular in the area. On Matunda Lake, enjoy fantastic guided nature hikes and even canoe trips.
Finally, a trip to Bwindi isn’t complete without learning about the endangered Batwa pygmy community and their traditional way of living in the forest.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is another amazing and unique game reserve that you must see on your first trip to Uganda. The national park is near the Mbarara dry corridor, west of Lake Victoria, in Uganda’s southwestern region. With around 260 square kilometers, Lake Mburo National Park is one of Uganda’s smallest national parks.
Lake Mburo Park is a savannah national park with a diverse range of wildlife. Nearly 350 bird species and zebras, giraffes, impalas, elands, buffalo hyenas, hippos, leopards, and other animals can be seen. The park is much safer for adventurous walks through the savannah because it has a low predator population.
The park is open all year; however, from June to August and from December to February, the dry season is the best to view wildlife as animals gather around the lake and other water sources.
Being a savannah land, Lake Mburo is the best place in Uganda to see the vast eland antelope and hundreds of zebras.
Enjoy wildlife drives, particularly at night, when you have a good chance of seeing leopards.
Guided walking safaris is another activity you can enjoy in Lake Mburo national park.
A houseback safari (mostly handled by Mihingo resort) is also an option for getting up and personal with the zebras.
Murchison Falls National Park
Located in the northern region of the Albertine rift Valley and North of Kampala and Entebbe. Murchison Falls National Park is the largest park in Uganda, covering 3,800 square kilometers. The name is derived from its top attraction: The Murchison Falls.
The falls are formed when the Nile River pushes through a tight gorge before crashing down with a thunderous roar. The mist from the falls combines with the sunlight to create stunning, breathtaking rainbows. However, the park is not all about the waterfall. Being one of Africa’s largest wildlife conservation sites, Murchison Falls National Park has the largest number of Rothschild Giraffes in East Africa.
And because of its closeness to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, it is possible to spot all the big five mammals. Game safaris in the park are generally good in the dry season, from December to February. On the other hand, the scenery is more beautiful during the wet season, from June to November.
Enjoy game drives, especially in the northern section of the park, and get a chance to spot large herds of elephants, buffalo, giraffes, and lions.
One can also enjoy a boat safari at the bottom of the falls.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s most visited tourist destinations. Located within the rift valley floor, surrounded by lakes and breathtaking wildernesses, this park is popular for having the richest biodiversity in Africa.
Unlike Murchison falls National, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Does not have the river Nile run through it. Instead, it is the Equator that runs through the park. The park is home to elephants, tree-climbing lions, hippos, buffaloes, leopards, antelopes, and over 600 bird species.
Additionally, the park is relatively green throughout the year, and tourists are assured of great photos and beautiful scenery. Queen Elizabeth is also close to Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Kibale, which means there is a chance of spotting chimpanzees while on your safari.
Game drives around Mweya and the northern circuit and southwest in the remote Ishasha plans, which are famous for the tree-climbing lions.
Boat safaris on the Kazinga channel take you to one of the best birding sites in Africa.
Spot chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge. And also flamingos in the dozens of crater lakes found in the area.
Kibale National Park
Kibale National Park is known as the primates’ capital of the world and is the best place to track chimpanzees in Africa. With over 13 species of primates, the park is estimated to have over 1500 chimpanzees.
Unlike mountain gorillas that tend to feed in one area at a time, chimpanzees wander a lot. Their mobility makes it difficult to guarantee their sighting on a particular day in most of the other parks where they are found. But that is not usually the case here. The primates are so widely spread that the chances of seeing them are quite big.
The park is also a popular destination for birds, with over 335 bird species in the area. The Kibale –fort Portal area is one of the best regions to visit; the area is home to primates, birds, butterflies, and the rarely seen forest elephants, buffaloes, and leopards. The best time to visit Kibale national park is during the dry season, around January- February or June- September.
Kibale National park’s main attraction is chimps. Chimpanzee trekking is one of the main activities that you will enjoy in the area. Additionally, you will have to acquire a permit from the Uganda wildlife authorities, which our experts can help you with.
Besides spotting chimps, one can see other animals such as monkeys, forest elephants, and antelopes.
Bird sighting is also another popular activity enjoyed in the area. In a guided walk through the Bigodi wetland Sanctuary, you can spot as many varieties of birds as you can count.
Carter lake tours and community visits are also other activities to enjoy.
When visiting Uganda for the first time, you want to take advantage of everything it offers in the short time you have there. Although it may be impossible to enjoy all of the incredible things and fascinating animals all at once, our team of professionals is always ready to create an itinerary that will make the most of your visit. Reach out today to start planning for a safari in Uganda.