National Parks in Uganda

Game Parks in Uganda

2. Mount Elgon National Park

Sipi Falls in Mount Elgon National Park. National Parks and Reserves in Uganda. Image courtesy of Robert Harding

On the eastern border of Uganda – with Kenya – rises the 14,000 feet Mount Elgon, a vast extinct volcano with a base of 80 kms across. The Ugandan part of the park covers 1,110 km2 while the Kenyan part covers 169 km2. The Kenyan part of the park was gazetted in 1968, the Ugandan part in 1992. In Kenya, all the forests and the mountain section above 8,000 feet contour is protected. If the Mbale Route is used to hike Mount Elgon on the western side, in Uganda, hikers take the Soroti Road to Budadiri and the usual launching point. Climbers wishing to use Uganda or the Mbale route should contact the Mountain Club of Uganda, for latest information on the condition of the huts, porters and for hut booking. From Bumagabula a path leads in 5-6 hours to the Uganda Mountain Club Hut, Sasa Hut. From here it is a further 5-6 hours to Wagagai, the highest summit. The alternative route up Mount Elgon on the Uganda side is through Bukalisi – about 34 kms south of Budadiri. From here it is a poor steep road via the Sasa River Trail to Bumasola, almost 6 kms away. This travels over a rough underfoot. It is possible to drive to the southern edge of Bumasola and launch from there. From here the trail goes past “Wall of Death” and “Mudange Cliff” to Sasa River Camp, 5-6 hours away. The next morning the path is followed up the valley to the Mude Cave Camp passing the Jackson Springs and Jackson’s Summit and into a small valley with tarns and amazing pine flora, and Wagagai.

Spatial Location of Mount Elgon National Park in western Uganda
Spatial Location of Mount Elgon National Park in western Uganda

3. Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park

As Uganda gathers up all its streams to originate River Nile, first through Lake Victoria – Africa’s largest and at 68,800 km2 almost the size Ireland – it forges the interconvertible river of Africa, in places 100m wide of rushing water with deadly rapids, that makes a brief stop at Lake Albert 99 km north of Murchison. And when the Nile reaches the Murchison Falls 370 kms north of Lake Victoria, it creates one of the most astounding and remarkable waterfalls on planet earth. The 50m river is squeezed through a 7 m kazaam, creating the most powerful waterfalls on the planet. Kabalega or Kabarega in the local dialect, it tumbles 43 m in series of three cascades, at a rate of 300,000 litres a second. Unimaginably wild and loud, creating a breathtaking spectacle and spreading sprinkles of rain when seen from the top of the fall, it is traditionally viewed via a boat ride. It is a wonder of Africa best seen to be believed. A superb genuflect and a gateway to a wild world ahead on the long stretch across the desert to the Mediterranean. Originally gazetted as the Bunyoro and Gulu Wildlife Reserve in 1926 and re-established in 1952 as Murchison Falls National Park, it is Uganda’s oldest and largest National Park. Most travellers reach it by way of a 282 kms drive north from Kampala where the park road branches off from the main Kampala-Gulu road, many making Masindi Hotel boasting of a nine-golf course the jumping-off place. It is further further 86 kms from Masindi Hotel to the parks entrance.

4. Toro Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve

Toro Semuliki Valley Wildlife Reserve. Image courtesy of Habari Uganda Tours

At the southern end of Lake Albert, north of Queen Elizabeth National Park, sits the 542 km2 Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. This is an expanse of rolling plains, swampland, steep forested slopes, wooded rivers and an exceptional display of wildlife. The fact that the Reserve lies between the Rwenzori Mountain, Kijura Escarpment and Lake Albert, on the floor of a dramatic valley, should suggest that the landscape is as exceptional in sights as it is in ecological diversity. “The dominant vegetation type is the open acacia-combretum woodland and grassy savannah, interspersed with patches of Borassus palm forest, significant belts of riparian woodland along the main watercourses as well as an extensive swamps towards Lake Albert” – UWA. The variety of wildlife at Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve is considerable, and some unusual animals can be seen, including the pygmy elephant – the forest elephant of Congo. There are abounding numbers of the Ugandan kob as well as lion, hippo, giant forest hog, leopard and a large variety of buck and monkeys. The bird life is exceptional too, harbouring almost 440 bird species like Red-necked falcon, Black-billed Barbet and the turkey like Abyssinian Ground-hornbill. The rare Shoebill, humorously known as the most terrifying bird – a title arising from its enormous prehistoric shoe-shaped bill – can be sighted in the marshes of Lake Albert. With only an estimated 200 left in the wilds of Uganda, this endangered large stork-like bird standing about 4 feet tall clad in gray with broad wings and long legs, makes its home in the marshes about Lake Albert. Using Kampala as the starting off place, it’s about 290 km to Mubende via Fort Portal. Follow the route to Semuliki National Park from Fort Portal for the first 28 km before turning right at Karugutu trading centre. The reserve boundary is 3 km further on and the turn off to Semliki Safari Lodge is 26 km further, just beyond the bridge over the River Wasa. Branch to the right 3 km to the Lodge. Lake Albert is further on 25 km ahead at the Ntoroko village.