Welcome to Uganda
Welcome to the Pearl of Africa. This expression “Pearl of Africa” was coined by none other than the famous Sir Winston Churchill. It is also described as the Switzerland of Africa being on the equatorial band there is no shortage of water to make this country lush and fertile. Probably one of the most awesome entrances to any country must be the landing at Entebbe International airport. As the jets slowly losses speed over the mighty inland lake named after the British Queen Victoria, one is met with the equatorial splendour of thickly vegetated islands dotting this magical inland sea. Uganda is the spot where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle.
The largest national park in the country is Murchison Falls National Park, whose palm-studded grassland supports dense populations of lion, buffalo, elephant and the endemic Uganda kob, this together with the localized Rothschild’s giraffe and patas monkey make it a must do thing on a trip to Uganda. Immense concentrations of hippos and birds can be observed from morning and afternoon launch trips along the Nile below the spectacular waterfall for which the park is named.
Mgahinga National Park
Mountain gorillas are the main attraction at Mgahinga National Park, which protects the Ugandan portion of the Virungas, an imposing string of nine freestanding extinct and active volcanoes that runs along the border with Rwanda and the Congo. Ranked one of the smallest national parks in the world it boasts 9 species of primate and has forest and mountain elephants to add to its impressive portfolio of viewing options.
The remote Semliki National Park is formed by the extension of the Congo’s Ituri Rainforest at the base of the northern Rwenzori, is of special interest to ornithologists for some 40 Congolese bird species recorded nowhere else in the country. Nearby, the spectacular Semliki Wildlife Reserve, which is adjacent to Lake Albert, is one of the best localities for sightings of the rare swamp-dwelling shoebill.
Okibale National Park
Kibale National Park is a primatologist’s dream. It boasts a population of more than 1,000 chimpanzees, of which one 80-strong community has been habituated to tourist visits, as well as half-a-dozen readily observed monkey species, including the acrobatic red colobus and black-and-white colobus, and the handsome Hoest’s monkey.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is centred on a series of swamp-fringed lakes known for their rich birdlife, notably the secretive African finfoot. The green acacia woodland surrounding the lake plays host to strong populations of zebra, warthog, buffalo, impala and various other grazers, including the last surviving Ugandan population of eland, the largest of African antelope.
Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is home to the 4,321 metre high mountain for which it is named. This mountain has the largest base of any extinct volcano in the world. A lush mosaic of Afro-montane forest, grassland and moorland habitats makes this park a highly rewarding destination for hikers and other natural history enthusiasts.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Situated in the north is the remote, wild and little-visited Kidepo Valley National Park. This provides refuge to a long list of dry-country species not found elsewhere in the country. To be found here would be cheetah and greater kudu, while its perennial waters attract large numbers of elephant and thousand-strong buffalo herds, especially during the dry season.
Just 40km distant from Lake Victoria and Entebbe, sprawled across seven hills, is the capital city of Uganda, Kampala. This bustling, cosmopolitan city reflects the ongoing economic growth and political stability that has characterised Uganda since 1986, and is complemented by the sloping spaciousness and runaway greenery of its garden setting.
The Ssese Archipelago comprising of 84 island is the jewel of the crown in Lake Victoria. These quaint islands which are often adorned with local fishing villages, others small and uninhabited, are all well-watered and lushly forested. Mainlanders traditionally revere Ssese as the Islands of the Gods, and one specific island called Bubembe is regarded to be home to Mukasa, the spirit presiding over Lake Victoria. It is on this magnificent inland sea that the legendary Nile Perch awaits the eager fisherman. These magnificent creatures can weigh in as much as 60kg and are known to tailwalk, gill flare and generally give one an awesome adrenaline rush in the attempt to boat one. These Ssese Islands make for an ideal retreat after a long safari, and they also offer superb opportunities for birdwatching.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is best known for its superb gorilla tracking, but it also provides refuge to elephant, chimpanzee, monkeys and various small antelope, as well as 23 bird species restricted to the Albertine Rift. Named impenetrable due to the impressive ancient rain forest that provides a refuge to the rate and endangered Mountain Gorilla. It is refreshing to note that the gorilla trekking in this area as well as in the Nkuringo area are well managed and provide an awesome backdrop to this once in a lifetime experience.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Placed in the shadows of the Rwenzori range, flanked on both sides by the two lakes, Lake Edward and Lake George, is the lush savannah of Queen Elizabeth National Park. This pristine area offers prime grazing to buffalo, elephant and various antelope. A checklist of 600-plus bird species testifies to the extraordinary ecological diversity of this park. Mammalian specialities include the (elsewhere elusive) giant forest hog. Also noted in this area is the rare and legendary tree-climbing lions of the Ishasha .
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is home to the glacial peaks of the 120km-long Rwenzori Mountains or “Mountains of the Moon”. This world-class hiking and mountaineering destination holds significance as a possible source of the Nile and was first alluded to by the geographer Ptolemy circa 150 AD. Rising from the Rift Valley floor to a wintry elevation of 5,109m, the Rwenzori supports large tracts of evergreen and bamboo forest, while the higher moorland zone is known for its other-worldly cover of giant heathers, lobelias and groundsels.