Most of the Uganda’s wildlife is concentrated in its protected areas, writes Hope Sande.
Uganda is a tourist destination arising out of variety of its game stock and scenic beauty. It is a country with substantial natural resources for tourism with variety of landscape and ecosystems, climate and culture.
According to a report released in December 2009, the Uganda Tourism Board, with the assistance of the European Union, identified several tourism products that can attract tourists in Uganda.
These include bird-watching, sport fishing, boating, primate tracking (gorillas and chimps), trekking, mountaineering and water rafting. However, most of Uganda’s wildlife is concentrated in its protected areas in three main categories, national parks, wildlife reserves and forest reserves. Some of the main tourism attractions include;
Murchison Falls National Park
This is the largest National Park in Uganda – covering 3,877 sq.km. It is located in Masindi district in north western Uganda spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert around the Victoria Nile. It is sometimes referred to as Kabalega National Park.
Grey crowned cranes are common at Murchison Falls National Park
At the Murchison Falls, the River Nile plunges through a narrow crevice and over a 40-metre drop. In the eastern sector of the park, before the Murchison Falls, are the Karuma Falls, where the Nile cascades over a breath-taking 23 km of rapids, creating some of the most exciting white-water rafting opportunities in Africa.
A cruise upstream the Nile to the falls is an unforgettable experience. On the banks, prolific wildlife including elephants, crocodiles, hippopotamus, lions, giraffes, buffaloes, and countless antelopes and birds, can be observed.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Park has been designated a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO auspices. The park, in the western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley, covers 2,056 sq. km and includes a remarkable variety of ecosystems, from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows, savannah and swamps.
It is the home of the famous tree-climbing lion as well as the Uganda Kob, other antelope species, elephants, baboons, hippos, buffaloes and chimpanzees. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded, making the park a magnet for bird watchers.
The bird species include the black bee-eater, 11 types of king fi sher, Shoebill storks and several species of falcons, eagles and other raptors. In the crater lakes to the north, flocks of flamingos can be found. A favourite way to view the game is by launch trip on the Kazinga Channel between Lakes George and Edward.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Located in south western Uganda, the park, with its dense ground cover of vines and shrubs, is home to the world famous mountain gorillas, of which they are less than 600 still left in the entire world. Gorilla permits are required for tracking the gorillas and it is, therefore, advisable to make reservations at least three months in advance.
Bwindi is one of the richest areas for flora in Eastern Africa. The forest is also sanctuary for Columbus monkeys, chimpanzees and many bird types including some endangered species.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
This is yet another haven for the persecuted mountain gorilla. Located on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains, in the extreme southwest corner of Uganda, the park has been set aside to provide a secure habitat for the gorillas.
However, besides the gorillas, other wildlife may also be viewed including the leopard, giant forest hog, bushbuck, buffalo, and golden monkey.
Kibale Forest National Park
The rainforest is situated to the north east of Queen Elizabeth National Park. In addition to forest, there are also areas of grassland and swamp. The park is noted for its primate population – 13 different species inhabit the park including many families of chimpanzees and several types of columbus monkeys. Bushbucks, waterbucks, duiker and giant forest hog may also be seen. The forests and the grasslands support abundant bird life – almost 300 species have been identifi ed and 144 types of butterfly.
A man admires beautiful scenery from the top of Nyero rock in Ngora district.
Kidepo Valley National Park
The Park is located in north east of Uganda and covers 1,436 sq. km. It is inhabited by various wildlife including elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, various antelope species, baboon, bush baby and over 200 species of bird.
Two game viewing routes connect the rest camp with the prime wildlife areas near the Win wing River and the rock escarpment to the southwest. On the park’s northern borders are the Kananorok hot springs.
Other scenic attractions
This is an extinct volcano located on Uganda’s eastern border. The mountain boasts numerous interesting features including gorges, ancient caves, water falls and hot springs. Birdlife is abundant on the mountain although various wildlife may also be encountered.
The mist-shrouded peaks of the Mountains of the Moon provide a stunning backdrop to this magnifi cent park, located
on Uganda’s western border. In the centre of the range, some of the peaks are permanently covered in snow and glaciers,
while the lower slopes are covered with dense forests.
Some of the wildlife to be found in the mountains include the chimpanzees, along with the blue monkey, hyrax, giant forest hog and many unique bird species such as the Rwenzori touraco, the francolin and the olive pigeon.
LAKES AND RIVERS
Uganda has been called a land of lakes because almost a third of the country is covered by water. Lake Victoria, the largest in Africa, dominates the southern border of the country while Lakes Edward and Albert lie to the west.
Linked to Lake Edward is the Kazinga Channel. Lake Mburo, 230 km to the west of Kampala, is the only lake entirely within a National Park.
In the centre of Uganda, Lakes Kwania and Kyoga are fed by the waters of the River Nile. Other lakes include Lake Bunyonyi near Kabale and Lake Bisina in the shadow of Mt. Elgon, as well as tiny crater lakes high in the mountains. Uganda’s fresh water lakes offer opportunities for water activities and sports. An example is white water rafting, pioneered by Adrift, which has caught on as a popular tourist activity, especially on the River Nile.
The country now attracts 500 rafters every month. Lake Victoria is now also being increasingly used for lake cruises. Other popular activities include sport fishing and sailing.
This is where the former kings of Buganda from Kabaka Mutesa I to Edward Mutesa II are buried. A mixture of treasured artifacts are also kept here.
The Uganda Museum is located in Kampala. It displays and exhibits ethnological, natural-historical and traditional life collections of Uganda’s cultural heritage. Among the collections in the Uganda Museum are playable musical instruments, hunting equipment, weaponry, archaeology and entomology.
NAMUGONGO MARTYRS’ SHRINE
This is where Kabaka Mwanga burned 20 Christian converts in 1886 who refused to renounce what he called the “white man’s religion.” Many of them had worked in his palace.
THE UGANDA WILDLIFE EDUCATION CENTRE
UWEC, located in Entebbe, was created by the Government of Uganda with the help of the Wildlife Conservation Centre in New York. The Centre has grown considerably in recent years and hosts a variety of wildlife.
At the centre, visitors are able to observe many of the indigenous species to be found in Uganda and also to receive comprehensive information on the species, their natural habitats and the complex
ecologies of Uganda.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Uganda is a country of exceptional diversity. It lies at the overlap between tropical East African savannah and the West African rainforest zones.
Seven of Africa’s 18 plant kingdoms are represented in Uganda, which is more than any other country on the continent.
The wildlife on the islands includes hippos, crocodile, waterbuck, sitatunga antelope, chimpanzees and monkeys. The islands can be reached by a ninehour steamer trip from Port Bell or a 45-minute ferry trip from Bukakata.
IGONGO CULTURAL CENTRE
Located in Mbarara western Uganda, The museum has several traditional ancient Ankole grass thatched houses. Cultural things include ebyanzi, efurebe and ekyaahi. There are also written scripts of history of Ankole, Rukiga, Toro and Bunyoro.
Unwind at Bunyonyi Overland Resort
A fully-furnished tent at the resort
Do you want to take some days out of town just to relax somewhere at the country side? Bunyonyi Overland Resort is the perfect choice!
The resort is situated on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi (the deepest in Uganda, home of Otters and crayfish ) in south western Uganda. Bunyonyi Overland Resort is ecologically built with local materials. It is meant to attract people, who want value for their money by offering them different services.
There is accommodation in self-contained cottages and furnished tents, conference facilities and camping facilities ( hot showers, clean toilets ). Delicious snacks and food are provided. The menu includes the famous fresh Crayfi sh right from the Lake. The bar is fullystocked.
There are spacious picnic and relaxation areas. The breath-taking view of Mt. Muhavura- 4127m can be seen on a clear day.
Activities include swimming, canoeing, Jet Ski boats, volley ball, badminton, pool table, and many indoor games. Outdoor activities include bird-watching, mountain biking and fi shing. For readers, there is a variety of reading material to choose from.
There is also DSTV, travel information board, transportation ( car hire and taxi ), laundry service and 24hour security.