Semuliki Forest Reserve was created in 1932 and upgraded to National Park status in 1993. It is the only tract of true lowland tropical forest in East Africa, hosting 441 recorded bird species and 53 mammals.
Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. The park is dominated by the easternmost extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo Basin. This is one of Africa's most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago.
The Semliki Valley contains numerous features associated with central rather than eastern Africa. Thatched huts are shaded by West African oil palms; the Semliki River (which forms the international boundary) is a miniature version of the Congo River, the forest is home to numerous Central African wildlife species, and the local population includes a Batwa pygmy community that originated from the Ituri. As a result, this park provides a taste of Central Africa without having to leave Uganda.
While Semuliki's species have been accumulating for over 25,000 years, the park contains evidence of even older processes. Hot springs bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years.
Semuliki National Park is located in Bwamba County, a remote part of the Bundibugyo District in western Uganda. Semuliki National Park has an area of 219 sq km and is part of the Central African Congo Basin forest system of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), being separated from the Ituri forest of the DRC only by the Semliki River. It is separated from the rest of East Africa by the Rwenzori Mountain range and with it being located within the Albertine Rift, the western arm of the Great Rift Valley; it is included within the Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot
The park experiences an average rainfall of 1,250 mm, with peaks in rainfall from March to May and from September to December. Many areas of the park experience flooding during the wet season. The temperature at the park varies from 18 to 30 degrees Centigrade, with relatively small daily variations.
The area that Semuliki National Park covers is a distinct ecosystem within the larger Albertine Rift ecosystem. The park is located at the junction of several climatic and ecological zones, and as a result has a high diversity of plant and animal species and many microhabitats. Most of the plant and animal species in the park are also found in the Congo Basin forests, with many of these species reaching the eastern limit of their range in Semuliki National Park.
Large areas of this low-lying park may flood during the wet season, a brief reminder of the time when the entire valley lay at the bottom of a lake for seven million years. Four distinct ethnic groups live near the park. Bwamba farmers live along the base of the Rwenzori while the Bakonjo cultivate the mountain slopes. Batuku cattle keepers inhabit on the open plains and Batwa pygmies, traditionally hunter gathers, live on the edge of the forest.
The park’s altitude ranges between 914m and 2,750m above sea level The Park contains two rivers – Kidepo and Narus – which disappear in the dry season, leaving just pools for the wildlife.
The local communities around the park include pastoral Karamojong people, similar to the Maasai of Kenya, and the IK, a hunter-gatherer tribe whose survival is threatened.
Kidepo Valley National Park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it has a profusion of big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species. Kidepo is Uganda’s most isolated national park, but the few who make the long journey north through the wild frontier region of Karamoja would agree that it is also the most magnificent, for Kidepo ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. From Apoka, in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape extends far beyond the gazetted area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges.
During the dry season, the only permanent water in the park is found in wetlands and remnant pools in the broad Narus Valley near Apoka. These seasonal oases, combined with the open, savannah terrain, make the Narus Valley the park’s prime game viewing location. Dodoth pastoralists and Ik farmers lived in the area before it was gazetted as a game reserve by the British colonial government in 1958. The purpose was both to protect the animals from hunting and to prevent further clearing of bush for tsetse fly control. The game reserve was converted into the Kidepo Valley National Park in 1962. The first Chief Warden of the National Park was Ian Ross, a Briton. In 1972 Paul Ssali, a Ugandan, replaced him. Their handover and training was the subject of the 1974 American documentary film, "The Wild and the Brave."
Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The park’s ecosystems, which include sprawling savannah, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, make it the ideal habitat for classic big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds.
Set against the backdrop of the jagged Rwenzori Mountains, the park’s magnificent vistas include dozens of enormous craters carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel with its banks lined with hippos, buffalo and elephants, and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide lions ready to pounce on herds of unsuspecting Uganda kob.
As well as its outstanding wildlife attractions, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a fascinating cultural history. There are many opportunities for visitors to meet the local communities and enjoy storytelling, dance, music and more. The gazetting of the park has ensured the conservation of its ecosystems, which in turn benefits the surrounding communities.
Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is truly a Medley of Wonders .The area currently occupied by the Queen Elizabeth National Park was previously a grazing area for local Basongora pastoralists. When British explorers Stanley and Lugard toured the area towards the end of last century, both reported the area to have been largely depopulated as a result of cattle raiding (from the Bunyoro and Buganda kingdoms) and epidemics of rinderpest and smallpox. The Basongora social economy could not recover from these events and with the exception of remnant villages around the two lakes, the area was almost completely depopulated. Those who did remain were forced to turn to fishing. These events allowed the game populations to increase and vegetation to change significantly, and played an important role in determining the creation of the national park by the Protectorate administration. In 1906, the area to the north of Lake George was declared a Game Reserve, in order to prevent what some administrators believed to be unregulated hunting by Africans and Europeans and growing pressure for development of cotton and wheat production.
Queen Elizabeth spans the equator line; monuments on either side of the road mark the exact spot where it crosses latitude 00. The park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, and renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. The park is home to over 95 mammal species and over 600 bird species. The Katwe explosion craters mark the park's highest point at 1,350m above sea level, while the lowest point is at 910m, at Lake Edward.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park sits high in the clouds, at an altitude of between 2,227m and 4,127m. As its name suggests, it was created to protect the rare mountain gorillas that inhabit its dense forests, and it is also an important habitat for the endangered golden monkey.
As well as being important for wildlife, the park also has a huge cultural significance, in particular for the indigenous Batwa pygmies. This tribe of hunter-gatherers was the forest’s “first people”, and their ancient knowledge of its secrets remains unrivalled.
Mgahinga’s most striking features are its three conical, extinct volcanoes, part of the spectacular Virunga Range that lies along the border region of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area which includes adjacent parks in these countries. The volcanoes’ slopes contain various ecosystems and are biologically diverse, and their peaks provide a striking backdrop to this gorgeous scenery.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which has one habituated trans-boundary gorilla group was declared a game sanctuary by the British administration in 1930. it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991. with a size of just 33.7 km2, it is Uganda’s smallest National Park.
The park takes its name from "Gahinga" - the local word for the piles of volcanic stones cleared from farmland at the foot of the volcanoes. The British administration declared the area a game sanctuary in 1930, it was gazetted as a National Park in 1991.The Batwa were self-sufficient – and visitors can see how during a fascinating tour with a Batwa guide to learn the secrets of the forest.
Lake Mburo National Park is a compact gem, located conveniently close to the highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. It is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and underlain by ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500 million years. It is home to 350 bird species as well as zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, oribi, Defassa waterbuck, leopard, hippo, hyena, topi and reedbuck. Together with 13 other lakes in the area, Lake Mburoforms part of a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Five of these lakes lie within the park’s borders. Once covered by open savanna, Lake Mburo National Park now contains much woodland as there are no elephants to tame the vegetation. In the western part of the park, the savanna is interspersed with rocky ridges and forested gorges while patches of papyrus swamp and narrow bands of lush riparian woodland line many lakes. Lake Mburo was originally gazetted in 1933 as a Controlled Hunting Area and upgraded to a Game Reserve in 1963. The BanyankoleBahima residents continued to graze their cattle in the Reserve until it was upgraded to National Park status in 1983. The Obote government's decision to upgrade the Park was reportedly in part intended to weaken the Banyankole, who supported anti-Obote rebels. As the evicted pastoralists were not compensated for lost grazing land or assisted with resettling, many remained hostile to the Park's formation. The rangeland outside the park was subsequently subdivided into small ranges and subsistence farming plots. In 1985 the second Obote regime fell and the previous residents of Lake Mburo re-occupied the Park's land, expelling park staff, destroying infrastructure and annihilating wildlife. Less than half of the Park's original land area was eventually re-gazetted by the NRM government in 1986.Lake Mburo National Park has Size of 370km2 Altitude of 1,220m - 1,828m above sea level; Wetland habitats comprise 20% of the park's surface Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a Ugandan National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Rwenzori Mountains. Almost 1,000 km2 (386 sq mi) in size, the park has Africa's third highest mountain peak and many waterfalls, lakes, and glaciers. The park is known for its beautiful plant life. Rwenzori Mountains National Park was established in 1991. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of its outstanding natural beauty. Rebel militias occupied the Rwenzori Mountains from 1997 to June 2001. The park was inscribed on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger between 1999 and 2004 because of insecurity and a lack of resources in the park.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in south-western Uganda on the east side of the western (Albertine) African rift valley. It lies along Uganda's border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and borders the DRC's Virunga National Park, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for 50 km (31 mi). It is situated in the Bundibugyo, Kabarole, and Kasese districts, 25 km (16 mi) from the small town of Kasese. It is 996 square kilometres (385 sq mi) in size, 70 percent of which exceeds an altitude of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). The park is 120 kilometres (75 mi) long and 48 kilometres (30 mi) wide. The park includes most of the centre and eastern half of the Rwenzori Mountains, a mountain range rising above dry plains located just north of the equator. Those mountains are higher than the Alps and are ice-capped. Mount Stanley is located in the park. Margherit Peak, one of Mount Stanley's twin summits, is Africa's third highest peak with a height of 5,109 metres (16,762 ft). Africa's fourth and fifth highest peaks (Mount Speke and Mount Baker) are also located in the park. The park has glaciers, snowfields, waterfalls, and lakes and is one of Africa's most beautiful mountain areas. The park has many species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift system, and there are several endangered species in the park. It has a high diversity of plants and trees. The park is noted for its botany, which has been described as some of the most beautiful in the world .There are five distinct vegetation zones in the park, which change according to changes in altitude. The park has 89 species of birds, 15 species of butterfly, and four primates’ species. The park's wildlife varies with elevation, and its species include the forest elephant, chimpanzee, hyrax, black-and-white colobus, L'Hoest's monkeys, duiker, and Rwenzori turaco. The park is owned by the Ugandan government through Uganda National Parks. It is protected, although extraction may be sanctioned by a board of trustees. Kasese, 437 km (260 mi) west of Uganda's capital Kampala, is the gateway to the park. The town has hotels and lodges, while the park has camping, a good trail network and huts for hikers. The park has excellent trekking and climbing opportunities with spectacular views and unusual scenery. The most popular trek is a seven-day circuit of the park.
Kibale National Park is a National Park in Southern Uganda, protecting moist evergreen rain forest. It is 766 square kilometres (296 sq mi) in size and is located between 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) in elevation. Despite encompassing primarily moist evergreen forest, it contains a diverse array of landscapes.Kibale is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. In eastern Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest. The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged forest reserve. The park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park. This adjoining of the parks creates a 180 kilometres (110 mi) wildlife corridor. It is an important eco-tourism and safari destination, popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and twelve other species of primates.
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP)is in south-western Uganda. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is situated along the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. Composed of 331 square kilometres (128 sq mi) of both montane and lowland forest, it is accessible only on foot. BINP is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-designated World Heritage Site. Species diversity is a feature of the park. It provides habitat for 120 species of mammals, 348 species of birds, 220 species of butterflies, 27 species of frogs, chameleons, geckos, and many endangered species. Floristically, the park is among the most diverse forests in East Africa, with more than 1,000 flowering plant species, including 163 species of trees and 104 species of ferns. The northern (low elevation) sector has many species of Guineo-Congolian flora, including two endangered species, the brown mahogany and Brazzeialongipedicellata. In particular, the area shares in the high levels of endemisms of the Albertine Rift. The park is a sanctuary for colobus monkeys, chimpanzees, and many birds such as hornbills and turacos. It is most notable for the 340 Bwindi gorillas, half of the world's population of the critically endangered mountain gorillas. Four habituated mountain gorilla groups are open to tourism: Mubare; Habinyanja; Rushegura near Buhoma; and the Nkuringo group at Nkuringo.
Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment tumbles into vast, palm-dotted savanna. First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda's largest and oldest conservation area, hosting 76 species of mammals and 451 birds. The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile, which plunges 45m over the remnant rift valley wall, creating the dramatic Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park and the final event in an 80km stretch of rapids. The mighty cascade drains the last of the river's energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor into Lake Albert. This stretch of river provides one of Uganda's most remarkable wildlife spectacles. Regular visitors to the riverbanks include elephants, giraffes and buffaloes; while hippos, Nile crocodiles and aquatic birds are permanent residents. Notable visitors to the park include Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and several British royals.
Mount Elgon National Park is named after Mount Elgon, an extinct shield volcano on the border of Uganda and Kenya. It is uniquely split down the middle by the Kenyan-Ugandan border. The climate is moist to moderate dry. Annual rainfall is over 1,270 millimeter’s (50 in). The dry seasons run from June to August and from December to March, although it can rain at any time. Elgon's slopes support a rich variety of vegetation ranging from montane forest to high open moorland studded with the giant lobelia and groundsel plants. The vegetation varies with altitude. The mountain slopes are covered with olive Oleahochstetteri and Aningueriaadolfi-friedericii wet montane forest. At higher altitudes, this changes to olive and Podocarpusgracilior forest, and then a Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinariaalpina zone. Higher still is a Hageniaabyssinica zone and then moorland with heaths Erica arborea and Philippiatrimera, tussock grasses such as Agrostisgracilifolia and Festucapilgeri, herbs such as Alchemilla, Helichrysum, Lobelia, and the giant groundsels Seneciobarbatipes and Senecioelgonensis.
The botanical diversity of the park includes giant podocarpus, juniper and Elgon olive trees cedar Juniperusprocera, pillarwood Cassipoureamalosana, elder Sambucusadnata, pure stands of Podocarpusgracilior and many orchids.
Of the 400 species recorded for the area the following are of particular note as they only occur in high altitude broad-leaf montane forest:
Ardisiandrawettsteinii, Carduusafromontanus, Echinopshoehnelii, Ranunculuskeniensis (previously thought endemic to Mount Kenya), and Romuleakeniensis.
Mammals can be found on the lower slopes. The park is also home to a variety of small antelope and duiker, as well forest monkeys, both leopard and hyena existed there in the late 1990s. Mount Elgon is home to at least 144 bird species. Half of Uganda's butterfly species have been reported in Mt. Elgon.
Prior to colonial administration, the land around Mount Elgon was managed based on indigenous power structures and rules, which forbade certain excessive utilization of natural resources on the communally owned upper elevations of the mountain. Demand for these resources was met sustainably because the human population density in the surrounding area was many times smaller than it is today. The Uganda Protectorate administration gazetted its side of Mount Elgon a Forest Reserve, managed by the Forestry Department, in 1929. In 1937, the boundary survey was completed but parcels were repeatedly degazetted to provide land for local residents. In 1940, the area became the Mount Elgon Crown Forest and in 1951 a Central Forest Reserve.
In 1983, the Ugandan government opened up a 6,000 hectare portion of the reserve for settlement by the encroaching Benet-Ndorobo group. An additional 1,500 hectares were settled illegally. The area legally remained a part of the reserve until 2002 when it was officially degazetted. Management of the park disintegrated during the civil wars. In January 1994, the reserve was finally converted into a national park, although timber harvesting continued in some areas.
Together with the fauna and flora, the Park have a variety of attractive scenery including cliffs, caves, waterfalls, gorges, mesas, calderas, hot springs, and the mountain peaks. The most popular areas are the four explorable, vast caves where frequent night visitors such as elephants and buffaloes come to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls. Kitum cave, with overhanging crystalline walls, enters 200 m into the side of Mt. Elgon.