Wildlife and Primates in Uganda
Uganda shelters one of the highest wildlife diversities in the world, with about 7% of the total mammal species, about 60% of Africa’s bird species and over 13 primate species. The country was named the number one tourism destination of choice in 2012 by the lonely planet, partly because of its splendid nature that has been applauded through historical times. The wildlife thrives in our 10 national parks and 13 game reserves, but allow us give you a glimpse of this as all can’t be exhausted on a single page.
The 75 recorded mammal species and 450 bird species in Murchison Falls National park, is a revitalizing wonder that will not only leave you in awe but also take you a step back in time to marvel at the real insight of God’s creation. It is little wonder that Sir Winston Church hill, the former British prime minister in 1907 was amazed by the undisturbed beauty in this park, and could say nothing other than describe it as ‘the great Kew gardens and the zoo combined on an unlimited scale’. It was upon this glorious beauty and the friendly climate that prompted the Prime minister to name Uganda, ‘the Pearl of Africa’.
The same wildlife in this park enticed the Former USA president to spend an equivalent of today’s $1.8m on his hunting safari where he took back with him about 500 specimens at the end of his safari. The park’s beauty is not limited to wildlife alone but also the scenic geography. The park was named after the majestic Murchison falls that was also named by Sir Samuel Baker in 1864 as a mockery to the then president of the Britain’s Royal Geographical Society, Sir Roderick Murchison who had believed sub Saharan Africa to be geographically dull only to be challenged by this magnificent falls which is the strongest water falls in the world.
Sights of Nile crocodiles, hippos, elephants, bush bucks, water bucks, giraffes, buffalos, gazelles, hartebeests and several carnivores like lions, leopards, jackals, hyenas and carvel cats captivate your safari in this lush savanna park.
In the far north east is Kidepo Valley national park, one of the most remote and less visited parks in the country yet with enormous wildlife of over 78 recorded mammal and 475 bird species including the region’s most endemic species. A game drive down to the Narus valley in the southern part of the park will reward you with beautiful sights of the world’s largest single herd of buffalos, the elephants, giraffe, zebra, and plenty of antelope species also inhabit the valley during dry periods as the valley is the only source of water from the Narus river after the northern Kidepo river bed has dried up.
The Morungule ranges on the north eastern side of Apoka provide spectacular views of the park and the Apoka lodge. Most of the park’s hills are capped with rock kopjes that are habitat to klipspringers and provide fascinating views of the park and are sometimes used by the lions to spot their prey.
You will have a chance to explore the park’s fauna that include over 78 mammal species of which 28 are not found elsewhere in the country. The endemic carnivores include; the bat eared fox, the stripped hyena, aard wolf, caracal, and the world’s fastest mammal; the cheetah. Other carnivores like lions, leopards, spotted hyenas the black backed and side stripped jackals will also grace your visit to this park. The rare ungulates like the greater and lesser Kudu, the chandler’s mountain reedbuck, the klipspringer, and the Guenther’s dikdik are a great spectacle in your African safari in this true wilderness. The park shelters about 5 primate species including the endemic Kavirondo bush baby which will enthrall any primate lover.
Despite lack of comprehensive bird survey in Kidepo Valley national park, the parks long list of about 463 recorded bird species is only surpassed by Queen Elizabeth in the whole country. Any birder will not leave before identifying the park’s main highlights that include the largest bird on the planet; the ostrich, the largest flying bird; the Kori bustard, the secretary bird, the carmine, little green and red-throated bee-eaters, the Abyssinian ground hornbill, the Abyssinian scimitar bill and the Karamoja apalis among others.
Taking the western direction from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, about 280km by road, you will be welcomed by the small yet fascinating park of wildlife with some of endemic species in the country.
L. Mburo National park offers a lot especially for the mammal lovers and the ungulates to be specific. The park’s 68 recorded mammal species is a scene in your safari so close to the city like it is. Sights of endemics that you will not see elsewhere in the country like the impala will be a highlight in this Ugandan safari. Other species like the zebra that is nowhere else in the common western circuit, the buffalos, bush bucks, water bucks, and the semi- aquatic sitatunga are also present in this park. The carnivores present include small cats like carvel cats as well as big ones like the elusive leopard and the recently sighted lion. The park’s 37 lakes are perfect habitats for crocodiles and the swampy shrubs around them shelter a variety of bird species like the papyrus gonolek, the pre historic looking shoebill and the pied kingfisher among others. This is only a welcome signal into the wild.
Carry on to the shadows of the mighty Mountain Rwenzori , at the base of the western arm of the East African rift valley where the 1,978km2 Queen Elizabeth national park lies. The park shelters about 100 mammal, 7 primate and 607 bird species making it the most diversified park in East Africa. Its robust bird life is 2nd in Africa of any single destination and the 6th in the world. Sights of buffalos, the crocodiles, hippos, elephants, kobs, water bucks, bush bucks, warthogs, lions, hyenas, and leopards among others are what captivate most of the visitors to this park. The Kasenyi trail is a hub for most grazers in this park while the Kazinga channel is greatly populated with hippos and crocodiles as well as other wildlife that come to drink water in the hot afternoons.
A visit to the Katwe explosion craters will expose you to the rudimental methods of salt mining by the local people there while the neighboring L. Munyanyange will grace you with magnificent sights of the breeding lesser flamingos. A visit to the Maramagambo forest will reward you with sights of several primates and forest birds as well as the blue lake and the bat caves that are home to the prominent pythons of this forest. As one travels further south, the Ishasha tree climbing lions will crown your safari while the numerous herds of antelopes and buffalos in the Ishasha plains will be a brilliant sight to remember on your journey to the gorilla land.
In the Far south western corner, is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest national park also known as the Gorilla home land. A forest that has stood a taste of time and one of the few remaining tropical rain forests that survived through the last ice age. The forest is home to about 120 mammal species, 350 bird species, 10 primate species, 324 species of trees and 200 species of butterflies and moths.
Bwindi shelters more than half of the world’s 880 mountain gorillas together with other 9 primates including the elusive chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkey, the vervet monkey and the grey cheeked mangabey among others. Its enormous bird species include the western rift endemics as well as the forest endemics like the blue-headed Sunbird and the Short-tailed Warbler in addition to 7 IUCN red data listed species. Easy to spot are the Red-headed Bluebill, African Emerald Cuckoo, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers as well as the Common Bulbul.
The day’s trek of the mountain gorillas brings you face to face with some of the forest mammals like the giant forest hog, the forest elephant and buffalo, the bush duiker, the bush pig and the bush buck among others while the beautiful birds of the forest will only be seen by those keen enough to explore the forest. The adjacent Batwa and Bakiga communities are a big spectacle in captivating your safari and offering refreshing experience after your day’s onerous trek.
Of the 12 habituated gorilla families in this forest, 11 are for tourism while one is meant for research. These families are distributed in four sections of this forest that include; Ruhija, Buhoma, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
Not far from here is Mgahinga Gorilla national park that spans on Mt. Mgahinga, a volcano that is along the border of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo and which together with other volcanoes form the Virunga chain of volcanoes. The volcano was named after its huge scattered rocks that lay down slope as one approaches the park.
The park shelters one habituated gorilla group known as Nyakagezi which used to roam across the borders of the 3 countries making it hard for trackers to find but has recently settled on the Ugandan side. There are other wild gorilla families that roam on the higher slopes of this volcano.
Apart from the mountain gorillas, the park is a sanctuary for the rare golden monkey, a monkey species that cannot be found elsewhere in the country. The park also offers an opportunity to hike the Batwa trail, a trail that follows and traces the origin and the works of one of the robust and most ancient tribes in the country whose history cannot be traced anywhere else but in this area and the nearby forests. Following this trail is one of the most interesting and invigorating experiences of a life time and will lead you to their former caves as well as their tools and the entire lifestyle which is not only sensational but also fascinating.
The Kibale Forest national park is nothing but a home of over 13 primate species making it the primate capital of the world. The forest shelters a population of over 1450 chimpanzees for which it is well known. Being home to this man’s closest relative is just a ‘grain of sand in the sea’ of the attractions it is endowed with. Other 12 species of primates including the olive baboon, the grey cheeked mangabey, the red tailed, vervet, and the blue monkeys, red colobus and the black and white colobus monkeys among others are yet other attractions you will meet during your chimp trekking adventure.
The park’s 375 bird varieties are a great spectacle during your trek as they will whirl revitalizing melodies into your ears as the forest closes down on you. The enormous tree species with amazing shapes like the Adam and Eve tree that has structures with the shape of male and female human sexual organs and then the tree believed to cure importance in men will leave you in great amazement. The Red-winged Francolin, Red-chested Fluff tail, White-napped Pigeon, Green-breasted Pita, African Pita, Joyful Greenbul, Grey-winged Robin, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Grey-throated Flycatcher, White-bellied Crested Fly catcher, Masked and Black-capped Apalises, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Chestnut-winged Starling, , Grey-headed Olive-back, Orange-tufted and Tiny Sunbirds are some of the common bird species one should look out for.
Whilst on your trek, you may not avoid sights of some of the park’s 70 mammal species that include forest elephants, the bush pig, the giant forest hog, the forest buffalo and the bush duiker among others which will give you a superfluous and rewarding experience.