Uganda’s 10 national parks and 13 wildlife reserves system consists of virgin equatorial rainforests, lush savannah grasslands, semi-desert plains, wetlands, fresh water lakes, river Nile. Most of the parks have well developed tourism and commonly visited by travelers, such as Bwindi impenetrable forest national park renowned for mountain gorilla trekking safaris and unique birding.
Travelers to the 5 utterly remote national parks in Uganda listed here are advised to visit them with a booked tour.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo valley national park offer the best chance for seeing cheetahs and animal species that cannot be found in other national parks of Uganda. Located in semi arid desert plains of north eastern Karamoja region of Uganda, kidepo valley national park is accessible by 12 hours drive from Kampala or 2 hours charter flight from Entebbe airport. Despite the park’s remote location, it was voted 3rd Best national Park to visit in Africa by CNN Travel in 2015.
The 1,442 sq km un-spoilt wilderness comprises of numerous habitats like narus and kidepo river valleys, rocky outcrops, open savannah grasslands, acacia, palm trees and dry Murongole mountain thickets which provide home to fascinating wildlife including 79 species of mammals and over 475 birds. Kidepo is a must visit for birders, wildlife lovers and nature photographers. Visitors can expect a high degree of solitude.
The most iconic features of Kidepo are the largest single herd of up to 4000 buffalos, as well as elephants, lions, leopards, zebras and animals that are not found in other parks of Uganda including wild dogs, mountain reedbuck, cheetah, ostrich, Guenther’s dik dik, Aard wolf, bat eared fox, black backed and stripe sided jacks. Birds of interest include 58 species of birds of prey, 5 species of hornbills and rare species like Karamoja apalis.
A game drive safari or nature walks down the Narus sand river valley is a great chance to view large mammals and birds. 20% of the proceeds from the park entrance fees go towards supporting the indigenous cattle keeping tribes giving you an opportunity to the IK indigenous tribe for memorable cultural encounters. There are few accommodations in the park so visitors need to make reservations in advance.
Semuliki Valley National Park
Semuliki valley national park is a unique park located at the base of snow capped Mountains of the Moon in the Albertine rift valley along the border of DRC. It contains the only type of last remaining areas of lowland Ituri tropical rainforests, an extension of Congo basin forest biome habitats of central and West Africa. Travelers who want to have a central African jungle safari experience in Uganda, Semuliki is a must visit for bird watchers and nature lovers.
The popular spot is the Sempaya male and female hot springs. Local people testify that the waters can heal evil spirits and skin aliments. Sections of the springs have boiling water that locals used to boil eggs and Mattoke which you may eat after hiking.
Semiliki lies at the lowest altitude in East Africa between 670 to 760 meters above sea level. As a result numerous streams and rivers flood the area during the rainy seasons in April/May.
The park is home to 53 species of mammals and over 441 birds including 9 different species of hornbill, and over 100 species found nowhere else in East Africa. Notable birds include Congo serpent Eagle, Nkulengu rail, piping hornbill, lyre-tailed honey guide among others.
Set out on a nature walk searching for primates such as chimpanzee and localized de-Brazza’s monkey. Game drive offers great sightings of large mammals like forest elephants, giant forest hog, buffaloes, leopard to small species like fanged deer, flying squirrel, and pygmy antelope.
For a safari experience that you’ll never forget, visit The BaTwa ancient hunter gathers live outside the park at Ntandi. Meet the shortest people on earth and their traditional cultural experience including storytelling and dance performances.
Few accommodations are found inside the park like Semuliki safari lodge while many with en-suit amenities are located outside the park in Fort Portal town. There’s also a campsite at Mumaga only 3 km from the entrance gate at Sempaya.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park
The 331 sq km Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is a UNESCO world heritage site where two great apes both the mountain gorillas and chimpanzee live in harmony with man. Bwindi one of the oldest rainforests that survived ice age about 25,000 years ago which make it the most biological diverse area in Africa. There are 120 species of mammals, 364 birds, 220 butterflies and a variety of rare plants. Bwindi forest is Africa’s number one bird watching destination according to Africa birding club. Of 364 species recorded, 23 are endemic to Albertine rift valley including rare species like African green broadbill, short tailed warbler, and strange weaver.
The park holds the distinction of being home to 400 mountain gorillas which is half their population with about 880 individuals left in the world. Gorilla trekking is the main tourist activity, with 14 habituated gorilla families, seeing these primates is guaranteed after booking your gorilla permit with a tour operator. Visitation to the park is highly regulated to protect the gorillas; you must be guided around by UWA guides and trackers.
The forest canopies are so thick that tourists find it difficult to pass through. Although trails give visitors a chance to walk deeper into the forest filled with waterfalls in Buhoma, colorful butterflies and variety of plants. Aside from gorilla trekking, bird watching, hiking and nature walks, mountain biking and cultural visits to the BaTwa homestead near the park are popular activities for tourists.
Bwindi is so remote and to reach the park from Kampala city takes 9-10 hours drive. But you can fly for 1 hour from Entebbe airport to Kihihi airstrip in kisoro.
Kibale Forest National park
The 795 sq km Kibale forest national park protects one of earth’s oldest lowland tropical forests having survived the ice age about 25000 years ago. The park has 13 species of primates and over 1000 chimpanzee which is the highest concentration of primates in East Africa. It offers excellent chimpanzee tracking and bird watching with over 337 species of birds including the green breasted pitta and shoebill stork.
Chimpanzee tracking is the main activity with five groups of chimps habituated for visitors to track starting at Kanyanchu the main visitor center. Other primates such as Ugandan mangabay, red colobus monkey can be spotted on nature walks.
In addition to chimpanzee and primates, Kibale has big game mammals including lions, leopard, elephant, buffalo, and giant forest hogs, bushbucks. Visitors who want to spot nocturnal species like leopard, African civet, bush baby, potto, common genet and night jars should opt for guided night game drive.
Kibale as a top eco-tourism destination in Uganda, many community based tourism and conservation projects are thriving. This provides necessary revenue for the Batooro and Bakiga tribes. Near the park village walks offer traditional culture encounters including handicrafts, food and traditional dance performances.
With easy access due to good tarmac roads taking only 5 hours drive from Kampala, make Kibale worthwhile Uganda safari destination. Some of the accommodations are located in the middle of the forest such as primates lodge exactly where chimpanzee tracking starts. Other accommodations such as guest houses can be found in fort portal town approximately 30 minutes drive from the park. A trip to Kibale is incomplete without a visit to Bigodi wetland sanctuary. It’s worth visiting to support conservation and eco-tourism. The wetland is home to over 300 species of birds and primates. There are swamp board walks and watch towers to spot primates and birds.
Rwenzori mountains national park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a UNESCO world heritage located in western Uganda on the border with DRC. Home to 3rd tallest mountain range in Africa, Mount Rwenzori’s Mgherita peaks rises at 5,109 meters above sea level. So it’s a popular world class tropical snow destination for mountain climbers and hikers. Peak climbers need technical equipment and it takes 9-12 days to achieve the top.
There are 5 distinctive types of vegetation creating spectacular scenery including savannah, tropical forests, bamboo, heath and moorlands, afro-alpine, bare rock and snow. Breathe take as you hike through along with amazing attractions like the valley of 9 glacial lakes, waterfalls, streams and rivers, rare plants like everlasting flowers, cloud forests and giant lobelias.
Rwenzori is one of the most biologically intense places on earth. It contains 70 species of mammals over 217 birds. Many animals are endemic to Albertine rift valley such as Rwenzori colobus monkey, Rwenzori leopard, tree hyrax, three horned chameleon, and Rwenzori Turaco.
Hiking trails and nature walks are great ways to explore lower slopes, take in views and spot animals. Village walks offer a memorable cultural experience of indigenous Bakonzo people. In the holy valley, they demonstrate their cultural dances, natural healing using herbs, craft making, local food preparation and gardening.
Being only 20 miles from the equator, permanent tropical snow on all six ridges remains a myth and mountain. The ancient geographer Ptolemy 150AD was on spot to Call Mt. Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon and believed it to be source of the Nile.