UGANDA NATIONAL PARKS
1. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:
Mgahinga Gorilla NP is Uganda’s smallest national park with just 33.7km². It lies on the northern slopes of Mts. Muhabura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo, three volcanoes that create an unforgettable regional backdrop. These peaksare three of the six Virunga volcanoes that mark the southern limit of the Albertine Rift Valley and are divided between Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. The Virungas are home to more than half of the world’s population of the mountain gorillas.
The park contains at least 39 species of mammal and 79 birds. Larger mammals include elephants, leopards, buffalo and bush pig but these are rarely seen. The most famous residents are the mountain gorillas, while less famous but equally rare are the golden monkeys. The bird species present include turaco, crowned hornbill, black kite and crowned crane.
Mgahinga’s most exciting and memorable activity is tracking the mountain gorillas in thick jungle. The park has one habituated gorilla group called Nyakagyezi. This consists of 9 members; 4 silverbacks, 2 adult females, 1 juvenile, 1 blackback and 1 infant. This is a very mobile group and it sometimes crosses to DR Congo and Rwanda.
2. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park:
Bwindi impenetrable National Park was recognized as a world Heritage site in 1994. It is made up of 327km² of tangled vegetation draped over a deeply fissured landscape of steep, slippery valleys and high, draughty ridges. But if the terrain is far from easy to negotiate, it is well worth the effort. A trek through one of Africa’s most ancient rainforests in search of the mountain gorillas ranks among the world’s premier wildlife encounters.
The temperatures can hit really low levels especially in the morning and at night. The annual average temperature range is 7-20 with the coldest season being June and July. Warm clothing is required, plus wet weather gear since Bwindi receives up to 2390mm of rain/ year. This is concentrated during two wet seasons, shortrains in March-May and heavy rains in September-November. Instead of short tropical deluges, rain in Bwindi often falls as long hours of soft drizzle.
Bwindi is a prime destination for birdwatchers. It’s 350 species include seven which are ICN red data listed and 90% of all Albertine rift endemics, species which are difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa. An experienced bird watcher can easily identify up to 100 species in a day.
Gorilla tracking is a captivating and unforgettable experience which more than repays the effort needed to reach Bwindi and to trek through the forest. The activity can be challenging and one needs to be reasonably fit. Bwindi has four habituated gorilla groups; The Mubare group, Habinyanja group, Rushegura group andNkuringo group.
3. Queen Elizabeth National Park:
Queen Elizabeth National Park has a stunning location on the rift valley floor between Lake George and Lake Edward with an area of about 1978km², supporting 95 mammal species and a remarkable 612 species of birds.
The park forms part of an extensive system of contiguous protected areas, namely the Kigezi and KyamburaWildlife Reserves, Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Kibale National Park and, in the neighbouring DRC, the VirungaNational Park. Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies a few Kilometres north.
The park lies on the rift valley floor with low altitude, and its location directly on the equator means that temperatures can be warm, ranging between 18°C and 28°C.
The park contains 95 mammal species, and a variety of bird species. The diversity is the result of an impressive range of habitats. Many vegetation types have been identified also.4. Murchison Falls National Park:
The Murchison Falls National Park lies at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley, where the bulky Bunyoro escarpment merges into the vast plains of Acholiland. The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile which first races down the whitewater rapids before plunging over the remnant rift valley wall at Murchison Falls, the centerpiece of the park. This waterfall was named by Samuel Baker an explorer who considered it the most important obect through the entire course of the river. The falls drain the last of the river’s energy, transforming it into a broad, placid stream that flows quietly across the rift valley floor to Lake Albert.
The park covers 3893km² and is Uganda’s largest protected area. The Albert Nile corridor is Uganda’s lowest area and temperatures can be hot with a maximum of 29°C.
The park is dominated by savanna woodland, river/wetland and tropical forest habitats which provide homes for numerous mammal species and bird species.5. Kibale National Park:
The Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. This is home to a host of forest wildlife, most famously 13 species of primate including chimpanzee. Forest cover predominates in the northern and central parts of the park on the elevated Fort Portal plateau. Kibale is highest at the park’s northern tip which stands above sea level. Northern Kibale is also the wettest area, receiving a mean annual rainfall of up to 1700mm. The climate is generally pleasant with a mean annual temperature range of 14-27°C.
Southern Kibale adoins Queen Elizabeth National Park and together these protected areas maintain a long migration corridor for wildlife which extends from Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, to the Sebitol forest in the north of Kibale.
Kibale’s varied altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest on the Fort Portal plateau, through dry tropical forest, to woodland and savanna on the rift valley floor.
The diversity and density of primates in Kibale is the highest in Africa. The most famous of its 13 species is the chimpanzee, our closest relative. Kibale’s 1450 chimpanzee represent Uganda’s largest population of this endangered primate.
RWANDA NATIONAL PARKS1. Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park lies in the northern part of Rwanda. It protects the Rwandan portion of the Virunga Mountains, a Transforntier Conservation Area that includes protected areas in Uganda and the DRC and forms a complex of dormant volcanoes; it includes Rwanda’s highest point, Mount Karisimbi, and two active volcanoes, Mount Nyiragongo and Mount Nyamuragira.
This National park contains almost 100 bird species but is more famous for accommodating the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The park is predominantly visited because of the mountain gorillas; however there are several other tourist sites and opportunities in the park and surrounding areas. Thereis always a chance to climb to the Mount Bisoke’s beautiful Crater Lake or even hike the summit of the Kinyarwanda Mountain, the fifth highest mountain of Africa.
The twin lakes Burera and Ruhondo and the nearby Rugezi swamp are recognized for their excellent water-birding opportunities. Within the area there are numerous community based tourism tours on offer, for example: visiting villages, agri-production plants, an ethno botony tour or even a group of local fishermen using traditional methods. You may also decide to simply sit back and enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the area.2. Akagera National Park
The Akagera National Park is located on the north-eastern edge of Rwanda bordering Tanzania and incorporates the Kagera River, thus the name Akagera.
The Akagera NP was founded in 1934 to protect animals and vegetation in three habitats: savannah, mountain and swamp. Akagera is recognized as one of the best places for bird-watching in Rwanda. The diverse habitats in the park have resulted in a wide variety of bird species to the area. Akagera is indisputably the best place in Rwanda to find savannah birds and raptors. It is also very well stocked with water-birds and one of the few spots where the less common birds living amongst the papyrus swamps can be seen. Akagera and NyungweForest National Parks are complementary in terms of bird life and all species breeding in Rwanda can be spotted in either of these sites.3. Nyungwe Forest National Park
Nyungwe Forest National Park is a tropical forest with a high canopy which is located south of Lake Kivu on the border of Rwanda with Burundi. This Forest Park was established in 2004 and it is known to be the largest swathe of Montane Forest left in both Central and East Africa sitting on an estimated area of about 970 km² of rain forest, bamboo, grassland, and swamps. The forest is a home to approximately 15 primate species, 78 species of mammals, and about 277 species of birds.
The forest park has quite a number of activities that tourists can enjoy. The prime activity is chimpanzee tracking which registers the most tourists on daily basis. The other main activity is the search for Ruwenzori colobus monkeys which are countless in the forest. There are numerous primates you can find in the forest which include; Golden Monkey, Red-tailed Monkey, the common chimpanzees, Vervet Monkey, Adolf Friedrich’s Angola Colobus, L’hoest Monkey, the Silver Monkey, Hamlyn’s Monkey, Dents Mona Monkey, Olive Baboon and Grey-cheeked Mangabey and others. The tourists can also engage in Birding, Forest walks, and Photography within the forest.