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Administrator

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is best known for its Mountain Gorilla populations and gorilla tracking although, it also offers some of the finest montane forest birding in Africa and is a key destination for any birder doing a Safari to Uganda. Amongst the numerous possibilities are no fewer than 23 of Uganda's 24 Albertine Rift endemics, including spectacular, globally threatened species such as Shelley's Crimson wing and the African Green Broadbill. Bwindi is one of the few in Africa to have flourished throughout the last Ice Age and it is home to roughly half of the world's mountain gorillas.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is best known for its outstanding gorilla tracking, but it also provides refuge to elephant, chimpanzee, monkeys and various small antelope and bird species.if you a book a uganda safari without Gorilla trekking then you will have missed an opportuinity to see these rare and threatened gorillas. The variant biodiversity is supported by the fact that Bwindi is extremely old and also its slopes extend over a broad altitudinal range of 1447m above sea level, enabling habitats ranging from lowland forest to Afromontane vegetation.

Nature treks are one of the more active ways to explore the landscapes and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth. Locations include the shady Maramagambo forest; Mweya Peninsula with its scenic views; and Ishasha River, where you may spot a variety of forest and savanna species as well as having a unique opportunity to get extremely close to hippos - on foot!

Tucked beneath the shady canopy of the Maramagambo Forest is the “Bat Cave”. The cave has a viewing room from which visitors can observe the resident bats and pythons. For a more cultural cave experience, how about a trip to the historic cave at Nyanz’ibiri community?

Classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International, Queen’s great variety of habitats mean it is home to over 600 species. This is the greatest of any East African national park, and a phenomenal number for such a small area. The park’s confluence of savanna and forest, linking to the expansive forests of the DR Congo allow visitors to spot East as well as Central African species.

See the energetic dances of the Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performers; workers harvesting salt on Katwe Salt Lake; a traditional Banyaraguru hut; or an agricultural village - all guided by those who know them best - local community members.

For visitors who yearn to get up close to wild African fauna, a research trip is a rewarding adventure. This new and unique experience allows visitors to actively participate in monitoring some of the exotic birds and mammals that fill the park, using locator devices and learn habituation calls, as well as monitoring weather, surroundings and behavior.

The Kazinga Channel is an oasis for many of the fascinating species that inhabit the park, and taking a boat tour along it gives visitors the chance to cruise just meters from hundreds of enormous hippos and buffalos while elephants linger on the shoreline.

For a classic African safari experience, the tracks through Kasenyi, the North Kazinga Plains and the Ishasha Sector offer virtually guaranteed buffalo, antelope and elephant sightings, along with warthogs and baboons. Taking an experienced guide in the early morning or at dusk is the most successful way to track down a pride of lions, and maybe even the odd leopard.

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.

Geography and Climate

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 °C, 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.

Biodiversity

The flora and fauna show strong affinities with the Congo basin forest with many species reaching the eastern limit of their ranges in Semuliki Forest. The flora is dominated by a single tree species, Cynometra alexandri, mixed with tree species of a more evergreen nature. Swamp forest communities are also found. The fauna of the forest is outstandingly rich and includes more than 400 bird species of which 216 (66% of the country’s total) are true forest birds such as the rare Sassi’s Olive Greenbul (Phyllastrephus lorenzi) and Forest Ground Thrush (Turdus oberlaenderi). Nine species of hornbills have been recorded as well. 75% of the Charaxes butterfly genuses are found in this forest, 441 species of bird, one species of primate, and one of butterfly are only recorded from this area in the East African part of their ranges. The forest is home to 53 mammals of which 27 are large mammals. 11 species are endemic to the park including the pygmy antelope and two flying squirrel species. It is also home to the peculiar water chevrotain, known as the “fanged deer”

Mammals include leopards, hippos, elephant, forest buffalo, hippopotamus, civets, potto, bush babies, mona monkeys, water chevrotains, and nine species of Duikers, including the Bay Duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis) and the Pygmy Flying Squirrel (Idiuus zenkeri) that occur nowhere else in East Africa.

Tourism

Tourists can visit the park any time throughout the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season (December to March: It is hot and dry, April to June: It is relatively rainy, July to September: It is dry with occasional passing rain, where as October to November: there are short heavy rains) and it is usually advisable to use 4x4 vehicles while in the park, Note that seasons are changing in the world and very often no longer predictable as ever before. Available tourist accommodation in and around the park includes lodges notably Semuliki Safari Lodge, Ntoroko Game Lodge and Camp and alternative budget accommodation in Bundibugyo and Fort Portal towns.

The major tourist activities in the park include game viewing by vehicles on dirt roads, hiking and Nature Walks in Semuliki, Birding, and Cultural Encountersm as well as visiting the Sempaya Hot Spings.

Seek advice from your local Uganda safari operator on how best you can access the park as well as how to pay for any of the activities you wish to get involved in. Note that you can book your activities from the Uganda Wildlife Authority offices in Kampala or at any entry points of the park.

Semuliki National Park is approximately 6 hours from Kampala by road following the Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal road, with an alternative route of Kampala-Mbarara-Kasese-Fort Portal route taking approximately 9 hours drive. The park is about 2 hours from Fort Portal. Regular scheduled flights by Aero Link take about 2 hours and fly into the park at Semuliki Airstrip from Entebbe airport. Charters can easily be arranged as well by Aero Link, Eagle Air, Kampala Aero Club, and Ndege Jju.

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.

Park at a Glance

Size: 220km² with an altitude of 670-760m above sea level

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.

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.


Areas of Interest

  • AISNP2
    Sempaya
  • AISNP
    Sempaya Hot Springs
  • AISNP3
    Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve


Wildlife and birding

  • WSNP1
    Birds
  • WSNP2
    Wildlife

The Rwenzoris – the fabled Mountains of the Moon – lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

Geography and Climate

Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in southwestern 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. It is situated in the Bundibugyo, Kabarole, and Kasese districts, 25 km from the small town of Kasese. The park is 996 sq km in size, 70% of which exceeds an altitude of 2,500m above seas level. The park is 120 km long and 48 km wide.

The Rwenzori Mountains straddle the equator along the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, extending north–south for about 110 km and east–west for about 50 km. Rising gradually from the highland plains of Uganda, the mountains fall steeply on the west to the Semliki River, the outflow of Lake Edward and a major tributary of Lake Albert, one of the sources of the White Nile. Geologically the mountains are young, created in the late Pliocene by an upthrust of crystalline rocks (mainly gneiss, amphibolite, granite and quartzite) that rose from within the western rift to divide palaeolake Obweruka and create present-day Lakes Albert and Edward. Hence, the range itself is not of volcanic origin although numerous craters (crater-lakes) of more recent age are found in the surrounding area.

The Rwenzori are wetter than other East African mountains, with annual rainfall varying with altitude from 2,000 to 3,000 mm, and being heaviest on the eastern slope, which faces the prevailing winds. On the Uganda side heavy rain can occur any time of year, but the rainiest periods are from mid-March to May and from September to mid-December. This therefore means those on Rwenzori Mountain Hiking Safari should target the dry period of June to September. The equatorial position of the mountain range creates daily air temperature oscillations between −5°C and 20°C in the Alpine and Nival zones, an order of magnitude greater than the seasonal variation in maximum daytime temperature. Occasional night-time freezing occurs from 3,000 m altitude (the present-day boundary between Bamboo and Ericaceous zones); to 4,000 m (the Ericaceous–Alpine zone boundary) freezing occurs on 80–90% of the nights

Biodiversity

The Rwenzori, like other tropical mountains, have a range of exotic vegetation organized in discrete vegetation belts distributed across the altitudinal gradient. The montane forest zone extends from about 1,800 to (2,200) 2,400 m, and varies from dense forest (mainly confined to valley bottoms and ridge tops), through bracken or shrub dominated areas with scattered trees, to grassy glades. Common trees include Albizia spp., Dombeya spp., Olea spp., Podocarpus milanjianus, Prunus africana and Symphoniaglobulifera. The bamboo zone, which is dominated by Sinarundinaria alpina, reaches its upper limit at about 2,600 (2,800) m on the west and 3,000 m on the east side. The Ericaceous zone (Fig. 2a), extending from the end of the bamboo up to (3,800) 3,900 m, is characterised by broad-leaved trees (Hypericum spp. or St. John’s Wort, Hagenia abyssinica and Rapanea rhododendroides), arborescent heathers (Erica spp.) draped with Usnea spp. (Old Man’s beard, a lichen), flowering shrubs (typically Helichrysum guilelmii), scattered tree groundsel (mostly Senecio longeligulatus), and giant lobelias (chiefly Lobelia stuhlmannii). The dominant mosses are Breutelia stuhlmannii and Sphagnum spp.

Common plants in the Alpine zone include Carex runssoroensis tussocks, as well as Helichrysum stuhlmannii (everlasting flower) and Alchemilla spp. (Ladies Mantle). Most celebrated in this zone are the so-called ‘giant rosette’ plants of the genera Senecio and Lobelia (primarily S. adnivalis, S. friesiorum and L. wollastonii), which are well-developed in ravines and other sheltered or well-watered sites. Almost all rock surfaces in the Nival zone, if not overlain by glaciers, are covered by lichens of the genera Umbilicaria and Usnea and mosses, such as Rhacocarpus humboldtii forming bright orange carpets.

Rwenzori is exceptionally rich in endemics: it harbours at least 1 hawkmoth, 6 butterflies, 19 bird species and 12 small mammals that occur only here and/or in a few other highlands on either side of the Albertine Rift (including the Rwenzori hyrax Dendrohyrax arboreus ruwenzorii and Rwenzori Leopard Panthera pradus ruwenzori). Twelve species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals including the ‘vulnerable’ Moon striped Mouse (Hybomys lunaris), the ‘vulnerable’ Rwenzori Horse-shoe Bat (Rhinolophus ruwenzori), the ‘near threatened’ Rwenzori Otter Shrew (Micropotomogale ruwenzori) and the ‘least concern’ Rwenzori Turaco (Ruwenzorornis johnstoni)

The park is home to 70 species of mammal, including six Albertine Rift endemics; 12 are endemic to the park and three are rare species. Other mammals include the elephant, chimpanzee, Rwenzori otter and leopard. Though wildlife is difficult to spot in the dense forest, do look out for primates such as colobus (Angola and black-and-white varieties are both present) and blue monkeys; small antelope such as bushbucks; and unusual reptiles such as the three-horned chameleon.

Tourism

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 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 major tourist activity here is mountain climbing although you are required to spend an overnight at the base of the mountain or in Kasese town.

For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits home cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.

Park at a Glance

  • Size: 996km2
  • The park was gazetted in 1991 and was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1994 and Ramsar site in 2008.
  • Highest point: 5,109m above sea level on Mt Stanley's Margherita Peak. Mt. Stanley is bisected by the border with the DR Congo.
  • The Rwenzori is not volcanic like East Africa’s other major mountains but is a block of rock upfaulted through the floor of the Western Rift Valley.
  • The Rwenzoris were christened the "Mountains of the Moon" by the Alexandrine geographer Ptolemy in AD 150.
  • The explorer Henry Stanley placed the Rwenzori on the map on 24th May 1888. He labeled it ‘Ruwenzori’, a local name which he recorded as meaning “Rain-Maker” or “Cloud-King.”
  • The oldest recorded person to reach Margherita Peak was Ms Beryl Park aged 78 in 2010.

Areas of Interest

  • ruboni-bridge
    Ruboni Bridge
  • ruboni-village
    Ruboni Village
  • peaks
    Peaks


Wildlife and birding summary

  • colobus
    Colobus
  • chameleon
    Chameleon
  • turaco
    Turaco

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