Uganda is the Pearl of Africa, a tourist hub endowed with a myriad attractions distributed throughout its various regions. The country’s most noteworthy attractions include; its 10 national parks, cultural and historical sites, over 1021 bird species, hot springs, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and the various wildlife and mammal species.
Found in the south-western Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park stands out as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the home of almost half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorillas. With about 12 habituated gorilla families residing in the park’s four major regions, gorilla trekking is Bwindi ‘s major tourist attraction. The park is also a habitat to over 120 other mammal species, 348 bird species, 220 species of butterflies, 163 tree species and 104 species of ferns.
Queen Elizabeth National Park stands out as Uganda’s most visited tourist destination. The park is situated in the Western region of Uganda and stretches over 1978 square kilometers. The park stretches to include Maramagambo forest and borders the Kigezi Game Reserve, Kyambura Game Reserve, Kibale National Park and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Queen Elizabeth is most famous for its wildlife; the African buffalo, hippopotamus, Uganda Kob, Nile crocodile, African bush elephant, and the African leopard. The park is a habitat to over 95 mammal species and over 500 species of birds. The park’s major highlight however is its tree-climbing lions found in Ishasha region. Tourist activities done in the park include; game drives, crater lakes drives, boat cruises on Kazinga channel, birding, nature walks and forest walks.
Celebrated as Uganda’s largest national park, Murchison Falls National Park is found in the north-western region and stretches over 3893 square kilometres. With the adjacent Budongo Forest Reserve, the park is a habitat to over 76 mammal species and 450 bird species including the rare shoe-billed stork, dwarf kingfisher, white-thighed hornbill, Goliath heron, and the Great blue turaco. Boat cruises on the Nile – Lake Albert delta, birding, hikes and nature walks, game drives through the park’s designated game viewing tracks, cultural tours, sport fishing and hot air balloon safaris are some of the most engaging tourist activities in the park.
Standing out as one of the last expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests, Kibale National Park is situated in Western Uganda, stretching over 766 square kilometres in size. The park is an important eco-tourism site and a famous safari destination, most popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and 12 other primate species. Kibale National Park is a habitat to over 325 bird species and a numerous wildlife population including animals like; the giant forest hog, African buffaloes, warthogs, sitatungas, duikers, bushbucks, bush pigs, leopards, golden cats, elephants, servals, otters, lions, mangabeys, red colobus monkeys, and L’Hoest’s monkeys.
Situated in the south-western Uganda, Rwenzori Mountains National Park stands out as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of Africa’s third highest mountain peak, as well as many lakes, waterfalls and glaciers. The park is noted for its beautiful botany, it has five distinct vegetation zones which change according to changes in altitudes. Mountain climbing, hiking and nature walks, birding and cultural tours are some of the most engaging adventures at the park.
Bisected by the border of Uganda and Kenya, Mount Elgon National Park is situated northeast of Lake Victoria and covers an area of 1279 square kilometres. The Ugandan part of the park covers 1110 square kilometres. The park is a habitat to over 144 bird species and a variety of wildlife animals including; elephants and buffaloes found on the lower slopes of Mount Elgon, antelopes, duikers, red-tailed monkeys, and the black-and-white colobus monkeys. Tourist activities enjoyed in the park include; mountain climbing, bird watching, archery, guided nature walks, hiking, spot fishing, mountain biking, rock climbing and cultural tours.
Kidepo Valley National Park is found in the remote Karamoja region in northeast Uganda. The park ranks among Africa’s finest wildernesses. Mount Morungole, Narus and Kidepo rivers, Kidepo Game Reserve, and the Kanangorok hot springs, are some of the park’s noteworthy attractions. Also, the park is a home to over 500 bird species and several wildlife animals including; the spotted hyena, cheetah, lion, elephant, leopard, giraffe, zebra, African buffalo, bat-eared Fox, and the Rothschild’s giraffe. Game drives, birding, hikes and nature walks and cultural tours are some of the most commonly done tourist activities.
Lying on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Semuliki National Park is found in a remote part of Bundibugyo district in Western Uganda. Amazingly, 194 square kilometres of East Africa’s only lowland tropical rainforest is found in the park. Semuliki stands out as one of the wealthiest areas of floral and faunal diversity in Africa. The park has over 400 confirmed species of birds and 60 mammal species including; leopards, forest buffaloes, hippos, bush babies, civets, elephants, and water chevrotains. Besides the bird, animal and plant life found in the park, there are several other attractions including; the noteworthy Sempaya hot springs, a pair of boiling geysers found in the forest. The two springs are referred to as the male and female springs called Mumbugu and Nyasimbi, respectively. The locals believe Nyasimbi is the residence of a female spirit who has the ability to grant fertility to barren women and Mumbugu the residence of a male spirit who has the power to invoke wealth and prosperity. Besides visiting the springs, the other tourism activities done in the park include; birding, game drives, hikes and nature walks and cultural visits.
Situated in Western Uganda, Lake Mburo National Park is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks. A compact wildlife gem, the park attracts a great number of tourists throughout the year. The most engaging tourism activities done within the park include; birding in the swampy valleys of Warukiri and Miriti, the roadside between Rwonyo camp and the jetty, the viewing platforms at the salt lick, and Rubanga forest. The other activities include; launch trips on Lake Mburo, hikes and nature walks, horseback riding, sport fishing, and game drives through the acacia woodlands, the grassy hillsides, and seasonally flooded valley floors.
Besides Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only other place in Uganda where mountain gorillas can be encountered. The park is situated in the Virunga mountains and encompasses three inactive volcanoes; Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura and Mount Sabyinyo. The park’s major safari activities include; gorilla trekking done in the park’s thick forest, volcano climbing, bird watching, cultural tours, hikes and nature walks. Gorillas in Mgahinga are easily seen and trekked as compared to those in other parks.
Cultural and historical sites
Uganda has an inexhaustible list of cultural and historical sites found across the various regions of the country. Throughout the year, thousands of tourists and visitors are registered at the various sites. Commonly visited sites include; the Uganda museum; the oldest museum in East Africa and a prized place where ‘all articles of interest’ pertaining to Uganda’s ethnological, historical, traditional and cultural heritage are displayed and exhibited. The basilica of the Uganda martyrs shrine in Namugongo; this is the location where 32 young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga II of Buganda kingdom were burnt to death on 3rd. June. 1886, for their faith in God. The prized Kasubi tombs; this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the burial site of 4 of Buganda’s fallen kings and several members of the royal family. Buganda Kingdom is the largest reigning monarchy in Uganda. The Baha’I temple; named as the mother temple of the Baha’I faith in Africa, the gigantic temple looms on Kikaya hill, on the outskirts of Kampala. The Amabere ga nyina mwiru caves found in Fort Portal are also an intriguing attraction. The other noteworthy historical and cultural attractions include; the Kabaka (king’s) palace, the Tooro palace, Akampene Island, Rubaga and Namirembe cathedrals, Gaddafi national mosque, and the Nyero rock paintings.