QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
The park contains about 1978sq km of tremendous scenic variety, including volcanic craters and crater lakes, grassy plains, swamps, rivers, lakes and tropical forest. The snowcapped Ruwenzori Mountains lie to the north and are not part of the park itself.
Elephant are present, as well as buffalo, leopard, sitatunga, giant forest hog, Uganda kob, topi and Defassa waterbuck. Over 540 species of birds have been recorded, including the rare prehistoric-looking shoebill (whale-headed stork), which may be sighted along the shores of Lake George and in the Ishasha region.
Interestingly enough, there are no giraffe, zebra, or impala, rhino and only a few crocodile have been sighted in the Kazinga Channel, while none have been seen in Lakes Edward or George. The crocodiles are believed to have been killed long ago by volcanic activity.
A two-hour launch trip on the Kazinga Channel, which joins Lakes Edward and George, is one memorable method of game viewing and one of the most rewarding experiences of the visit to the park. It affords excellent opportunities for viewing hippo and a great variety of waterfowl at close range. The launch trip departs from just below Mweya Lodge and should not be missed.
The Katwe area in the north of the park has several saline lakes.
The Chambura Gorge, located on the northeast boundary of the park, has a population of chimpanzees. Trekkers descend from the savannah into a tropical rain forest within the gorge.
South of the Kazinga Channel, the Maramagambo Forest is home to alluring selection of chimpanzees, bats, snakes and pythons, black and white colobus monkeys, the rare red colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and baboons.
The Ishasha region in the south of the park is famous for its tree-climbing lions which lounge nonchalantly on old fig trees.
Over 500 bird species have been identified here making it a paradise for the bird watchers some of which include the black bee eater, 11 different species of kingfishers and several falcons, eagles and other raptors. Many of the crater lakes are home to spectacular flocks of flamingos.
From Kampala the park is 260 miles (420 km) via Mbarara and 285 miles (460 km) via Fort Portal. A landing strip is located at Mweya for light aircraft; larger planes can land at Kasese.
KIBAALE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
This 795 sq km park consists of marshes, grasslands, crater lakes, lowland tropical rainforest, tropical deciduous forest and montane forest and is the best place in Uganda for chimpanzee trekking. The forest received National park status in 1991. In addition to being one of Uganda’s newest parks, it is also the country’s most accessible forest and is thought to have one of the dense primate populations in the world. This claim to fame has made it the site of several long- term primate behavioral and scientific studies. The resulting exposure to researchers has habituated many of the monkey troops to human observers, thereby providing today’s tourists with some of the finest monkey viewing in Africa. It’s major attraction however, is the opportunity to trek the habituated chimps- these delightful apes, more closely related to humans than to any other living creature are tremendous fun to watch as they squabble and play in fruiting trees. Other primate species found here include Red Colobus, Black and White colobus, blue, red tail, and L’Hoest’s Monkeys, Grey-checked Mangabey, and Galagos.
The elusive forest elephant, smaller and harrier than it’s savannah counterpart, moves seasonally into the developed part of the park, while other terrestrial animals include buffalo, giant forest hog and half a dozen antelope species. Over 300 bird (including the endemic Prirogrine’s ground thrush) and 144 butterfly species have been identified here.
A guided swamp walk can be taken at Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, a fantastic site developed and managed by the Kibaale Association for Rural and Environmental organisation formed in 1992 with the aim of achieving social and economic development for local communities. The sanctuary covers an area approximately 3km2 from the Kibaale National Park boundary to its intersection with the Dura River. The swamp is home to a wide range of Flora and Fauna including Primates, Mammals, and 138+ species of birds. Also available are tree houses for bird watching.