6 Must-See Uganda National Parks for Adventurous Souls
There’s a reason they call Uganda the Pearl of Africa. It’s such a gem. Brilliant terrain, protected wildlife habitats, and picturesque sights at every turn make Uganda national parks the best destination for any explorer at heart.
This landlocked country is packed full of rare endangered species, flourishing greenery, and “I can’t believe this is real life!!!” moments. So, how do you even start planning a trip when the whole country’s so frickin’ beautiful?
That’s why we’re here: to tell you all the secrets about what makes the best Uganda national parks so uniquely special. Let’s go!
Best National Parks in Uganda
Uganda’s beautiful national parks make this east Africa country a must-visit destination for all flora and fauna lovers. And we love them so much that we keep going back for more!
While we could rant and rave about our faves forever, so we will. Here are the best Uganda national parks for our adventurers out there.
Kidepo Valley National Park
If you’re the kind of gal who loves the company of animals more than humans, you need to hit up Kidepo Valley National Park ASAP. In this fantastically remote, isolated national park, you’ll feel like one with wildlife. Yeah, you’ll need to prep your tender little heart to feel all the feels as lions, cheetahs, and elephants pass by. BTW, this is the only park in Uganda where zebras and giraffes live together.
Kidepo Valley National Park is accessible via road in certain conditions (though the route is not always easy, and you’ll need to contact the Uganda Wildlife Authority before heading out) or by a chartered flight. Either way, you’ll pass some seriously SPECTACULAR views and stare in awe as this oasis pops up amongst the savannas. One word: WOW.
If you ever get the chance to explore the Kidepo Valley (like we do on our Ugandan safari trip!), be sure to reflect on the area’s poignant history. This wild frontier region became a game reserve in 1958 when the British colonial government displaced the Dodoth and Ik people, leading to extreme famine. Four years later, Uganda gained sovereignty and transformed the reserve into what’s now the Kidepo Valley National Park.
- Vibe: Quiet and remote, scenic plains and valleys, wildlife lover’s dream
- Location: Kaabong District in north eastern Uganda
- What it’s known for: Prime environment for a wildlife safari or nature walk excursions and incredible bird watching
- Pro tip: Maximize your time and avoid road closure curveballs by budgeting for a charter plane instead of making the 10-hour drive from Kampala to Kidepo.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
One of the most popular Uganda national parks, Queen Elizabeth National Park, is tucked between Lake George and Lake Albert in western Uganda. This protected area, alongside nearby Kibale National Park, Virunga National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, and some game reserves, cradles Lake Edward, creating a rich and stunning wildlife haven.
Founded initially as Kazinga National Park in the 1950s, mass epidemics and evictions caused indigenous Basongora peoples to flee across borders, while the aftermath continues affecting the tribe and ecosystem today.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the top tourist destinations in Uganda. And the main attraction? Well, you can decide for yourself when you join our trip here! But how do tree climbing lions, chimpanzee tracking, boat cruises, and volcanic features sound to you? Yeah, you can find all that and more in Queen Elizabeth Park.
- Vibe: Prime tourist destination, savannah, forests, and waterways, rich variety of wildlife
- Location: South western Uganda, spanning the Kasese, Kamwenge, Bushenyi, and Rukungiri Districts
- What it’s known for: Diverse landscape with the widest range of wildlife species of all Uganda national parks
- Pro tip: The highly recommended boat ride along the Kazinga Channel is NOT overrated, but you’ll have to head to Ishasha to spot those tree climbing lions. We vote you do both!
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
NOTHING prepares you to get up close and personal with mountain gorillas. Seriously. But brace yourself because that’s precisely what will happen in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. A third of the world’s population of this endangered species call this place home. Yes, this is real life — not a page out of Lonely Planet.
Primates aside, visiting Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a pure gem with one of the richest ecosystems in Africa. Over 900 species of diverse flora and fauna call this UNESCO World Heritage Site home. And humans? We call it a “natural phenomenon.”
But if you’re wondering what makes it “impenetrable,” the answer is vegetation. Bamboo stalks mixed with dense ground cover make this rainforest difficult to trek through. So put those glutes to work as you hike towards gorillas — it ain’t no walk in the park (though technically it is…)!
- Vibe: Densely forested, peaceful, tricky terrain
- Location: Kanungu District of south west Uganda
- What it’s known for: Mountain gorillas!!!
- Pro tip: Secure your gorilla safari permit ASAP. Book yours at least six months in advance to ensure availability.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
A national park created JUST for gorilla conservation? You bet! This tiny park in the Virunga Mountains is all about the gorillas — hence the name. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the natural habitat of three mountain gorilla families, including one you can trek to, and the only group of golden monkeys in the country.
Though Mgahinga may be the smallest of the national parks in Uganda, over 75 mammal species reside in this extinct volcano landscape. Here, you can spot African leopards, bushpigs, buffalo, elephants, and more. And bird watchers? You’ll ADORE spotting 17 avian types endemic to the Albertine Rift and over 250 other species.
- Vibe: Quaint and quiet, excellent for spotting primates and other endangered species, prime hiking destination
- Location: Kisoro District, south west Uganda
- What it’s known for: Gorilla conservation, trekking, and being the sole home of golden monkeys in Uganda.
- Pro tip: Visit Mgahinga for the most intimate gorilla habituation experience. Only four individuals can visit the one gorilla family per day!
Murchison Falls National Park
Come hang out in Murchison Falls National Park, the biggest of the Uganda national parks! You can find four of the “Big Five” African mammals here — lions, elephants, leopards, and buffaloes — then hitch a 3-hour boat ride on the freakin’ Nile River to spot crocodiles, hippos, and more. Yup. You can pinch yourself. It’s real.
While you might not see rhinos roaming the park, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, located within Murchison Falls National Park, protects 22 endangered southern white rhinos. Along with the adjacent Bugondo Forest Reserve, Murchison Falls homes the country’s largest population of Nile crocodiles, 450 bird species, and tons of other wildlife. Hot air balloon rides, chimpanzee trekking tours, and nature walks are a must here.
The stunning Murchison Falls National Park lies on the northern side of the Albertine Rift Valley in the drier part of the country, making it a fantastic destination for abundant wildlife safari viewings year-round. And the highlight of a trip to Murchison Falls Park? The waterfalls, of course! The surging Nile pushes through a narrow gorge, crashing 140 feet below. You’ll stare in awe as you bear witness to nature’s power.
- Vibe: Diverse wildlife species, prime tourist destination, conservation-focused, stunning natural landscape
- Location: Northern Uganda along the Albertine Rift Valley
- What it’s known for: The mighty waterfalls steal the spotlight of this national park, and it is the biggest national park in Uganda covering 1,483 sq miles
- Pro tip: Murchison Falls’ climate is drier than other national parks in Uganda, so travel during wet season for fewer tourists and lower prices.
Kibale Forest National Park
Ready to get your Jane Goodall on? Time to visit Kibale Forest National Park in south western Uganda! Composed of lush tropical forests filled with over 1500 chimpanzees and varied habitats playing host to tons of endangered species, Kibale National Park is one of the best national parks in Uganda for wildlife lovers.
The area’s rich culture also makes it a dreamy destination, with the Batoro tribe’s King’s palace located in the nearby Fort Portal town. You can even immerse yourself in their traditions with a trip to the Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru rocks and learn the historical myths of these fascinating caves. Eco-tourism in the park’s adjacent Bigodi Wildlife Sanctuary also helps local communities thrive. And you’ll want to take a stroll through this gorgeous wetland. It’s bird watchers’ paradise!
- Vibe: Great walking trails, diverse terrain and habitats, wildlife encounters
- Location: Kabarole District, western Uganda
- What it’s known for: Chimpanzee sightings and conservation efforts, including Jane Goodall’s Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary
- Pro tip: Kibale National Park is adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Semliki National Park. Hit all three on your east Africa vacay for a truly sensational experience.
Explore Uganda With Explorer Chick!
Alright, adventure babes, let’s stop daydreaming about exploring Uganda and get to it! Join ten other wildlife-loving gal pals on an unforgettable trip to these purely magical parks. Book your gorilla trekking, safari, and hiking excursion with Explorer Chick today!
Meet the Writer
Megan Wray is a queer, mixed-race Japanese-Canadian freelance writer based on Treaty 1 Territory. Passionate about pleasure, identity, and anti-oppression, Megan’s fuelled by meaningful chats about topics that aren’t “appropriate” for dinner table conversation. When she’s not writing, you can find Megan cooking vegan food, singing to live music, and trying to understand astrology.
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