Uganda on canvas

Shilpa Chandran and Lilly Ajarova
Filed on October 3, 2021

From thick forests to winding lakes, from bees to butterflies, from gorillas to giraffes, Uganda is a country of stunning biodiversity and wildlife attractions

Uganda is a land-locked country, neighbouring Kenya, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The country, lovingly referred as the ‘pearl of Africa’ by Winston Churchill, is a treat for the senses, spanning all five elements. There are 10 national parks, 12 wildlife reserves, five community wildlife management areas, 13 wildlife sanctuaries, forests, rivers, lakes, mountains, waterflows, hot springs and plenty of tropical and subtropical beauty.

Uganda is famous for The Big Five + 2 – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo as well as chimpanzees and the mountain gorilla in addition to other famous animals such as giraffe, zebra, hippopotamus, crocodile, and more than half of all bird species found in Africa. When you visit Uganda, you have an unrivalled opportunity to see 19 species of primates, including 53.9% of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas; half of all bird species in Africa and 39% of all mammal species in Africa.

Uganda on canvas (

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

One of the most fascinating activities to do at Uganda is watching gorillas, in particular mountain gorillas. The park also offers a unique gorilla habituation experience where participants can join a team of researchers and guides to learn more about these exquisite wild animals. Gorilla trekking is a must-do activity and aside from the Bwindi National Park, it also takes place in another one of Uganda’s two most pristine, and scenic national parks - the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a little getaway with many species. As well as the gorillas, there are around 90 species of mammals, with 10 primates. Others include the white colobus monkeys, green monkeys, and Smidt’s red-tailed monkey. Additionally, ornithologists and birdwatchers are in for a treat in the forest which ranks one of the best in the region for this activity. Bluebills, flycatchers, thrushes, warblers, butterflies and so on, part of the nearly 350-strong bird species found here. Seen here is a baby gorilla enjoys the warm embrace of the mother in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Claimed to be the smallest national parks in Uganda, Mgahinga, located in the foothills of the Virunga Mountains, has around 300 mountain gorillas aside from some 75 species of mammals including forest elephants, and leopards. Situated in southwest Uganda, the park also encompasses three extinct volcanoes. When not gorilla trekking, the park offers great opportunities for hiking and wildlife spotting. Another interesting activity here is tracking golden monkeys. These small primates hover around the bamboo forest and are generally used to people.

Murchison Falls National Park

Visited by royalty and dignitaries, the Murchison Falls National Park offers a protected sanctuary for a wide array of animals including elephants, giraffes, leopards, chimpanzees, hippos, crocodiles, lions and so on. The park’s claim to fame is its thunderous waterfall which XX Located in northwest Uganda the park is the country’s largest wildlife reserve. Within the Murchison Falls Conservation Area there are two reserves - Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and Karuma Wildlife Reserve.

Uganda on canvas (

Queen Elizabeth National Park

While here, visitors are urged to take what is considered to be one of the country’s ‘most scenic drives’ – the Explosion Crater Drive. On this two and a half hour drive tourists can enjoy stunning views of several natural landmarks like the Blue Mountains of the Congo, Mountains of the Moon, and Lakes Edwards and Crater.

The spectacular Murchison Falls on the River Nile, the world’s longest river. The falls give Murchison Falls National Park its name. Because of two rainfall seasons, every of the flora and fauna attractions in Uganda as well as the rivers and falls are larger and more breath-taking.

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

Tourists can enjoy spanning heavenly views in the Rwenzori mountains. Other than the rare vegetation in the Rwenzoris such as the giant lobelia and groundsels, the mountain also has some of the highest altitude lakes on the continent - over 20 lakes in total.

Julian Wright (left) a Kenya-based Julian Wright, a professional mountaineer, lead guide/ field expert and Director of African Ascents Limited, a Kenyan outdoor adventure company and Enoch Bwambale (right) a guide with Rwenzori Trekking Services (RTS) at the Margherita Peak, (5,109 metres). Julian and Enoch Julian set a record, by climbing eight peaks in days. Over and above Margherita, the three other Mt. Stanley peaks summitted by Julian are Alexandra Peak (5,090 metres), Albert Peak (5,087 metres), and Cheptegei (4,907 meters).

The duo also summited Mutinda Lookout (3,975 metres); Mt. Speke’s tallest peak- Vittorio Emanuele (4890 metres) as well as Iolanda Peak, (4,175 metres) the tallest peak on Mt. Gessi and finally, Mt. Baker’s Edward Peak (4,844 metres).

Kibale National Park

Situated in the west of Uganda, Kibale, pronounced as ‘chibaale’ lies at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. The 80,000ha park has one of the highest concentration of primates and contains both lowland and montane forest. The main attraction of this park is the opportunity to enjoy chimpanzee trekking experiences. The park is home to endangered chimpanzees, as well as other primates like red colobus monkeys, L’Hoests monkeys, and other animals like leopards, buffalos, duiker, and bush pigs. Visitors can also see a variety of bird species here. For those wanting to travel by road, must take the corridor to the Queen Elizabeth National Park, where herds of African elephants roam around freely.

Uganda on canvas (

Kidepo Valley National Park

Tourists on a wild game safari drive in Kidepo Valley National Park. The park lies in the rugged, semi-arid valleys between Uganda’s borders with Sudan and Kenya, some 700km from Kampala. Gazetted as a national park in 1962, it is famous for the big game and hosts over 77 mammal species as well as around 475 bird species. From Apoka, in the heart of the park, a savannah landscape extends far beyond the gazetted area, towards horizons outlined by distant mountain ranges.

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Lake Mburo National Park

This park offers more diversity. Located close to the highway that connects the capital city Kampala to the parks of western Uganda, it is known to be the smallest savannah national park in the country. Unique here are the ancient Precambrian metamorphic rocks which date back more than 500 million years. Zebras, impalas, elands, buffalos, oribis, waterbucks, leopards, hippos, hyenas, topis and reedbucks as well some 350 birds live here. Lake Mburo has 13 other lakes in its neighbourhood and forms a 50km-long wetland system linked by a swamp. Once covered by open savannah, the park today contains more woodland. Rocky ridges, forested gorges, and a papyrus swamp are other biolife seen here.

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Kasubi Royal Tombs

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which houses the tombs of four Kabakas or ‘kings’ of Buganda – one of Uganda’s largest ethnic group that is composed of 52 clans. The Kasubi Tombs is considered to be one of the most religious centres in the kingdom and reflects the finest traditions of traditional architectural practices . The site covers around 30 hectares of hillside land with the main tomb building situated at the hilltop referred to as the Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga. This was the palace of the Kabakas and was built in 1882, to later be converted into the royal burial, where lies the four tombs. The building, however, has been in existence since the 13th century, and displays the architectural style of that period. It is circular and surmounted by a dome, and is made of materials such as wooden poles, spear grass, reeds and wattle.

Kabaka’s Palace

The royal home of the king of Buganda in Mengo, Kampala city. This British-inspired colonial residence was destroyed in the 1966 Battle of Mengo Hill, when the then Prime Minister of Uganda, Milton Obote ordered an attack to oust Mutesa II, the dictator military officer Idi Amin and his troops stormed the palace and forced Mutesa to flee and live in exile. During this civil war, the building was converted to army barracks. The site also houses an underground prison with dark cells separated by an electrified passage

to prevent inmates from escaping. A guide will explain this tumultuous history on a tour of the palace and its grounds, where guests can also find the wreck of an old Rolls Royce and a blue-and-white howitzer that the Kabaka owned.

Baha’I Temple of Worship

Uganda is the only country in the continent to house a place of worship for the Baha’I faith. Located in Kampala, the Baha’I mother temple of Africa, also known as Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is one of only nine temples from around the world. The faith was brought to this land in 1950 by English and Iranian followers, while the temple was built between 1957 and 1960. At the time of its construction, it was considered to be the tallest building in East Africa.

Mabira Forest

The Mabira Forest is one of Uganda’s last remaining rain forests and is situated at the centre of the country, in Buikwe district. Since 1932 it has been protected as a forest reserve and since 1996 it has been developed as a community ecotourism site. Activities at this attraction include specialty bird watching, mountain biking, camping, educational tours, picnic trails and grass trails as well as forest walks where visitors can witness the amazing biodiversity both during the day and at night.

Sesse Islands

This is an archipelago of 84 islands located on Lake Victoria, with distinctive flora, fauna , shapes and sizes. Guests can explore this destination on boat trips.from golden sands to dense forests, Bugala, the largest of the islands, is a welcoming treat for those wanting to have a hideaway from chaotic city lives. There are daily ferry rides from Entebbe on the main land to this island. A charming fishing village welcomes torusits to the island, while several other activities such as treks and white water rafting are available to explore.

Lake Victoria

Africa’s largest lake, the world’s largest tropical lake, as well as the birth place of the River Nile are the more known accolades of Lake Victoria. The lake is also famously known to have one of the largest ecosystems and is the second largest freshwater lake in the world. A charmful addition to this destination is the town of Jinja, which is strategically located at the start of River Nile. Here you can enjoy the aqua realm in all its wonder by engaging in some extreme sports both in water as well as on land amidst the mountains.


The capital city has its share of special attractions as most capital cities in the world – a city museum, art galleries, restaurants and bars, retail havens (such as the Owino Market), temples and cathedrals. While here, visitors can also enjoy a traditional feat at the Ndere Centre that hosts live performances by Ugandan tribes. Transport within the city is easy and affordable, with the boda-bodas (motorbikes) helping maneouver comfortably.

— Lilly Ajarova is the CEO of Uganda Tourism Board

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