Safari in Uganda: National Parks
10. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This park, one of the smallest in the country, covers an area of some 331 km2 of the vast dense forests at Northern Kigezi, which is found between the developed region of southern Kigezi and Queen Elizabeth National Park. It lies 480 kms southwest of Kampala, and part of it runs fairly near Virunga National Park and the boundary with the Democratic Republic of Congo at the southwest corner of Uganda. A quicker alternative is by flying into Kigali in Rwanda then motoring four hours northerly to Kasese District in Uganda. Bwindi has been made from highland montane forests brought about during the formation of the western branch of the Rift Valley (the Albertine Rift) where high trees – over 30 meters – completely block the sunlight from reaching the ground. Although the edges of the forest have many bushes, the inner sections do not contain these bushes because there’s no sunlight. The present park was gazetted in 1991, and is being actively developed. Originally before becoming a park, it was a popular hunting area, and is still one of the best wildlife areas in East Africa. It was inscribed in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional biodiversity, with more than 160 species of trees and over 100 species of ferns. Many varieties of birds and butterflies can also be found here, as well as endangered species, like the mountain gorilla. It is the gorilla trekking expeditions that are the biggest attraction. According to a 2011 census, Bwindi has over 400 mountain gorillas, which visitors to the park can sight for an hour by way of trekking through the forests. It costs USD 600 for the gorilla tracking expedition. In addition, for the devoted conservationist, one can take part in the extended Gorilla Habituation, joining the researchers on a four hours expedition, that costs USD 1,500. Other wildlife in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park include almost 120 mammal species, 360 bird species and 200 butterfly species. The forests itself has almost 300 species of trees. Some of the accommodation options include the Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Gorilla Mist Camp, Nshongi Camp and the Matana Tented Camp.
11. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
A short drive from Kabale, the main township in the southern area of Uganda, brings one to the Kanaba’s Gap, 8,000 ft. above sea level. From this point the view is breathtaking. At one’s feet a steep slope falls away into the valley and in the distance the giant volcanic peaks with tuneful names, Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo, rise 13,000 ft. sheer out of the green plain and limpid blue lakes. At the southwestern corner of Uganda bordering the DRC, along the footslopes of Muhavura (4,127 m), Mgahinga (3,474 m) and Sabinyo (3,645 m) mountains, sits the 33 km2 Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the smallest in the country. This Park is a part of the Virunga Conservation Area that spreads over Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is perhaps the most beautiful of all the parks in Uganda, against the backdrop of the the pleasing conical mountains, and almost a guaranteed success for those wishing to spot the rare mountain gorilla. In the flat terrain on the way to the forests, these great volcanic bumps have a certain aura of romance about them, making this area more scenic than faunal and a memorable goal for long afternoon’s hiking expedition. The trail up the higher reaches of the park, to find the epic gorillas hardly deters the anxious travellers. The walking is amazing provided in good weather, and there are several low level beauty spots to visit, such as waterfalls. It gets steeper, but it is worth it as the scenery and views are superb. The trail passes through thick forest containing gigantic trees before ending up in the health, and with some anxiety mixed with trepidation it’s a look out for the gem of the forest – the mountain gorilla. Named ‘Sokwe’ in Swahili, the mountain gorilla is the world’s largest ape, represented in East Africa by a few families which inhabit south-west Uganda. Led by a male who will weigh about 200 kgs, these small groups roam over the higher slopes feeding mainly on wild celery and bamboo. Though terribly powerful they are peaceful and retiring by nature.
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