Kibale National Park.

Locals and the park

Two major tribes, the Batooro and Bakiga, inhabit the area around the park. They use the park for food, fuel, and other resources with the help of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.In the last century, the population around the park has increased by seven fold.

This is speculated to be because the park directly brings in revenue for those living around it and the tourism industry creates jobs. In addition, many farmers believe that the soil is better for growing crops year round. This increase in the population has caused the area around the park to be divided and developed or turned into plantations and farmland, and demand for firewood asserts pressure on the park’s wildlife habitat.

Organizations like the New Nature Foundation are working to restore harmony to the people-park relationship by empowering local citizens to meet their needs in sustainable ways. Cutting trees for fuel has already strained many of the forest areas outside Kibale.

Biodiversity

Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Endangered) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey (Vulnerable).

Fauna

Chimpanzee eating figs in Kibale National Park

There are 13 species of primates in Kibale National Park. The park protects several well-studied habituated communities of common chimpanzee, as well as several species of Central African monkey including the Uganda mangabey (Lophocebus Uganda), the Ugandan red colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles) and the L’Hoest’s monkey.

Other primates that are found in the park include the black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza) and the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis). The park’s population of elephants travels between the park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Other terrestrial mammals that are found within Kibale National Park include red and blue duikers, bushbucks, sitatungas, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, common warthogs, and African buffalo.

The carnivores that are present include leopards, African golden cats, servals, different mongooses and two species of otter. In addition, lions visit the park on occasion. Habituated Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park

Bird life is also prolific. The park boasts 325 species of birds, including the olive long-tailed cuckoo, western tinkerbird, two species of pittas (African and green-breasted) and the grey parrot. The ground thrush (Turdus kibalensis) is endemic to Kibale National Park.

Primates

Primates are very common in Kibale National Forest. The forest has some of the highest abundances of species of primates in the area. There are many species of primates and these species persist in the less disturbed areas of the forest in their natural habitats. There are disturbances that are hindering some of these species.

Logging effects on primates

Logging effects have been studied specifically by a few people. Most studies find that logging seems to be having a negative effect on the species but there are some contradictions.

Some species of primates are found less frequently in logged areas but others were unaffected. This study helps reveal the importance of stopping logging in certain regions of Kibale National Forest. The species from the study are shown below. These species densities show the effect of logging on each separate species:

* Heavily logged areas:

* Found in lower densities: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), redtails (Cercopithecus ascanius)

* Found in mixed densities: red colobus (Procolobus badius), black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza)

* Unlogged areas:

* Found in mixed densities: red colobus (Procolobus badius), black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza)

Another study conducted by Chapman and his colleagues in 2000 showed that many species of primates returned and came back to their original densities in lightly logged forest but in the heavily logged forest primates species were not able to recover.

This study helps support that Kibale National Forest needs to develop a light logging system different from their heavily logging system they conduct now.

Degraded agricultural lands effect on primates

Degraded lands occur when land is cleared for agriculture and then abandoned after a few years. These lands are coming back at different rates and some are showing no possibility of re-growth.

The effect these lands have on primates is still slightly unknown but some studies have started weeding out answers. One study found that most species of primates were found evenly distributed throughout the entire forest, whether there was agriculture encroachment or not.

Diet of primates in Kibale National Park

Different species have different diets and many of the species are folivorous. One study actually found that black-and-white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) eat younger leaves over older leaves (this is thought to happen because the leaves have more protein and are easier to digest).

Flora

Kibale Forest National Park

There are approximately 229 species of trees found within the moist tropical forests of the park. Some endangered timber species of trees include Cordia millenii, Entandrophragma angolense, and Lovoa swynnertonnii.

The forest understory is dominated by shade-tolerant shrubs and herbs, which include Palisota schweinfurthii and Pollia condensata, in addition to ferns and broad leaf grasses.

Forest management

Forestry research in the park

Many studies have been conducted within the park to assess the factors influencing forest regeneration and forest management techniques. One such study’s results suggested that forest restoration could be achieved through preventing fires within the park and allowing natural succession to occur so that the grasslands formed due to human activity could naturally regenerate to forests. 

The results showed that plots within the park that had the longest history of fire exclusion had the highest species diversity of trees. Furthermore, species of trees that required animal dispersal of their seeds were far more abundant than non-animal dispersed species in the plot with the longest duration of fire exclusion.

This suggests that seed dispersing animals were also more abundant in areas where fire was excluded. Lastly, the presence of seed dispersers and animal dispersed species of trees in some grassland plots suggest that suppressing fire and allowing natural seed dispersal to occur can encourage forest regeneration.

Another study evaluated the use of exotic pine and cypress tree plantations as a forest restoration technique within the park. This study showed a high level of natural regeneration of indigenous trees within pine plantations most likely due to the use of these plantations by seed dispersing animals such as red tail monkeys, chimpanzees, duikers, and bush pigs, all of which were sited or tracked within the plantations.

Wild coffee project

Robusta coffee grows negatively in the Kibale forest area. From 1999 to 2002 an effort was made to commercialize this coffee as a premium consumer brand, emulating and extending the success of shade grown in Central America. Revenue from the coffee production was intended to finance conservation management activities.

Initial funding for project development came from USAID. The project was implemented with funding from the Ford Foundation and $750,000 from the World Bank Global Environment Facility. The project had initial success in setting up local production standards and procedures and control infrastructure.

Initially it was led by the Uganda Coffee Trade Federation, until the independent US-based non-profit Kibale Forest Foundation was created to take over the project. Sustainable annual yield was estimated at 1,500 pounds (680 kg). Organic certification was delivered by the Swedish KRAV labeling firm.

It was subsequently discovered that there was no demand for the product, as the robusta variety is perceived as inferior to Arabia coffee typically demanded by the premium market. Various blending schemes were turned down by coffee distributors. Project leaders estimated that $800000 in marketing expenditure would be required to create demand.

KITAGATA HOT SPRINGS IN UGANDA

Accessing Kitagata hot springs

Located in Kitagata Town Council, south in Sheema District, the hot springs are approximately two kilometers from the trading center.  Travelers can access Kitagata either by branching off at Ishaka Town on the Mbarara-Kasese Road or at Kagamba, on the Ntungamo-Rukungiri Road. The springs can also be accessed through Kabwohe, on Mbarara-Kasese Highway.
According to Nazario Bishanga, the Kitagata hot springs caretaker, the facility attracts hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists every week.
The springs are revered by neighboring communities and the Ankole sub-region consider it to be sacred, with healing powers. I gathered that some people throng the site to perform some rituals’

Top tourist destination
Over the years, Kitagata hot springs have become a desired tourist destination in the western region. Everyone that visits the site marvels at nature with bubbling hot water. There are recreation centres and hotels where tourists can secure descent accommodation.
The hot springs are near national parks such as  Lake Mburo , Queen Elizabeth, Mountain Rwenzori, Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga. Visitors to these parks can make a stopover at Kitagata and enjoy the natural wonder. BBC With Inspire African Safaris we offer other Safaris Packages such as Gorilla trekking, Chimpanzee tracking

Healing waters
According to the caretaker,  Kitagata hot springs has never registered any cases of spreading diseases or infections. People with muscle aches and skin complications have found their way to the springs.
The water from the springs is believed to have rich mineral content that has healing properties to eliminate muscular and joint pains. Some tourists carry jerrycans to take hot water back home for drinking.
The springs also provide a natural spa treatment with water’s therapeutic benefits. Here, you can lay back and relax after a long day. Residents in Sheema and Bushenyi are known for flocking the springs after work for a sensational experience.

Learning centre
The place is busy. It is a ‘hospital’ where patients admit themselves and discharge themselves after treatment.   Whether or not they recover completely from their ailments, is subject to debate.
Students from primary and secondary schools within and outside the district visit Kitagata hot springs regularly for learning purposes. According to science, hot springs occur when rainwater or groundwater is heated by magma beneath the surface of the earth.

Cracks or faults on the surface of the earth allow water to flow deeper into the mantle, where contact with hot rocks that heat water happens.
Other theories say hot springs are formed by cracks extending down towards exceedingly hot temperatures of the mantle, and water seeping downwards is heated and forced back up under pressure to bubble.

Hiking
Besides the hot springs in Kitagata, you can also visit Muhito hills. The hills stand a few kilometres away from the springs. Activities such as hiking, bicycle riding, picturesque moments of sunsets will make your tour experience worthwhile.

Hiking can also be done at Kyangyenyi hill in Bushenyi greater sub-region with an elevation of 1916 (6286ft) above the sea level. It is located in Kyangyenyi Sub-county, north of Sheema District and it  offers magical moments of rolling hills and valleys of Muzira and Ryamasa.

Around Kyangyenyi, residents  sometimes offer free guiding services and company, taking you to the summit and back. To hike Kyangyenyi hill,  you need to be mentally prepared and physically fit to avoid cardiac accidents as you trek to the summit and descend.

Inselbergs
Bwayegamba and Nyakwebundika are small hills that rise from gently sloping plains between Masheruka and Itendero, also in Sheema District.
They are located about 30 kilometres from Kitagata hot springs. These inselbergs provide a spectacular scenic view of  agricultural activities on the slopes.

Keitambogo swamp
The hot springs are surrounded by the prominent Keitambogo swamp and river, some of the features that offer an opportunity to spot rare species of birds and monkeys. It is fascinating to see monkeys playing around the hot springs.

Agrotourism
Communities around Sheema engage in agricultural activities that have boosted the economy within the region. The area is also known as a food basket in the Ankole sub-region. Visiting areas around Kitagata will give you a hint on how different food crops are grown.

About the traditional dishes, you cannot talk about food in Ankole and leave out Eshabwe (ghee sauce). Eshabwe is a traditional dish prepared in many parts of Ankole. It is usually prepared for guests or during special events.
It is found in towns of Kabwohe, Bushenyi, Ishaka and in hotels along the Mbarara-Kasese highway. People here eat their eshabwe with millet bread.

You are likely to see crafts and artifacts made by communities surrounding Kitagata hot springs such as ornaments, beads, earrings, décor materials, books, traditional wear and household items. These can be found on highways and craft shops where they are always displayed.

Untapped treasure
With all its potential, Kitagata hot springs are still underutilised. Negotiations aimed at transforming Kitagata into a geo-tourism centre and a major revenue earner have been ongoing,  but these efforts have not yielded any fruit.

In 2019, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in partnership with a Hungarian firm, proposed to establish a health and wellness spa in  Kitagata, but not much can be seen on the ground.
According to Ian Ibara, a caretaker and one of the stakeholder of the hot springs, about 500,000 domestic and foreign tourists visits the site annually.

Fishermen also carry out minor fishing activities around the wetland.
Besides Kitagata Hot Springs, other major hot springs in Uganda include Sempaya Hot Springs, Rwagimba, Amoropii, Buranga, Ihimba, and Kibiro Hot Springs.

Kenya’s Lake Nakulu

Lake Nakuru is one of the Rift Valley lakes at an elevation of 1,754 m (5,755 ft) above sea level. It lies to the south of Nakuru, in the rift valley of Kenya and is protected by Lake Nakuru National Park.

The lake’s abundance of algae used to attract a vast quantity of flamingos that famously lined the shore. Other birds also flourish in the area, as do warthogs, baboons and other large mammals. Eastern black rhinos and southern white rhinos have also been introduced.

The lake’s level dropped dramatically in the early 1990s but has since largely recovered. In 2013, the lake received an alarming increase in the water levels that led to the migration of flamingos to Lake Bogoria in search for food supply.

Nakuru means “Dust or Dusty Place” in the Maasai language. Lake Nakuru National Park, close to Nakuru town, was established in 1961. It started off small, only encompassing the famous lake and the surrounding mountainous vicinity, but has since been extended to include a large part of the savannahs.

Lake Nakuru is protected under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

Lake Nakuru National Park

National Park entranceFlamingos feeding at Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru National Park (188 km2, 73 mi2), was created in 1961 around Lake Nakuru, near Nakuru Town. It is best known for its thousands, sometimes millions of flamingos nesting along the shores. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink.

The number of flamingos on the lake varies with water and food conditions and the best vantage point is from Baboon Cliff. Also of interest is an area of 188 km (116 mi) around the lake fenced off as a sanctuary to protect giraffes as well as both black and white rhinos.

The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide the sanctuary for the black rhinos. This undertaking has necessitated a fence – to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife.

The park marches for 12.1 km on the south eastern boundary with the Soysambu conservancy which represents a possible future expansion of habitat for the rhinos and the only remaining wildlife corridor to Lake Naivasha.

The park now (2009) has more than 25 eastern black rhinoceros, one of the largest concentrations in the country, plus around 70 southern white rhinos. There are also a number of Rothschild’s giraffe, again relocated for safety from western Kenya beginning in 1977. 

Water buck are very common and both the Kenyan subspecies are found here. Among the predators are lions, cheetahs and leopards, the latter being seen much more frequently in recent times. The park also has large sized pythons that inhabit the dense woodlands, and can often be seen crossing the roads or dangling from trees.

As well as flamingos, there are myriad other bird species that inhabit the lake and the area surrounding it, such as African fish eagle, Goliath heron, hamerkop, pied kingfisher and Verreaux’s eagle among others of their kind.

Habitat and Wildlife

White Rhinos

Lake Nakuru, a small (it varies from 5 to 45 square kilometers) shallow alkaline lake on the southern edge of the town of Nakuru lies about 164 kilometers north of Nairobi. It can therefore be visited in a day tour from the capital or more likely as part of a circuit taking in the Masai Mara (Also Maasai Mara) or Lake Baringo and east to Samburu.

The lake is world-famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth – myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos whose numbers are legion, often more than a million – or even two million. They feed on the abundant algae, which thrives in the warm waters. Scientists reckon that the flamingo population at Nakuru consumes about 250,000 kg of algae per hectare of surface area per year.

There are two types of flamingo species: the lesser flamingo can be distinguished by its deep red carmine bill and pink plumage unlike the greater, which has a bill with a black tip. The lesser flamingos are ones that are commonly pictured in documentaries mainly because they are large in number.

The number of flamingos has been decreasing recently, perhaps due to too much tourism, pollution resulting from industries waterworks nearby who dump waste into the waters or simply because of changes in water quality which makes the lake temporarily inhospitable. Usually, the lake recedes during the dry season and floods during the wet season.

In recent years, there have been wide variations between the dry and wet seasons’ water levels. It is suspected that this is caused by increasing watershed land conversion to intensive crop production and urbanization, both which reduce the capacity of soils to absorb water, recharge ground water and thus increase seasonal flooding.

Pollution and drought destroy the flamingos’ food, Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, and causing them to migrate to the nearby Lakes, more recently lakes Elmenteita, Simbi Nyaima and Bogoria. Local climate changes have also been hypothesized to contribute to the changing environmental conditions in the lakes catchment.

Recent media reports indicate increasing concern among stakeholders, as mass flamingo migrations and deaths could spell doom to the tourism industry.

The flamingos feed on algae, created from their droppings mixing in the warm alkaline waters, and plankton. But flamingo are not the only avian attraction, also present are two large fish eating birds, pelicans and cormorants.

Despite the tepid and alkaline waters, a diminutive fish, Alcolapia grahami has flourished after being introduced in the early 1960s. The lake is rich in other bird life. There are over 400 resident species on the lake and in the surrounding park.

Thousands of both little grebes and white winged black terns are frequently seen as are stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the European winter the migrant waders.

Zooplankton: The monogonont rotifer species Brachionus sp. Austria (belonging to the Brachionus plicatilis cryptic species complex) occurs in the lake.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Virunga Region

Welcome to Mgahinga National Park, a complete guide for visitors with everything you need to know about the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in South West Uganda. Our aim is to provide free and inspiring advice to help you plan an amazing experience in Mgahinga National Park. Whether you are looking at gorilla trekking in the park, hiking the Virunga Volcanoes, golden monkey tracking, you will find all the information to plan your trip.

Find information about the park, things to see (attractions), things to do (activities) and a travel planner to help you plan a perfect gorilla safari to Mgahinga Forest. Our exclusive safari planner section has detailed information on planning a gorilla trek, when to go, gorilla permits, how to book your safari, where to stay and more!

Top Safari Experiences – Tours and Activities

Would you like to go gorilla trekking in Uganda? We bring to you all year round tours to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the neighboring areas including Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Lake Mutanda, Lake Bunyonyi and the Virunga Region. Interested in hiking, biking, sightseeing or gorilla tours? Here are some private custom tours that are offered by selected tour operators at discounted prices to enable you experience Mgahinga National Park.$1,480

All About Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

At just 33.7km2, Mgahinga National Park is Uganda’s smallest national park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. The Park covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The Park is about 10 km south of Kisoro and is bordered to the south by the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and to the west by the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The park is part of the larger Virunga Conservation area that spreads over the three countries. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ or VCA. Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA. The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 33.7 sq. km and consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. From far away, the huge cones of the Virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape and beckon you as you approach. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate.

Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler. The Virunga’s are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Things to See in Mgahinga National Park

There are lots of things to see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. From the endangered mountain gorillas to golden monkeys, three of the Virunga Volcanoes and unique flora and fauna. Here are the top attractions of Mgahinga National Park. that you should not miss!

Mountain Gorillas

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to more than half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorilla. Fortunately for the gorillas are the main reason as to why the park was created by the Uganda government.

Virunga Volcanoes

Mgahinga is one of the most scenic given that the park lies on the northern slopes of Mt. Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo. These three volcanoes create an unforgettable regional backdrop. 

Golden Monkeys

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only destination where Silver meets Gold. The park protects both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The golden monkeys are an ancient group of monkeys that are only found in the Virunga. 

The Virunga Volcanoes

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to three of the eight conical Virunga Volcanoes.

Mount Sabyinyo

Sabinyo has three peaks. Sabinyo is a local word that comes from the word ‘Iryinyo’, meaning tooth. The borders of three countries converge on this summit and you will find yourself simultaneously in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. 

Mount Gahinga

Mgahinga National Park derives its name from this volcanic mountain. This dormant/extinct volcano lies on the border between Uganda and Rwanda. An ascent of Mount Gahinga climbs from Ntebeko takes around 6 hours. 

Mount Muhavura

This classic volcanic cone is capped by a small but lake; a modest reward for a 5 hour trek that rises 1700m to over 41OOm. The word Gahinga comes from the local Rufumbira dialect meaning “a small pile of stones”.

Things to Do in Mgahinga National Park

There are lots of things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. From gorilla trekking to Volcano Hiking, Mgahinga is such a place where you can engage in several adventure activities.

Gorilla Tracking

Gorilla Tracking is the most popular activity that is done in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Most travelers to Mgahinga visit the park for mountain gorilla trekking. There is one habituated gorilla family i.e. Nyakagezi Gorilla Family. 

Volcano Hiking

Though gorilla trekking is the park’s most popular activity, Mgahinga merits a visit simply to appreciate the scenery. A choice of hikes allows for all abilities, ranging from the 8 hour return trip to the summit of Mt. Muhabura, to gentle strolls across the lower slopes beneath the magnificent three peak backdrop. 

Golden Monkey Tracking

Golden monkey tracking is one of the top activities that make this park an interesting place for tourists to visit for a primate safari. Challenge yourself an engage in this life changing activity and achieve an excitement of a lifetime. 

Batwa Trail

The Batwa Trail leads from the base of Muhavura Cave. This walk is conducted by Batwa guides who provide insights into their traditional forest life and culture. The Batwa used to live with the gorillas in hamony within the Mgahinga Forests.

Bird Watching

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is ideal for birding. Bird through different places including the Buffalo Wall, forests, wetlands and other habitats. Some of the birds to see include ibis, speckled mous, fire finch and many others found in the area.

Garama Cave Exploration

The 342m long Garama Cave lies beneath a plateu northern edge of the park, 3km from Ntebeko. It is set in the former farmland zone but in earlier times, the cave forest when it was occupied periodically by Batwa who used it as a council chamber and a retreat.

Safari Planner

Plan a safari to Mgahinga National Park

Planning to go for the thrilling gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park? Here is all the information you need to plan a perfect trip to see the endangered mountain gorillas within the park.

When to Go

Wondering about the best time to visit Mgahinga? The park experiences two rainy seasons; March-May and September-November. October is the wettest month, with 250mm of rain and July the driest with just 10mm. Most tourists go for gorilla safaris during the dry months of June-October and December to March. It is advisable to book your gorilla passes at least 4 months to the travel period given that there is a high demand for the Mgahinga gorilla passes.

Where is Mgahinga National Park?

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in South Western Uganda. The Park is situated about 8-10 hours drive from Kampala, Uganda and about 6 hours drive from Kigali, Rwanda. The can be accessed using both road and air transport.

Which entrance to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park should I take?

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has one main entrance for visitors and it is accessible from all directions. The Ntebeko gate is accessible from Kisoro Town and there is proper signage to the park headquarters.

How should I get to Mgahinga National Park

Most people travel on pre-booked Uganda safaris that are arranged by various tour operators. If you are looking to an independent trip, you should consider driving to to the park or using public transport as per our resource information. On this website, you can also check out our road trip ideas. Once you get to the park, you hike through the park on foot.

Where should I stay on my Safari Vacation?

There are several campgrounds, hotels and lodges around Kisoro and Lake Mutanda Area. There are no developed lodging facilities inside the park. There are various lodging options near the Ntebeko’s entrances. Depending on the season, you will need to reserve hotels and campgrounds well in advance.

What animals will I see in Mgahinga National Park?

There are several animals that have been recorded within the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Though gorilla trekking is the most popular adventure, there are several wildlife viewing activities that you can take within the park such as golden monkey tracking, buffalo viewing, bird watching etc. Check out our wildlife checklist for a detailed listing of animals that you can see in the region’ Septembers 28, 2021 

Things to See
  • Garama Cave
  • Mount Gahinga
  • Mount Muhavura
  • Mount Sabinyo
  • Virunga Volcanoes
  • Wildlife
  • Golden Monkeys
  • Mountain Gorillas
Things to Do
  • Batwa Trail
  • Birding in Mgahinga
  • Golden Monkey Tracking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Mount Muhabura Hike
  • Nature Walks
  • Nature Walks
Plan a Gorilla Trek
  • Gorilla Families
  • Nyakagezi Gorilla Group
  • Gorilla Permits
  • Gorilla Trekking
  • When  to Go Gorilla Trekking
  • Habituated Gorilla Families in Mgahinga
  • Gorilla Safari Companies to Use
  • What to Wear on a Gorilla Trek
  • What to Pack for Gorilla Trekking
  • How to Book Gorilla Permits
  • Gorilla Trekking Rules & Regulations
  • Facts About Mgahinga Gorillas
Where to Stay
  • Budget Lodges
  • Guest Houses
  • Hotels
  • Lodges
  • Safari Lodges

Trekking and Hiking in Uganda

Hiking is a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails or footpaths in the countryside. Walking for pleasure developed in Europe during the eighteenth century.[1] Religious pilgrimages have existed much longer but they involve walking long distances for a spiritual purpose associated with specific religions.

Few countries in Africa can combine trekking through jungle thickets, where light bounces off the dense shrubbery illuminating your path in a haze of green, with mountaineering to snow-capped peaks where icicles hang above the clouds and wildlife walks across savannah grasslands that stretch for miles – but Uganda can

What are the trekking options in Uganda?

The short answer is you can find fantastic trekking routes of various difficulties almost everywhere in Uganda, certainly at all the most popular destinations. 

We’ve broken down your options as follows: 

  1. Gorilla trekking in Uganda
  2. Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
  3. Rwenzori Mountains
  4. Light forest walks
  5. Kidepo Valley & The Ik Trek

1. Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking is the flagship experience in Uganda. The two places you can trek gorillas in Uganda are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. 

Bwindi is by far the most popular choice as the park contains more gorillas, has much better accommodation options, and fits nicely along a classic south-western circuit. 

Uganda is arguably the best place in the world to see gorillas. It is also possible in neighbouring Rwanda, but gorilla permits are much cheaper in Uganda. The habituated Gorillas are shy and docile, despite their strength.

2. Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

Gorillas aren’t the only primates in Uganda’s forests.

Unlike gorilla trekking, the chimp trekking terrain is not too challenging and so you don’t have to be particularly fit or able to trek for long periods to track chimpanzees.

Standard tracking excursions last about three hours and include a maximum of one hour with the chimps, during which you can expect to get within 8-10 metres.

Permits are required to track the chimpanzees, and you will join a group (maximum of 8) led by Uganda Wildlife Authority Interpretive Rangers who will introduce you to the chimps and their forest world.hanging out with the chimps on their turf is an unforgettable experience.

3. Rwenzori Mountains

Uganda’s most challenging and spectacular trekking destination, the Rwenzori Mountains are an alpine wonderland within Central Africa. A place of exploration, where vegetation morphs to snow-capped peaks. Take aim at the glacial summits, step by ice-bound step.

Trails range for a day-taster trip to a 12 day, multi-peak, expedition.

The Rwenzoris must be explored on foot, and you must be of above average fitness and used to endurance activities. It’s no walk in the park!

Margherita Peak has recently been reclassified as a technical climb and although you don’t need to be an expert climber in winter conditions, some experience is recommended.Hiking the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.

4. Light Forest Walks

In Murchison Falls National Park

The churning waters of the Nile prevent boats from approaching close to the base of Murchison Falls. To experience the full force of the falls, disembark at the limit of the boat’s approach and hike through riverine woodland and along a cliff face to the summit of the falls.

Murchison is also a fantastic destination for bird walks and the Kyambura Gorge in Murchison is another chimpanzee trekking destination. 

Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi

Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi are beautiful areas for relaxation, typically included after a hardy gorilla trek in the nearby Bwindi Forest.

The views by the lakes are stunning, and it is the perfect place for some light adventuring in a remote pocket of the country. 

There are a number of walking trails that will take you deep into the surrounding countryside. If you like to maximise your adventure, it is also possible to hike and canoe from the airport in Kisoro to Nkuringo in the south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.Lake Mutanda is surrounded by stunning natural beauty.

Semliki Valley

The Semliki Valley is a wonderfully remote park near the western border of Uganda.

There are three trails at Semliki. The longest is the 13 kilometre Kirumia Trail, which takes you through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River. Expect to be out for 8 hours.

Slightly shorter at 11 kilometres, the Red Monkey Trail follows the park’s eastern border to the Semliki River with the aim of sighting the rare deBrazza’s monkey, which is often seen in this area.

The shortest trail is the 8 kilometre Sempaya Nature Trail. It introduces visitors to the forest’s primates and the hot springs. The hike lasts between 2 and 4 hours and can take place in the morning or afternoon.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most bio-diverse national park and any trip here will include plenty of game drives and boat safaris, but there is also ample opportunity for walking.

Queens is another popular chimpanzee trekking destination, and for birders and those who love walking far from the normal trails, the Maramagambo Forest is the perfect place to spend half or even a full day.

Sheltered from the hot sun by the dense canopy, you can explore the shadows, discovering species not seen on the open plains, stumble across hidden crater lakes and marvel at the sheer mass of life found within a bat cave.

Lake Mburo

At Lake Mburo National Park, the whole area is available to explore on foot, as long as you take a guide with you.

Favourite trails are to the salt lick at Rwonyo, the lake shorelines, Rubanga Forest and viewpoint hill tops. 

Walks are the most exciting way to discover the park because visibility is often restricted by the undergrowth, and it is difficult to see buffalo holding their ground or hyena loping back to their dens after a night out hunting.

Walks are also the best way for birders to track down the more elusive species.

5. Kidepo Valley & The Ik Trek

Wildlife Walks

Most of the walking trails in the Kidepo Valley National Park take 2 to 3 hours and wind their way through the Narus Valley.

Birders will often patrol the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys looking for the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo.

For those looking for a greater challenge, a 15 kilometre route follows the ridge line into the hills.

While there are many possible trails, it is worth being aware that some may not have been walked for a long time and will be temporarily closed. Kidepo has over 50 Rothschild’s giraffe, an internationally important population.

The Ik Trek

The Ik still live a marginal life in the Morungole Mountains, but they have recovered from what was obviously a nadir in their history.

They welcome guided treks made by visitors eager to explore the landscape they inhabit and to understand a little more about their unique way of life.

This is not voyeuristic tourism. It is a difficult trek, both physically and due to the questions it raises about human rights, sustainable conservation and human development.

But with fees from the trek going to Ik community initiatives and interest from the outside world going some way to protecting the people from neighbourly threat, it is a compelling experience. It is also a beautiful trek.

Two different routes are available, depending on local weather conditions and your level of fitness.

Background of the Bahima culture.

Bahima and culture : Who are the Hima People in east Africa? The Hima name is associated with various peoples and political entities in the Great Lakes are of Eastern Africa.

In recent history the name Hima indicates a sub-group of the Tutsi, originally a Cushite group from the Ethiopian highlands, who entered the area perhaps in the 1300s.

ome historians think the name Hima is also associated with a Nilotic people who came down from the Sudan along the Nile through Uganda. They conquered the Bantu people in what is now southwest Uganda and the neighboring portion of Zaire.

They were absorbed by the Bantu people and took up the local Bantu language. Their name in the language is the primary identification of their origin.

One tribe of people in Ankole, Uganda, are called Hima (Bahima). The Hima speech is classified in the ethnologist as a dialect of Nyankore (Nkore/Nkole).

The ethnologies note, however, that this speech form “may be a separate language.”

The relationship of those speaking Hima and other varieties of Nyankore would likely be the same as with the dialects of the Cushite Tutsis and Bantu Hutus speaking Rundi/Rwanda.

There is no listing for the Hima in Tanzania. It appears the Hima are limited fairly much to their original settlement area.

Bahima’s history has been shrouded in mystery for a long time. The mystery stems from John Hanning Speke who wrote in 1863 that Wahuma (Bahima) were white people.

More civilized than black people or Negroes and entered Uganda from Ethiopia occupied by a ruling white race.

Other Europeans added that Bahima were more intelligent with superior qualities and born to rule. Colonial explorers, missionaries and administrators like Samuel Baker, John Roscoe and Harry Johnston in Uganda shared these views.

They gave credit to Bahima simply because they resemble whites physically such as sharp, narrow, pointed and long noses.

Bahima have hidden their true history of precarious nomadic life and absence of material wealth to take advantage of these attributes so that they continue to dominate other Ugandans. Before attempting to demystify the myth let us understand this:

Bahima, Batutsi, Bahororo and Banyamulenge are cousins with three principal characteristics. (1) Whenever they move to a new place, they adopt local names and local languages, (2) they dominate the indigenous people and (3) their men do not marry women from other ethnic groups except from their own.

They do the latter to avoid being penetrated by others so that their secrets about dominating them remain hidden. On the other hand, they encourage their women (except those from the ruling class) to marry the elites from other ethnic groups so that they win the men over to Bahima side or they get access to their political and other secrets.

Bahima’s claim according to Speke that when they left Ethiopia or Abyssinia they wandered in the interior and eventually crossed the Nile into Bunyoro. In Bunyoro “… they lost their religion,

Forgot their language…changed their national name to Wahuma and retain a singular traditional account of their having once been half white and half black. In other words.

The only thing Bahima could remember when they met with Speke is that they are originally white people.

The second demystification is about Bahima’s race. Many still insist openly but largely in subtle ways that they are white people using physical features as noted above as evidence.

They also still insist that they are lighter-skinned with thinner lips and are more intelligent and therefore superior than other Ugandans and have more beautiful women.

To confirm that they are actually darker and have thicker lips than Bantu you just take a random sample and you will not fail to see who is lighter with thinner lips. About women, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this matter should stop at that.

To cling to their ‘white’ origin and deny their Nilotic Luo ancestry, Bahima are arguing that they are descendants of white Bachwezi and not black Nilotic Luos adding that it is the Basoga who are Luos. But there is a problem here as well.

First, Bachwezi were not white but black people,So far it has been very difficult for Bahima to prove any connection between them and Bachwezi.

The Nyankole cows of the Hima people in Uganda

Researchers concluded that Bachwezi were an outgrowth of the established Bantu population who began placing more emphasis on herding.

Chronological studies of earthen works in western Uganda show that the oldest sites were occupied by mixed farmers who specialized into cattle herding by the time they occupied the Bigo site confirming that these were Bantu people.

However, Bahima have continued to take advantage of their mystic links with semi-divine Bachwezi to maintain political hegemony over Bantu including Bairu and Bahutu.

This Hamitic myth has a long and enduring history; indeed, the notion of a separate origin for the pastoralist [Bahima] elites, and their superiority over the cultivators of the lakes region, persists to this day.

Hima Women

Time has come for Bahima and their cousins to drop the idea that they are light-skinned, more intelligent and superior and born to rule because they are not.

The governance of Uganda since 1986 and increasingly of Rwanda since 1994 has shed abundant light to confirm that they are not born leaders.

The third demystification is about Bahima’s superior civilization in Uganda. Because of prejudice against blacks Europeans concluded that civilization in Uganda including material culture came from outside and was brought by Bahima.

Bantu had a more advanced civilization than Bahima and Batutsi when the two groups met in the lakes region. Let us conclude with this: We all want to live together in peace, security, prosperity and dignity.

Instead of focusing on ethnic differences let us turn our attention to Article II of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which states “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”.

When these rights and freedoms are denied you begin to see resistance gaining an upper hand and that is what we are witnessing in the Great Lakes Region. It won’t go away until we accept, adopt and genuinely implement Article II just quoted above.

Bahima and Tutsi

The general view of the Tutsi is that they have come from a Cushite background in north-eastern Africa. Some scholars have seen connections with Nilotic.

Over the centuries the similarities in the situations of the Nilotic and Cushite upper class possibly led them to be more closely associated.

In modern times, the Tutsi-Hima appear to be so closely associated that they can be considered one general class across the variety of speech in the various political divisions of the Lakes Region. Their Bantu speech forms are very similar.

Preparing to be a bride among the Bahima

They constructed circular huts using sticks and grass. It probably took a Muhima less than half a day to collect all the building mate and nonetheless it required some skill and the hut could last for years. 

For ages, the Bahima lived in collective quarters, which were mainly centered on the hut of the head of the family. They mainly have two spacious rooms, one used as a bedroom and the other for any other business.

The inside of the hut was tailor-made to suit the taste of different families. It was in such huts that a Muhima bride-to-be was kept. Sometimes an extension called ekitu was constructed for the bride-to-be. Men measured a woman’s attractiveness by her size.

The more obese the woman, the better. Another reason for fattening the bride was to create the impression that she came from a well-to-do family. It was also a sign of well-being. 

Even today, a young woman is prepared for marriage in ways guaranteed to fatten her up. In the past, during that fattening period, nobody got to see the bride apart from her close family members.

Origins of the Bahima people

The cattle-keeping community who live in western Uganda, are more known for their unique attachment to their cattle. They are classified as ‘Hamiticised Negro cattle people of north Africa origin’ by anthropologists. 

Their human and cattle genetics indicate that they and the Batusti of Rwanda probably originate from the Central Sahara area. Despite the influx of foreign cultures and religious influences, their traditional marriages have stood the test of time.

The Bahima still love practicing their traditional marriages, thanks mainly to the elders who still emphasize the need for cultural marriages.

Prohibitions and preferences governed the choice of mates. To choose a mate families considered caste, wealth and kinship. For example, the caste distinction has always prohibited a Muhima from marrying a Mwiru. 

A socially recognized marriage could only take place between a man and a woman who were then both members of the ruling Bahima. 

Kingship prohibitions prevent a Muhima from marrying his father’s brothers and mother’s sisters’ daughters. However cross-cousin marriage was permitted. The principal duty of the wife was to bear children. Therefore, a man endeavoured to a wife from a family in which women were prolific.

Identifying a future wife among the Bahima tribe

Identifying a future wife was a complex and intriguing exercise among the Bahima. I know today it sounds strange, but in our culture, neither the girl nor the boy had the freedom of choosing their partner.

The pattern was for both the parents of the boy and the girl to arrange the marriage, sometimes without the knowledge of the persons concerned.
This was because Bahima girls were prohibited from travelling alone.

Whenever a Muhima girl moved, she was always in the company of her brothers or sisters, and you never really got to see her because she was always covered.

If you went visiting and saw the girls, they would cover themselves. Most people used to know about the existence of beautiful girls in a family when they were still young. And they would start wooing her when she was aged six or seven. 
Once a future bride had been identified, the groom’s family would send an emissary to deliver a message to her family. The messenger was known as Kyebembera or Kateerarume.

Bride price deposit among the Bahima people

The messenger had to be someone who was well known to both families. If the message was received well, which was more than not because it was the wish of a parent to see their daughters get married, the boy’s family would deposit some cows at the girl’s home. 

These cows were known as enkwatarugo (the cows that keep the kraal). They signified that you were serious about marrying the girl. They were also a symbol of wealth. 

Most importantly, the cows were to feed the girl until she was ready for marriage, which was usually at the age of 16. The four cows were also used as security to ‘tie down’ the young girl and fend off interest from other suitors. 

Tradition dictated that once the girl had matured, the enkwatarugo cows would be returned to the suitor’s family. However, the off springs of the cows were retained by the bride’s family. 

Thereafter, both families would start negotiations on the bride price. On reaching an agreement, the bride’s family would choose the date on which to pick the cattle agreed upon. 

On that day, the bride’s people would go and hand pick the best cattle from the groom’s or his family’s herd.

However, out of fear of losing their best cows, some families would hide the healthiest cows. Sometimes the girl’s people would send spies earlier, to identify the best cows. 

Customarily, a girl could not be offered for marriage when her elder sister or sisters were still unmarried. If a marriage offer was made for a young sister

.It is said that the girl’s parents like the biblical Jacob’s father in-law Laban would manipulate events and give away the older daughter instead of her younger sister.

Bride price in case the boy’s family is poor among the Bahima of Uganda

If the suitor was poor and didn’t have cows for enkwatarugo (bride price), he would lay claim to a girl by smearing her with butter. This custom was known as ousigyiro.

 However, carrying out this act successfully depended on the mutual desire of both parties — the man and woman. The man was supposed to catch the girl and smear butter over her entire body! Thereafter, the woman went and explained to her parents what had happened. 

The intimacy between the young couple was considered almost as close as that brought about by the pre-marital sex. It revealed the fact that the woman was anxious to marry the man for she had secretly met the man! However, on the whole, orusigyiro was not widely practiced.

Once your father broke the news that your future wife had been identified, often there was excitement. Who is this woman, my future wife? What does she look like?

Often times, young ladies would hide in the bush to take a sneak peek at the future wife. But woe betide you if you were caught in the act, you would be made to pay a heavy fine.

Okujugisa ceremony among the Bahima People of Uganda

This is a very important event in the marriage tradition among the Bahima. When the herdsman is to be married, his bride’s family select 10 cattle from his kraal. 

During the ceremony, men from both the groom and bride’s side engage in a witty debate and poem recitation in a bid to out-compete each other. 

Sometimes they engaged in bitter disagreements, resulting into quarrels. But in the end, the cattle would still be selected and a date would be agreed upon when the groom’s family would deliver them to the bride’s home.

After okujugisa, the fattening process begins, as the bride is prepared for okuhingira, (give-away ceremony).

Get fat quick among the Bahima People of Uganda

As soon as the cattle for bride price had been selected from the groom’s kraal, (Okujugisa) the girl was entrusted to her grandmother, to begin the fattening rituals.

 One of the aunts, maternal or paternal, also took on the responsibilities of fattening the girl. Sometimes they would take her with them to their homes and fatten her from there. 

The fattening utensils comprised a collection of well-polished and smoked ebyaanzi (milk gourds) of different shades.

She would spend months, up to six months in some instances with the fattening specialist, doing no heavy work, but eating. She would be coaxed into drinking milk in different forms like amashunu (unfermented milk) and thick fermented milk (amakamo). 

She was given a large gourd and tasked to gulp it all down before sun set. She was fed on ghee and roasted fatty goat meat. With such feeding, a young woman weighing 65kg at the time of identification for marriage could be as heavy as 160kg in only three months! 

The girls did not like it but they had no option they had to drink it under watchful eye of an auntie who would be compelled to cane or rebuke her saying: “Why don’t you take the milk?

You want to go while looking like a blade of grass? “By the time the grannies and aunties would be though with fattening her, she would be too fat to the extent that she could hardly walk. By the time she got married, the young woman would be so fat that she could only waddle. 

She was not only kept in the house to be fattened, it is also widely believed that a woman who stayed indoors for long periods away from the glare of harsh sunlight became more beautiful. 


On her wedding day, onlookers would comment on how beautiful she looked, noting with approval the folds in her skin caused by her obesity, and the difficulty with which she walked!

Red Ants among the Bahima People of Uganda

To instil fear in the bride and keep her inside the house during the fattening period, she was always warned of the ferocious red ants that would bite her. 

The bride was told that once stung by these tiny insects, she was not supposed to extract the fangs from the skin until she died! 

This custom is called okumbanda empazi or okutambuuka empanzi. The intention was to make the bride committed to the marriage since she had fetched the family cows, which is considered wealth. 
Okutambuuka empanzi, also helped prevent bad omen.

It was regarded a taboo to wander outdoors as the girl could be raped or bitten by a snake. That’s why she would not even be allowed to go and cut wood which was usually laid on the floor or fetch water!

Here comes the bride

Typically, the average marrying age of a non-schooling Muhima girl was 16. Before the day of the wedding, she would be in a hut in the company of other girls and cry endlessly.

When you passed near such a home and heard such wailing, you would know that somebody’s daughter was going to be married off.

 While wailing, the bride would hold onto a pillar that supported the hut as her friends smeared her with butter to make her slippery so that the bridegroom found it difficult to carry her away on the day of okuhingira.

She would be beaten and rebuked by her brothers and told to stop crying. 

The bridegroom would then enter the kraal of the bride’s family and be conducted to the hut the bride would be standing and waiting in.

He would then take her right hand and lead her to the assembled guests. A strong rope was then produced by one of the bride’s relatives and tide to one of the bride’s legs.

Sides were then chosen by the members of the bride’s and bridegroom’s clans and a tug of war would then take place. The bride’s clans would then struggle to retain their sister, and the bridegroom’s clan would strive to carry her off. 

During this contest, the bride would stand weeping because she was being taken away from her old home and relatives. All this time, the bridegroom would be standing by her,

still holding her and when the final pull was given in his favor, he would slip the rope off her ankle and whisk her away, a few yards to a group waiting near with a cow-hide spread on the ground. 

The bride would sit on the cowhide, and the young men would raise her up and rush off with her in triumph to the bridegroom’s parent’s house chased by friends and relatives. 


Bahima brides used to undergo a number of changes during and months after the marriage ceremony. Prior to the ceremony, her head and pubic hair would be shaved.

 
A few months after the ceremony, she would return to her village and undergo a second shaving, have her nails trimmed and her ears pierced and jewelry added.

Virginity rewarded among the Bahima People of Uganda

In the hut the bride-to-be was not only stuffed with food but she was also given advice on marriage issues. Her grandmother was one of the people who played that role of a marriage counsellor. But the main role was played by her paternal or maternal aunties, Inshwekazi. 

Among the Banyankole, the father’s sister was (and still is) responsible for the sexual morality of the adolescent girl. Her duty was to advise the girl on how to begin a home.

More so, since in Ankole, girls were supposed to be virgins until marriage. In most instances, she did not have any experience in marriage at all. 

Whenever the bride-to-be broke down and cried, given that she was going to live with total strangers, the Inshwekazi would comfort her, assuring her that all would be well.

 The other duty of the aunt was to prove the potency of the bridegroom by watching or listening to the sexual intercourse between the bridegroom and her niece. If a girl was found to be a virgin, she was rewarded with a young fat heifer.

If the parents of the girl were aware that their daughter was not a virgin, this information was formally communicated to the husband by giving the girl, among other gifts, a perforated coin, usually five pence of the pre-colonial East African currency or another hollow object. 

Likewise, if the bride was aware that she was not a virgin, she would also be given a hollow coin and politely asked to take it back home to her parents. However, the groom was never held accountable for not being chaste until marriage.

Wife by force among the Bahima People of Uganda

If a prospective bride did not like the suitor, he could resort to okuteera oruhoko, meaning he would force her to marry him hastily without her consent and much preparation. 

The practice of okuteera oruhoko was characteristic of the traditional Ankole society but vestiges of it still appear. Society decried this practice but it was common and often got many a young man a wife. However, the offender had to be fined a hefty bride price. 

There were various ways in which this practice was carried out.

One such way was by using a cock. A boy who wished to marry a girl who had rejected him, would get hold of a cock, go to the girl’s homestead, throw the cock on the compound and ran away.

The girl had to be whisked to the boy’s home immediately because it was believed and feared that should the cock crow when the girl was still at home, refusing to follow the boy or making unnecessary preparations, she or somebody else in the family would instantly die! 

Another way was by smearing millet flour on the face of the girl. If the boy chanced to find the girl grinding millet, he would pick some flour from the winnowing tray used to collect the flour as it comes off the grinding stone and smear it on the girl’s face.

The boy would run away and swift arrangements would be done to send him the girl as it was feared that any delays and excuses could precipitate a calamity. 

Other ways of okuteera oruhuko included the suitor putting a rope around the neck of the girl and then pronouncing in public that he had done so.

Another method was to put a plant known as orwihura on the girl’s head or sprinkling milk on the girl’s face while milking.

The latter was only possible if the suitor and the girl were from different clans. Oruhuko was a dangerous and degrading practice. It was usually tried by boys who had failed in the art of wooing a maiden.

If such a suitor was not lucky enough to out run the relatives of the girl, he was bound to face their collective wrath.

If he escaped a thorough beating, he certainly had no way around the high bride price. He would be charged double or even more than the usual bride price rate. Moreover, the extra cattle which were charged were not refunded if the marriage collapsed.

ANTELOPES IN UGANDA

Uganda’s open grasslands and wooded bush lands support the most splendid biodiversity of small, medium, and large antelope in Africa.

All Antelopes are members of the Bovidae family, which also claims our domestic livestock. Bovidae has four basic categories including grazers (wildebeest and hartebeest), selective grazers (steenbok, oribi, waterbuck, reedbuck, roan, sable, and oryx), grazers and browsers (tsessebe, impala, eland, and gazelles), and browsers (bushbuck and kudu).

All antelope are ruminants. They have four stomachs for fodder in varying stages of digestion, and like domestic cattle, they reprocess already-swallowed fodder by chewing the cud.

About 29 antelope species, about one-third of the African total, have been recorded in Uganda. Of the species that occur in Uganda, five into the category of large antelope having a shoulder height of above 120 centimeters (roughly the height of a zebra).

Eight are in the category of medium-sized antelope, with a shoulder height of between 75-90 centimeter. The remainder is small antelope, with a shoulder height of between 30cm and 60cm.

Large antelopes

Common eland (Taurotragus oryx) in uganda

Common eland (Taurotragus oryx)

Greater Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) in Uganda

Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)

Jackson's hartebeest

Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus)

Defassa waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) in uganda

Defassa water buck (Kobus elipsyprymnus defassa)

Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus)

Roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus)

Medium-sized antelope

Uganda Kob

Uganda kob (Kobus kob thomasi)

Bushbuck tragelaphus scriptus in Uganda

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei) Uganda

Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei)

Uganda Kob

Uganda Kob (Kobus kob thomasi)

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei) Uganda

Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei)

Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei) Uganda

Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei)

Male Lesser Kudu in Uganda

Lesser Kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis)

Grant's Gazelle Uganda antelope

Grant’s Gazelle (Nanger granti)

Bohor reedbuck in Uganda

Reedbuck (Redunca)

Impala pian upe uganda

Impala (Aepyceros melampus)

Very small antelope

Gray duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia)

Common Duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia)

black-fronted duiker (C. nigrifions)

Forest Duiker (Cephalophus subspecies)

Bates' Pygmy Antelope

Bates’ Pygmy Antelope (Neofragus batesi)

Klipspringer Oreotragus oreotragus uganda

Klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus)

Oribi Ourebia ourebi in uganda

Oribi (Ourebia ourebi)

Guenther's dik-dik Madoqua guentheri Uganda

Guenther’s dik-dik (Madoqua guentheri)

Habitat

Antelope live in almost all African habitats. Anywhere that humans have not extensively broken the soil, wild herbivores flourish. Wildebeest and their alcelaphine relatives favor open and wooded grassland, as there is more cover from predators.

Impalas, however, prefer woodlands, and some duiker species prefer living in thick, almost rainforest-type vegetation. Some species also use riverine strips and transition zones between vegetation types.

Gazelle has adapted to a wide range of habitats, from arid to semi-arid—and in the case of springbok and some Grant’s subspecies, they have adapted to watered grassland preferred by the Thomson’s gazelle. Roan and sable inhabit grasslands with good bush and tree cover and frequent well-watered grasslands and wooded valleys. In contrast, oryx prefer an arid habitat and can live in total desert conditions. Interestingly, as is the case with the steenbok, oryx (or gemsbok known in Southern Africa) is also water-independent.
All species of reduncinae antelope prefer wetlands or tall, tussocked, marshy grasslands. Even hillside-living reedbuck are associated with wet grasslands and hill marshes.

In general, alcelaphine lives at low densities in arid to sub-humid areas, favoring regions of thick cover such as shady, broken forest, and bushland. It’s also true of the greater kudu and nyala. Two notable exceptions are eland, which frequently opens grasslands and often roam as high as 14,850 feet—the long-hoofed sitatunga, which lives in swamps and marshy lakesides throughout eastern Africa. Small antelope live in a wide range of habitats, from forests to thickets, to kopjes, rock outcrops, and open grasslands.

Breeding

Some male antelope (including gazelles such as springbok) and alcelaphine (including wildebeest and tsessebe) are territorial during the breeding season. Males set up their territories and try to prevent females from leaving, despite a tendency to move on when the grass supply is diminishing.

Springbok and impala are rarely seen alone, except for the occasional territorial male forlornly standing his ground after the breeding season. Most herds are of less than 100 animals. Interestingly, the antelope breeding season is synchronized with the onset of the rains.

In fact, the impala is so adept at predicting the rains that they will hold off delivering their young for over two weeks after birth is due, should the rains be late. It’s a remarkable feat, considering that impala has an exact gestation period of six months. During the “bush babies” safari season (usually early December), one may see young of all the antelope species once the rains have arrived.

Both steenbok and duiker pair for life and remain territorial. Territory sizes may vary from 165 to 1,650 feet in diameter, depending on the season and local conditions. Such relatively small territories allow the animals to know precisely the location and season for food plants, the best escape routes, and the most effective hiding places. They reach sexual maturity in less than a year. Gestation lasts about six months. Therefore, two births a year are possible with a relatively constant food supply. Before it is 2 years old, the young animal will leave its parents’ territory.

Waterbuck, puku, lechwe, and various reedbuck species live in small, loose associations of adult females and young, moving through a world of male-dominated territories. Groups are rarely larger than 10 to 15 animals. Lechwe exhibits a variation on the territorial theme. They establish a “lek,” or territorial breeding ground, where a group of dominant males display and mate with females. Gestation lasts about nine months before a single calf is dropped.

In the subfamily alcelaphine, the onset of female sexual maturity begins at 18 months old. Males continue to grow beyond sexual maturity so that the difference between the sexes becomes gradually more striking. A single calf is born after a gestation of about six months. Calves are weaned at 3 to 4 months old.

An eland group is usually made up of a few females and young, with a loosely territorial adult male in attendance. This male is the one that will eventually mate with the group’s females. Females reach sexual maturity at age 3. During conception peaks, small groups will aggregate into hundreds of elands, which can be considered somewhat migratory, as they move over great distances.

(roan, sable, and oryx) have a system of matriarchal hierarchy, resulting in small herds of five to 20 animals, with varying degrees of male participation. In sable, female herds range over adjacent male territories. In roan, a single male accompanies the females; in oryx, male groups satellite females for most of the year, but only the dominant male will mate.

Semliki River and ts course

Semliki River is a major river, 140 kilometres (87 mi) long, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda in Central and East Africa.

It flows north from Lake Edward in Beni Territory, Nord-Kivu, D.R.C avoiding the Rwenzori Mountains on its Right (East), emptying into Lake Albert in the Albertine Rift, Irumu Territory, Ituri Province, D.R.C overlooking the Blue Mountains to its left in the west.

Its mouth is near the Village of Katolingo in Kanara sub county, Ntoroko district, Uganda. Along its lower reaches, it meanders extensively forming part of the international border between the DRC and the western Ugandan districts of Bundibugyo and Ntoroko, near the Semuliki National Park.

Increasing snow melt from the Rwenzoris, overgrazing, and other alterations to the watershed have caused bank erosion and frequent changes to the course of the meandering lower reaches of the river.

In some places, Uganda is losing up to 10 metres (33 ft) of land per year on its side of the river to erosion and silt from the Semliki is gradually filling in the southern end of Lake Albert. 

In other places, it is the DRC that is losing territory as the changing river course alters the apparent location of the border.

Course

The Semliki begins near Ishango, DRC, at the northern end of Lake Edward and soon enters Virunga National Park, through which it flows over much of its upper course.

The A-109 road between Mpondwe, Uganda, and Beni, DRC, is on the right, sometimes nearby and sometimes at a distance, as the river meanders through the park. Slightly southeast of Beni, the river passes under the A-109 road and continues north. At this point, the stream is west of Mount Baker (Kiyanja) in Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda.

Before leaving the park, the river passes under another road linking the DRC settlement of Oicha to settlements in the Semliki Valley west of the DRC–Uganda border and the Uganda town of Bundibgyo.

Downstream of the road crossing, the river leaves the Virunga Park and runs along the west edge of Semuliki National park, which is in Uganda. Here the river becomes the border between the DRC and Uganda, and it remains the border for most of the rest of the river’s course.

As the river leaves Semuliki Park, it nears Sempaya National Park and the Toro Game Reserve, both in Uganda. Over its last reach, the river flows west of the international border and enters the southern end of Lake Albert at a point southeast of Bunia, DRC.

People

The two main ethnic groups in the region are the Amba people (Baamba, Bwamba) and the Bakonjo (Konjo). People in the Semliki Valley include Batuku, pastoral cattle keepers whose herds graze on grasslands along the river. Small populations of Batwa (pygmies), who have traditionally been forest hunter-gatherers, also live in the valley.

Flora and fauna

In Semuliki National Park, the forest resembles that of the Congo River basin. Cynometra alexandri, a tropical tree species, dominates but is interspersed with other trees and swamp flora. Annual rainfall in this tropical forest averages 1,500 millimetres (59 in).

More than 400 bird species, including the forest ground-thrush, Sassi’s olive greenbul, and nine species of horn bill frequent the park, as do over 450 species of butterflies. Among the mammals in the park are elephants, leopard, African golden cat, buffalo, hippopotamus, duikers, and pygmy scaly-tailed flying squirrels.

Along its course, the Semliki falls about 300 m (1,000 ft) through a series of rapids, and this isolates Lake Edward’s fish species, many of them found no-where else, from those found downriver in Lake Albert (and consequently the Nile).

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Leopard

Leopards are graceful and powerful big cats closely related to lions, tigers, and jaguars. They live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India, and China. However, many of their populations are endangered, especially outside of Africa.

Hunting Skills

The leopard is so strong and comfortable in trees that it often hauls its kills into the branches. By dragging the bodies of large animals aloft it hopes to keep them safe from scavengers such as hyenas. Leopards can also hunt from trees, where their spotted coats allow them to blend with the leaves until they spring with a deadly pounce. These nocturnal predators also stalk antelope, deer, and pigs by stealthy movements in the tall grass. When human settlements are present, leopards often attack dogs and, occasionally, people.

Leopards are strong swimmers and very much at home in the water, where they sometimes eat fish or crabs.

Breeding

Female leopards can give birth at any time of the year. They usually have two grayish cubs with barely visible spots. The mother hides her cubs and moves them from one safe location to the next until they are old enough to begin playing and learning to hunt. Cubs live with their mothers for about two years—otherwise, leopards are solitary animals.

Leopard Spots

Most leopards are light colored with distinctive dark spots that are called rosettes, because they resemble the shape of a rose. Black leopards, which appear to be almost solid in color because their spots are hard to distinguish, are commonly called black panthers.

Lion

For all of their roaring, growling, and ferociousness, lions are family animals and truly social in their own communities. They usually live in groups of 15 or more animals called prides.

Lion prides can be as small as 3 or as big as 40 animals. In a pride, lions hunt prey, raise cubs, and defend their territory together. In prides the females do most of the hunting and cub rearing. Usually all the lionesses in the pride are related—mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and sisters.

Many of the females in the pride give birth at about the same time. A cub may nurse from other females as well as its mother. Each pride generally will have no more than two adult males.

While the females usually live with the pride for life, the males often stay for only two to four years. After that they go off on their own or are evicted by other males who take over the pride. When a new male becomes part of the pride it is not unusual for him to kill all the cubs, ensuring that all future cubs will have his genes. The main job of males in the pride is defending the pride’s territory. A male’s loud roar, usually heard after sunset, can carry for as far as five miles (eight kilometers). The roar warns off intruders and helps round up stray members of the pride.

Hunting generally is done in the dark by the lionesses. They often hunt in groups of two or three, using teamwork to stalk, surround, and kill their prey. Lionesses aren’t the most successful of hunters, because they usually score only one kill out of several tries. After the kill the males usually eat first, lionesses next—and the cubs get what’s left. Males and females fiercely defend against any outside lions that attempt to join their pride.

Because of their size, strength, and predatory skills, lions are considered one of the “big cats.” Tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, and cougars are also part of this grouping.