Wildlife game drives in Uganda take place in the savannah national conservation areas. Uganda is popularly known as ‘the pearl of Africa‘. It’s everlasting beauty will never leave you the same. The vegetation of Uganda is thickest from south dropping drastically to a wooded savannah and grasslands towards the central and northern Uganda. Abundant wildlife is present in the national parks, gazette conservation areas and game reserves. It is land locked in East Africa bordered by Kenya to the East, South Sudan to the north, Tanzania to the south and Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Most of the country is placed on a plateau marked by the mountains and rift valleys across borders. Along the floor of the great Albertine rift valley are most savannah national parks where game drives do take place.
Wildlife Game Drives in Uganda take place in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Semuliki National Park. Each of these conservation areas uniquely identifies its self with rare features although some may be related. Others cannot be found anywhere else but in specific parts of the parks. The game drives will expose you to the finest of Uganda’s flora and fauna introducing you to the untold beauty of mother nature. The national parks are governed and managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Game Drives in Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is located in the north western part of Uganda bordered by the Bugungu Game Reserve. It is a popular destination with several activities and attractions. Murchison Falls was named after the popular waterfall Murchison. Lots of water along the Victoria Nile fall off beautifully off an escarpment. The water interestingly forces its self through a 7meter slit along a rock roaring down to a plunge pool approximately 40meters down. The park is the first and oldest conservation area in Uganda gazette by 1952 as a way of protecting the species that live here. It is one fine place to find the big four of the jungle (leopards, lions, elephants, African buffaloes). Initially there used to be rhinos in the park but due to the constant poaching of game in search of ivory in the early 90’s Uganda rhinos went extinct however these can be seen only at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary towards Murchison Falls National Park.
The park is uniquely divided into two sectors by the Nile, one of the world’s rivers in the world. It is within this park that it joins Lake Albert on its long journey to Egypt. The park presents several wildlife experiences on game drives and hosts 76 mammal species including; leopards, lions, Jackson hartebeests, elephants, oribi, waterbucks, bushbucks, warthogs, hippos, Nile crocodiles, Uganda kobs, African buffaloes, Rothschilds giraffes, among other. There are more than 400 types of birds that live in Murchison Falls National Park including the rare shoebill stock, giant king fisher, yellow fronted tinker bird.
Murchison Falls National Park is divided into the northern and southern bank. Game drives do take place commonly along the northern bank of the conservation area because it has a variety of animals. The south is less populated compared to the north. Most of the drives take place very early morning for better rewards, lasting for 2-3 hours, in search of risers especially the cat family. The late evenings as animals return to their resting places is also an amazing time to spot them. Night drives are intended to identify the nocturnal species of the park mostly primates like the patas monkeys and bush babies. Cats like leopards, jackals can be found. Night Wildlife Game Drives in Uganda are organized on special occasions.
Game Drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is strategically placed in the western part of Uganda second largest of the country’s protected conservation areas after Murchison Falls National Park. The park uniquely identifies itself with tree climbing lions in the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park Ishasha sector an animal corridor connecting through to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park known for gorilla trekking tours and Kibale Forest National Park. The park is known to have the largest concentration of wildlife. Along the Kazinga channel is the world’s biggest population density of hippos. The park boosts with over 600 species of birds best recorded in any Ugandan park and hosts 96 mammal species which can be sighted along game drives.
Game drives take place in the Kasenyi plains and the Ishasha sector mostly to find tree climbing lions. They are commonly seen relaxing up in the fig trees. Following very early morning and night hunts they probably be so tired and game. Popular animals spotted in the northern Kasenyi plains include; African buffaloes, topi, waterbucks, Uganda kobs, elephants, olive baboons, vervet monkeys, lions, leopards, giant hogs, hyenas. The park’s game drives are done early morning and late evenings in search of wildlife. The game tracks in the northern plains of Kazinga offer great views of wildlife. The open savannah is strategically amazing, knowledgeable ranger guides lead the game drives to easily identify and explain to you the vast ecosystem.
Game Drives in Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park in northern Uganda is top of the most isolated conservation areas. A standalone park, rarely visited but presents the best of African wilderness. The surprise that awaits you in Kidepo is that most of its animal species are found only here and not anywhere else. The park is a semi-desert gazette as a national park in 1962, covering an area space of 1442 square kilometers. It is dominated by Mount Morungole bisected by both seasonal rivers including the Narus and Kidepo river. Over 77 mammal species can be found here including; lesser and greater Kudus, large prides of lions, leopards, buffaloes, kobs, cheetahs, zebras, elands, bush duikers, warthogs, jackals, Rothschild’s giraffe, stripped hyena, Jacksons hartebeests, side stripped jackal among other animal species. The Narus Valley has the most concentration of animals, because it’s the oasis point of the park all throughout the year majorly because this point has got water.
The park has mainly two places for game drives, Narus valley and Kidepo Valley. The Narus valley has vast grassland plain rewarded with permanent supply of water. The game tracks are well placed that one is able to easily explore the parks wildlife. Most of the game drives start from the Apoka Lodge area. Animals are dotted everywhere and it’s easy to see lions right as you step out of the lodge driving on 4*4-wheel car drives in search of animals along the Narus valley, stretching to the Northern part of the park for hot springs of Kanagorok for a few more wildlife and beautiful scenes of mountain Morungule. The night game drives are done in search of night game for example the jacana, leopards, lions that hunt during the night.
Game Drives in Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park in western Uganda is an ideal place to do game drives and is most strategic for people with less time to stretch far of the country. It is the only park closest to Uganda’s capital city Kampala and is the smallest of savannah parks within which is Lake Mburo. The park’s landscape allows the activity to take place comfortably. Lake Mburo National Park is characterized by a forested area, rocky plains, lakes, thickest, shrubs and marshy swampy areas. The vegetation of the national park is an open savannah grassland. The vegetative cover acts as home to wildlife existing in the national park including; Rothschild’s giraffes, ample peaceful zebras, elands, waterbucks, bushbucks, topi, impalas, warthogs, hyenas, klipspringer, hippos, baboons among other animal kinds.
Lake Mburo National Park is strategically placed along the Kampala highway road approximately 3 hour’s drive from the city covering an area space of 260 square kilometers. It hosts 68 mamma species and over 300 bird types have been recorded here most of the animals that live here are herbivorous and a few carnivals rarely seen like leopards and lions.
Day game drives beginning form 6:00am are the best to explore the national park. There are available game trails that enable visitors to view wildlife, by the end of the drive you would have spotted many animals in a shortest time possible. The very early morning game drives are quite rewarding as you will have a chance to see the morning risers that come out to hunt the night game drives usually start at 6:30 pm with an armed ranger guide you will be able to spot night nocturnal like patas and porcupines, at rare occasions there will be sights of leopards feeding on their prey.
The animal trails include the zebra trail with great views of the zebras and other wildlife. It connects through to the acacia wooded forest, Kazuma trail connecting to the grasslands popular views of African buffaloes and antelopes. The lake side trail will have you see lots of warthogs and zebra.
Besides viewing animals using a car, Lake Mburo National Park offers game viewing on bicycles, riding horses, guided nature walks, and quad biking.
Game Drives in Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is one of Uganda’s oldest conservation areas still recovering from poaching and is placed in the western arm of the great Albertine rift valley created in 1932 and declared a national park by the 1993. It stretches for 220 square kilometers placed at an altitude of 670-760m above sea level and protects the eastern extension of the great Ituri forest towards the Democratic Republic of Congo. Semuliki National Park has a vast biodiverse of flora and fauna and many of the park inhabitants are residents of the Congo forest. The park contains 63 mammal species and over 435 bird species including; Maxwell’s black weaver, African dwarf king fisher, white crested black dwarf, black wattled hornbills, red rumped tinker bird, to mention a few. It is less visited by many travelers however reaching the national park is worth trying. Semuliki presents an opportunity to do night game drives. During the day you spot a few animals like elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks, primates like the grey checked mangabey. Game drives start early in the morning lasting for 2-3 hours.
The game drives in Semuliki National Park will take you through the high density plant species of Semuliki some of which are endemic to the region the amalgamation of the moist ever green forest with a medium altitude is best fitted for game drives. Tours to Semuliki National Park can reach the famous hot springs of the Sempaya both female and male. The water is very hot to the extent that it can boil an egg and rises up to 2 meters above the ground. Traditionally the locals believe that the water is medicinal and use it for fertility among barren women for the female spring.
Wildlife Game Drives in Uganda are best done during the dry seasons of June – September, December – February because the trail routes are less slippery and animals move out to feed and hence are easy to spot. Ugandan conservation areas for game drives charge a fee of 40 dollars for each traveller entering the park. As long as you are inside the park, everybody is entitled to a game drive. Vehicles and tour drivers are charged differently based on the Uganda Wildlife Authority tariff plan.
Travelling to the destinations is by road depending of the distance you take. Several routes to the conservation areas have really simplified visits, or charter flights that can be arranged from Entebbe to the park of your choice. It should be noted that tour packages can be inter twined and you get a chance to see a variety choice of animals.
For a comfortable game drive in the park area, please remember to wear long sleeved shirts and trousers, insect repellents, hats, hand gloves, waterproof boots, sun screen, water proof covers for phones and cameras. Uganda is a tropical rain country straddling along the Equator and so it is quite difficult to predict the weather conditions since it rains at any time.