Uganda like other African countries is a top tourist destination for tourists who want to explore the raw jungle life of Africa. The country has all the big five that is lions, African elephants, leopards, buffaloes, and Rhinos, it is the perfect destination for primate lovers and these can be seen in the open savanna grasslands found in the several National Parks.
Uganda has both small and large mammals and the recorded number is 342 different species. If you are planning on experiencing the wildlife of Uganda, there are several destinations that you can check out that will offer you an experience worth spending money on. Wildlife is categorized into different groups and we have listed them below.
Herbivores in Uganda
The herbivores that you should expect to see while on a safari to Uganda include the following:
Antelopes Of Uganda
Numerous types of antelopes are found in the different National Parks in the country and they are categorized into two that is large antelopes and medium antelopes. The medium antelopes include Impalas, Reedbuck, and Situnga, Lesser Kudu, Uganda Kob, Reedbuck, Klipspringer, Grey duiker, Hartebeest, Bate’s pygmy antelope, Blue duiker, Forest duiker and Peter’s duiker.
The large antelopes include the Hartebeest, Defassa waterbuck, Elands, Oryx, and Greater Kudu.
Other herbivores in Uganda include Grey Duiker, warthogs, Oribi, klipspringer, hippopotamus, Rhinos, Burchell’s Zebra, Buffalos, giant forest hog, African elephant, and Guenther’s dik-dik.
Hippos can be seen in the different parks in the country and this is because of the different water bodies that are found in the parks. They are the second-largest animals after the elephants and mainly live in water. Note that these animals cannot float and swim and they only bounce at the bottom of the water. They can also be submerged in water without taking a breath for about 6 minutes. These are a guaranteed deal because Uganda has a large number of hippos. These are best seen while taking boat rides and they can be seen in Murchison falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National park along the Kazinga Channel, Lake Mburo National park, and Semuliki wildlife Reserve among others.
Zebras in Uganda
Zebras in Uganda are the common zebras and at the moment, Uganda has over 3000 zebras. They live in large herds and if you look closely each zebra has its unique pattern that is you cannot find two zebras with the same pattern. They do not do well when they are confronted by humans and in most cases tend to run away. They have also reduced in number and this is due to the ever-changing climate which reduces the vegetation that they feed on. Zebras like open grasslands where they can easily roam and the best place to see them are the Kidepo valley National Park and Lake Mburo National Park.
Rothschild Giraffe is also known as the Ugandan Giraffe is found in Uganda and Kenya only. These do not have any spotting on their legs and what differentiates them from other types of giraffes is that their spots are a bit darker and less defined than those of other giraffes. The male giraffes move in their herds separate from the female herds and are known to be some of the most peaceful animals. The only times that male giraffes fight are when they want to gain dominance and access to the females. The best place to see the giraffes is the Murchison falls National Park and the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre where you can have a chance of feeding them.
The common warthog which was depicted in the famous lion king as Pumba is one of the animals that you should look out for while on a safari to Uganda. These live in barrows and are omnivores. These can be seen in almost every National park in the country like Queen Elizabeth National park and Lake Mburo National Park.
Uganda’s proximity to the equator has led to the presence of different types of reptiles in the country. The commonest reptiles that you can see while in Uganda include snakes and crocodiles.
- Snakes: there are different types of snakes and these include giant pythons, black cobra, green snakes, and the puff adder.
- Nile crocodiles: these can be seen in the different water bodies across the country in the different national parks like Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and Murchison Falls National Park.
Carnivores in Uganda
Uganda has a total of 38 carnivores and these include the following Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Jackals, Mongoose, African civets, Hyenas, Otters, Genets, and Serval, Caracal, Bat-eared fox, and African wild cats.
Spotted Hyenas are the most common carnivores in Uganda and even though they are mainly nocturnal, there is a chance that you might spot a few during the day. The hyenas hunt in groups of 2 to 5 and they can both hunt for their own and also eat carcasses including their bones. They communicate through their barking which sounds like a laugh to inform the pack that there is potential food in the area. The best chances of seeing the hyenas are in Kidepo National park, Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National park, and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The big Six Animals
Uganda is home to the big five and these are found in the different National Parks around the country like Murchison Falls National Park Queen Elizabeth National Park and Kidepo National Park. While Uganda is best known for being the best destination for gorilla trekking, it is also a good destination for the four of the big five that is lions, buffalos, leopards, and elephants.
Uganda at the moment has only the white Rhino and although it is known as the White Rhino, it has the same colouring as the black rhino. The black Rhino is the fifth member of the big five and it is extinct in Uganda due to poaching however the white Rhino has been re-introduced into the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary. The black rhino was declared extinct in 1983 and around the year 1997, the government of Uganda started a campaign and first re-introduced 22 white Rhinos. The only place in Uganda where you can see Rhinos is the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary.
The term referred to as the big five is slowly changing due to the introduction of gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda. The Mountain gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mount Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The mountains gorillas live in the forest and are considered an endangered species. About 600 of them are found in Uganda, that accounts for only 50% of these remaining apes.
Lions Of Uganda
Lions are a bit rare as well because of the easy way that they camouflage with their environments but with an experienced tour guide, you will be able to spot a few. The best place to see the lions is in Ishasha which is found in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The lions in Ishasha are known as the climbing lions because they are found up in the fig trees. Climbing lions are rare to see and that is why you should not miss out on the chance of spotting these lions lazily lying in the trees. Other places where you can see lions include Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Semuliki although they are rarely seen.
Leopards are scientifically known as Panthera Pardus Pardus and are one of the animals to see. Unlike the lions that move in crowds, the leopards operate alone and mostly hunt at night. They normally rest during the day in either trees or caves and move out at night to hunt. But in case you get a chance to see a leopard during the day, it will blow your mind. Leopards can be seen in Queen Elizabeth National park, Lake Mburo, and Semuliki National park.
The African elephant is one of the big five and the largest animal in the jungle. They normally live in groups and these groups are led by a female elephant. Eating about 350kgs and over 200 litres of water per day, the African elephant can live up to 70 years of age. Uganda previously had over 30000 elephants but due to constant poaching, the number greatly reduced to about 2000 and although measures have been put up to stop poaching, it will be hard to get back the high number of elephants because only one calf is born every nine years. Elephants like the open savannah grasslands and can be seen in Murchison falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other National Parks have elephants but are rarely seen.
The African buffalo are also known as the Cape buffalo is one of the big five that you should look out for. They are considered to be one of the most dangerous animals in the wilderness and should be avoided at all times if possible. They usually stay in large herds and move in the same direction and due to the high temperatures s experienced in the country, they spend most of their time in water cooling off. Buffalos like staying in the water all the time and can be seen in Queen Elizabeth National park, Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo National park.
Bird species in Uganda
Uganda has over 1000 bird species that can be seen in their natural habitats. The best time for birding is during the wet season because this is the time when migratory birds fly into the country as well.
Bird species that you should look out for while on a safari in Uganda include African shoebill, ostriches, African crowned crane, brown-backed scrub Robin, croaking Cisticola, grey-backed fiscal, white-tailed lark, African green pigeon, Martial Eagle, Grey Kestrel, little bee-eater, Nubian woodpecker, pelicans, and Cormorants among others. Uganda has a recorded number of bird species amounting to about 1070 as of 2021.
Primates in Uganda
The different primates found in Uganda include Golden monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Black and white colobus Monkeys, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Bush babies, Grey-cheeked Mangabeys, Patas monkeys, Red colobus monkeys, Potto, Red-tailed monkeys, and lesser bushbaby.
Mountain gorillas are the mainly visited wild animals in Uganda. They are a top tourist attraction and this is mainly because they can only be found in three countries that is Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC. They are endangered species and that is why no one passes on the opportunity of seeing them. You will a gorilla permit at $700 per person to see the primates and to know more about what to expect from gorilla trekking, check out our article about gorilla trekking in Uganda. Gorillas are found in two Parks that is the Bwindi Impenetrable Park and Mgahinga National Park.
Olive baboons are a major tourist attraction in Uganda and can easily be seen as you drive along the highways. They are not afraid of humans and when they see a car approaching, they tend to approach it in hope of getting food but do not feed them because it is a crime and do not knock them down. Baboons live in groups of about 150 and these groups are led by dominant males who can weigh up to 50 kgs. Baboons can be seen in every National Park in the country.
Chimpanzee tracking is second after gorilla trekking and is a thrilling experience. Chimpanzees have the closest DNA to humans and in most cases act like humans. They however can become aggressive if they feel threatened. Uganda has over 5000 chimpanzees with some of them being habituated so that they can get used to the humans. You will also need a chimpanzee permit to trek the primates and we have an article describing more about chimpanzees and what to expect. Chimpanzee trekking can be done in Kibaale National Park, Budongo forest in Murchison Falls National, Park and Kyambura in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Black & White Colobus Monkeys
Black and white colobus monkeys are the most common monkeys in Uganda and can easily be found in every National Park in the country. The colobus monkeys are born white but at three months, they get their black colouring.
This is one of the most beautiful primate found in Uganda. Golden monkey trekking is becoming a famous 3rd trekking activity just the mountain gorillas in Bwindi and the Chimps in Kibale.
National Parks in Uganda
There are several National parks from where you can go for game viewing and these have been listed below so that you can choose your destination.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi is famous for gorilla trekking and is home to other primates. It has the largest population of the endangered Mountain gorillas in Uganda and while on a trek here, you also get to see other primates like monkeys and chimpanzees.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison National Park which is best known for the large herds of elephants is the place to go for an all-year-round wildlife viewing while on a safari in Uganda. You will also be able to see other animals and birds and not forget the magnificent Murchison Falls.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National park is located in the western part of Uganda and is the most visited National park in the country. The park has 95 recorded animal species, 612 bird species, and beautiful scenery that every tourist should check out. The scenery includes views from Mountain Rwenzori, Lake George, Lake Edward, and the Kazinga channel among others.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo National park is located in the Northern part of Uganda and has excellent wildlife including lions, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, black-backed jackals, the cheetah which can only be found here, and leopards among others.
Kibaale National Park
Kibaale Forest Reserve is located in south western Uganda and is home to a large number of primates in the country. Some of the primates that are found in Kibaale include the black and white colobus monkeys, baboons, chimpanzees, and red-tailed monkeys among others.
Lake Mburo National Park
Located in western Uganda, Lake Mburo National Park has a variety of animals that are endemic to it and not found anywhere else in the country like the Topi and it has the largest population of impalas in Uganda.
Forest Reserves in Uganda
Forest reserves are also tourist attractions in Uganda where you can see the different wildlife especially primates and bird species.
- Budongo forest
- Kalinzu forest reserve
- Pabidi forest reserve
- Mabira forest
- Kanyiyo forest reserve
Packing list for wildlife viewing in Uganda
The packing list normally depends on the adventures that you are going to engage in while on a safari in Uganda. Some activities are demanding like hikes and then some are not physically exhausting like game drives. The first thing that you should pack is the anti-malarial drugs and then the following should follow:
Binoculars and cameras
Binoculars with at least 8×30 magnification should be brought on your safari. These will help you see the animals that are far away from you and those that blend in perfectly with their surroundings like the leopards. The camera should come with extra batteries because rest assured you are going to take a lot of photos while on your safari.
Strong and comfortable hiking boots: hiking boots are a must if you plan on taking a safari to Uganda. It is one of the best ways in which you can explore the National parks and get close to the animals. The shoes might not be new but make sure that they are not heavy because this might slow you down when trekking with the group.
Long-sleeved shirts and trousers (neutral colors)
Long-sleeved shirts and trousers help in preventing your skin from being scratched and the neutral colors are to help you blend in with the wild easily. Brightly colored clothes attract the attention of the animals and some of them might feel threatened.
Waterproof jackets or coats
Ugandan weather is extremely unpredictable and therefore you should carry your waterproof coat or jacket at all times so as not to get wet even when you have planned for your safari during the dry season.
Rules for wildlife viewing in Uganda
The Uganda wildlife Authority and park management have come up with certain rules to make sure that the animals and the habitats where they say are conserved and not threatened in any way. The rules were put up to reduce the death of the animals, and poaching and to also protect humans from being attacked by the animals. These rules need to be followed because if any of them is broken, you might be fined or banned from accessing the parks again.
Littering in the parks
When going for game drives, tourists carry snacks and bottled water. You must at all times keep the rubbish inside the van so that the park is conserved. You need to leave the National Park the way you found it so that other tourists also get a chance of exploring the national parks.
Keep a distance away from the animals
It does not matter whether you are excited to see the different animal species that is those that you have never seen before or the old ones, you must keep a distance to protect the animals and yourself. If you try to approach the animals they might feel threatened and even in the presence of a tour guide, you do not want to find out how they will react. For those that are into primate trekking, you must avoid them if you are not feeling well.
Maintain a slow speed while driving
While on your safari, you first need to know that the animals have a right of way and rule the wilderness. You are not to speed, you are supposed to drive on the given track and not go off course and this is to prevent drivers from knocking down the animals
How to watch the wildlife in Uganda
Wildlife in Uganda is best seen on game drives. Game drives are carried out in the different parks twice a day with the first session starting as early as 7:00 am and the second session in the late afternoon. Game drives take you around the National Parks and get you as close as they can to the animals and some of the rules that you should follow while on game drives include not getting too close to the animals, not alight from your vehicle, following all the instructions given to you by the tour guide and avoid making noise. Other ways in which you can view the animals include nature walks and mobile camping.
Best time for wildlife viewing in Uganda
Ugandan parks can be visited all year round for game viewing but the best time is during the dry season. The country experiences two dry seasons that is from June to August and January to February. During the dry season, the grass is scarce and short and there is limited water forcing the animals to converge around the waterholes for water making it easy for tourists to spot the animals. The roads within the National Parks during the dry season are passable during both game drives and nature walks. The dry season is also known as the peak season with many tourists visiting the country for wildlife viewing and during this period, the cost doubles.
The wet season is also experienced twice a year from September to December and March to May. Birding is the best activity that is carried out during the wet season although you can also enjoy other activities like game drives and trekking. The roads are nearly impassable and flooded during the wet season and you should be ready for this if you are planning on visiting Uganda during this period. Note that the wet season is known as the low season and this is because it receives few visitors and the accommodation fees are also reduced.
Best Uganda Wildlife Safaris