Uganda: Lakes & Activities
Bird Watching in Uganda:
Crane Bird is the “Coat of Arms” of Uganda.
Transitional to the East African savannah and the western rainforests, Uganda is Africa’s most complete birdwatching destination, with more than 1,000 species recorded within an area comparable to that of Great Britain. Specialist birding tours through Western Uganda routinely notch up an incredible tally of 400 species within two weeks, while enthusiastic amateurs might reasonably hope to aim for 300 species within the same time.
For dedicated ornithologists, Uganda’s prime attraction is the presence of more than 100 West African forest species at the most easterly – and most accessible – extent of their range. This alluring list of forest specialists includes the psychedelic Great Blue Turaco and the raucous Black-and-White Casqued Hornbill, as well as the gem-like Green Broadbill and 23 other species endemic to the Albertine Rift. Uganda is the best place to see what many rate as the most sought after African bird: the Shoebill stork, a massive prehistoric-looking swamp-dweller notable for its heavy clog-shaped bill.
Birdlife is prolific throughout Uganda, but certain key sites should be included in any ornithological itinerary. In the west, these include Bwindi National Park for Albertine Rift endemics, Queen Elizabeth National Park for a peerless checklist of 600 species, Semliki National Park for Congo Basin endemics, Mabamba Swamp near Entebbe for Shoebill, the community-run guided trail through Bigodi Wetland near Kibale Forest for Great Blue Turaco and other colourful forest birds, and Murchison Falls National Park for savannah specialists such as Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-Throated Bee-Eater, Shoebill and Denham’s Bustard. A key birding location in eastern Uganda is Lake Bisina, a stronghold for the endemic Fox’s Weaver as well as papyrus-dwellers such as Shoebill and Papyrus Gonolek. At Kidepo Valley National Park look out for Fox Kestrel, Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Grasshopper Buzzard, Montague’s Harrier, Verreaux Eagle, Bateleur Eagle, Fan tailed Raven and the very rare Stone Patridge.
Uganda is a classic adventure tourism destination. Indeed, Bujagali Falls, which lies downstream of the Source of the Nile an hour’s drive east of Kampala, is the East African counterpart to more southerly ‘adrenaline capitals’ such as Victoria Falls and Cape Town. Bujagali is the launching point for a commercial white-water rafting route that ranks as one of most thrilling but also one of the safest in the world, passing through three heart-stopping Grade Five rapids in one day. Other activities at Bujagali include kayaking, mountain biking, quad-biking and a new 44 metre-high bungee jump from a cliff above the Nile.
Boasting three separate montane destinations topping the 4,000 metre mark, all protected within national parks, Uganda offers some of Africa’s top hiking and climbing possibilities. Serious mountaineers need look no further than the majestic Rwenzori, whose trio of craggy 5,000-plus metre glacial peaks offers a genuine challenge to experienced alpine climbers, while fit hikers will find the six-day loop trail through the Rwenzori’s forest and moorland zones to be as rewarding as it is demanding.
Further east, Mount Elgon, Africa’s eighth-highest mountain, offers an excellent and relatively undemanding introduction to Afro-montane climates and vegetation, culminating in the ascent of a 6 km wide volcanic caldera studded with a spectacular waterfalls, caves and hot springs. Another estimable hiking destination is the Virunga Mountains, where mountain gorilla tracking can be supplemented by a tough day ascent to one of the three extinct volcanoes protected within Mgahinga National Park, the tallest of which is the 4,127-metre Muhabura.
Lakes of Uganda:
Uganda is source of the Great River Nile and Africa largest fresh water lake. Out of 197 097 km² Uganda land area, 43 942 km² consists of water and swamps or wetland region, ranging from vast inland seas to the mysterious marshy expanse of Lake Kyoga which sources from the Nile as it drains into a shallow sump at the heart of the country.
A third of Lake Victoria, the world’s second-largest fresh water lake sits within the boundaries of the country with Kenya and Tanzania.
The Albert and Edward lakes extend for 150 km and 80 km respectively along the Albertine Rift Valley floor bordering the D.R.Congo.
Renowned for its water birds and dense population of otters, mountain-ringed Bunyonyi crater lake is one of Uganda’s most rapidly developing wetland destinations, its steep-sided shores.
Another rising attraction is the cluster of other 200 crater lakes that extends northward from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Fort Portal, reaching its scenic peak in the vicinity of Kibale Forest, where several forest-fringed lakes have been developed as community-based ecotourism projects.