Hiking and nature walks in Uganda

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Uganda “the pearl of Africa” is a land locked country in east Africa that has a lot of natural attractions the range from animals, birds, mountains, lakes, waterfalls among others. All the above attractions call for different activities while visiting the country like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, boat trips of the lakes or river Nile, nature walks, hiking, birding to mention but a few. Today, I talk specifically about hiking and nature walks because some people wish to go away from the monotony of the vehicle and get in touch directly with nature. Nature walks in Uganda can be done in a lot of places but the best places are in the national parks or game reserves where wildlife is in abundance. Below are some of the places you could hike while in this wildlife rich country.

Mount Elgon National Park

The park is a home to mount Elgon, some primates, birds and various rare tree species. Elgon area topography is mostly highlands. There are various trails within the park that tourists follow as they discover the park.

The bamboo trail: this is a 7kilometer trail that leads to the Kapkwai caves. Along the trail, expect to spot some primates like monkeys, various forest bird species as well as trees. There is a trail that leads to the Tutum caves with an option of camping overnight beside the cave. There are also trails that lead to the top of mount Elgon (Wagagai peak).

Mount Rwenzori National Park

The park is made up of a range of mountains with the highest being Mount Stanley (Margherita Peak). The park provides opportunity for nature walks within the central circuit zone. These include; trails up to Lake Mahoma and Buraro chimp forest; walks through the communities of Kichamba to reach the Karangura ridge; and hiking to Bundibugyo area through Bwamba pass.

The surrounding communities like Ruboni offer guided forest walks of different length depending on the clients interests outside the park. Visitors can follow the River Mubuku and have views of Baker and Portal Peaks (if the weather is clear) as they hike up to 2,300m above sea level. On a clear day it is even possible to view the snow-capped Margherita Peak – a truly spectacular sight. Along the way, keep an eye out for three horned chameleons, squirrels, vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys and several forest bird species like the Rwenzori Turaco.

The commonly done activity within the park is the 7 days Margherita peak hike. This takes you through the park up to margherita peak, 5109m (Africa’s third highest point) and you will be meet by the magnificent beauty of the vegetation, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and huge rocks.

Lake Mburo National Park

This is a savannah park that is open for hiking activities which are done in the company of an armed ranger guide. Some of the places where the walks are done include the salt lick at Rwonyo, the banks of Lake Mburo; you will expect to spot animals like hyenas as they return to their den, hippos as they go back to the water, Rubanga forest; you will expect to spot various birds species and some monkeys and the hilltop that offers great lake views.

Mgahinga National Park

The park is south west of Uganda and is commonly known for mountain gorillas. The park is part of the great Virunga conservation area and is a home to 2 virunga volcanoes that is Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura and Mount Sabinyo. Hiking around the foothills of the Virunga Volcanoes gives visitors the chance to spot forest birds, the Rugezi Swamp, wild vegetation, bamboo forests and glorious views of the surrounding lakes and agricultural villages.

A hike through the forest to the deep Sabinyo Gorge offers good birding opportunities and the chance to find the Rwenzori Turaco. This walk takes four hours and passes through the Rugezi Swamp which is fantastic for bird watchers.

The walk to the Congo border transcends different vegetation zones. Hikers can sight the calderas on top of the Gisozi hill, look out for Kisoro and Bunagana towns and be captivated by Lake Mutanda.

The golden monkey track is a gentle steep but an interesting two-hour trek through former farmland to the bamboo forest. On a clear day, you may view the great Virunga massif.

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is about 766 km2 in size with primarily moist evergreen forest. Kibale National Park is in the Southern part of Uganda about, 320 kilometres from Kampala. Kibale National Park is a home to approximately 325 species of birds which include the olive long-tailed cuckoo, Western Green tinker bird, African and Green-breasted and African Grey Parrot. It is also a home to 13 species of primates, at least 60 other species of mammals. The visits to the park are mainly paid to the endangered chimpanzees. While visiting the Chimps you can get to see other primates including the red colobus monkey and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey, Uganda Mangabey.

All the attractions with in and outside the park are discovered by walking. When chimpanzees and other forest residents rest up at dusk, a night time shift of rarely seen creatures becomes active. Night walks though the darkened forest use powerful torches to seek nocturnal creatures such as the potto, bushbaby, nightjar, cricket and tree hyrax, with its chilling shriek, as well as the occasional civet or serval cat. Night walks leave the camp at 7.30pm and last between 1-2 hours.

Semuliki National Park

Semliki National Park is in the remote part of Bundibugyo district in the western part of Uganda in the Albertine Rift. The vegetation in this park is tropical rain forest and swamps.  Semliki National Park is a home to more than 400 bird species, and some of these are the Forest Ground Thrush and Sassi’s Olive Greenbul, Long-tailed Hawk, Forest Francolin, Nkulengu Rail, Western Bronze-napped Pigeon, Black-collared Lovebird, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Brown-crowned Eremomela among others. About 60 mammal species live in this park and some of them are buffalos, leopards, hippos, Mona Monkeys, water chevrotains, bush babies, civets, elephants among others.

There are several trails around the park that tourists can hike;

The 13km KirumiaTrail runs through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River. This 8 hour round trip starts at 8am and is perfect for birders.

The 13km KirumiaTrail runs through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River. This 8 hour round trip starts at 8am and is perfect for birders.

The 11km Red Monkey Track follows the park’s eastern border – a stronghold of the rare deBrazza’s monkey and to the Semliki River.

Along the 8km Sempaya Nature Trail, you can view the hot springs and primates. This 2-4 hour hike can take place in the morning or afternoon.

With all the above options, you can choose to do a hike wherever you wish while visiting the pearl of Africa.