Uganda Travel Information
FACTS AND FIGURES
PHYSICAL AND CLIMATIC FEATURES
Uganda can be described as basin shaped rising between the western and eastern blocks of the rift valley. The country lies across the equator bordered by Tanzania in the south, Sudan in the north, Kenya in the east, Zaire in the west and Rwanda in the southwest.
The topography of the country is generally flat with an altitude of 1,000m in most parts of the country, however its location on the great African plateau and across the equator gives it a remarkable biological and physical diversity.
Uganda is naturally endowed with water and fertility, 25% of the area is covered with lakes, rivers and swamps, Lake Victoria being the largest lake in Africa, the source of the River Nile the world's longest river, Lake Kyoga in the center of the country, Lakes Edward, George and Albert close to the border of Congo.
The country is also a product of the African Continent uplift with the most mountainous part in the southwest that harbors the Rwenzori mountains which form the highest mountain in Africa, other mountains also include Mount Elgon, Virunga, Bufumbira Mountains on the southwestern border of Rwanda, the Northern Volcanoes of Uganda and many more of these physical features make Uganda a n interesting geographical part of Africa.
The country's temperatures range between 26o and 30o during the day and 16o and 20o at night with the hottest months being January, February and December. Apart from some northern parts of the country that receive average annual rainfall as low as 100mm, the rest of the country is green throughout the year with an annual rainfall between 1,000mm to 2,000mm with the coolest season being mid-September to November, the March to May.
POPULATION, LANGUAGE AND CULTURE
Uganda's population is estimated to be about 24.6 million with 87% living in rural areas. The Country's population can generally be classified along linguistic lines or groups that occupy the country. The largest group of the Bantu-speaking people are the Baganda accounting for about 82.1% of the population mostly living in Kampala and other parts like Mpigi, Mubende, Masaka, Mukono, Luwero and several other parts.
Other significant Bantu-speaking groups are Bakiga in the southwestern part of the country, Batooro in western Uganda at the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains, and the Banyoro of the Bunyoro-Kitala Kingdom. Banyankole numbering 2.2 million and occupying mostly the Western part of the country are basically cattle keepers and agriculturists with their main urban area in Mbarara.
The Eastern part of the country has a diversity of people with different languages and culture but the most dominant are Bantu speaking Basoga, speaking Lusoga dialect and the largest ethnic group in the East and closely linked to Baganda. The place being at the shores of Lake Victoria, its soils are very fertile and agriculture is a major activity.
The Bagisu settled at the foothills of Mount Elgon are also another major ethnic Bantu group that inhabit one of Uganda's large town of Mbale. Agriculture is major activity and the main language spoken is Lumasaba quite related to some languages in Kenya. However there are also other Bantu-speaking groups in this area like the Bagwere, Banyole, Basamia and many more.
UGANDA'S NATURAL HISTORY
Uganda is a unique safari destination from other African countries basically because of its large forested area with Lowland rain forest, Afro-montane forest found especially on Mount Elgon, and their accessibility gives you a spectacular view of the forest creatures like chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, butterflies and birds. Going through the country's game reserves, you are likely to encounter safari favourites like Lions, buffalo, elephant, leopard, giraffe and other several species of animals not found anywhere in Africa.
The country has 10 gazetted national parks with several wildlife and forest reserves. These protect Savannah, plain animals, forest environment and the associated animals, however the one at present with tourist facilities include, Semliki, Queen Elizabeth, Budongo, Kanyiyo and Pabidi forest reserves, Murchison falls national park and several others.
Uganda is naturally endowed with water bodies Like Lake Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, Edward and several crater lakes especially around the Rwenzori foothills. The existence of such water bodies facilitates a relatively moist climate, with the countryside greener and fertile compared to the semi-desert northern side. Around these water bodies are different bird species not easily found anywhere in Africa especially the papyrus gonolek and the shoebill.
The country is mostly covered with a plateau at altitudes of 1,000-1200m and by the effect of warping and rifting, the East African landscape was molded giving way to the Western rift valley of Uganda and the most attractive mountains like Rwenzori Mountains bordering Congo with Margherita peak 5,110m as the third highest point in Africa. Other major mountains include, Moroto3, 084m, Elgon 4,321m, Virungas on Rwanda border with Muhabura as the highest of Ugandan peaks at 4,127m and several others. Most of these mountains, are homes to forest habitats and have high grasslands.
These are widely spread in Uganda with 13 diurnal species, six of which are guenon monkeys, and 6 nocturnal species. Below is an overview of the several local species.
All the monkeys found in Uganda belong to the Cercopithecidae family divided into five species including, Papio, Erythrocebus, Cercocebus, Cercopithecus, and Colobus.
There are several types of monkeys under the Cercopithecus specie, which include the DE BRZZA'S MONKEY (Cercopithecus neglectus) This type has a hairy face, a reddish-brown patch around its eyes, white band across its brow, white moustache and beard with a relatively short tail. It is likely to be seen around Mount Elgon and Semliki national parks.
VERVET MONKEY(Cercopithecus aethiops) this, has a black face with very distinctive blue male genitals. These monkeys are widely spread in Uganda with four races in existence in and out of national parks but absent from forests and Afro-alpine habitats.
BLUE MONKEY(Cercopithecus aethiops) the most widely spread in East African forests, it is uniform dark blue-Grey in colour, white throat and chest patch with thick fur and backward-projecting hair on its forehead. 20 races and more have been identified, three of which are found in most of Ugandan forests living in troops of between 4-12 animals including the golden monkey more or less restricted to the bamboo forest in Virunga mountains. These monkeys are absent in only two of Uganda's national parks including Murchison falls and Lake Mburo national parks but present in the rest and almost every forest in Uganda.
L'HOEST'S MONKEY (Cercopithecus lhoesti) Other than the rest, this type of monkey is very hard to see basically because it prefers very dense forests. In Uganda it is more likely to be seen in Maramagambo forest, Kibale forest, Bwindi forest and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
It has a black face with backward projecting white whiskers partially covering its ears and carries its tail in an upright position.
RED-TAILED MONKEY (Cercopithecus ascinius) the race identified in Uganda is Schmidt. These monkeys are usually in Kibale forest, Bwindi forest, Mpanga and Budongo forest reserves, and Semliki and Queen Elizabeth national parks. They have a brownish colour, white whiskers, and a coppery tail with a heart-shaped patch on the nose, usually move in small pairs, associate with other monkeys and can accumulate in-groups of up to 200.
RED COLOBUS (Piliocolobus badius) these are largely restricted to Kibale Forest National Park especially around Bigodi Wetland sanctuary and a few of them in Semliki National Park. With a slightly tufted crown, the red colobus monkeys are sociable and usually live in scattered groups of 50 or more animals.
PATAS MONKEY(Erythrocebus patas) the race identified in Uganda is NILE PATAS restricted to the dry savannah in Kidepo and Murchison falls National Parks. It has a lankier build; a light reddish brown coat and a black stripe above the eyes but could easily be confused with Vervet monkey
BLACK-AND-WHITE COLOBUS (Colobus guereza) Perhaps the most common and widely spread forest monkey in Uganda, it is beautifully marked with a black body, white facial markings and a long white tail. It lives in small groups, but most spectacular about it is its high jumping skills and the attractive view of its white tail streaming behind.
GORILLA (Gorilla gorilla) Identified are 3 sub- species of gorillas, the western lowland gorilla as the most common, the lowland gorilla but not present in Uganda. The common type in Uganda is the most threatened mountain gorilla residing in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with regular visits to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Gorilla is the bulkiest member of the Primate family and may grow up to 1.8m high and weigh up to 210kgs.
BABOONS (Papio spp) Baboons are widely spread and very common in Uganda with the olive baboon as the only type found in Uganda. They appear in forest reserves, along the roadside and in all apart from three montane national parks. Baboons are larger in size with a dog-like head with males moving frequently in large troops in search for social dominance but in general they have a rigid social structure.
COMMON CHIMPANZEE (Pan troglodytes) this black-coated ape is amongst the most intelligent animals and closely related to man than any other living creature. Chimpanzees are typical rain forest and woodland animals living in most of the forests of western Uganda and have been habituated for tourists in Budongo and Kanyiyo Pabidi forests, Kibale Forest National and the Chambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Chimpanzees live in large loosely bonded communities around a core of related males headed by a prominent male contrary to the female that are not strongly bonded. Different troops have well-defined core territories that are fiercely guarded by regular boundary patrols. Mother-child bonds are strong such that Mother-son relations may survive for over 40 years while the daughters may leave their mothers after reaching maturity.
Chimpanzees are basically fruit eaters but they sometimes eat meat, in Uganda it has been observed that chimps hunt for the blue and red-tailed monkeys.
BUSHBABIES OR GALAGOES, Five bush baby species are found in Uganda with the lesser bush baby as the most common in all Uganda's Savannah reserves. In Kibale and Bwindi forests species identified are; the eastern needled-clawed bush baby, Thomas bush baby and the Dwarf bush baby, they also appear in Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth National Parks.
The bush baby has a piercing cry that can be heard especially at night and tracing the cry you can see it by the use of a flashlight meeting its sparkling large eyes.
POTTO (Perodicticus potto) with nocturnal habits, the potto can be seen in Kibale forest during night guided walks and other major rain forests including Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The Potto is a medium-sized sloth-like creature that spends the nights foraging upside down from tree branches and usually located at night by use of a flashlight.
In Uganda, 29 antelope species have been identified with 8 in the category of large antelopes with a shoulder height of above 120cm, 8 in the medium-sized category with a shoulder height between 75cm-90cm and small antelope with a shoulder height of between 30cm-60cm. The large antelope include;
GREATER KUDU (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) In Uganda the Greater Kudu is only identified in Kidepo National Park and Pian-Upe. It is handsome with a Grey-brown coat marked by thin white side stripes measuring up to 1.5m high. The Greater Kudu live in small groups in woodland habitat with the male having small dewlap and large spiraling horns.
COMMON ELAND (Taurotragus oryx) In Uganda it appears around Lake Mburo National Park, Kidepo valley and the sorrounding areas.
It is the world's largest antelope measuring up to 1.8m high. The eland is fawn-brown in colour with large dewlap and short-spiralled horns sometimes with light white stripes on its sides.
HARTEBEEST (Alcelaphus buselaphus) the hartebeest specie found in Uganda is known as the Jackson's hartebeest. It lives in small herds in lightly wooded and open Savannah habitats, frequently seen in the Ishasha sector of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison falls National Park, Lake Mburo and Kidepo valley.
The Jackson's Hartebeest has large shoulders, a darker coat with distinctive blue-black markings above its knees.
DEFASSA WATERBUCK(Kobus ellipsyprymnus defassa) These live in small herds often grazing near water and are found in all suitable habitats in all four of Uganda's Savannah national parks.
The defassa waterbuck has shaggy looks with a Grey-brown coat, white rump and large curved horns.
ORXY (Oryx gazelle) In Uganda the Oryx is a resident of Kidepo National Park because it is more familiar with the semi-desert and dry acacia woodland. This type of antelope is ash-Grey in colour with sports distinctive large, scimitar-shaped horns and regal.
The medium sized antelope include the following;
SITATUNGA (Tragelaphus spekei) Quite similar to the bushbuck, the sitatunga has distinctively splayed hooves adapted to its favoured habitat of papyrus and other swamps. It is found in all the six national parks of Uganda but likely to be seen around the Katonga Wildlife Reserve.
This antelope is semi-aquatic, large in size with a shaggiercoat with both sexes having stripes.
IMPALA (Aepyceros melampus) Portraying real African beauty, this antelope is handsome, slender with a chestnut colouring, sleek appearance and distinctive lyre horns for males. Itclosely related to the oryx and hartebeest. Their comfort zones are well-wooded Savannah and woodland fringes and in Uganda they are only found in Lake Mburo and Katonga wildlife reserve.
Fascinating about are its broad-jump skills, an adult impala can jump up to 3m high and they are sociable animals living in herds between 20 to a few hundreds.
LESSER KUDU(tragelaphus imberbis) Found in Kidepo national Park and Pian-Upe, this dry-country antelope is similar to the greater Kudu but only smaller in size and less striped.
GRANT'S GAZELLE(Gazelle granti) also dry-country antelope, it is lightly built tan in colour and lives in small herds from ten to hundreds.
REEDBUCK (Redunca spp) The Bohor reedbuck is widely spread in all the four Savannah national parks of Uganda with the mountain reedbuck restricted only to kidepo national park because of its preference of higher altitudes.
The reebuck has small crescent shaped horns and a Grey-brown in colour.
UGANDA KOB (Kobus kob thomasi) This is Uganda's national antelope. It is related to the waterbuck and reedbuck but reddish-brown in colour and bulkier in appearance.
It is often seen in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls and Kidepo national parks, the neighbouring conservation areas also present in Semliki and Katonga wild Reserves.
The small-sized antelope in Uganda belong to the Duiker family characterised by their small size and their love for thickly forested habitats. Several species have been identified;
FOREST DUIKER(Cephalophus spp) this is relatively large with a striking yellow back and heavier than a bushbuck. Several types of the forest duiker have been identified in the western forests of Uganda and some national parks.
The Harvey's red duiker(C. harveyi), tiny with a chestnut-brown colour is sighted around the forested parts of Queen Elizabeth national park and Kibale forest.
The blue duiker(C. monticola), smaller with a Grey-blue coat appears in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison falls, Kibale and Bwindi national parks.
Peter's duiker(C. callipygus) is found in kibale, Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth national parks.
The black-fronted duiker(C. nigrifrons) appears in mgahinga and Bwindi forests.
GREY DUIKER(Sylvicapra grimmia) Appearing especially in woodland and Savannah habitats, the Grey duiker is widely spread in East Africa and present in Uganda in all four of the Savannah national parks and Mount Elgon.
It is speckled with a Grey-brown coat.
ORIBI (Ourebia ourebi) this type of antelope finds comfort in the tall grasslands and it is seen in all the Savannah national parks unlike Queen Elizabeth but commonly seen in Borassus in the northern grassland of the Murchison falls national park.
The Oribi is one of the largest small antelopes in Africa with a red-brown back, white underparts and a diagnostic black scent gland under its ears. They usually move in-groups of up to five or more consisting of a male.
KLIPSPRINGER (Oreotragus oreotragus) it lives in pairs in suitable habitats in Kidepo and Lake Mburo national parks. It has goat-like habits with a dark Grey coat and almost speckled.
GUENTHER'S DIK-DIK (Modoqua guentheri) found in the dry Savannah around Kidepo valley, this antelope is small, with a dark red-brown coat, distinctive white eye markings and very pretty.
AFRICAN ELEPHANT (Loxodonta africana) it appears in all national parks apart from Lake Mburo.
It is the world's largest land animal considered being the most intelligent and entertaining.
Elephants keep on wandering from place to place in search of food and water with the female elephants living in closely-knit clans with the eldest taking responsibility over the sisters, daughters and granddaughters.
Like any male creature the male elephants enjoy their independence and are likely to leave their mothers at the age of 12 years to be on their own or form bachelor herds. Most amazing is their height and weight, and a fully-grown elephant may be about 3.5m high and may weigh around 6,000kgs.
BATE'S PYGMY ANTELOPE(Neofragus batesi) It is not a duiker but similar and appears in the same favoured habitats. It appears in Semliki National Park and the forests bordering the southern half of Queen Elizabeth national Park.
AFRICAN BUFFALO(Syncerus caffer) Africa's wild oxen, these buffaloes are seen almost in all Uganda's national parks and large forests. They live in large herds in the Savannah and smaller herds in the forests.
GIRAFFE (Giraffa camelopardus) The Rothschild's giraffe is the race found in Uganda very common in the northern part of Murchison falls national park and a small herd in Kidepo valley.
The giraffe is the world's tallest animal, it lives is mixed sex loosely structured herds of five to fifteen animals.
RHINOCEROS two races i.e. black rhinoceros and northern rhinoceros both appear in Uganda but have been poached almost to extinction.
HIPPOPOTAMUS (Hippopotamus amphibus) it is a large aquatic animal appearing on almost all water bodies but can be seen best in Murchison falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks.
Hippopotami spend most of the day in water usually coming out at night to graze, they move in herds of ten or more headed by a dominant male and jealously guard their territorial boundaries.
SWINE the most common specie in Uganda is Warthog (Phacochoerus aethiopicus) Grey in colour with tusks on both sides of the mouth seen in family groups. They are common in all Savannah national parks.
Bush pig (Potamochoerus porcus) appears in all national parks except Rwenzori National Park. They prefer thickets and dense woodland and cannot be easily seen because of their nocturnal habits.
The giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) It is rarely seen because of its nocturnal habits but can by day along the Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth national park and perhaps occurs in all national parks in western Uganda.
BURCHELL'S ZEBRA(Equus burchelli) though widely spread in East Africa Zebras only appear in Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley National Parks.
Beautifully striped in black and white colour, Zebras move in small herds consisting of a stallion up to five mares with their offspring.
CARNIVORES In Uganda 38 carnivores have been identified with five canidspecies, seven felines, three hyenas, ten mongooses, six mustelids and seven viverrids.
AFRICAN CIVET (Civetticus civetta) Civets are widely spread and common in most of Uganda's national parks but not easily seen because of its secretive nocturnal habits. The African Civet is bulky, longhaired with a cat-like face.
SPOTTED HYENA (Crocuta crocuta) because of its distinctive hunting skills, the spotted hyena is capable of killing an animal as large as a wildebeest. In Uganda the spotted hyena is found in all Savannah national parks often seen in Queen Elizabeth as well as Mgahinga forest but absent in Kidepo National Park.
The spotted hyena is bulky with a sloping back, dark brown spots and endowed with very powerful jaws that can crack through very hard bones and any kind of skin.
Hyenas' lives live in loosely structured clans with a very fascinating social life. The female heads clans, which seem much stronger and larger than the male and according to research the spotted hyena is the most common member of the hunchbacked carnivores in Africa.
MONGOOSES, ten species of mongoose have been recorded in Uganda with the banded mongoose regularly seen around the Mweya peninsular in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Species assumed to be in almost half of the National parks in Uganda include; Egyptian mongoose, Marsh mongoose, Slender mongoose, White tailed mongoose, Banded Mongoose.
GENETS (Genetta spp) these are more related to civets but are referred to as cats because of their strong resemblance to them. Species like the servaline genet, large-spotted genet and small spotted genet are seen on night drives in Semliki Wildlife Reserve and also occur in lightly wooded areas.
Amazing about these animals is their attraction to human waste and usually after dark they move around campsite in search of their delicacy.
OTTERS these aquatic predators are associated with most wet lands and appear in some areas in Lake Mburo National Park. Species identified in Uganda include; the darker spotted-necked otter smaller in size and very active between dusk and dawn, the cape clawless otter and the Congo clawless otter that are regarded to be the largest African otters.
LION (Panthera Leo) King of the wilderness and the largest African carnivore, lions appear naturally in most woodland and grassland habitats, common in certain parts of Murchison falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks and a healthy population of them in Kidepo national park though not present in Lake mburo national park.
Lions are sociable large cats living in loosely structured prides of 5-15 animals with one dominant male preventing a pride take over which may be fought for till death.
Lions are more active during the night when they carryout their hunting activity that is dominated by the female, their favoured prey is the buffalo and a variety of antelope.
CHEETAH (Acinonyx jubatus) Cheetahs are heavily spotted with greyhound-like build and distinctive black tear-marks. They are very fast animals capable of running 70kmhr however the least powerful among the large predators such that cheetah cubs are sometimes killed by other predators before they even reach three months.
Cheetahs live a solitary kind of life with the male jealously defending their territory in pairs and finding comfort in grassland and Savannah habitats. In Uganda cheetahs appear only within the Kidepo national Park vicinity.
LEOPARD (Panthera pardus) they are quite similar to the cheetah but can be differentiated from them by their rosette-shaped spots and are more powerfully built. They prefer wooded or rocky habitats and are present in most national parks in Uganda but regularly seen along channel drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Because of their solitary and secretive nature, leopards are rarely seen but often live in close proximity to humans and their prey and when caught the prey is put in safe custody of trees to prevent other predators from poaching on it.
SMALLER CATS (Felis spp) these include several species like;
Caracal, found only in Kidepo National Park, the caracal is medium-sized with a reddish brown coat, tufted ears and prefers the open habitats.
African golden cat, widely spread in western Uganda and seen in every forested national park except Semliki.
African wild cat, this appears in most Savannah habitats in Uganda. The Serval cat is widely spread in Uganda and loves to live in moister habitats ranging from woodland to forests. Its pale spotted coat makes it similar to the genet.
JACKALS (Canis spp) the side-striped jackal is the most widely spread appearing in all four Savannah national parks including Bwindi and Mgahinga and Murchison falls national park. Also present in Uganda is the Black-backed jackal appearing only in Kidepo National Park and Pan-Upe.
Jackals are mostly Savannah habitats hunting a variety of birds and mammals and sometimes eat a variety of fruits and bulbs.
BAT-EARED FOX (Otocyon megalotis) belonging to the canidae family, the bat-eared fox is more associated with the dry open country it appears in only in Kidepo national park and Pain-Upe. They are often seen moving in pairs or small family groups during the cooler hours of the day.
The bat-eared fox is small in size with a striking silver-Grey colour, huge ears and black eye-mask.
NILE CROCODILE, It is the largest living reptile that can grow up to the length of 6m. Nile crocodile was once very common on most large water bodies but it is now absent in most places because it was hunted villagers who had become its target prey and its beautiful skin.
Today the Nile crocodile is more confined to protected areas, a particular specie on the River Nile banks and also seen around Lake Mburo and Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Drinking and swimming mammals are their prey but basically feeding on fish, however a large crocodile is capable of killing a lion or an adult human being, it drowns its prey first, stores it under a tree until it is decomposed for better eating.
Though not of much interest to tourists, a vast number of 1,200 species of butterflies have been identified in Uganda including endemics than anywhere else. Several forests in Uganda harbor 300 butterfly species and more. Butterfly interest has not been so much boosted in Uganda basically because of lack of literature about them, however the country is endowed with a wealth of several butterfly species.
Lycaenidae is the most diverse family of butterflies in Uganda with almost 500 species. The family consists of mainly small to medium-sized butterflies with dull under wings and brilliant violet blue, copper upper wings. Some members of this family are often seen on forest paths throughout Uganda.
The Charaxidae family is represented in Uganda by 70 species of the 200 in Africa. Several of these species are scarce because they are more confined to forest canopies often observed in Bwindi as their site.
They are typically large, robust, strong fliers with one or two short tails on each wing, however they are greatly different in colouration.
SWALLOW TAILS, these are the most spectacular of all butterflies belonging to the Papilionidae family with 32 species identified in Uganda. The most common large swallow tails present in Uganda is Papilio nobilis with golden close to orange wings, very common in Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe and other places.
The Papilio antimachus a West African species also extends to Bwindi, Semliki, Kibale, Budongo and Kalinzu forests in Uganda.
Swallowtails are large, colourful and easier to observe as the feed on the mammal dung deposited on the roads or forests.
The Pieridae is a family of medium-sized butterflies with wider wings but smaller than swallow tails and about 100 species have been identified in Uganda. The most common specie is Eurema desjardini with yellow wings marked by a broad black band present in any Savannah or forest fringe habitat in southern Uganda. Eronia appears in open grassland and Savannah countrywide. It has yellow wings with an orange upper tip.
Well represented in Uganda are the Nymphalidae with 370 species present. Some of the common and distinctive species are the African blue tiger (Tirumala petiverana) large black butterfly with a dozen blue-white wing spots often seen in forest paths near paddles or feeding on animal waste.
The African queen (Danaus chrysippus) is also a large member of this family with a slow deliberate flight pattern, brown wings common in forest-edge habitats.
African mother pearl (Salamis parhassus) is a lovely light green butterfly with black wing dots and tips that is common in Kampala gardens.
Least impressive are the grass-skipper belonging to the Hersperiide family of which 22 species have been recorded. They are small dully coloured, marked with black and white in the back. These are more of moths with nocturnal habits.