The 7km section of the Sipi Valley immediately outside the national park is stunningly scenic as the river plunges over three sets of basalt cliffs during its decent to the plains beneath. These have given rise to a cluster of tourist adventurous activities like abseiling.
An ascent of Mount Elgon represents an exciting alternative to longer and more strenuous climbs on East Africa’s higher mountains. Elgon offers comparable attractions, including Afromontane botany, with a milder climate and lower elevation. A number of routes ascend the summit of Mount Elgon.
The Sasa Trail ascends to the 4321m Wagagai peak from the small town of Budadiri (1250m a.s.l.) in the Sironko Valley. The shortest and most direct option, it is possible to reach the summit and descend to Budadiri in 3 or (more comfortably) 4 days. The Sipi Trail follows a longer but gentler route, starting 800 higher than Budadiri at UWA’s Forest Exploration Centre at Kapkwai (2050m).
A highlight of any ascent of Mount Elgon is the traverse through the distinctive vegetation zones found only on East Africa’s highest mountains. The lowest of these zones, between the park boundary and the 2500m contour is montane forest. This gives way to bamboo (2,500-3,000m) followed by groves of giant heather (3000-3500m). Above 3500m, the mountainside opens into moorland dotted with outlandish forms of giant lobelias.
Mgahinga Gorilla NP rises upwards to three of the Virunga’s six volcanic summits, all of which can be climbed in a day. Views from the peaks – into Rwanda and Congo, and towards the rift valley and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – more than justify the effort.
The park’s highest peak is Muhavura. The ascent passes through montane forest, bamboo stands and heather groves, before encountering bizarre forms of giant lobelias and groundsels at the summit. The 4,127m summit, which is adorned by a crystal clear crater lake, 40m in diameter, commands panoramic views along the length of the Virunga chain. Mount Gahinga (3,474m) is the smallest of the Virunga volcanoes and its bamboo-covered slopes rise up to a lush, swamp-filled crater, about 180m wide. The jagged crown of Sabinyo bears several summits, the highest of which provides the rare privilege of standing 3,669m high whilst in 3 countries – Uganda, Rwanda and DRC – at once.
Mountain gorillas are not the only endangered primates on the Virungas. The volcanoes are the last stronghold of the golden monkey which can be tracked through its bamboo habitat on the slopes of Mt. Gahinga. As with gorillas, contact time with this rare primate is limited to an hour. Visitors who sign up for the habituation experience, however, can spend all day following this striking orange-coated monkey in the company of researchers where gold meets silver.
The Visitor Centre at Ntebeko is the trailhead for nature walks, volcano climbs, and golden monkey and gorilla tracking. Exhibits inside the building explore themes relating to the Virunga environment. A trail along the adjacent drystone Buffalo Wall (built to keep animals out of neighbouring farmland) provides good birding and views of the park’s remarkable volcanic backdrop.
Whether you book for early morning or afternoon guided game drives, you will enjoy a fascinating view as you drive through our 10 national wildlife parks. An up-close and personal experience with Lions, elephants, leopards, giraffes, buffaloes, antelopes, zebras among others will thrill your tour in the pearl.
The grassy ridges in the eastern part of Lake Mburo can be explored on horseback. This activity is operated by Mihingo Lodge.
Kidepo valley drive
The dry Kidepo Valley is short on big game but massive on scenery. 30km north of the park’s tourism hub at Apoka, the road crosses the dry, sandy bed of the Kidepo River to enter an expansive plain lined to the east by the Morungule mountain range and to the north by the looming, 2975m-high Jebel Lotuke in South Sudan. Mammals are rare in this area but ostriches and secretary birds are often seen.
Narus valley drive
The southerly Narus Valley contains the park’s only permanent water points and wildlife congregates in this area for much of the year. Look for buffalo and elephant in the swamps along the valley floor, giraffe and eland on the drier slopes above and scan the rock outcrops for lions as you explore Uganda.
Whispers of the wild
Night drives with a ranger guide provide the chance to see nocturnal animals such as bushbabies, pottos and perhaps even a leopard. Salt Lick Walk Guided walks explore the park around Rwonyo, culminating in a visit to a natural salt lake where wildlife can be viewed from a timber observation platform.