Places to visit in the western region of Uganda

With so many exciting places to see in western Uganda, it is not easy to come up with a shortlist of the must see places. Here are the most stunning places that you should not miss while exploring the most endowed tourism region of Western Uganda:

Lake Mburo National Park

Located in Kiruhura district next to Mbarara, Lake Mburo National Park is one of Uganda’s smaller National Parks covering an area of 260 square kilometres. The park was first gazetted in 1933 as a controlled hunting area, upgraded to a game reserve in 1963 and later granted National Park status in 1983 by the Obote regime. It can be accessed by road with a distance of about 245km from Kampala.

Legend has it that the park started with a story of two brothers; Kigarama and Mburo who lived in the area. One night, Kigarama had a dream of heavy rains that would flood the area and destroy property. Kigarama then narrated the story to his brother who ignored it so he decided to move to the surrounding hills. Eventually, the dream came to pass and the flooding led to the drowning of Mburo and all his property thus the name Mburo.

The park features 68 mammal species including impalas, zebras, buffalos, elands, hyenas, warthogs, hippos, and leopards among others. Also, there are a wide variety of birds such as the pelican, the rare shoebill, the African fin foot, the African fish eagle, hammerkops and the stork.

This variety of animals makes for a good game drive and birding experience. One may also indulge in nature hikes, quad biking, and forest walks for an experience of a lifetime. A boat cruise and fishing on the lake is another activity that visitors will enjoy. With a range of accommodation options, one may also opt to relax and enjoy the breath-taking savannah views at both sunset and sunrise.

Queen Elizabeth National Game Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most popular and most visited tourist attractions. It enjoys a fabulous setting on the rift valley floor, surrounded by lakes, escarpments, and the snow-capped Rwenzori mountain ranges.

The park is home to over 95 mammal species and over 600 bird species. Some of the highlights at Queen Elizabeth include the launch cruise on the Kazinga channel past resident hippos and water birds, chimpanzee tracking in the deep forested Kyambura Gorge, and the search for tree-climbing lions under vast rift valley skies in the remote southerly Ishasha sector.

The Lake Katwe explosion craters, which are the highest elevation within Queen Elizabeth National Park are also worth the visit while here. They are located north of Mweya peninsular. A drive to these craters also gives one the chance to see Lakes Edward and George as well as the great Western Rift Valley of Africa. Also, don’t miss the chance to visit the famous Lake Katwe, one of the major sources of rock salt in Uganda for ages.

This park was initially called Kazinga National Park in 1952 but was renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. While here you can hike the 16,762 ft Rwenzori mountain ranges as well.

Kibaale National Park

Looking for an amazing chimpanzee trekking expedition in Uganda? Kibaale National Park is just the place to visit for a wonderful wildlife experience with the primates. With a diverse collection of 13 species of primates including nearly 1500 chimpanzees and variety of tropical forest, the park offers one of the best wildlife tours.

It’s forest cover dominates the Central and Northern part of the park on the raised plateau of Fort Portal. The park is about 348km from Kampala and approximately 26km from the beautiful Fort Portal tourism city.

With a bit of time in your itinerary, take the chance to visit the beautiful and breath-taking craters in Fort Portal. The craters vary in size and character and one may indulge in activities like sport fishing, nature walks, bird watching as well as swimming in some of the lakes where it’s safe. Some of the lakes here include Lake Nyabikere, Lake Nkuruba, Lake Nyamirima, and Lake Nyinambuga amongst others. It also borders Queen Elizabeth National park which visitors may visit for an extended wildlife adventure.

Kibale is also habitat to black and white colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys, grey cheeked mangabeys, bush babies, blue monkeys, olive baboons and the rare L’Hoest monkeys which is the biggest population of the endangered monkeys in East Africa. Other animals include buffaloes, leopards and bush pigs which are rarely seen by visitors. One may also spot some beautiful and colourful butterflies along the tour of this park.

Therefore, popular activities here include birding, forest hikes, walking trails and cultural tours in addition to chimpanzee trekking and crater lakes tours.

Semuliki National Park

Famously known for it is wide and diverse population of birds and the Sempaya Hot Springs, Semuliki National Park is located on the floor of the Semliki valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori. It is largely covered by the eastern extension of the great Ituri Forest of the Congo basin and is known as the only park in Uganda that is made up of primarily tropical lowland forest. Having been previously a forest reserve created in 1932, it was upgraded to national park status in 1993.

The park is home to 441 recorded bird species, 300 butterfly species and 53 mammal species including 8 primate species, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, elephants, leopards, scaly-tailed flying squirrels and bush-babies. It goes without saying that for birders, this is a haven for exploration.

Also, one may indulge in the game drives in the wildlife reserve to spot the animals, hiking and nature walk activities in the National Park, and interface with the Batwa people who live there. This is a chance to experience the culture of the Batwa people who often perform through dance and music for the visitors at Ntandi.

One of the more famous activities is a visit to the Sempaya Hot Springs which originate from the Semuliki River featuring both the female and Male host springs. Boiling at up to 100 degrees Celsius, they are the largest hot springs in Uganda and offer breath-taking views of the steamy, bubbling water jetting from the ground. Visitors are usually allowed to boil some foods including eggs and plantain in the water.

There is about a 30-minute walk distance between the two hot springs with the male hot springs referred to as “Mumbugu” and the female Hot Springs referred to as “Nyasimbi” by the local Bamaga people in the area.

They also usually attract a number of animals and birds which gives a great opportunity for visitors to spot them.

Lake Bunyonyi

Just like its name, Lake Bunyonyi is known as the place of many small birds and is located in the South Western region of Uganda between districts of Kisoro and Kabale. The lake is about 25km long, 7km wide with the depth varying between 144 feet and 2,952 feet making it one of the deepest lakes in Africa.

A total of 29 islands can be found on the lake but there are five main islands namely Kyahugye, Bushara, Akampene (Punishment Island), Bwama (Leprosy treatment sanctuary) as well as Bucuranuka (upside down Island). Each of these has a unique history attached to it.

Kyahugye is known as the wildlife paradise among the islands. It is home to zebras, antelopes, impalas and water bucks among others. Bushara island on the other hand is known to be the bird haven as it is home to a wide variety of birds making for a great birding experience.

Some of the major activities to take part in include kayaking, swimming, boat riding, canoeing, birding, hiking the highlands around the lake and a cultural tour of the villages and cultures in the area.

To add a bit more fun to the adventure, visit the Supreme Adventures Park Bunyonyi to take part in the High Ropes Course, wind surfing and Zip line across one of the deepest lakes in Africa.

However, in the hype of all these activities, do not forget to sit back, relax and take in the beautiful view of the Lake, small islands and endless hills as you unwind. It is definitely a calming and unforgettable experience.