Places to see giraffes in Uganda

The tallest land mammal, the Giraffe, is one of the most fascinating creatures to see in the bush. This longest-naked animal with its beautiful skin patterns of brown is amazing to look at as it saunters gracefully across the plains, towering over all animals, and even plants. Such an iconic animal! It is little wonder the Giraffe is a favorite animal for a lot of people.

Uganda is a proud home to Giraffes that can be seen in some national parks and wildlife reserves and at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC).

How many giraffes are in Uganda?

According to the last census carried out in 2020 the population of giraffes in Uganda was 2072 giraffes which was an increase of giraffes from 880 counted in 2017. These figures are by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the government organization that manages the parks and reserves in Uganda.

What species of giraffes are found in Uganda?

Of the four known species of giraffes in Africa, Uganda has the Northern Giraffe species. The Northern Giraffe has three subspecies and of these the one subspecies found in Uganda is the Nubian Giraffes formerly (or sometimes) called the Rothschild Giraffes.

The Nubian or Rothschild is easily identified or distinguished from other giraffes by the plain white legs from knee to the hooves. The simple description is that Rothschild Giraffes “put on stockings”.

Places to see giraffes on safari in Uganda

If you are planning a safari vacation to Uganda and the Giraffe is among the animals your must see list the following are places to visit

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is simply giraffe territory! Uganda’s biggest park has the biggest population of giraffes in Uganda that were numbering 1968 by 2019. This is also the biggest population of the Nubian or Rothschild Giraffe in the world.

The giraffe population in Murchison Falls National Park has been steadily growing, having been 919 in 2016.

The growing giraffe population in Murchison Falls National Park has enable giraffes to be translocated to other park and reserves that did not have giraffes.

During the safari in Murchison Falls National Park plenty of giraffes are spotted in the savanna on the northern bank of the Nile River.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is a recipient of giraffes translocated from Murchison Falls National Park.

16 giraffes were translocated to the park in April 2019, and according to the census in 2021 the giraffes had increased to 37 individuals.

Lake Mburo National Park being a small park makes finding the giraffes easy and thus a nice place to see giraffes in Uganda.

Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park had a few giraffes which were boosted with a 15 new individuals translocated from Murchison Falls National Park. The number is growing steadily and the park should have more than 30 individuals, improving the chances of spotting the giraffes in Uganda’s remotest safari destination.

Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve

15 Giraffes were introduced into the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve in 2018 and the numbers have been growing. On your search for cheetahs for which the reserve is known for you can therefore expect sighting giraffes

Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo)

If you wish to get closer to the giraffes and interact with them through the epic mouth-to-mouth feeding visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Zoo) in Entebbe that is home to 3 giraffes.

What is the best time to visit Uganda?

Uganda, popularly referred to as the Pearl of Africa, is a destination that is increasingly being featured yearly in international travel guides as one of the best destinations to visit. For insistence Uganda was in CNN Travel’s list of destinations to visit in 2023. This is because more people are discovering Uganda’s amazingly beautiful landscapes and diverse environments, arguably the best weather in the world, friendliest of people who practice diverse cultures and traditions, and a variety of exciting experiences in 10 national parks that include the famous gorilla trekking and chimpanzee trekking adventures, birdwatching and big game safaris.

A lot of people are deciding to visit Uganda but many wonder what could be the best time to visit the Pearl of Africa?

Well, I can say that since weather is the number one reason people travel then any time is a good time to go to Uganda because Uganda’s weather does not have extremes that would stop you from enjoying your experience or activity. However, you may want to consider the most ideal weather conditions depending on what you want to do in Uganda, best time to see certain wildlife and enjoy experiences, and the local situation that may affect safety.

Best Weather season (Dry season vs wet season)

The best weather season to visit Uganda is during the dry season, or call it the summer and this is from June to September and December to February. The dry season (especially from June to August) with less rains and more sunshine allows for uninterrupted activities and travel in rural areas that can get slippery when it rains. Wildlife adventures like gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking and mountain hiking are best done during the dry season, more so for those that are not ready to have a challenging trek or climbing.

The wet season from March to May and October to mid-December is often not the best time to visit Uganda because the constant rains can be disrupting or inconveniencing during treks, plus can also hinder travel to some places when the dirt roads get too slippery or even flood. However wet season has advantages too, for example there are less crowds, the scenery is surreal, the waterfalls are massive, the lakes so pristine. If you are a nature lover and can brave the slippery trails and road and rains falling on you, you will enjoy the wet season better.

Is there a bad time to visit Uganda?

Uganda is safe and beautiful all year round, there is no definite time when you should not go to Uganda. However during the political season when the president is elected may not be a good time to visit Uganda due to a heightened political atmosphere that may easily break into riots across several cities especially the capital Kampala.

Also be vigilant when there is an outbreak of a deadly disease such as Ebola and cholera. With Uganda’s poor health care system, it may be a bit risky to visit Uganda.

What is the best time to visit Rwanda?

Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills is a bucket list destination mostly for the famous gorilla trek, which can be supplemented with other exciting experiences and adventures such as chimpanzee trekking, volcano hiking, big five safaris in Akagera National Park, and art and culture tours among others.

After deciding to visit Rwanda the next question on the minds of travelers is what could be the best time to make the trip to Rwanda?

Well, first of all and very important to know, Rwanda is one of the easiest, if not thee easiest country to visit in Africa because no matter where you are from you do not need to apply for a visa in advance. No! You simply fly to Rwanda and have your visa given to you on arrival with no hustle. This is an “open door policy” Rwanda operates.

You can visit Rwanda at any time of the year, it is beautiful and safe all the time. However some factors may influence on the best time for you to decide to visit which I discuss below:

Best Weather season (dry season vs wet season)

There are two weather seasons in Rwanda (dry season and wet season) and the best time to visit Rwanda is during the warm/dry season which is from June to mid-September and from December to February. The dry or warm season receives little to no rains which makes travel and outdoor activities much more convenient. Thankfully the long dry season from June to September coincides with the summer time when a lot of people take vacations.

However, it is not entirely bad visiting Rwanda during the wet/rainy season from March to April and October to part of December when there are more frequent rains, because the scenery is at its best and there are no crowds so you will have near exclusivity at a lot of activities. However you have to be ready for any interruptions by rains (be ready with rain gears). Also be ready for harder trekking because of the slippery and muddy trails, but gorillas, chimps and other wildlife in the mountains is ever more beautiful.

Best time for some tours/activities

Best time for trekking and safari

Trekking in the mountains to see the gorillas and golden monkeys in Volcanoes National Park and chimpanzees in Nyungwe forest is best done during the dry season (June to Sept, Dec to Feb) because the trails will be dry and therefore hiking is easier. However the animals are seen throughout the year.

The big game safari in Akagera National Park is also better done in the dry season as you can explore all trails easily with no worry of getting stuck in the mud. Wildlife may also be easier to see because of the shorter dried grass. The grass and bushes are thicker during the wet season which can hinder animal sightings. However the wet season brings the best scenery in Akagera with lush greenery landscapes.

Best time for birding

To get the best from your birding tour to Rwanda the best time to visit Rwanda is during the bird migration season. The Palearctic birds escaping winter start arriving in October and leave by May, so if you want to record the biggest checklist of birds in Rwanda the Palearctic migration season is the best time to visit, more so from the time after December when they start putting on the colorful plumage.

However, if your interest is only the resident species, more so the Albertine rift endemics then any time of the year is fine, more so after the migrants have left so that your identification is easier.

Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony

Kwita Izina gorilla naming day in Rwanda is one of the most beautiful ceremonies to attend in Rwanda. The Kwita Izina ceremony is about naming baby gorillas that were born in the last year and it is a colorful and eventful ceremony where Rwandan cultures and traditions are at display through dances and songs. The ceremony is carried out at the foot of the Virunga mountains in the north of Rwanda. It is attended by international celebrities and important persons that are invited to give the gorillas names.

You can plan your gorilla trekking trip for during the Kwita Izina ceremony which is often planned for the first week of September

Is there a bad time to visit Rwanda?

It is safe to visit Rwanda all throughout the year, but these times may feel uneasy for you while in Rwanda so may be you can avoid visiting, or may also be a good time to visit for these particular experiences

Kwibuka (Genocide remembrance)

Every month of April on 7th Rwandan remembers the Genocide against the Tutsi, a dark time in the history of Rwanda which casts such a blanket of misery all across Rwanda. The ignites the horrors of the genocide for those that were alive or lost their loved ones during the genocide in April 1994.

The mood on this day and next subsequent is so sad that as a visitor you may feel such uneasiness and a feeling of emptiness may grip. This is possibly the worst time to visit Rwanda.

Umuganda day – cleaning day (last Saturday of the month)

Not necessarily a bad time to visit Rwanda, actually it may be a good time to visit and witness how Rwanda has managed to be one of the cleanest and tidiest countries in Africa through Umuganda day. Umuganda day is the last Saturday of every month when all citizens get out with shovels, brooms, rakes and other tools to clean their communities. No one is exempt except those involved in emergency services such as health and security.

The downside to this day is that for the first half of the day the country is literally under quarantine from 8am to 11am so no movement is allowed. If you need to get somewhere you may be highly inconvenienced by this.

Where to see elephants in Uganda

Elephants are arguably the second icon of the African safari, after the Lion of course. The biggest land mammal is unmistakable in the African bush; a gigantic dark grey structure with pillar-like legs, large ears and a long trunk, gracefully strolling through the plains is one of the most beautiful sights of the safari.

Other than the intriguing structure of the elephant that you can’t get enough of, there is so much to learn about the elephant and its critical importance to the environment. For example, the elephant is regarded as the chief architect of the savanna whose constant felling of trees prevents the growth of the forest hence maintaining a savannah where other herbivores and cats can flourish.

Also, did you know that humans developed soft feet when they came down from the trees and learned to walk was only made possible by the elephants that made the ground soft on which man could walk…?

You may also want to see the Elephant simply because it is a member of the famed “Big Five”.

The elephant is therefore one of the animals not miss on the safari and Uganda is one of the places that still have a healthy population of elephants.

Elephant species in Uganda

There are two species of elephants that are present in Uganda, that is; the African bush elephant (or African savannah elephant), and the Forest elephant.

The African bush elephant is the most prominent elephant species in Uganda that is easily found in a number of parks across Uganda.

The forest elephant is a rare one to find and inhabits some of the forest parks in Uganda such as Bwindi forest. The forest elephant presence in Uganda has however been refuted by some who claim these elephants in the forest are not necessary forest elephant species but simply remnants of the Africa bush elephant.

What is the population of elephants in Uganda?

Uganda is one of the few places in Africa where the elephant population has had a steady increase in the recent past.

As of 2020 the population of elephants in Uganda was put at 7975, an increase from 5808 in 2017 which was also an increase from 5730 individuals in 2014. This is according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority, an organization tasked with managing the parks in Uganda.

Places to the see elephants on safari in Uganda

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth protected area (which includes Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve and Kigezi Widlife Reserve) has the biggest population of elephants in Uganda which the last census carried out in 2018 put the figure to 3953 elephants.

On a good day you will have the best elephant experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park. I say on a good day because this park is linked with the Virunga National Park of the neighboring Democratic of Congo and there are seasonal movements of herds of elephants from one park to the other.

Never the less, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best places to see elephants in Uganda. The Kasenyi plains, Mweya peninsula and the remote Ishasha plains near the Congo are areas you won’t miss an elephant sighting while on a safari drive. For even better sightings of elephants the Kazinga Channel offers up close views while on a boat cruise safari as the elephants come to quench their thirst and cool off the afternoon heat. The Kazinga Channel boat cruise actually offers some of the closest encounters you will ever have with an African bush elephant without compromising your safety.

Elephants in the Kazinga Channel

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda’s biggest park, is another place in Uganda that will give you wonderful sightings of elephants in Uganda. The population of elephants in the conservation area (which includes the park and surrounding reserves) as of 2019 was 2726.

Elephants in Murchison Falls National Park are best seen during the safari drive in the savannah which is on the northern bank of the River Nile.

The afternoon boat cruise on the Nile River also offers great views of the elephants along the river bank where they come to drink and cool off.

Kidepo Valley National Park

The remote rugged Karamoja plains in the Kidepo Valley National Park host a relatively small population of elephants that was counted to be 295 in 2019, this is in addition to the incredible herds of buffalo for which the park is famous. Kidepo is an incredibly beautiful safari destination located in the north eastern corner of Uganda, way off the popular tourist circuit.

Given the long distance to the park and a small elephant population, may be you should travel to Kidepo if you are looking for more than just elephants.

Karenga Community Wildlife Area

Karenga Community Wildlife Area is like an extension of Kidepo Valley National Park. The wildlife area has a population of 351 elephants sighted in 2019. Elephants tend to migrate between Kidepo and Karenga which is sometimes the reason for the few elephants in Kidepo National Park.

Kibale National Park

Kibale Forest National Park, a famous primate capital mostly known for the chimpanzee trekking is one of the forests you easily come by elephants too. The last elephant census of 2019 put the population of elephants in Kibale National Park at 566 individuals which is quite impressive for a largely forest park.

However since activities in Kibale forest are done on foot, it is never safe to meet the elephant along your trail. Therefore you do not go looking for elephants in Kibale forest but you stand a chance of seeing them during the activities in the forest.

Bwindi Forest National Park

Bwindi forest has elephants that are thought to be forest elephants. Bwindi forest is popular for the gorilla trekking adventures and along your trek to see gorillas you may bump into a lone elephant or see traces of elephants such as foot prints, dung and fallen trees. The last census of elephants in 2019 put the elephant population at 106 individuals

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori mountain ranges varied habitats include forest that harbors among other wildlife elephants. The Rwenzoris has a tiny population of elephants that the census carried in 2019 puts at just 13 individuals. The elephants in the Rwenzoris have been the most vulnerable due to the long insurgencies in the region that rendered the park hard to protect thus exposing it to a lot of poaching.

You therefore may be lucky to spot an elephant on the hiking trip in the Rwenzori.

Mating and reproduction in gorillas

Mating and reproduction in gorillas is a thing of curiosity for both wildlife lovers and those that are not. A few lucky people have seen the gorillas mating in Uganda and Rwanda during the gorilla trekking adventures in the jungle, much to their amusement seeing how human-like the gorillas mate. Like humans, gorillas can have face to face sex, with the female lying down on her back and the huge silverback gorilla on top delivering slow strong thrusts! Gorillas also mate by way of the female turning and leaning over with her face to the ground and the male copulating from her behind/back (dog-style).

In fact, mating gorillas is one of the most trending videos about gorillas on social platforms like youtube (seeing how human-like they mate, one cannot help but think that these videos should be flagged as porn or nudity).

But away from satisfying the curiosity (out of perversion or not) of some people, you will find mating and reproduction in gorillas an interesting topic and below you can learn all about it. Gorillas and humans share up to 98% DNA so there are similarities in the mating and reproduction between gorillas and humans.

Who has the mating rights in gorillas?

Male gorillas reach sexual maturity by 10 – 13 years, and females starting ovulating around age 6 but are fully sexually mature by age 10 years when they can conceive.

The silverback gorilla that is the dominant male and leader of the group has the mating rights in the group. He mates with all female gorillas in the group as soon as they reach ovulation.

However other low ranking adult males may also have a chance to mate with a female if she is turned away by the dominant silverback. Also, mature females sired by the dominant male, to avoid inbreeding with the father will choose to mate with other adult males in the same group.

Gorillas avoid inbreeding, so once a young female matures she will leave her father’s family to avoid breeding with him. She will leave her father’s group to join another group in the jungle where she can mate with the silverback there, or else she will stay single in the jungle until she can join a new group. Also, within a group, maturing young females leave their mother’s unit to join other social units in the group; this eliminates any possible breeding between siblings in the few cases where a female gorilla may not mate with the dominant silverback and instead mates with another male in the same group.

How do gorillas attract mates?

Gorillas mostly mate for breeding purposes, but mating for leisure and favor has also been observed in gorillas. The female in most cases starts the mating process. When in estrus and ready to mate she will approach the dominant male and indicate to him she wants to mate by making a long eye contact and a mouth gesture to communicate her need mate to which the male shall oblige. Sometimes the dominant male may not react to the female’s advance, and when this happens the female may give an opportunity to other males in the group to mate with her.

The dominant silverback gorilla can also start the mating. He will approach a female in estrus and make vocalizations or physically pull her over in way that indicates to the female his intention to mate and the female shall submit immediately.

Do gorillas mate (have sex) for leisure?

Studies show that actually gorillas can mate with no intention for reproduction. Female gorillas use sex to find favor from the dominant silverback. On the other hand male gorillas have also been observed to mate with females that are not ovulating or not in estrus, drawing the conclusion that they are simply having sex for leisure.

Menstrual and gestation period of a gorilla

Menstrual cycle of gorillas is similar to humans with a 28-day estrus cycle.

When the female gorilla is impregnated the gestation period is about 255 days. On the other hand the human gestation period is about 265 days on average.

After birth, the mother gorilla will keep full physical contact with her baby for about 4 – 5 months, during which time the baby clings onto the mother’s body all the time. Weaning the baby will start from around one year and by around 30 months the young gorilla are fully weaned and becomes semi-independent spending on half the time with the mother.

The mother gorilla resumes estrus at weaning.

How often do gorillas give birth?

Females resume estrus at weaning so will be ready after mating after fully weaning the young gorilla which is around at age 2 – 3 years. Female gorillas are weaned earlier than the males. The mother may also extend weaning of the male gorilla to improve his chance of becoming the dominant silverback.

The relatively long time for the female gorilla to get to estrus results to a relatively low birth rate among gorillas.

Infanticide in gorillas

Like in many species in the animal kingdom, male gorillas do not tolerant young gorillas that were sired by another gorilla. So, once a new silverback gorilla becomes the dominant male and leader of the gorilla group he will go out to kill babies that have not been weaned. The new silverback does this to shorten the time for the female gorillas to come into estrus again.

So soon after, the females will be pregnant again with the dominant silverback’s offsprings with his genes.