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.

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.

Are gorillas friendly or aggressive?

Gorillas have been portrayed in movies (King Kong) as violent and aggressive beasts. But is this the true image of the gorillas?

Gorillas are the biggest and strongest of the primates and great apes (see the gorilla strength here), it is therefore not hard to think they are aggressive or unfriendly..

So, are gorillas aggressive or friendly primates?

Gorillas – the gentle giants

Gorillas are so peaceful that they have earned the title “gentle giants”.

In Africa where the gorillas live in forests near the people, such as Bwindi forest in Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, there are very rare cases of gorillas attacking humans as compared to chimps that frequently aggress the locals near the forests.

Also, the peaceful nature of gorillas allows for the gorilla trekking adventures in Africa where tourists trek the jungle to see a group of gorillas without any barrier. You imagine coming face to face within seven meters of a 200kg wild Silverback Gorilla deep in African jungle but the huge ape simply goes about his business without being bothered at all! Feels like a dream, right? I don’t know of any other untamed land animal that allows this sort of interaction.

Well, research shows that the emotional well-being of gorillas is so important to their overall welfare. They therefore avoid situations that will disturb their peace and so they try as much as possible to flee from none peaceful environments and situation.

When are gorillas aggressive?

Gorillas are generally peaceful primates but they can also be aggressive. Here is when gorillas can be aggressive

Lone males looking for a group

When young male gorillas mature into silverbacks they may yearn to lead a gorilla family of their own and if they cannot challenge the dominant silverback of their family or try to challenge and fail, they are ticked out or leave the group and wonder into the jungles to find a group to conquer and take on. During this time lone male gorillas are quite unhappy and thus aggressive.

Silverback gorilla defending his group and dominance

The silverback gorillas will become aggressive if he feels the safety of his group is threatened by an intruding species. During the gorilla trek adventure, tourists are advised to maintain a distance of at least 7 meters from the gorilla and avoid eye contact with the silverback gorilla that interprets it as a challenge to his authority. Here is more on what to do when encountering gorillas

The silverback gorilla will get aggressive when being challenged by another silverback gorilla for his leadership of the gorilla group.

Cantankerous or troublesome individuals in the group

Just like in a family or community of people there is a person with a troublesome character, even among gorillas there may be an individual known for an aggressive character. During gorilla trekking in Africa the guides know which individuals are troublesome and will alert tourists to stay clear. For instance in Uganda’s Bwindi forest park in the Mishaya gorilla family one cantankerous individual is a known kicker so tourists are told to stay clear or be very vigilant. This individual has battle marks on his face and shoulders a sign of how aggressive he is.

the notorious kicker

Gorillas in Africa – here are the places to see gorillas in Africa

Gorillas have recently been put on a new list of “Big Five” animals in the world, which is a list of five animals that have been found to be very pivotal to conservation and also provide amazing wildlife adventures and photography. Therefore, seeing gorillas in their environment should be high on the bucket list of every wildlife lover and conservation-minded traveler. It is a life changing experience coming face to face with the massive silverback gorilla, so strong yet so gentle, leading his family of gorillas in the lush forest.

Did you know gorillas are endemic to Africa?

Outside the zoos, gorillas can only be found in jungles in Africa. The gorillas in Africa are divided into two species, the western gorilla and the eastern gorilla.

The western gorilla species which has the bigger population of gorillas in Africa (than the eastern gorilla) with more than 100,000 gorillas thought to live in mid-western Africa. The western gorilla is further divided into two species, the western lowland gorilla and the cross-river gorilla. The western lowland gorilla subspecies makes up most of this gorilla species and is spread across the countries of Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. While, the cross-river gorillas are quite rare with few individuals left whose number is roughly 300 and confined on the border region of CameroonNigeria.

The eastern gorilla species is geographically isolated away towards eastern Africa. The eastern gorilla has a much smaller population of about 1000 gorillas and found in countries of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The eastern gorilla is also divided into two sub-species, the more popular and numerous mountain gorilla that is found in all the three countries and the eastern lowland gorilla that is limited to the D.R. Congo.

The best places to see gorillas in Africa on a safari vacation

Planning a vacation and want to know the best places to see gorillas in Africa?

Much as western Africa has the biggest population of gorillas in Africa (western gorillas) there has not been much effort put into gorilla tourism, as compared to eastern Africa where gorilla tourism is highly developed and gorilla trekking is one of the popular tours here.

The following places in Africa provide the opportunity to visit the gorillas in their environment and see them up-close

Volcanoes national park in Rwanda

The best place to see gorillas in Africa is potentially in Rwanda in the Volcanoes National Park. The park is home to the mountain gorillas (a subspecies of the eastern gorilla) which number around 400 individuals which live across the chain of 5 lush volcanic cones that make up part of the Virunga mountains that are shared with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Volcanoes National Park is easy to access from Kigali the capital city and the airport by a 2.5 hour drive on a nice paved road through the beautiful hilly landscape of Rwanda. You can therefore travel to the park, trek to the gorillas and return for your evening flight out of Rwanda all in one day.

Many gorillas to see, easy access, and safety make this possibly the best place to see gorillas in Africa

The Rwanda gorilla trekking permit is quite pricey costing up to $1500 for international visitors.

Bwindi impenetrable national park Uganda

If you want the bonus of exploring a true Africa jungle, go deeper into the forest and have just you and the gorillas, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda is perhaps the best place for you to see the gorillas in Africa. Bwindi Forest National Park in Uganda has the biggest number of mountain gorillas of all the places where mountain gorillas live. The park is suitably named impenetrable due to the dense forest that is difficult to penetrate but a park guide with a machete will create the trail for you during the gorilla trek in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has 22 habituated gorilla families available for tracking which gives visitors a wide range of groups for visitors to choose from

Mgahinga Gorilla National park in Uganda

Mgahinga National Park is another place to see gorillas in Uganda. The park is made up of the part of the Virunga mountains that is shared with Uganda. Mgahinga National Park is perhaps the last place to be considered for the gorilla trek in Uganda because it has just one habituated gorilla group. On the other hand if you cannot afford the expensive gorilla permit in Rwanda (1500) but want a gorilla experience that is similar but cheaper, Mgahinga National park is the place to visit (the gorilla permit costs $700)

Virunga National Park in D.R. Congo

Virunga National Park in Congo makes up the other part of the Virunga mountains after the parts in Rwanda (Volcanoes NP) and Uganda (Mgahinga N.P). Virunga national park was one of the best places to see gorillas in Africa because of the cheap gorilla ticket and amazing landscape of the lush volcanic cones. However, in addition to keeping gorillas, the park provided a hiding place for rebels and criminals and is therefore constantly an area of conflict in the DRC. Until declared free of any insurgency, it is no longer safe to visit the gorillas in the Virunga national park

Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla sanctuary in the D.R. Congo

The only sanctuary of orphaned mountain gorillas in the world is the Senkwekwe center in the Virunga National Park. The facility is located at the Virunga National Park headquarters in Rumangabo. The orphaned mountain gorillas have been rescued from conflict zones and poachers snares.

The center offers visitors a rare chance to see the gorillas up-close and learn more about them.

Kahuz-biega National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Kahuzi biega is another place in the Democratic Republic of Congo with gorillas. However, unlike the Virunga mountains and Bwindi forest above that have mountain gorillas, Kahuzi biega has the eastern lowland gorillas (also called grauers gorillas), a subspecies of the eastern gorillas that includes the mountain gorillas too. The eastern lowland gorillas are found only in the D.R. Congo. Kahuzi Biega is located in the more safer area of eastern Congo and is one of the places you can visit to see the gorillas.

The park is also located near the southern border with Rwanda which is the perfect base to visit these gorillas. A lot of visitors like to combine the visit to mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s volcanoes national park, with the visit to the lowland gorillas in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the Congo.

Other places to see gorillas (western Africa)

Dzanga-Ndoki National Park (Central African Republic)

Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in Central African Republic is notable for its high density of western lowland gorillas, said to be one of the highest in the world, hence one of the best places one can go to see gorillas in Africa. Gorilla trekking in the park has been introduced after successfully habituating one gorilla family.

Odzala-Kokoua National Park (Congo Brazzaville)

Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Republic of Congo or Congo Brazzaville has a whopping 22,000 western lowland gorillas, and of this population two groups have been habituated for the gorilla tracking experience. Even without going on the gorilla tracking experience, the sheer number of gorillas provides high chances of stumbling into a gorilla while on walk in the forest. This is arguably the best place to see western lowland gorillas in Africa.

The park is also run by the able African Parks organization that has done so well with a number of parks across Africa, include the Akagera National Park in Rwanda.


Gabon has one of the biggest populations of gorillas in Africa that are found in several of the 12 parks here such as in the Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, Lope National Park, and Loango National Park, but there has not been any success with gorilla habituation to allow effective tours to see the gorillas in the forests. You may see the gorillas while on safari in the park but the sightings will most likely be sporadic and random.

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea’s largest park Monte Alen National Park is a stronghold for the western lowland gorillas but there is no serious gorilla tourism taking place in the park. There has yet to be a habituated gorilla group for tracking. But a guided nature walk in the company of the locals can lead you to the gorilla territory and you may be able to see gorillas.


Angola has a thriving western lowland gorilla population in north of the country in the Cabinda enclave near River Congo. However there is no organized gorilla tourism and therefore not a reliable place for one to see gorillas in Africa.

Nigeria (Cross River)

Nigeria has the rare cross-river gorillas however there has not been any effort to develop gorilla tourism and therefore there is no clear opportunity to see the gorillas here.

Cameroon (Cross River)

Cameroon shares the rare cross-river gorilla population with Nigeria along the two countries’ borders but there is no gorilla tourism here so this is the last place to think if one wants to see gorillas in Africa.