Uganda is regarded to be the true pearl of Africa, famously known to inhabit the biggest population of the endangered mountain gorillas in the world. The country attracts many visitors mainly for gorilla safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable forest, alongside other activities such as game viewing, mountain hiking, chimpanzee tours and community excursions. Games in Uganda are conducted in Savannah grassland – such areas include Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Semliki National Park among other regions.
In savannah region, game drives are conducted on vehicles and the most cases, the vehicles are pop up roofed for clear viewing of animals, birds, drainage features, and topography among others. Tourists on game drives are advised to come with Cameras to take amazing photos for future reference.
Savannah regions are characterized by:
Deciduous – lose their leaves to reduce transpiration because of the winter drought.
Xerophytic – drought resistant.
Sclerophyllous – Leaves are small, waxy and thorn like.
Roots are long and extended to reach deep underground.
Tend to grow to 6-12m in height and contain “Y” shaped branches.
Trunks are gnarled, and bark is thick to retain moisture.
Example; The baobob tree has a trunk of up to 10m in diameter. Its root like branches holds only a minimum number of tiny leaves in order to restrict transpiration. Some are estimated to be thousands of years old. Their trunks are resistant to the local fires.
Grasses grow in tufts and tend to have inward curving blades and silvery spikes.
After the onset of the summer rains, they grow very quickly to over 3m in height. Elephant grass grows to 5m.
They become yellow by sun drying.
By early winter, the straw like grass has died down, leaving seeds dormant on the surface until next year’s rains.
In terms of biotic activity, over 40 different species of large herbivore graze on the grasslands, including wildebeest, zebra and antelope. It is also home to several carnivores – predatory, like lions/leopards/cheetah or scavengers, e.g. hyenas. Termites and microbes are the major saprophytes. Fire is the main determinant of the Savannah biome.
As more trees are removed for fuel, and over grazing reduced the productivity of grasslands, the heavy rains gullies and the wind blows away the surface soil. Where the savannah is not farmed, there are usually more trees, suggesting that grass may not be the natural climactic climax vegetation.
The abundant grass feeds a variety of wildlife and on the other hand sustains their presence hence wonderful game drives for example Semliki National Park – Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Smaller forest and larger savannah elephants are regularly seen, along with buffalo, waterbuck, crocodile, warthog and Uganda kob. With luck, you may even see pygmy hippopotami, leopards and elusive bush-babies. In the park, Morning, afternoon and night game drives are conducted – night games exposes visitors to nocturnal like leopard, bush Babies, white- tailed- Magoon among others.
For night game drives, it is advisable to do it with a ranger and the safari guide should be able to provide great light to enable tourists view night moving creatures.
Queen Elizabeth National Park – drive through Kasenyi, the North Kazinga Plains and the Ishasha Sector offer virtually guaranteed buffalo, antelope and elephant sightings, along with warthogs and baboons. Being the second largest National Park in Uganda, it is not surprising to find groups of animals and birds. From Kampala to the park, it’s approximately 6 -7 hours drive.
In Murchison Falls National Park – drive around Buligi game tracks on the northern bank with a trained ranger guide is a fantastic way to see and photograph the wide range of animals in the Nile Valley. Visitors will marvel at herds of buffalos, dozens of elephants, warthogs and towering giraffes, along with bushbucks, reedbuck, duikers, kobs, oribi and the unusual-looking hartebeest. The Murchison Falls is situated in northern Uganda, 4 hours drive from Kampala.
Kidepo valley National park – Amazing animals are found in Narus Valley during early mornings and late afternoon – 6am and 4pm are optimum times to set off on game drives. Expect to encounter lions, elephants, leopard, bush duiker, jackal, bushbuck, bush pig, Kavirondo bush baby, buffalo and mong others.
Lake Mburo is the nearby national Park from Kampala- the drive through the park exposes tourists to a variety of animals and birds. Being the smallest park in Uganda, it is easily covered and viewing Zebras, Kobs, Antelopes, and Waterbucks among others. Lake Mburo National Park is covered by Acacia woodland, wetlands, grassy hillsides, rock outcrops and seasonally flooded valley floors. The newly introduced 15 giraffes in Lake Mburo National Park are expected to pull more tourists to visit the park. It should be noted that giraffes where transferred from Murchison Falls National Park.
For comparative study, clients are advised to visit all the five parks because some creatures which are absent in one park, can be found in another.