Sep 15 2013

Uganda, national parks and foreigners

This post is intended for those independent travellers – like ourselves – who are interested in visiting the national parks in Uganda.  It is a magnificent country, and we fully intended to visit quite a few of the national parks.

Our research into Uganda quickly revealed an interesting pricing structure for visits to the national parks.  The latest prices can be found here.


What was immediately obvious to us was the exorbitant fee that is charged for foreign 4x4s to enter the parks – at the time of writing, this was US$150!  At least it isn’t per day, but it is a once off fee per park.  However, if you travel on public roads in the park, then you are not subject to any park fees – either people or vehicle.  If you want to partake of activities in the park, then you are subject to activity fees and park fees.  Park fees for people are fortunately 24hr fees.

So, for Murchison Falls:

When driving up from Kampala, there are 2 ways to reach accommodation outside the park on the south side of the Nile River.  The first, is to head north from Masindi into Murchinson Falls (not sure the gate name) and exit the park at Mubako gate on the west.  Since this is not a public road, all park fees – for both people and vehicles – are payable if you take this route.

The second way is to head towards Lake Albert via Kinyara, Biso and Bulisa, which avoids any park fees by driving a much longer route around the western side of the park.

Once outside the park, Wild Frontiers boat trips will collect you from your lodgings (for a small fee) but their boat trip is more expensive than that offered by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, who won’t do any pick up service.  Remember to buy your park permit if you don’t have a valid one – at least you can save the cost of taking your foreign registered car in!

For Kibale National Park:

The road through the park between Fort Portal and Kyenjojo is a public road, as is the road between Fort Portal and Kahunga.  So, it is possible to drive through the park if you want to visit Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, or accommodation in the area, without paying park fees.

For Queen Elizabeth National Park:

The main road that runs north – south between Kikorongo and Rubirizi is a public road (no fees payable).  It also seems that the road that runs from this road west to Kisenyi village is a public road, so no fees payable.  It also seems (and I stand to be corrected) that some of the lodges that are only a short distance off these roads – such as Queen Elizabeth Bushcamp – are somehow “outside” the park (no fees payable).  What I do know, though, is that if you want to take part in the Kazinga Channel boat trip you are most definitely entering the park, and so all fees are payable.  We had assumed that when we stayed at Simba Safari Camp just outside the park near Kikorongo, they would be running a bus shuttle down to the boat trip, but no such luck.  They only offered to arrange a driver to take us in, but this was nearly as expensive as taking our own vehicle in.  In the end, we didn’t do the boat trip due to the costs involved (boat trip fee + people park fee + vehicle fee / driver fee)

The road inside the park down to Ishasha – where the tree climbing lions tend to hang out – requires park fees (I believe) for people and vehicle.  This is a pity, as this is such a special part of the park, and also gives much easier access to the Buhoma entrance to Bwindi National Park.

For Mgahinga Gorilla National Park:

There are no roads in the park for tourist use – all activities take place on foot!  We stayed just outside the park at Amajyambere Iwacu Community Camp and could walk from there to the visitors centre for the activities that we took part in.  So, park fees were payable for people, but not vehicle.  As an aside, definitely the most impressive park we have visited, and the walking tours are worth the effort.

For Bwindi Impenetrable Forest:

Again, there are no roads in the park for tourist use.  All activities are walking based.  We stayed in Rubuguri at Nshongi Gorilla Resort Camp.  We drove the 7km to the park entrance for our activities.  Park fees for people were included in the activity fees, and no vehicle fees were payable.

We have spoken to a senior manager at Uganda Wildlife Authority about these high vehicle fees, and strongly encouraged them to look to Zambia and Tanzania national park fee structures.  We fully intend to write to them again, informing them of the missed revenue from us due to park fees.

I think, though, that since most tourists in Uganda are on arranged tours through Uganda tour operators (who have a significantly lower fee structure) it might be optimistic to hope for a revision of fees for what is such a small segment of their tourism income.

We can but hope.

Note: please send me any additional information to enhance the above, or let me know of any errors I may have made.

Hit Counter provided by short sale specialist