Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a safe haven for the protection of the endangered Rhinos in Uganda located close to Murchison Falls National Park. Ziwa Rhino sanctuary which is located near Nakitoma village in Nakasongola district. Nakasongola is located in Uganda’s cattle corridor, on the Kampala-Gulu highway. The sanctuary is seated on a 70 square kilometer piece of land and is surrounded by a 2 meters high electric fence, which is mainly to protect the rhinos from poachers.
Uganda in the past had big numbers of rhinos in several national parks, but they have since become endangered, mostly due to poaching for their horns and encroachment on their habitats by surrounding communities. In 2005, the government, through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), under the Rhino fund. The sanctuary was established and the endangered Rhinos were re-introduced to ensure their safety at Ziwa, where they breed them, with plans to take them to other national parks, when the numbers increase. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary started with 6 Southern white rhinos and the number has since increased to 22.
Apart from the Uganda Wildlife Education Center in Entebbe, Ziwa rhino sanctuary is the only other place in Uganda, where the majestic rhinos are found. It is in this natural habitat that tourists can track rhinos on foot. The sanctuary has 78 trained and skilled park rangers and security guards, who keep a 24-hour watch on the rhinos, to ensure their safety and well-being and also assist the tourists during rhino tracking by providing them with any necessary information and ensuring their safety. Ziwa rhino sanctuary is also home to many bird species, and several other animals like the beautiful monitor lizards, chameleons, antelopes, hippos, monkeys and crocodiles, among others.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary has created a safe haven, where the rhinos can multiply and be conserved for future generations. The sanctuary has initiated education, conservation and community empowerment programs for both Ugandans and foreigners, to ensure that they remain part of Uganda’s rich cultural heritage.
Getting to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Ziwa rhino sanctuary is located in Nakasongola district along the Kampala-Gulu highway, on the road to Murchison Falls National Park. The sanctuary is approximately 176km by road from Kampala, a journey of about three hours.
Activities at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Ziwa rhino sanctuary offers a number of activities to the visitors on a safari in Uganda for great and fascinating experiences.
- Rhino tracking: this is a unique and major activity in Ziwa rhino sanctuary where you will see the endangered southern white rhinos in their natural habitat. Rhino tracking starts with a briefing for the instruction and expectations at the entrance of the sanctuary in the morning. This is followed by a drive to the white rhino tracking area with a tour guide and then trekking on foot through the bushes, for a glimpse of the white rhinos. Rhino tracking offers a great and exciting experience as you watch white rhinoceros at a close but safe distance of six to seven meters. You get to watch them as they move around, feed, while also learning about several things that concern rhinos, from their breeding to their habits and mannerisms and their reproduction, among others, while also taking photographs of the beautiful animals. Rhino tracking permit in Ziwa costs $50 per person for nonresident adults and $25 per person for nonresident children, $40 per person for East African residents and $20 per person for East African children, 30000 shillings per person Ugandan citizens and 10000 shillings per person for Ugandan children.
- Bird watching: Ziwa rhino sanctuary is home to over 350 bird species hence known as a birders destination because the bird lovers will be able to spot the famous pre-historic looking shoebill stork. Bird watching starts early in the morning at the entrance with an experienced bird guide, it is carried out on a canoe trip that connects to the swamp or on a guided nature walk in the bush. Ziwa rhino sanctuary has four birding trails in the woodlands, swamp and savannah which act as bird habitats where various bird species will be viewed including palm nut vultures, barbets, Ross’s Turaco, speckled breasted woodpecker, blue-spotted dove, shoebill stork, Abdim’s stork, African black crake, White-crested Turaco, giant kingfisher, African cuckoo among others and birding can either take a half-day or full-day trek depending on your schedule. Bird watching permit costs $30 per person for nonresidents.
- Nature walks, this is an activity in Ziwa rhino sanctuary where you walk on foot on a guided tour. Ziwa rhino sanctuary has many walking trails where you walk through the savannah to explore different vegetation types, view wildlife in their natural habitats. Nature walks in Ziwa rhino sanctuary are done either in the morning or in the afternoon and can either take a full day or a half-day walk depending on your schedule. Different animals will be spotted during nature walks including reedbucks, waterbucks, warthogs, Uganda kobs, Oribis, gray duikers, hartebeests, vervet monkeys, black and white monkeys, ground squirrels, geckos, chameleons, mongoose among others which offers a thrilling and memorable experience.
- Shoebill canoe safaris, this is an activity that offers an opportunity to the visitors to view one of the birds sought after by many birders in Uganda. Shoebill canoe safari starts early in the morning at 6:00 am, takes about four hours through the swamp and 10km to the swamp border and the majestic Lugogo wetlands which are Africa’s richest birding destination and also a home of animal species. Shoebill canoe safaris is a must-do activity for bird watchers in that they will be able to see the endangered shoebill storks. Ziwa rhino sanctuary is the only place in Uganda where you are guaranteed to see the shoebill storks with eleven storks seen in the best bird sightings in one trip. During the shoebill canoe safari, you will be able to see water birds like African open-billed stork, African jacana, black crake, pied kingfisher, malachite kingfisher, great egret, giant kingfisher, African fish eagle, goliath heron, Egyptian goose among others. Shoebill canoe safari is the most exciting activity where you can also the Ugandan sunrise over Lugogo swamp which gives a great view of photographs.
- Night walk at Ziwa rhino sanctuary, this is an activity where you walk around the sanctuary with the park guide at night on foot using the spotlights to get a clear view of the areas. Night walks start at around 9:00 pm/10:00 pm after dinner at the lodge and takes about two to three hours in the bush. During the night walks you will be able to see nocturnal animals like the leopards, aardvark, porcupine among others, listen to the night sounds and wild whispers in the sanctuary for great memories.
- Game viewing, Ziwa rhino sanctuary is a home of 40 mammals and offers great opportunity of viewing wildlife animals including antelopes, reedbucks, gray duikers, Oribi, bushbucks, waterbucks, hippos, warthogs, Uganda kobs primates like vervet monkeys, black and white monkeys, mongoose, ground squirrels, butterflies which make your safari exciting with lifetime experience.
Accommodation at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Ziwa rhino sanctuary offers a number of accommodations where visitors on a safari can stay in case they want to stay for an overnight and take part in different activities including Amuka Safari Lodge, Campsites, Budget Bandas, Max hotel, New Court View Hotel, Talemwa guest house which are located in Nakitoma town that offer comfortable sleeping services, meals, drinks among others and the sanctuary can be visited all year round.
“Ziwa rhino sanctuary is the place to visit, in order to see and admire the large and majestic rhinos, to learn and experience the firsthand, beauty, and grace of these endangered species.”