Ziwa Sanctuary Uganda

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

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Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Once upon a time, countless rhinos roamed the savannah and woodland of Northern Uganda. They used to live in Murchison Falls and its surroundings and led a very happy life. By the mid-1980s none of them were left, mainly due to poaching. Yes, this is quite a grim introduction to this national park, but this is where our story begins and we promise you, as you keep on reading it’s getting better and better and better.

Meet the rhinos

Fast-forward 20 years: thanks to tremendous efforts from organisations and individuals, eight rhinos were introduced to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary between 2001 and 2006. This number has been increasing ever since and today 34 individuals live a happy life and flourish at Ziwa (including two adorable babies born in April 2023).

Two things are important to know though (and handy when you want to show off some rhino knowledge). First, the rhinos at the park are Southern white rhinos. The Northern white rhinos, which used to roam the Ugandan land, are believed to be extinct in the wild and in general critically endangered. And second, there’s a difference between the white and the black rhino. The latter has a pointed upper lip since it picks its food from trees and shrubs. The white rhino (as you can see on the pictures) has a wide mouth because it grazes. Clever, right? Also, white rhinos are said to be much more chill than black rhinos 😉

Other animals

The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is not only a safe haven for these horned giants, but also a wildlife ranch. During various tours through this little gem you can spot countless of other animals like the African leopard, the Ugandan kob and more than 300 different birds, including the majestic golden crested crane. The biggest highlight next to the rhinos is definitely the shoebill, a bird which has been around for at least 30 million years. The stories it could tell…

What else to do

There are several tours you can fill your day with at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Of course, there’s the rhino trek, where you’ll join experienced rangers searching for the rhinos and, once found, get really close to them.

During the birding tour the hearts of photographers and (hobby) ornithologists will skip a few beats and at the shoebill trek with canoe ride you’ll be looking for the unique shoebill very early in the morning – sunrise included. With around 70 square kilometres of woodland, swamps and savannah you can discover a great deal of flora and fauna during a nature walk and learn even more.

Activities in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

  • Rhino treks
  • Shoebill treks & canoe ride
  • Nature walks
  • Birding tours
  • Night-time walks

How to get there

Starting from Kampala, you’ll arrive at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary after 176 kilometres and around three hours of driving.

Its location in Nakitoma is extremely convenient since it’s just next to the Gulu highway which connects Kampala with the Murchison Falls National Park. So if you want to see the Big Five, see four of them in Murchison Falls and spot the fifth one at Ziwa on your way to the park or back to Kampala.


It’s tropical, it’s hot and the temperatures stay quite the same throughout the year – with around 31°C during the day and more or less 18°C at night.

During the dry season from December to February and from late June to October chances are pretty low that rain will ruin your activities. In the wetter months from March to May and September to November you can witness the entire park turning beautifully green and spot more birds than in the dry season.

Best time to visit Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

This is a tricky one since it depends on what you want to do and see: if you want to marvel at as many animals as possible, the dry season is your ideal travel time. Since many animals gather at waterholes, it’s easier to spot them.

However, if you don’t mind getting a little wet and if you love to dive into the birdlife at Ziwa, you should visit the sanctuary during the rainy season. And no worries: all the other animals will also be there, including the rhinos.

Information and facts

Sanctuaries, and national parks in general, are pivotal to conserving nature and wildlife. Ziwa is the perfect example: without this project there might still not be any white rhino back in Uganda. By visiting organisations like these, you’ll benefit in a number of ways.

  • You support their efforts in nature and wildlife conservation.
  • You’ll earn tons of karma points.
  • You can discover your favourite animals within a safe space.
  • You’ll learn loads thanks to knowledgeable guides.

Most common animals

  • Southern white rhino
  • Shoebill
  • African leopard
  • Ugandan kob
  • Warthogs
  • Waterbuck
  • Crested porcupine
  • Black-and-white colobus
  • Genet
  • Golden crested Crane
  • Bushbuck
  • Aardvark
  • Common duiker
  • 300+ bird species

Facts about Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

  • Covers an area of ​​70 square kilometres (27 square miles)
  • Established in 2005
  • Only place to see white rhinos in Uganda
  • Murchison Falls National Park right next to it
  • Home to the 30 million year old Shoebill

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