Queen Elizabeth National Park
Sprawled within the western side of Uganda on the rift Valley between Lakes Edward and George, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the country’s renowned Protected Areas extending for 1978 square kilometers. This National Park was gazetted in 1952 as Kazinga National Park but changed name in 1954 to honor the visit of Queen Elizabeth II.
Queen Elizabeth National Park boasts of a rich biodiversity with different landscapes/ecosystems that include verdant forests, Lakes, savannah, wetland and bushland, which offer shelter to over 95 species of mammals as well as more than 600 species of birds.
This wonderful Park sits against the backdrop of snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains in addition to featuring jaw-dropping views by the Craters carved into rolling hills, breathtaking views of the Kazinga Channel with its banks filled by Hippos, Nile crocodiles (reptile), buffaloes, antelopes and elephants as well as the magnificent Ishasha plains whose fig tree branches are occupied by several lions.
Other wildlife species found within Queen Elizabeth National Park include waterbucks, bushbucks, elands, Uganda Kobs, lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, giant forest hogs, warthogs, Topis and over 10 species of primates including chimpanzees (in Kyambura gorge), olive baboons, Vervet monkeys, red-tailed monkeys and black and white colobus monkeys among others.
There are more than 600 species of birds in Queen Elizabeth National Park including the shoebill storks, pink-backed pelicans, white-winged warblers, lesser flamingos, Papyrus gonolek, Chapin’s flycatcher, Greater flamingos, African skimmers and martial eagles among others. This makes the National Park one of the most amazing bird watching destinations in Uganda.
This National Park features several sectors that include the Ishasha sector where the mysterious tree climbing lions are found, Mweya peninsula and Kazinga Channel, Kyambura gorge where you will meet some of the chimpanzees that call the Park home, Kasenyi plains-where large herds of animals are sported and Maramagambo forest.
Tourist activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park
There are a number of game tracks through Kasenyi Plains and Mweya Peninsular offering tourists with opportunities of sighting large herds of elephants, Uganda kobs, buffaloes and many others. If conducted in the morning, game drives allow tourists to spot the lions, leopards and hyenas stealthily hunting for unsuspecting Uganda kobs. Other animals to expect during this activity include warthogs, waterbucks, elands and Topis among others.
Boat cruises in Queen Elizabeth National Park are conducted from the Kazinga Channel where the Nile Crocodiles, hippos and Elephants can be spotted lazing on the banks of the Channel. While on a boat cruise, several aquatic bird species such as pelicans, kingfishers and African fish eagles can also be sighted.
Chimpanzee tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park can only be enjoyed from the Kyambura gorge, a narrow underground forest underneath the Kichwamba Escarpment. The activity usually starts at 8am and 2pm, lasting between one and three hours. You will find them resting, feeding or grooming but it’s not only the chimpanzees you will encounter here but also vervet monkeys and olive baboons as well as several forest bird species.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is not only a place to enjoy nature but also cultural tours with tourists being offered opportunities to interact with the local communities to experience their way of life through music, dance, storytelling and many others. Cultural encounters can be relished from the leopard village, Kikorongo women community, Katwe Tourism Information Center, Nyanz’ibiri Cave Community and Agro-tour walks among others.
With over 600 bird species, it’s not an overstatement to call Queen Elizabeth National Park one of Africa’s best birding havens. The diverse ecosystem (comprising of Lakes, swamps, savannah, bushland, forest) offer shelter to numerous species of birds like Yellow-backed weavers, Papyrus gonolek, Malachite kingfishers, Papyrus Canary, white-winged warblers, wattled plovers, water-thick knee, shoebill storks, African skimmer, African fish eagles, African Jacana and Squacco herons among others can be spotted.
Hot air balloon safaris
Hot air balloon safaris allow tourists who Queen Elizabeth National Park to explore and experience its wilderness in an extraordinary way. The hot air balloon rides in the sky above hills and trees as you enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Park characterized by Crater Lakes, savannah plains, forests as well as wide range of animal species (including elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks and Uganda kobs) as they wander about.
You will need to walk through the Maramagambo forest, Mweya Peninsular and along Ishasha River to be able to see the true beauty of Queen Elizabeth National Park which may otherwise be done during game drives. Outstanding trees, butterflies and other smaller animals can be identified through nature walks.
In addition to the above, Queen Elizabeth National Park is known for other exceptional activities that include mongoose tracking and Lion research tracking.
Best Time to Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park can be visited all year round although the dry season (June to September and December to February) is preferred for most activities like game viewing. However, the wet season (March to May and October to November) is ideal for birding.
Where to stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park features numerous budget, midrange and upmarket Safari Lodges that include Mweya Safari Lodge, Jacana Safari Lodge, Mweya Hostels and Cottages, Kyambura Game Lodge, Kitandara Hippo Hill Camp, Ishasha Tented Camp, Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Ihamba Safari Lodge, Katara Lodge, Kingfish Lodge Kichwamba, Simba Safari Lodge, Ishasha Jungle Lodge and many others.
How to Get There
Located in western Uganda at about 5-6 hours’ drive from Kampala, Queen Elizabeth National Park can be reached through road and air transport. With road, use a tarmac road from Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Bushenyi to the heart of the Park while passing about 22 kilometers from Mweya peninsula (northern part of the Park).
Another alternative route is to reach the Park from the south through Mbarara until Ishasha sector (420 kilometers). The most interesting thing with visiting this Park is the opportunity to have short tours to Kibale Forest, Lake Mburo and Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
Tourists opting for air transport can arrange charter flights from Entebbe or Kajjansi to Mweya, Kasese or Ishasha airstrips.