Queen Elizabeth National Park is found in south western Uganda in Kasese District. The park was established in 1952, and it is one of the largest in Uganda which adjoins the frontier of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. Its vegetation consists mostly of thickets of various types of small trees, including the acacias.
Queen Elizabeth National Park covers an area of 1978 km2 located in South Western Uganda on the floor of Albertine rift valley between Lakes George and Edward; Safaris into Uganda most often go through Queen Elizabeth National Park as the most popular and visited park; Several factors explain this with the most genuine being because of high populations of and high densities of wildlife species, beautiful scenic views and easy accessibility on the main gateway to urban centres.
The park is named Queen Elizabeth in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II Great Britain’s historical visit to the area in 1954; The choice of the place for Her Majesty’s visit and adopting her name clearly sums up the beauty of the place; From that time on, Queen has been Uganda safaris’ number one destination; The park boasts of four out Big 5 giant mammals in Africa; lions, elephants, leopards and buffalos and on any game drive there are high chances of viewing more than 75% of them. Ishasha Sector has a very rare species of lions that are adapted to climbing trees and cannot be found anywhere else on Ugandan soil.
The Kazinga channel is an unmistaken feature in park that connects Lakes George and Edward and all wildlife in one way or the other owe their survival to it and to the visitors of Queen, the centre of tour satisfaction. Take launch cruise on the sparkling waters of the channel onto Lake Edward. Feel the cool breezes of lake brush your skin. Breath in the air that smells purely wild with no pollutants while you are at an arm’s length close to yawning hippos basking in the sun and huge elephants and others mammals cooling off the heat of the afternoon burning sun. Big swarms of different bird species perched on the shores will do magic to your adventure safari senses. You will have everlasting memories of safaris into Africa written in your mind better than elsewhere.
The beautiful scenic views of Queen Elizabeth include luxuriant savannah grassland with almost evenly scattered acacia trees in which several mammal species are on show for photo opportunity; There are empty craters in the Kikorongo area very attractive to the eye and the views of the sun setting beyond the Mitumbi hills across the Congo is one of the highlights of Uganda safaris and will always flash in your memory for ages ahead.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one dream destination that caters for all categories of travellers offering a multitude of adventure travel opportunities. Little wonder it is one destination any keen traveller should never miss on a safari to Uganda.
The park is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, making it a prime destination for safaris and wildlife enthusiasts. It boasts over 95 mammal species, including African elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, hippos, and several antelope species. It is also a sanctuary for around 600 bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers.
This southern section of the park is famous for its tree-climbing lions. Unlike lions in other parts of Africa, some lions in the Ishasha Sector have developed a unique behavior of resting and sleeping on tree branches, providing a remarkable sight for visitors.
The park is bisected by the Kazinga Channel, a 32-kilometer-long natural waterway that connects Lake George to Lake Edward. The channel is a hotspot for wildlife viewing, as animals gather along its banks to drink and cool off. Boat cruises along the channel offer an opportunity to see hippos, crocodiles, waterbirds, and other animals up close.
Located on the eastern side of the park, Kyambura Gorge is a stunning natural formation formed by the erosion of the savanna; It is also known as the “Valley of Apes” due to the habituated chimpanzee communities living in the area, offering visitors a chance to track and observe these intelligent primates.
This is the main tourist hub in the park, situated on a peninsula overlooking the Kazinga Channel and offering breathtaking views of the surrounding savannah and lakes.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is surrounded by various communities with rich cultural heritage. Visitors can engage in cultural experiences and learn about the traditions and ways of life of the local people.
The Park offers both morning and evening game drives, providing opportunities to spot a wide range of wildlife in their natural habitats. Experienced guides lead these excursions; ensuring visitors have a safe and informative experience.
With its diverse landscapes, including wetlands, savannas, and forests, the park is a haven for birdwatchers. Bird species like the African fish eagle, saddle-billed stork, and pink-backed pelican can be spotted here.
The major highlight of a visit to the park is the scenic game drives that give you a chance to view even the most elusive of the park’s fauna; These drives are most done during the nights and mornings hours. Your driver guide will help you in the search for the different wild life. during the game drive you will spot the elephant being the largest mammal, the antelope, the hyena, lions, buffaloes, Kobs, leopards to mention but a few.
Queen Elizabeth is one of the Uganda’s top birding spots. A haven of over 600bird species, the enthusiastic bird watcher is in for a major delight at the park. Some of the birds include, sedge warbles, pink backed pelican, yellow throated cuckoo, owls to mention but a few.
This takes place on the Kazinga channel along natural water channel linking lake Edward to lake George .During the cruise the tourists get to enjoy the various sights and sounds that the parks rich aquatic life extravagantly offers; Besides the large hippopotamus taking drips in the water, the fierce Nile crocodiles basking lazily on the channel banks to feel the sun warmth.
Not every day that you see the lions climbing the trees and in fact it was considered safe to climb the trees once you were chased by the lions. Not while here in Ishasha sector though, a region comprising of a portion of queen Elizabeth national park. Here lions perched up on acacia and fig trees are an enchanting sight to behold. The ishasha sector where these lions are found is accessible on the journey to or from the Bwindi impenetrable forest national park as one heads or returns from gorilla trekking in the forest.
Visit the salt pans at Katwe to learn about the park’s human history. You will be astounded by the strength of those who toil in this harshest of settings. They engage in a profession with a long history that once contributed to a wealthy kingdom.
Explore the pans and take in the ancient methods being used in the shadow of a defunct processing facility that was unable to handle the extreme saline present at Katwe. This place is hot. Brutal glare from the sun. Even though you won’t remain long, the trip is nevertheless worthwhile.
The wildlife drive embodies the essence of a savannah safari. You will patrol the grasslands with your guide for roughly 3 hours in the early morning or late afternoon when the animals are at their most active while traveling in four-wheel drive vehicles modified to allow superb vision through hatch roofs and sliding windows.
Each species has a unique ecological niche, or habitat, as well as behavioral traits. When the tour guide is aware of these, they can explain the history of the savannah and get you closer to its amazing wildlife. The irritable buffalo, covered in mud and wallowing in puddles, the bull elephant dozing in the shade of an acacia, and the deadly lion setting out to hunt as the shadows get longer.
The experience of viewing wildlife from the boat is really unique. It is serene; The sunlight refracting off the water’s shattered surface; the animals’ shifting expressions as they observe you and deliberate their next move.
When the wind is blowing in the appropriate direction, you can frequently approach larger groups much more intimately than you can in a car on land.
Twice daily, boat tours are offered on the Kazinga Channel, which connects Lake Edward and Lake George. There are many boat sizes available, but all safaris drift to Pelican Point along the shore. Elephant, hippo, buffalo, antelope, and an amazing variety of water bird life are among the animals you can expect to encounter.
The Kichwamba Escarpment has been deeply gorged by the Kyambura River over the years; Large primates, especially chimpanzees, can thrive in the dense forest that covers the gorge’s sides because the walls are too high for large herbivores to exploit; One of Queens’ top attractions is spending a few hours following our closest relatives through the forest with a guide from the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. This is because Queens residents are habituated to human contact. You really do feel as though you’ve stepped into another realm. There is a 60 percent probability of encountering chimpanzees, so this is not a “zoo experience.” A sighting is even more noteworthy because it is a true woodland hunt.
The Maramagambo Forest is the ideal area to spend a whole day for birdwatchers and people who enjoy hiking off the beaten path; You can explore the shadows, finding species seldom seen on the open plains, stumble into hidden crater lakes, and be in awe at the sheer amount of life found inside a bat cave while being protected from the blazing sun by the thick canopy.
Avoid getting too close since snakes are waiting in the cave floor’s rocks to pounce on bats who are knocked from their perches by stronger, more agitated neighbors.
While the history of the human race is fascinating, there is something deeply alluring about the wilderness. If you feel that attraction, then stay in the Ishasha sector. However, avoid climbing the fig trees because you might be competing for the best branches with a few lions; On the approach to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Ishasha is a section of open forest in the park’s southwest. Even though a few lodges have lately opened in the area, relatively few people visit there. It is explored on game drives. As a result, you can enjoy delightfully private game drives and unforgettable sundowners.
There are 72 craters of different sizes strewn around the park, indicative of the areas chaotic volcanic history; When the view and geologic history are the focus rather than the wildlife, many of these are grouped in the north of the park, making for an interesting half-day drive; It is sobering to consider how these craters were created, dozens of imprints on the crust of the Earth, and how they eventually became inhabited by plants and animals over the course of millions of years. The present-day verdant, leafy oasis of life in the craters stands in stark contrast to their horrific, fiery past.
The idea of “the best time to visit” is mostly irrelevant in Uganda. Due to its equatorial location, the nation experiences rain for the majority of the year. Additionally, it appears that weather patterns are altering, rendering strict seasonality obsolete. So prepare for anything and bring a rain jacket.
However, from June to early October and again from December to early March, the weather is often dryer. Typically, October, November, and March through the end of May get the most rainfall. The wettest months are typically April and May, though May has recently been comparatively dry.
The park is conveniently located, both as a standalone attraction and as a connecting stop on a longer journey.
The park is sometimes combined with gorilla or chimpanzee trekking because of its close vicinity to Bwindi and Kibale. If you have a longer schedule, Queens is almost probably where you’ll stop because it has the best lion sightings in all of Uganda.
Lodges and Luxury Camps: There are several lodges and luxury camps within the park or its vicinity, offering comfortable and often upscale accommodations. Some of these lodges may provide amenities like swimming pools, restaurants, and guided safari tours. Some of these Luxury lodges include Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Enjojo Camp, Elephant Plains Lodge, Kyambura Gorge Lodge, and many others.
Mid-Range Accommodations: If you are looking for a balance between comfort and affordability, there are mid-range lodges and guesthouses available outside the park’s boundaries; The Mid-Range lodges include Mweya Safari Lodge, Parkview Safari Lodge – Kyambura, Twin Lake Safari Lodge, Buffalo Safari Lodge, Ishasha Jungle Lodge and so many other lodges
Budget Accommodations: For budget-conscious travelers, there are basic guesthouses and camping sites near the park, which offer a more economical option for accommodation. For example; Topi Lodge, Kyangabi Safari Lodge, Enganzi Safari Lodge, Kazinga Wilderness Camp, etc.
Location: Queen Elizabeth National Park is situated in the western region of Uganda, along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is part of the Albertine Rift, a region known for its high biodiversity.
Landscapes: The park features diverse landscapes, including savannah grasslands, dense forests, wetlands, and volcanic crater lakes. The majestic Rwenzori Mountains also form a stunning backdrop to the park.
Rivers and Lakes: The Park is traversed by several rivers, including the Kazinga Channel, which connects Lakes Edward and George, and serves as a haven for numerous wildlife species.
Rift Valley: Queen Elizabeth National Park lies within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley, a geological feature that has been shaping the region over millions of years. The Rift Valley is known for its volcanic activity and tectonic movements.
Volcanic Activity: The Park contains volcanic features, including volcanic cones and crater lakes. Some of these crater lakes are found in the Kyambura Gorge and provide a unique habitat for different species.
Lake Edward: The Park’s western border is formed by Lake Edward, which is a part of the Great East African Rift. The lake was formed by tectonic movements and volcanic activity over time.
The combination of its diverse landscapes and rich biodiversity makes Queen Elizabeth National Park a top destination for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers from around the world. It offers a unique opportunity to experience the wonders of the African wilderness in a truly stunning setting.
Most visitors travel to Queen Elizabeth National Park by road, and it can be accessed from various locations in Uganda:
The most common route is from Kampala, Uganda’s capital. The distance is approximately 400-450 km depending on the entry point. It usually takes about 6-7 hours by car. You can hire a private car, take a taxi (shared minivan), or use a tour operator’s services.
If you’re coming from outside Uganda or from a distant city within the country, you can fly into Entebbe International Airport, which is the main international airport in Uganda. From there, you can take a domestic flight to Kasese Airstrip, which is the closest airstrip to the park, and then arrange transportation to the park.
Due to the fact that human habitation may be found on the Mweya Peninsula dating back more than 50,000 years, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a significantly different history than the majority of African protected areas; The Wasongora and later the Waganda people exploited the region to raise cattle even as recently as the turn of the 20th century.
This changed in 1913–1914 when the region was first struck by rinderpest and subsequently trypanosomiasis, which killed off the local cattle and forced an exodus; Even though individuals started to return throughout the 1920s, trypanosomiasis levels increased, necessitating a second evacuation and maintaining low human population levels throughout the century. The animals poured into this space.
One of the highest large mammal population densities in Africa was present in the new park by the 1960s. This suffered during the civil war and army-led systematic poaching in the 1970s and 1980s. However, a sizable number of animals were able to enter the nearby, tranquil Congo at the time.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is a well-known national park in Uganda, located in the southwestern part of the country and known for its diverse wildlife and ecosystems, including savannas, wetlands, and forests; While I don’t have access to the most recent information, I can provide you with some general conservation measures and challenges that might have been applicable to the park up until that time.
When packing for a visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, it’s important to consider the park’s diverse ecosystems, varying weather conditions, and the activities you plan to engage in. Here’s a general packing list that you can use as a starting point:
Remember to check the weather forecast before your trip and tailor your packing list accordingly. Also, be mindful of any park-specific guidelines or regulations provided by the authorities
Overall, Queen Elizabeth National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, photographers, and adventure seekers, offering a remarkable wildlife experience and a glimpse into the stunning landscapes of Uganda.