Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in western Uganda, shared between Kasese and Rubirizi districts. It is the most popular national park in Uganda. The park is 1978 sq.km in size where and lies 5-6 hours from Kampala which one can access via a tarmac road via Mbarara (420km) or Fort portal via Kasese highway (410km). From the south, Kabale / Bwindi National Park, the park can be accessed on a dirt road via Ishasha sector, taking a 4 hours’ drive.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to the twin lakes, Edward and George which are linked together by the famous Kazinga channel. The lush Maramagambo forest lies on the outskirts of the park to the south east as well as the Kigezi Game Reserve which one can reach via Ishasha southern sector.
The park was established as Kazinga National Park in 1952 but following the Queen of England’s visit, Elizabeth II, the park was renamed later in 1954 to commemorate the her maiden visit to the pearl of Africa, hence the name Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The park’s diverse ecosystems, which include rolling savannah, humid, lush forests including an underground forest, sparkling lakes, rivers and fertile wetlands, sprawling crater fields, all make the park an ultimate habitat for a rich profusion of big game, 10 primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 bird species (Uganda’s largest population of birds in a single area), all which have made Queen Elizabeth National Park a tourism magnet.
The park has also a variety of Vegetation types with the most known being the bush grassland, Acacia woodland, lake shore swamp vegetation as well as forest grassland. This vegetation has made it possible to be home to varied wildlife ranging from small antelopes, to big mammals and cats. These include Uganda kobs, Cape buffaloes, waterbucks, warthogs, lions, leopards, hyenas, and giant forest hogs, large herds of elephants, among others.
The park is a prime birding destination given its massive numbers of both resident and migratory birds. Avid birders are exposed to amazing species such as Papyrus canary, Pink-backed pelicans, African skimmers, shoe-bill storks, martial eagles, lesser flamingos as well as black- ramped button quail and so many others.
Safaris to Queen Elizabeth NP
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Queen Elizabeth national park presents two scheduled game drives; one in the morning which starts at 6:30 am and takes 3-4 hours as well as an evening/nocturnal game drive which starts at 6pm and takes 2-3 hours.
Game drives normally take place around the Kasenyi area, Queen’s pavilion, along the crater lakes and in Ishasha area where you will spot rare tree climbing lions. All the game drives offer you endless chances of viewing up to 4 of the big five animals including buffaloes, elephants, lions and leopards and other animals such as Uganda kobs, Topis, antelopes, warthogs and variety of bird species.
Boat Cruise along Kazinga Channel
There are 3-4 scheduled boat cruises that run each day in the park. These take place along Kazinga channel which is an oasis for many fascinating wildlife species that inhabit the park.
Taking a boat tour along it gives visitors a chance to cruise just meters from hundreds of enormous hippos, crocodiles and buffaloes while elephants linger on the shoreline looking for water to quench their afternoon thirst. The boat ride also presents chances to see rich bird species such as black bee eater, corncrake, and white tailed lark among others.
Given the fact that it is a habitat to over 600 bird species, some of them endemic to the Albertine rift and Rwenzori ranges, Queen Elizabeth national park is without doubt an important birding area (IBA) as classified by birding international.
600 bird species is the largest of any East African national park, and phenomenal number for such a small area. Its influence of grassland, woodland savanna and lush forests, linking to expansive forests of the D. R. Congo allows visitors to spot a profusion of east as well as central African species.
Some birds migrate far away from Australia to this park. Some of the park’s unique species include African skimmer, black bee-eater, white wigged warbler, papyrus gonolek among others.
Chimpanze Trekking in Kyambura Gorge
The Kyambura gorge experience is more than discovering chimpanzees in their natural habitat. It educates visitors about the ecosystems of Kyambura gorge’s atmospheric underground rainforest, including vegetation types; chimp and monkey ecology. This activity lasts for 2-4 hours, depending on daily movements of the chimps. The experience starts at 8:00am and 2:00pm every day.
A nature trek is one of the active ways to explore the landscapes and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth national park. Nature walks are common in adjacent forest including the shady Maramagambo forest in the east, central Mweya Peninsula with its charming views, and the southern based Ishasha River.
During these nature walks, you may spot a variety of forest and savanna species as well as having a unique opportunity to get extremely close to hippos, primates and other elusive species that cannot be easily viewed from within the confines of a safari vehicle.
The zealous dances of the dynamic Kikorongo equator cultural group. Some of these are casual workers and traditional salt miners from Lake Katwe and other community members. They dance Kikonzo dance while using local instruments such as drums, bells among others.
Tracking Tree Climbing Lions
Queen Elizabeth national park prides in hosting one of the only two populations of tree climbing lions in the whole world. They are found in the Ishasha region located 432 km southwest of Kampala. The park is exceptional for hosting the famous and mystifying population of tree climbing lions. These are highlights of most travelers that visit the park. Besides Ishasha sector, the other population of tree climbing lions is found in Tanzania’s northern circuit in Lake Manyara National Park.
Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth national park can be divided into three categories; luxury, mid-range and budget. All these provide cozy and comfortable atmosphere for the park’s visitors. Some of the luxury accommodation options include Katara lodge, Ishasha wilderness camp and Mweya safari lodge.
Midrange accommodations include bush lodge, Ishasha Jungle Lodge, Ihamba lakeside safari lodge and Park view safari lodge among others.
Budget accommodations are Mweya hostels, Pumba safari cottages, Kazinga channel View Resort, among others.