Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park covers an area of about 1,978 square kilometers.The park extends from Lake George in the north-east to Lake Edward in the south-west and includes the Kazinga Channel connecting the two lakes. Queen Elizabeth national park is undoubtedly Uganda’s most famous national park and traveler’s destination.

The park was first named as Kazinga national park in 1952. Two years later after the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, the park was renamed. To commemorate her visit, the park was named Queen Elizabeth national park.

Being near mount Ruwenzori,the park’s sites include several beautiful crates lakes that winding through the rolling hills, the panoramic display of the Kazinga channel with an awesome view of the hippos, buffaloes, elephants and several bird species lined up at the shores. With a continuation towards Ishasha sector plains, another surprise of tree climbing lions resting on trees waiting to pounce on the Uganda Kobs and other preys will blow one a way.

Queen Elizabeth National Park together with the adjacent Virunga National Park is a Lion Conservation Unit. The area is considered a potential lion stronghold in Central Africa, if poaching is curbed and prey species recover. The park is also famous for its volcanic features, including volcanic cones and deep craters, many with crater lakes, such as the Katwe craters, from which salt is extracted.

Besides the remarkable wildlife attraction, Queen Elizabeth national park also boasts of attractive heritage/ culture history. There are numerous opportunities for traveler and tourists to visit the local population   who are entertaining in terms of local music and cultural dances.  With all such attractions queen Elizabeth national park tours leave tourists wanting for more.

Location

Queen Elizabeth national park and covers some districts like Kasese, Rukungiri, Rubirizi and Kamwenge. From Kampala (Uganda’s capital), the park is approximately 400 kilometers by road. The park includes the Maramagambo Forest and borders the Kigezi Game Reserve, the Kyambura Game Reserve, and the Kibale National Park in Uganda, and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Geography: The Park together with the Kyambura and Kigezi wild life reserves covers 2475 square kilometers. Its temperatures range from18 degrees Celsius to 28 degrees Celsius. The wettest seasons in this Park are usually incurred in March to May and September to November receiving rains ranging from 750mm to 1250mm with an altitude of 910m above sea level at Lake Edward vicinity to 1,390 m above sea level in the crater area.

Wildlife

Queen Elizabeth national park encompasses a wide range of habitats ranging from savanna and wetlands to riverine and low land forest. The area is dominantly covered with water and 250 square kilometers of Lake Shores. Lake George, Lake Edward, The Kazinga Channels, Ishasha River and a series of crater lakes provide a rich habitat for both mammal and birds offering a brilliant wildlife viewing opportunities to visitors. Added to all this is the beautiful scenic spectacular panorama and terrain.

The park has 10 primate species, including chimpanzee, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, red tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys. The park also has predators like lion, leopard, spotted hyena, side stripped jackal and also numerous antelope like bush back, water buck, oribi, topi, the shy and semi aquatic sitatunga and four species of duiker. Mammals in this park include; buffalo, elephant, hippo, mongoose.

ATTRACTIONS

Kazinga channel: The Kazinga channel is a water body that connects Lake George to Lake Edward and is approximately 40 meters long. The channel is one of those fundamental attractions in the Queen Elizabeth National Park that many tourists are pulled to go and see while on safari.  Here they get to enjoy views of numerous flora and fauna while on the launch cruise. The channel is sustained by a number of streams that spill out from the extraordinary Rwenzori Mountains that are north of the lake.

The shores of this channel attracts a great number of wild animals like the hippos, elephants, crocodiles, antelopes and others which makes the channel a marvelous place that draws many visitors on a wildlife safari in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park as well as various water bird species.

Kyambura Gorge

Kyambura Gorge, also known as Kyambura Game Reserve, is part of the Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is home to a variety of wildlife, including chimpanzee. The area is an important water source for many animals and is surrounded by savannah. The family of chimps that live in a deep and ancient forested gorge that runs through the African savannah and for over fifteen years it has been cut off from the rest of the jungle, leaving them imprisoned. The chimps here face a daily life-or-death dilemma: whether to leave the safety of the gorge and venture into the predator-ridden savannah to find food, or face hunger. There’s now less than thirty of them left. There are about 24 habituated chimpanzees that live in the gorge and open for trekking.

Ishasha sector

The ishasha sector is located in the south-western edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is eminently known for being a home to the tree climbing lions in Uganda. The scenery in this sector is not the same as that in other parts of the park. The Lions climb trees to take relaxation in the branches and also be able to detect their prey notably the Uganda Kob which also graze at the park in bigger numbers. Other animals that live in the area include, kobs, waterbucks, topi, elephant, buffalo, warthog among many others as well as various bird species.

Mweya peninsula

This is located in the northern bank of the kazinga channel where it joins Lake Edward. The Mweya Peninsula region joins the channel track distance down to the main gate of Katunguru from where it transversely moves to the Kabatoro gate, an area with very thick ground cover and vegetation that is ruled by the Candelabra Thorn. The dense vegetation cover makes the viewing of game quite difficult however, there are other paths that are kept well thus making it a whole lot easier for game drives. The peninsula offers beautiful views of the Kazinga channel, surrounding vegetation and the beautiful relief of the area.

The most common attraction around the peninsula is the 2 hour boat cruise on the Kazinga channel.

Kalinzu forest

The forest is a home to more than 200 chimpanzees with a habituated family that is open for tracking. Kalinzu Forest is close to Queen Elizabeth Park and chimpanzee trekking here is typically superior/ better than the one at Kyambura gorge. There are four climbing trails in the forest s and climbs are from an hour to throughout the day long. You can make Kalinzu Forest Reserve an entire day trip by hitting the magnificent climbing trails and birding that are found here. The forest is also a home to over 3 Species of Birds call this their home including the Great Blue Turaco, Black and White Casket, Cuckoos and Sunbirds.

Maramagambo Forest

The Maramagambo Forest moves from the edge of Kichwamba all through to the Lake Edward. It is a great place for having nature walks which last about half an hour to as long as the biggest part of the day. The half day treks offer you a chance to find the portions of crater lakes.

There are trees that project shaded trails through the sublime verdant woods that offer extraordinary ordeals contrasted with the experience go while in open savannahs. The timberland has seven diverse primate species which you may spot amid your guided nature stroll among which are Chimpanzees, Black and White Colobus Monkeys, L’Hoest’s Monkeys, Baboons, Red Tailed Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, and additionally the Vervet Monkeys. The woodland is too an environment to 2 nighttime species which are; The Pottos and the Bush babies.

THINGS TO DO

Game drive

Game drive is the major thought of activity while at the park. The thrilling drives which are best done during the morning hours feature up close viewing of the wildlife which inhabits the park in the comfort of a vehicle. Your driver guide knows the different trucks in the park intimately and will take you in search of the different wildlife. The park is known to be a highest concentration of wildlife, places like Kasenyi area of the park, North Kazinga plains offers one a chance to watch plenty of elephants, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, antelope species, the rare giant Hogs, leopards among others as well as various savannah bird species that live the park. In the Ishasha sector south of the park, visitors can move through the woodland to look for tree-climbing lions hovering on the branches of very old fig trees.

Evening game drives can also be arranged, this gives you a chance to spot some of the nocturnal animals like hippos.

Boat cruise

Boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth national park is done on the Kazinga channel which is a 40kilometer long water body that joins Lake George to Lake Edward. The boat cruise starts at 2pm and take around 2 hours. There are professional guides right on the boat who will be give you all the necessary information pertaining this  safari or  tour as well as answer any questions that may arise about the wildlife or anything else.

As you cruise, you will expect to spot animals like hippos, buffalo, crocodile, monitor lizard, elephants which sometimes come around to quench their thirst and also take a bath. You will also expect to spot water bird species like African fish eagle, pelican, yellow billed stork, cormorants, African jacana, hadada ibis, marabou stork, egrets among others.

Nature walks

Nature walks is one of the activities done around the park. The activity is usually done in the tropical forests like; Maramagambo forest, Kalinzu forest and in the Kyambura gorge. As you trek these jungles, you will expect to spot various forest bird species as well as various primates like chimpanzee, monkeys and baboons.

There is a trail in the Maramagambo forest where you trek around Lake Nyamusingire. Wildlife sightings vary from day to day, but guaranteed events include the Bat Cave with a resident bat-hungry Python, and the copper-rich Blue Lake.

Birding

With over 600 bird species living in the park, Queen Elizabeth national park is one of Uganda’s best birding destinations. The park has a variety of habitats that range from savanna to wetlands to lowland forests.

The birds in the park range from water birds, woodland and forest dwellers in the Maramagambo Forest, 54 raptors and various migratory species. The commonly encountered species include the Martial Eagle, Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Skimmer, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Pink-backed Pelican, African Broadbill, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed Lark, White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, Corncrake, Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Shoebill, Bar-tailed Godwit.

Lion Research Tracking

These types of activities are called experiential where by you follow a certain type of animal up to their breeding places. Most times these animals have trackers and the person in charge of them always goes along with the trackers till you find them. The activity is usually done in the morning and the late afternoon and take between 1-3 hours. The researcher will tell you a lot about the lions, the habits and their way of life. This Lion Tracking Experience is limited to just a few visitors and one must be booked ahead of time in order to take part in this unique lion tracking.

Chimpanzee Tracking

There are 10 species of primates found in Park with the most popular one being the Chimpanzee which is found in the Kyambura gorge which has been called “valley of apes”.

Chimpanzee trekking takes between 2-4 hours and as you trek the chimps you will expect to spot various bird species as well as other primates that live in the gorge. You will expect to spot the chimpanzees jumping from one tree branch to another as they go about their daily life.

Katwe Craters Drive

The explosion craters are a must-see for those with a particular interest in the region’s fascinating geological history. The 27km drive between Kabatoro gate and Queen’s Pavilion takes in views of the enormous craters, circular lakes, the vast Rift Valley escarpment and the Kazinga channel, Lake George and Lake Edward as well as great views of the Rwenzori highlands.

GETTING THERE

From Kampala, Queen Elizabeth national park can be accessed using 2 routes by road;

Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Bushenyi-queen Elizabeth national park

Kampala-Mubende-Fortportal-Kasese-Queen Elizabeth national park

The tarmac road from Kampala via Mbarara town and Bushenyi leads to the center of the park, passing just 22 km from Mweya Peninsula, the main tourism hub. Approaching the park from the south via Mbarara covers a distance of 420km while the north through Fort Portal covers a total of 410 km.

Along the way, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy short detours to Lake Mburo National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Kibale National Park, renowned for its chimpanzee tracking.
The park can also be accessed from the south from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Air travel

Charter flights can be arranged from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi to airstrips of Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.