Queen Elizabeth National Park

The park was initially known as ‘Kazinga National Park’ before it was renamed in 1954 to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. QENP is one of Uganda’s oldest parks. Queen Elizabeth National Park is truly a medley of wonders, located in Western region of Uganda spanning the districts of kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi and Rukungiri. The park has various ecosystems made up of sprawling savannah, moist forests, lakes and fertile wetlands making it a good home to various species of wildlife, primates and birds hence a haven for Ugandan safaris.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, the second largest and most biodiverse park in Uganda is close to the Rwenzori Mountains and en-compasses of a huge array of different landscapes, including wetlands, swamps, crater lakes, tropical forests, woodland and open savannah, which support a diverse range of wildlife.

The park is a home to over 95 mammal species (including 20 carnivores and 10 primates), more than 600 species of birds recorded making the park a magnet for bird watchers. The bird species include the black bee-eater, 11 types of king fisher, shoebill storks and several species of falcons, eagles and other raptors. In the crater lakes to the north, flocks of flamingos can be found! A favourite way to view the game is by launch trip on the Kazinga channel between Lakes George and Edward.

The wildlife in queen Elizabeth National Park beats the rest of the national parks in the country when it comes to biodiversity. The park has quite a number of elephants; over 2500 African elephants, they are indeed unique because their ears shaped as the map of Africa and these are common along the Kazinga channel. The park has the highest number of buffaloes in East Africa; it has over 10,000 buffaloes spread throughout the national park. Buffaloes walk in groups called herds and this is one way of providing protection from the notorious hunters in the national park. Other animals include waterbucks, Uganda Kobs mainly found in Kasenyi plains. However also common in the park are the big cats: Lions, Leopards, and Civet, Genial and serval cats. The lions of QENP are the common however; the tree-climbing lions are unique and are the highlight of any African adventure. The tree-climbing lions are found in Ishasha sector (southern part of the national park). On the other hand, the leopards are solitary and good at camouflaging at night. They can be seen during the night game drive. Other animals include; Topis, hyenas, hippos, crocodiles, giant forest hog among others.

In the eastern corner of the famous QENP is the Kyambura Gorge frequently refered to as the Valley of Apes. Kyambura Gorge lies at a distance of 30 kilometers from the park headquarters, and traverses a separation of 11 kilometers and connects to the beautiful Kazinga Channel.  Kyambura Gorge is densely dominated by both tropical and riverine forest trees; the thick forest canopy cover offers a thriving home for primates which are the greatest attractions in the gorge. Other primates include Vervet monkeys, Black and White Colobus Monkeys and the boldest Baboons.

The park has quite a variety of birds; over 600 birds, most of them are famous birds of East Africa and some of which are migratory and not common birds. One can enjoy bird viewing during the Kazinga Launch Cruise, Maramagambo forest nature walk and community walks. The bird species to look out for include, African mourning dove, Swamp flycatcher, Grey headed kingfisher, pin-tailed whydah, slender-tailed nightjar and collared pratincole, while the elusive, sought-after shoebill stork can be searched for in the swamps of the Ishasha Sector. Look out for the flamingos at the salt lakes of Katwe and Bunyampaka.

Vegetation is yet another aspect of wildlife in Queen Elizabeth national park. The vegetation in QENP is a reason to the beauty that the park flaunts all through the year. The park is dominated with savannah vegetation, in some parts savannah grassland like in Kasenyi plains and in other parts savannah woodland like in Ishasha sector in the southern area of Queen Elizabeth national park. The tall grass in Kasenyi is a good hunting ground for lions, they camouflage with the colour of the dry grass during the dry season and during the wet season, the grassland flaunts its verdant over the undulating hills of the park. The savannah vegetation of the southern part is dominated with woodland tree species like acacias, cactus trees and big fig trees that the famous tree-climbing lions hung and relax, after the days hunt.

What to do in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National park offers different fascinating ventures in which visitors can engage in when they visit the park premises during their safari. Below are some of the most interesting activities the park offers: 

Game Viewing

Game drives at Queen Elizabeth National Park are the most memorable ones as it involves a drive at the park in search for several wildlife. During game drives, you will get a chance to see four (4) of the big five of the country such as elephants, lions, buffaloes and leopards along with other wildlife species. The most notable areas for carrying game drives is Kasenyi, north Kazinga plains and southern Ishasha sector famous for tree climbing lions. The game drives carried out in the southern Ishasha sector located in wetland areas offer marvellous viewing experience under the vast Albertine rift valley edges. While in this sector expect to see animals licking salt water at Lake Katwe such as elephants, hippos, crocodiles, mongoose, duikers, waterbucks among others.  During the game drives, look out for wild game such as buffaloes, antelopes, warthogs, baboons, chimpanzees among others.

Game drives are normally done in the morning and in the evening. The morning game drives are the most rewarding, one can have a glimpse of mammals coming out of their hiding places looking for food as well as in the late evening from around 4pm to 6pm. There are also night game drives and these start at 6pm to 9pm.

The best season for the drive is the dry season January to February and June to September. During the rainy season in the months of October to December and March to May, game viewing is hard as the tracks are slippery, some hide and it becomes hard to see them.

Things to carry on your game drive include mineral water, cameras, sunscreen glasses, hat, and insect repellents among others.

Launch Cruise along the Kazinga Channel

Taking a launch cruise at Kazinga channel section in QENP is preferably one of the most rejuvenating things one can do at long games drives in park.  Kazinga channel is indeed a water channel that connects Lake George and Lake Edward together; it is a 40km long stream of water located beneath the famous Mweya peninsular just near Mweya safari lodge.

The boat cruise at Kazinga channel is the highlight of any Ugandan safari. It provides different experiences from all that you have had in Africa. This 3 to 4-hour activity is conducted by professional guides and they provide all the information about the Kazinga channel and the boat cruise.  The activity is done in two sessions a day; the morning starts at 11am up to 1pm and the afternoon session starts at 2pm to 5pm in the evening. The boat cruise is a specular experience along the channel one is rewarded with more sight of African wildlife like hippos, crocodiles, large herds of elephants, buffaloes, waterbucks, Uganda kob among others.

The Kazinga Channel is not only a wonderful place to only bird lovers, but as well to those who may actually not be passionate birders as they will definitely love what they see with a wide array of colourful beautiful birds soaring near to the water surface. Among the common species to look out for are the Martial Eagles, African spoonbills, Cormorants, African Skimmers, and Pelicans, Papyrus Gonalek, in addition to the occasional hard to pin down Shoebill Stork.

Therefore, a launch cruise along the Kazinga Channel is something that should not be missed while on your Uganda safari in Queen Elizabeth Park or south-western Uganda at large.

 

Chimpanzee Trekking- Kyambura Gorge

Catch a glimpse of the fascinating primates that swing around the forest branches in the dramatic Kyambura gorge. Also known as, the valley of Apes, the Kyambura gorge lies 30km from the loge in QENP and it’s found in the eastern part of the park. Once you visit the gorge, you will see a different world from the one you know; it is drained by river Kyambura, it has a rainforest that is near to the equator. The type of vegetation in Kyambura gorge is adoptable to the life style of the famous Chimpanzees; it is characterized with tall thick trees and underground rainforest vegetation. The trees give fruits seasonally; this makes the stay of chimpanzees’ enjoyable one.

Much as viewing chimpanzee is not guaranteed, one still stands a chance of about 80% to see the habituated chimpanzees once a visit is paid. Most of the chimpanzees in QENP are habituated; they are familiar with humans and they can carry out their daily activities in the presence of humans. The morning session starts at 7am and it’s the most exciting, as the chimps have just woken up and are quite mobile, mostly swinging high up in the trees, looking for fruits or hunting monkeys to feed on, while the evening starts at 2pm as the chimps are less mobile, just lazing in the tree branches, resting, grooming each other and mating among others. They also come to the ground to escape the heat of the sun in the canopies. The Kyambura gorge also has other primates and these include; the red tailed monkeys, baboons, white and black colobus monkeys, vervet moneys among others.

Have an amazing time trekking chimpanzees in the Kyambura gorge with Hotana Safaris by inquiring about the rates and let us take all the hustle for you.

Hot Air Balloons

Hot Air Balloon Safari in queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most interesting, exciting and memorable activity for those interested in exploring wildlife and others features of the park from above. It gives a sight of the animals in the Park in an aerial view and its incredible landscape.

The activity begins by arrival of tourist’s at Kasenyi gate where guests are welcomed and greeted by the crew with a cup of coffee as the balloon is assembled. Set off for this amazing adventure, which rewards you with magnificent views of the beautiful sun arising from east as though it were coming out from Lake George, which is east of the park. One can also spot hyenas back from catching prey and other animals with hippos going back to the water especially on the Kazinga channel area; it is a journey of discovery. After the flight, a flying certificate is awarded as well as a yummy breakfast is served at the Mweya peninsular.

Birding

Located in the southwestern part of Uganda, QENP ranges from the savannah Ishasha plains to the humid rain forests, salty water lakes, fresh water lakes the acacia and euphorbia bushes low lands and wetlands hence making the park a top habitat for birds in Uganda.

Recognised as an important birding area by Birding International, the park is a home to over 600 bird species making it a perfect destination for birders. Some of the famous bird species include; Chapin flycatcher, pink-back pelican, martial eagle, African broadbill, white-tailed lark. White-winged warbler, African skimmer among others.

In the crater lakes, spectacular flocks of flamingos gather creating an image of a moving pink carpet. A launch trip along Kazinga channel rewards with views of different water birds like pelicans, Egyptian goose, saddle-billed stork, African fish eagle and kingfishers among others.  A walk through the maragambo forest rewards one with views of barbets, African emerald cuckoo, brown illadopsis, and red-throated wryneck among others.

Other birding areas in Queen Elizabeth national park include; Kasenyi Area, Mweya Peninsula, Ishasha Sector, Lake Kikorongo, Katunguru Bridge area and Katwe Area Tours can be booked through Katwe Tourism Information Centre.

Guided Nature Walks

Explore the beauty of Queen Elizabeth National Park with guided nature walks. Nature treks are one of the more active ways to enjoy the landscapes and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth National park on foot. Nature walks in Maramagambo forest expose one to species like the rare L’Hoest’s monkey, white and black colobus monkey, red-tailed monkey, vervet monkey, chimpanzees and leopards. Bird species such as sunbirds, greenbuls, and woodpeckers among others can be seen along the trail.

Nature walks done in Mweya peninsular offer scenic views of Kazinga channel, Lake Edward and the impressive savannah landscapes, it also rewards with great chance to view various wild game species and birds, the ones along Ishasha river present an opportunity to get up close with the water giants; hippos while remaining in the perfect safety of water platform.

Other nature walks can be around Lake Kyasanduka, Lake Nyamasingiri ideal for birders and offer sights of birds like the scaly-breasted illadopsis, snowy-headed robin chat and chestnut wattle eye among others.

Cultural Encounters

Famously known for its tree-climbing lions, boat cruise, large number of bird species and wildlife, Queen Elizabeth has a lot more to offer like cultural encounters with the local communities around the park. Cultural visits can be done out at Nyanz’ibiri cave community, Agro-tour walk, Kikorongo women community centre, leopard village and Katwe tourism information centre.

These community centres have a lot to offer like souvenir craft shops with items made from available natural materials like papyrus and wood, items sold in these shops include necklaces, handbags, and woven baskets among others.  Enjoy local dances and drama performed by the local community to entertain visitors who visit them, this gives visitors an ample environment to experience the African culture.

These cultural encounters can be arranged at most of the lodges within the park though a walk to these community centres can be equally rewarding as it offers scenic views of the tranquil wilderness, meeting wild game along the way. The involvement in cultural visits offers an opportunity to improve the cultural, economic and social status of the people living around the park.

WhEN TO VISIT Queen Elizabeth National Park

QENP offers good game viewing and wildlife adventures all year around, though there better times to visit the park.

The dry season in the months of June, July, August, September, January and February offer the best time for wild life viewing and chimpanzee trekking. During this time, the animals are much easier to see as vegetation becomes thin and animals gather around water sources, trails for chimp trekking in Kyambura gorge can easily be accessed. However, during the wet season, chimpanzee trekking and game viewing and nature walks tend to be difficult due to the muddy roads.

The wet season include the months of October, November, December, March, April and May. During this season the scenery in and around the park is extremely beautiful; the vegetation is lush and green capturing true picture of the tropics. The migratory birds from Europe and north American make bird watching interesting and it’s also during this season the park is less crowded making it easier to watch wild species as well as lodges offer discounts to their customers.

HOW TO GET To Queen Elizabeth National Park

The national park is located in kasese district about 410km away from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. There are different routes that can make you access QENP such as by plane, self-drive car or bus. The distance, fares and the duration of travel greatly depend on the transport means of one’s choice from Entebbe international airport to the national park in the far west of Uganda.

By road, drive from Kampala to kasese through Mubende, Fortportal and then to Queen Elizabeth main entrance in Katunguru for about 7hours and about 10 minutes to the national park.

There is also the Kampala-Mbarara-Bushenyi and kasese route.

From Bwindi impenetrable national park, it is just 2-3 hours’ drive to Ishasha wilderness camp.

One can choose to fly from Entebbe International airport by plane to Kihihi Airport in Ishasha then use car hire to kasese and it takes about 2hrs to reach the park. Alternatively, one can book a flight from Kajjansi Airfield to either kasese airport or Mweya Airfield in queen.