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Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s second largest National Park situated within the western side of the country. It was established in 1952 as Kazinga National Park and renamed Queen Elizabeth National Park in 1954 after the historical visit of Queen Elizabeth II into the country.

Queen Elizabeth National Park lies astride the Equator and extends for an area of 1978 square kilometers from Lake George in the north-east to Lake Edward in its south-west and covers districts of Rukungiri, Kasese, Kamwenge and Rubirizi. Interestingly, the National Park is made up of numerous physical features that reward it with its beautiful appearance and one of these is the Kazinga Channel that connects Lakes George and Edward. The Park is found within the Albertine region along with the Kigezi and Kyambura Wildlife Reserves that make the area one of the most diverse ecosystem in the African Continent. It is one of the richest bio-diversity Parks in Uganda comprising of woodland, Crater Lakes, forest, numerous wildlife and bird species, acacia and many other spectacular features.

Attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Wildlife

More than 95 species of mammals are found in the different sectors/areas of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Some of the must-see wildlife species in Queen Elizabeth National Park are Buffaloes, Topis, lions, spotted hyenas, elephants, leopards, Hippos, warthogs, Uganda Kobs, waterbucks, elands, bushbucks, Banded mongoose and many others. Your visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park will introduce you to large schools of hippos that laze around the shores of Kazinga Channel that connects Lakes Edward and George.

There are also several primate species especially Chimpanzees in the Kyambura gorge, black and white colobus monkeys, Olive baboons, Vervet monkeys and red-tailed monkeys among others.

Birds

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s top Important Birding Areas with over 600 species of birds (more than half the total bird species in the country). The Park’s vast habitats including woodland, Lakes, forests and savannah offers perfect places for birding. Some of the popular bird species to look-out for in Queen Elizabeth National Park are Grey-headed kingfishers, shoebill storks, African Mourning doves, Flamingos, Swamp flycatcher, slender-tailed nightjar and grey-headed kingfisher among others.

Crater Lakes

Crater Lakes within Queen Elizabeth National Park reward the Park with its spectacular appearance and some of the most popular and beautiful ones are Lake Katwe, Nyamunuka and Bunyampaka that are also popular stop points for wildlife and birds especially the migratory bird species.

Tourist activities to undertake within Queen Elizabeth National Park

Game drives

Queen Elizabeth National Park is synonymous with Game drives where day and night drives offer nothing less than classic experiences. There are several game tracks running across the several areas (such as Ishasha, Kasenyi and North Kazinga Plains among others) of the Park and whichever track you take, you will never be disappointed by the views. Early morning game tracks and night game drives allow visitors to see the lions hunting for their prey, leopards stealthily walking through the tall grass and the spotted hyenas scavenging on lion’s left-overs. Also, Herds of elephants, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, warthogs, Hippos, Topis and Defassa waterbucks can be spotted grazing across the savannah plains. A day game drive through the Ishasha sector will introduce you to the rare tree-climbing lions that are found in only two places in the whole World.

Boat rides

Boat rides in Queen Elizabeth National Park offer second to none experiences and are carried out along the Kazinga Channel, where numerous breathtaking birds and animal species can be spotted. These rides usually carry a maximum of 40 persons and last 2 hours. During these rides, expect to see the hippos and Nile crocodiles in the waters and elephants, Uganda kobs and buffaloes bathing or drinking from the banks of the Channel. Pay close attention to the bird species in the nearby wetland area or flying right above the boat. There are usually the Malachite and pied kingfishers, African fish eagles, pink-backed pelicans, Papyrus canary and sometimes the shoebill storks.

Birding

When it comes to birding in Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park features among the top 5 places with over 600 species of birds to offer. This important Bird Area shelters the Central African bird species, aquatic, forest, savannah as well as the wetland species, and top bird hot spots are the Kazinga Channel, Maramagambo forest, Katwe Area, Kasenyi Area, Ishasha sector, Mweya Peninsula, Lake Kikorongo and Katunguru Bridge area in addition to the Crater Lakes where several migratory species are found.

The commonest bird species in this Park are the African fish eagles, shoebill storks, pink-backed pelicans, grey-crowned cranes, pied kingfishers, African broadbills, Papyrus gonolek, greater and lesser flamingos, white-tailed Larks, Chapin’s flycatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Martial eagles, Malachite kingfishers, Black bee-eaters and many others.

Chimpanzee trekking

The Kyambura gorge within the North-eastern side of Queen Elizabeth National Park is where the chimpanzee treks are conducted. This narrow underground gorge offers a totally unique environment from the other parts of the Park that are ideal for the Chimpanzee to occupy. Treks start at 8:00am and 2:00pm and are conducted for 1-3 hours before these apes are sighted. Besides the chimpanzees, tourists who visit the area usually come across unique primates, birds and reptiles.

Experiential tours

Queen Elizabeth National Park is the only Park in Uganda where experiential tours can be enjoyed. These tours allow tourists to come close to animals that they never imagined coming closer to and even monitoring them with special devices. Imagine coming close, locating and learning habituation calls as well as behavior of lions. It is only possible in this Park and the different experiential activities are lion tracking, Hippo Census, mongoose tracking and bird counts lasting 1-3 hours.

Nature walks

Nature walks allow tourists to see hidden wildlife and bird species in addition to the other features of the Park especially forest, Crater Lakes, River/Lake banks that are not possible to explore through other activities especially game drives. Take a walk along the banks of the Ishasha River, forest walk in Maramagambo to come close to the warthogs, hippos, waterbucks, Uganda kobs and hippos. Nature walks make it possible to identify some of the unique tree species and bird species by merely looking at the nests or lion tracks from their footprints among others.

Cultural tours

Nature in Queen Elizabeth National Park can be spiced by culture through undertaking tours to some of the nearby communities to see how they live their daily lives. A Visit to the Kasoga Community Experience, Nyanz’ibiri Cave Community, Kikongoro Women Community and Leopard Village reward tourist with chances of undertaking community birding experiences, traditional dance performances, traditional handcraft demonstrations and even purchase some of the items such as baskets, craft shoes and bowls among others.

Hot air Balloon tours

Hot air Balloon Tours in Uganda are conducted in two places, the other being Murchison falls National Park and is where you get to have an aerial view of the Park and its attractions through a hot air balloon. You will see the vast savannah plains, forest, Crater Lakes animals as they graze and even hidden ones.

Where to stay

Queen Elizabeth National Park has numerous accommodation facilities for budget, midrange and luxury visitors. These facilities include the Queen Elizabeth Safari Camp, Jacana Safari Lodge, Mweya Safari Lodge, Enganzi Lodge, Bush Camp, Kyambura game Lodge, Ishasha Wilderness camp, Kazinga Channel View Resort, Pumba Safari Cottages, Mweya Hostels and Cottages, Simba Safari Camp, Elephant Plains Lodge, Kyambura Tented Camp, Katara Lodge, Kasenyi Safari Camp, Ihamba Safari Lodge, Hippo Safari Lodge, Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge and Enganzi Game Lodge among others.

Best Time to visit

Queen Elizabeth National Park is open all year round but the ideal time to visit is January, February, June, July, August, September and December. These months are in the dry season where food for the animals is limited and few water points where animals converge, thus perfect for game viewing.

The wet season-March, April, May, October and November receive heavy rains that make vegetation greener, thus perfect for photography. The wet season is also the perfect time for bird watching especially if you are interested in seeing the migratory bird species. However, Park roads become muddy during this time hence you will need 4WD Vehicles for game drives.

How to get there

Situated within the western side of Uganda, at approximately 5-6 hours’ drive from Kampala City. You can access the Park by both air and road transport. With air, there are chartered and scheduled flights by Aerolink (and other operators) from Entebbe International Airport/Kajjansi airstrip to Kasese, Ishasha and Mweya airstrips.

For road transport, you can get to the Park through the 420-kilometer southern route-Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Bushenyi-Kasese to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Alternatively, you can use the 410-kilometer northern route through Kampala-Mubende-Fort Portal to the Park. The most interesting thing about these routes is that you can have en-route visits to other National Parks such as Kibale Forest and Lake Mburo National Parks. Visitors from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park can access the Park through the Ishasha sector in the southern part of Park.

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