Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited parks, its one of the premium national parks in Uganda alongside Murchison falls National Park, Bwindi impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Kibale Forest national parks. The park was established in 1952 as Kazinga National park. It was renamed later after two years to commemorate the visit of the Queen of England Queen Elizabeth II who visited the park.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

The park sits in an estimated land area of 1,978 square kilometers extending from Lake Gorge in the Northeast to Lake Edward in the Southwest. The two lakes are connected together with the Kazinga channel where the park was first named after. Queen Elizabeth National park is famous with vast rare species of wildlife that include tree-climbing lions.  

Queen Elizabeth National park is a home of over 95 mammal species with over half of the Ugandans bird species. The park is characterised by diversified ecosystem cover that ranges from open savannah grassland to the humid forests. The park is adjacent to the Virunga national park of Congo in the South east. This corridor is famous as a lion Conservation unit with a high concentration of Black mane lions. Queen Elizabeth National park is also gifted with more volcanic features like Volcanic Cones, crater lakes, and others.

Location/ Accessing Queen Elizabeth National park

Queen Elizabeth National park is located in the Western part of Uganda in the western tourist circuit region. It spreads its wings to several districts around the region, it sits in four districts those are: Kasese, Rubirizi, Kamwenge, and Rukungiri districts. The park is located at an approximate distance of 410 kilometers on the Western side of Uganda capital and the largest city Kampala city. The nearest town is Kasese town which is just in the outskirts of the park on the North East, while on the Southeastern side its bordered by Rubirizi town.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National park is easily accessed in 5-6 hours drive from Kampala through the good tarmacked road. There are two routes that take you inside the Mweya peninsula and all these routes there are public buses that pass through from Kampala on daily departure. It is only Queen Elizabeth National park that the highway passes through the middle of the park making it easy for one to use even public transport up to the park.

One can pass via Mbarara town and Busheyi town with a stop at the Equator direct to the park. If one passes through the Southern part via Mbarara the distance is 420 kilometers and if one passes through the North via Fort portal its 410 kilometers. The drive to Queen Elizabeth National park is more scenic hence needs to use private means so that you enjoy your scenic views on your way while heading to the park. 

By air travel is also available with daily chattered flights from Kanjjasi and Entebbe international airport. There are three nearby airstrips one in Kasese town, Mweya, and Ishasha.

Attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park

The park is surrounded by a wide range of ecosystem, lying on the backdrop of Rwenzori Mountains, the park is endorsed with magnificent dozens of attractions like numerous craters, rolling green hills kazinga channel, Maramagambo forest, Kalunzu forest, Kyambura gorge, lakes and endless plains of Ishasha.

The key attractions in Queen Elizabeth National park include:

Kazinga Channel: The Kazinga channel is found in the Mweya peninsula which is the centre of Queen Elizabeth National park. The 32-kilometer-wide water channel is the connecting water body that connects Lake Edward to Lake Gorge. The channel is a habitat for more aquatic life with records showing that the channel has the highest number of Hippo population in Uganda. Other big game also goes at the water banks to cool themselves and also quench their thirst. Thousands of water birds are found at this channel, other animals include Nile crocodiles, hippos and others

Tree climbing lions: These are unique lions that are only seen in Queen Elizabeth National park in Uganda and lake Manyara and Serengeti national parks in Tanzania. The lions are also called Cactus climbing lions are the mysterious lions in the whole world. In Queen Elizabeth National park they are found in the Ishasha sector in the southern part. They are unique in that normal lions are not tree climbing and this makes them unique and great attractions.

Lake Katwe explosion crater: The Katwe explosion craters are found in the Northern part of Queen Elizabeth National park. The sector is the highest point of the park with an elevation higher than the peninsula region. The sector is where the effects of the great Western Rift valley passed through hence leaving more volcanic features at the park. The escarpments are higher but richer with wildlife as its characterised by great ecosystem diversification. 

Kyambura Gorge: Kyambura Gorge is home of the primates especially the Chimpanzees, the gorge was formed under the effect of Vulcanicty. The magnificent deep narrow valley is found in the Eastern part of the park. Inside it is the Kyambura river which drains the gorge and provides water for the wildlife at the gorge. This is one of the key places one must visit when you’re doing a safari in Queen Elizabeth National park.

Lake Katwe salt mining site: The local mining site of salt is one of the key attractions found in Queen Elizabeth National park. The salt mining done by locals with local tools is done at the salty lake of Katwe which is one of the largest crater lakes in the park. Located in the South western part of the park, the crater lake has no outlet but only inlets which are small streams. The lake was formed by the forces of Volcanic activity in the area about 8000 to 10000 years ago. Guests always enjoy visiting the site to see how salt is extracted from the lake locally, interacting with the locals who are engaged in this work.  

Kasenyi Plains: These are the open grassland plains where most of the game drives and lion tracking is done in Queen Elizabeth National park. The plains are habitats of wildlife including the big game and big cats. Kasenyi plains are located in the Northern part of Queen Elizabeth National park. The plains extend with rolling plains till Lake Gorge on the West adjoining the famous Kazinga channel. It’s a home of kobs, lions, hyenas, elephants, buffalos, topis, gazelles, topis and other games. The plains are sometimes referred to as Kob mating ground due to the high concentration of kobs during their mating period. 

Lake Gorge: Lake Gorge is a small lake covering 250 square kilometers situated in the Western part of Queen Elizabeth National park. It is part of the Western Great Rift Valley, it’s a home of more aquatic wildlife and source of resource to the locals who use it for fishing. Lake Gorge is supplied by a majority of water bodies that originate from the Rwenzori Mountain.

Birds: The park eco-diversity has given an added advantage to a wide range of bird species found in the park. Queen Elizabeth National park has over half of the Ugandan bird list with over 600 bird species. This is one of the birding destinations that one can finish a week and each day you see different bird species as you keep changing the location. There are different birding habitats around the park and this has given birders a chance to see many. The Kanziga channel attracts more migratory waterbirds that come for breeding from different parts of the world. The adjournment of the park to Congo gives visitors a chance to see even Central African Bird species. The most sited birds are: Common bulbul, 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 mention but a few.

Mammals: Queen Elizabeth National park has over 95 mammal species including 4 members of African big 5. The park is much famous for its tree-climbing lions in Ishasha but also has more other wildlife like Elephants, leopards, Hyenas, buffalo, kobs, gazelles, topis, mention but a few.

Chimpanzees and other primates: Queen Elizabeth National park key attraction is the big game, few guests know that one can see chimpanzees in this park. Today I give light to a diversified park which is among the popular parks in Uganda and most visited. The park is a home of primates especially Chimpanzees in two destinations inside the park those are Kyambura gorge and Kalunzu forest. Other primates can be seen in the Maramagambo forest home of bats and snakes.  One can have a complete safari experience of Africa only in queen with addition of Bwindi Forest national park home of Mountain Gorillas.

Equator and Queen’s pavilion: Queen Elizabeth National park is among the few lucky parks that are centered in the middle of the world. The park is crossed by the Equator imaginary line that divides the world into two parts. The equator monument is placed on the main road where one can have a good picture during their trip to the park. The other point is the Queen’s pavilion which can be seen well if one uses the Northern entrance to the Crater Drive. In 1954 when the queen Elizabeth visited the park the temporal shelter was constructed for the queen till 1959 when permanent one was built which is there till now. The renovation was done in 2007 when Duke of Edinburgh visited the park. 

Activities done in Queen Elizabeth National park

Queen Elizabeth National park has a diversified ecosystem gifted by flora and fauna. These great habitats of over 95 mammal species, over 600 bird species, primates, reptiles, and others. This has opened the park gates to the world and made it one of the most visited parks in Uganda liked by many guests. There are several activities that tourists come and experience while on their visit to Queen Elizabeth National park.

Game viewing: When one starts thinking of any African safari the first activity in mind is to see the African big 5. Queen Elizabeth National park like any other open savannah parks is a home of over 95 mammals including 4 members of the African big 5 only missing the Rhinos. The lions are in plenty and can be easily seen during your game drives. The park has two species of Lions that include the rare tree-climbing lions found in the Ishasha sector. Other game include Elephants, Buffalo, Leopards, Hyenas, Gazelles, kobs, topi, eland, Jackson’s hartebeest, hippos and many others. 

Game drives in Queen can be done early in the morning which are more rewarding since nature is more active at this time and the wildlife action is much. Another game drive is in the evening which is dull but impressive as the nocturnal animals start coming out.

Birding: Queen Elizabeth  park is termed as a birding paradise with over 600 bird species that are found at the park. The park is recognized by International Birding Association (IBA) as one of the best birding destinations in Africa. Birding in queen Elizabeth can be done throughout the year. Birding can be done in the open savannah grassland as well as nearby Forests like Kalunzu and Maramagambo forest for forest bird species.  The biding list is long with popular birds 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 among others. 

Boat cruise: The boat cruise is the key activity done in Queen Elizabeth National park where you enjoy a glimpse of Africa fresh water. Taking an evening boat cruise along the 40 Kilometres Kazinga Channel is worth it. It takes 2 hours but you will be enriched with more wildlife experience. See more wildlife like hippos, birds, buffalo, crocodiles and many more. The boat cruise always starts at 2pm and return back after 2 hours of sailing on the top of the water.

Caves visiting: The Maramagambo caves are located beneath the tree canopy of the forest is called Bat cave due to the high concentration of bats at the cave. The cave has more bats and other reptiles like Python snakes and monitor lizards. Other caves found in the area are Nyazibiri cave which is a historical cave.

Lion tracking: The lion tracking experience is one of the unique activities where guests pay extra money to go close to the lions with off tracking allowed. The guests will be led by the Uganda wildlife Authority game ranger. This is done in the Kasenyi sector under the Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP). There are a number of limitations for the group to track the lions as we observe the conservation policies. This is the only way one is assured of seeing Lions while at Queen Elizabeth National park.

Chimpanzee trekking: Chimpanzee trekking is done in Kyambura gorge and Kalunzi forests al found in Queen Elizabeth National park. This is a less exploited activity in this park since it is shadowed by Kibale forest national park the primate capital of the world. But it is joyful to descend down to 100 meters deep gorge and look for these primates in their natural habitats. The trekking starts with a briefing from the park rangers before going for it which lasts for 4 hours daily depending on the movement of the chimpanzees.

Queen Elizabeth National Park
Elephants in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth park remains one of the most gifted national parks in Uganda where your African experience is all combined in one national park. Its neighborhood with Bwindi gives it an added advantage for the guests to explore the two parks at a small package of 4 to 5 days safari.

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