Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is situated in Kasese District, in the eastern region of Uganda. The national park covers a surface area of 1978 km². This is one of the Biggest National Parks in Uganda.
Queen Elizabeth National Park was first established in 1952 as a national park. The national park was originally called Kazinga National Park and later renamed two years after in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the park. The katwe explosion craters mark the national park’s highest point at 1350 meters above sea level while the lowest point is at 910 meters above sea level and is found at Lake Edward. The national park is home to over 600 species of birds and 95 species of mammals. This goes to show that the national park is indeed a ‘Medley of Wonders’.
The Park is undoubtedly Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The national park is dominated by sprawling savanna, shady and humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands. The national park is gifted with enormous craters dramatically carved into rolling green hills, with panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel and its banks lined with wildlife like; hippos, buffalos, and elephants.
The Park was famous for its tree-climbing lions and ‘Lion Tracking Experience’ also gives you an exclusive view of the amazing Cats.
Besides the attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, there is a fascinating cultural history associated with the park. Tourists visiting the national park have the opportunity to meet and interact with the local communities within and adjacent to the park. Guests can enjoy listening to folk tales, traditional music, dance and so much more.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is also used by many tourists on safari as a de-tour to other nearby national parks like; Lake Mburo, Rwenzori Mountains and Kibaale National Parks.
Attractions in Queen
There are plenty of attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park, which has made tourists from all over the world flock the national park. These include;
- Tree Climbing Lions in Ishasha Sector: One of the main highlights of a tour in Queen Elizabeth National Park are the famous tree-climbing lions found in the Ishasha sector, located in the southern region of the park. The Ishasha sector is also accessed by many tourists on de-tour to or from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
- Kazinga Channel: The Kazinga Channel is a tranquil water channel that separates Lakes George and Edward. Visitors can enjoy a boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel, with launch trips set for 8 am in the morning and 1 pm in the afternoon. There are plenty of wildlife and bird species that visitors can view while on the launch cruise and these include; weaver birds, marabou storks, monitor lizards, caimans, fish eagles, and elephants among others.
- Chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge: The Kyambura Gorge is well known to shelter habituated chimpanzees that reside within the forest. For a price of 100 USD, tourists can track these habituated chimpanzees accompanied by well-trained UWA rangers. The gorge also has the Kyambura River flowing through its thick forest, 100 meters just below the Kicwamba escarpment. The entrance to Kyambura Gorge makes a great spot for picnics with friends and family who you are traveling with.
- Crater Lakes in Kyambura Wildlife Reserve: There are also beautiful crater lakes situated to the east of Kyambura gorge and these offer visitors stunning views of many waterbird species like the great egret as well as flamingoes. The National Park has a total of 72 crater lakes, scattered across the national park. Tourists can embark on a 27km drive between Kabatoro gate and the park’s Pavilion, taking in the awesome views of the large, circular crater lakes, Rift Valley escarpment and the Kazinga Channel.
- Lake Katwe: One of the highlights of Queen Elizabeth National Park is the famous katwe Salt Lake. It is from here that traditional salt mining is done dating back to the 16th century. Also, it goes without saying that, the surrounding Katwe- Kabatoro community on the lake, plays an important role in the mining process on the lake.
- Bird Species: Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to over 600 species of birds and these are mostly found at Lake Munyanyange which is a bird sanctuary.
- Kasenyi Plains: The Kasenyi Plains in the Park present the perfect setting for a classic African safari experience. There are huge herds of the Uganda Kob which attracts predators like lions. Warthogs can also be seen grazing in the plains with guinea fowls scuttling through the grasslands. Tourists can also view elephants striding across the game drive tracks, which provides a picturesque moment for most visitors at the park.
- Other attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park include Lake George and the famous Maramagambo forest.
Activities in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.
- Chimpanzee Tracking: Tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park can track some habituated chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge or Kali forest. Chimpanzee tracking permits cost 50 USD in Kyambura Gorge and 30 USD in Kalinzu Forest. Chimp tracking activities last between 2-4 hours with an hour of direct contact with the chimps. Chimpanzee tracking activities begin at 8 am.
- Game Drives: Game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park take tourists through Kasenyi, the Ishasha sector and the northern park of Kazinga Plains. There are day and night guided game drives offered by the park; with the day game drives offering visitors views of wildlife such as; buffaloes, lions, antelopes, duikers, elephants, warthogs and baboons amongst so many more. The night game drives, on the other hand, will give tourists the chance to view nocturnal animals such as; lions, leopards, and caracals amongst others. Game drives in this national park cost 40 USD with and extra cost of 25 USD for a guide.
- Birding: The park’s great variety of habitats means that it is home to about 619 species. The large concentration of bird species found in Queen makes it a top destination for birding safaris in Uganda.
- Caves: Tucked away beneath the shady canopy of the Maramagambo Forest is the ‘Bat Cave’. The cave has a viewing room from which visitors can observe the resident bats and pythons.
- Guided Nature Walks: Tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park can embark on guided nature walks to explore the park’s landscapes and wildlife. Major locations for nature walks include; Maramagambo forest, Mweya Peninsular, and the Ishasha River. Here tourists can spot a variety of forest and savanna species; with an opportunity to get really close to hippos.
- Boat Cruise: The launch trips in Queen Elizabeth National Park take tourists on an exciting expedition on the Kazinga channel. These boat cruise trips give visitors a chance to sight numerous wildlife species like; bird species, hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes and elephants on the shorelines. The launch trips in Queen take place in the early morning at 8 am and late afternoon at 2 pm.
- Other activities carried out within the national park include; cultural tours and experiential tourism for wildlife researchers.
Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth National Park
There is a wide range of accommodation facilities available for tourists visiting the national park and these include; Mweya Safari Lodge, Ishasha Bandas, Jumbo and Pelican bungalows which are managed by UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and Pumba Safari Cottages among others.
How to Get to Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Park can be accessed most easily from Kampala City. The national park can be accessed by road via Mbarara town through Bushenyi and leading to the center of the park. The national park can also be accessed from the south via Mbarara which is 420km to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park can also be accessed from the south via Ishasha from Bwindi National Park. The northern route to the park goes through Fort Portal town which is covers a distance of 410km.
Tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park can access by air. There are charter flights that can be arranged from Entebbe Airport to the existing airstrips in Kasese, Mweya, and Ishasha.