Facts about Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth national park is located in south western Uganda in four districts that is Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi and Rukungiri. It is the oldest national park in Uganda because it was gazetted in 1952 together with Murchison falls national park and was initially called Kazinga national park and later named Queen Elizabeth national park in 1954 in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth 11 of Britain. Formerly the national park was a grazing area for the local Basongora who were cattle keepers and their life depended on pastoralism and cattle keeping but due to cattle raiding from Buganda and Bunyoro plus epidemic diseases like small pox the Basongora departed from the land and stated practicing fishing on Kazinga Channel a water body that connects Lake Edward and Lake George and the area was formed into Queen Elizabeth national park.
Queen Elizabeth national park is the second biggest national park in Uganda covering a total land area of 1978 square kilometers and harbors about 95 mammal species including the big four mammals which are the lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and other animals like warthogs, giant forest hogs, bushbucks, waterbucks, Uganda kobs, hippos, oribi, over 619 bird species which makes it the best birding destination in Uganda with various bird species such as spur winged plover, African fish eagle, pied kingfisher, white backed pelican, squaco heron, open billed stork, long tailed cormorant, black crake, wattled plover, reptiles, primates like chimpanzees, baboons, vervet monkeys, black and white monkeys, red tailed monkeys, butterflies among others.
Queen Elizabeth is famously known for the tree climbing lions which are viewed during the game drive in ishasha sector southern part of the park, these tree climbing lions are usually seen lazily lying up in the acacia, fig tree branches in the afternoon staring on the Uganda kobs grazing in the open savannah plains.
What to see and do in Queen Elizabeth national park
Game drive, this is the one of the major activities carried out in the park. Game drives in the national park are carried out in Kasenyi plains and they are done either in the morning or in the afternoon. During the game drive in the park you will be able to view various wildlife animals such as elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, warthogs, waterbucks, bushbucks, Uganda kobs, giant forest hog, bird species such as hooded vulture, brown snake eagle, African white backed vulture among others.
Night game drive, Queen Elizabeth national park is one of the national parks which offer nocturnal game drive to visitors on a safari. Night game drive in the park is done in Mweya peninsular because Kasenyi plains is always crowded with visitors during the day therefore it’s not used for night game drive so as not to stress the animals. it starts after dinner and is done with a park ranger and spotlight torches which will be fitted on a car for clear viewing of the animals. During the night game drive in Queen Elizabeth national park you will be able to view nocturnal animals like genal, leopards, lions, serval cats, civet among others.
Boat cruise, this is an interesting activity in the park where you will be able to cruise meters away from the animals. Boat cruise in the park is carried out on Kazinga channel a water body that joins Lake Edward and Lake George. The boat cruise is done in two sessions that is the morning sessions which starts at 9:00am and the afternoon session which starts at 2:00pm and each session lasts for 2 hours. during the boat cruise you will be able to view large herds of hippos because Kazinga Channel is best known for harboring the highest concentration of hippos in the whole world, you will also view the crocodiles in water and some animals like elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, waterbucks among others along the water banks and aquatic bird species such as African jacana, pink backed pelican, yellow backed weavers, black crake, long tailed cormorant, white backed pelican, little bee-eater, African shoebill, black headed gonolek, African mourning dove, slender billed weaver, pygmy kingfisher, grey capped kingfisher, swamp nightjar among others.
Bird watching, Queen Elizabeth national park is a home of over 619 bird species and is known as one of the best birding destinations in Uganda due to the highest number of birds. bird watching in the park is best done in the morning or in the evening with a birding guide, a pair of binoculars in various areas in the park such as Mweya peninsular, Kasenyi plains, Kazinga channel, Maramagambo forest, Ishasha sector, Katwe salt Lake Kikoongo among others and you will view different bird species like long crested eagle, black bellied bustard, crowned plover, hooded vulture, grey headed kingfisher, red capped lark, red chested sunbird, black headed gonolek, Nubian woodpecker, swamp nightjar, African mourning dove, African finfoot, black cuckoo, honey guide greenbul, broad tailed warbler, black bee-eater, croaking cisticola, black bishop, little stint, common greenshank, broad tailed warbler, southern red bishop, greater flamingos, Senegal plover, grey backed fiscal, yellow billed woodpecker, white headed barbet, double toothed barbet, papyrus gonolek, yellow wagtail, knob billed duck, sacred ibis, saddle billed stork, pink backed pelican, greater swamp warbler among others.
Nature walk, this is an exciting and adventurous activity in the park where visitors get an opportunity to move out of the car and explore the park while enjoying the cool breeze with spectacular views of the landscape, wildlife among others. nature walk in the park is done in various areas in the park such as Mweya peninsular, Maramagambo forest, around lake Kyasanduka, Lake Nyamasingiri, along Ishasha river and you will have great views of primates like l’hoest monkeys, red tailed monkeys, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys in Maramagambo forest, bird species like chestnut wattle eye, scaly breasted illadopsis, snow headed robin chat, blue throated roller, brown eared woodpecker, African paradise flycatcher, animals like hippos, elephants, leopards, antelopes among others.
Chimpanzee trekking, this is the second major activity in Uganda after gorilla trekking in Bwindi impenetrable national park. Chimpanzees in Queen Elizabeth national park are found in Kyambura Gorge which is also known as the Valley of Apes located in the eastern part of the park. Chimpanzee trekking starts with a briefing and it’s done in two sessions either in the morning or in the afternoon and takes about 2 to 3 hours or even longer depending on the location of the chimpanzees because they like to move from one place to another in search of food especially in the dry season. This is an adventurous activity in that you will be able to spend one hour with the chimpanzees in their natural habitat learning more about their habits, behaviors, lifestyle, taking plenty of photos and recording videos.
When to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth national park can be visited all year round though the best time to visit is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. during the dry season there is short grass in the park which favors wildlife viewing, access roads to the park will be passable, nature walk trails and chimpanzee trekking trails in Kyambura Gorge will be passable compared to the wet/rainy season in the months of March to May and October to November when there is heavy rainfall which makes the rails, access roads muddy and slippery. However the rainy season is an ideal period for the budget visitors to travel because the lodges in the destinations will offer discounts and it’s also the best period for bird watching because there will be plenty of fruits and food for the birds and you will also be able to view the migratory birds such as flamingos.
Location and how to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth national park is located in southwestern Uganda in Kasese, Rukungiri, Kamwenge, Rubirizi districts and can be accessed by road and air transport means
Road transport, when using road transport means there are two routes that you can use such as the route from Kampala via Masaka, Mbarara, fort portal and then to the park which takes about 6 to 7 hours’ drive and another route from Kampala via Mubende, fort portal and then to the park which takes about 6 hours’ drive. Both routes reach the park and they are filled with great views on the way such as landscapes, scenery, equator, craft shops, tea plantations, Banana plantations among others.
You can also connect from Bwindi impenetrable national park in south western Uganda to Queen Elizabeth national park through Ishasha sector where you will view the famous tree climbing lions lying up in the acacia, fig trees and the journey takes about 3 to 4 hours’ drive.
Air transport, Queen Elizabeth national park can also be accessed by air transport means in that there are domestic airlines like Aerolink Uganda which operate scheduled and scattered flights from Entebbe airport or Kajjansi airfield to Kasese or Mweya airstrip and the flight takes about one hour.
Where to stay on your safari in Queen Elizabeth national park
Queen Elizabeth national park has a wide range of up-market, midrange and budget accommodation where visitors can stay including Mweya Safari Lodge, Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Enganzi Lodge, Kasenyi Safari Camp, Park View Lodge, Elephant PlainsLlodge, Simba Safari Camp, Mweya Hostels and Cottages, Lake Chibwera Camp, Kyambura Tented Camp, Pumba Safari Cottages, Jacana Safari Lodge, Kitandara Hippo Hill Camp, Ihamba Safari Lodge, Kingfisher Lodge among others. The lodges provide facilities like comfortable beds, restaurants which serve both local and international dishes, swimming pool, free Wi-Fi in some public places, sitting area, gardens for relaxation and some give spectacular views of the park, Kazinga channel, animals, birds and also enjoy the cool breeze after a game drive or chimpanzee trekking activity.