Lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth national Park
Lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth national Park ( Uganda lion tracking , uganda wildlife safari) Queen Elizabeth national park is the second largest national park after Murchison falls national park and it is one of Uganda’s best wildlife national parks to experience the true savannah African safari. Queen Elizabeth national park is located in the western part of Uganda shared by Kasese and Rubirizi districts with spectacular and views of Rwenzori mountain ranges in the background. The park is gifted with about 95 mammals and over 500 different bird species making it one of the birding destinations in Uganda. Some of the animals to be found in Queen Elizabeth national park include; the savannah elephants, Cape Buffaloes, Leopards, lions and the different antelope species. The park has over 200 large cats in both its northern and southern sectors including Kasenyi area, Mweya and Ishasha sector.
Queen Elizabeth national park is one of the best places in Africa to see the lions and most uniquely besides being a home to the normal lions, the park is a home to the tree climbing lions which are the main tourist attraction in Queen Elizabeth national park. The park has the largest population of tree climbing lions in Africa and it is one of the few parks in Africa where you will have a wide experience of the lions especially the tree climbing ones. The tree climbing lions are mainly found in the southern part of the park called Ishasha sector given the nature of the trees and vegetation in that area. The best time to encounter the tree climbing lions is on hot day game drive around the area as most of them lazily lay on large fig tree branches. Although tree climbing lions are considered as a highlight of a wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth national park, it is not guaranteed that on every game drive, visitors will be able to spot the tree climbing lions. Hence the park introduced an experiential activity that is even more interesting and guaranteed for tourists that is to say Lion Tracking.
Lion tracking experience is one of the best activities to do while in Queen Elizabeth national park because it offers tourists an opportunity to get very close to the wild lions in their natural habitat. Lion tracking activity only takes place in Queen Elizabeth national park and only in Kasenyi area which is the northern part also known as Kasenyi plains. The activity involves driving off track with on provided guidelines as you follow the lions closely in their habitat to learn more about their feed habits, behaviour and natural habitat. This activity is only guided or led by experienced researchers from the Uganda Carnivore Program who are responsible for this experience. Thus this is a more interesting experience to do as compared to a normal game drive where your chances of seeing the lions are guaranteed.
First and foremost, these lions in the park are tracked and monitored by the Uganda Carnivore Program, a wildlife conservation body under the research department of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The program started way back in the 1990s with the aim of protecting the Uganda large predators after an outbreak of an epidemic that was destroying predators in Serengeti national park. Also the fear of conservationists by the numerous deaths of lions in Uganda resulted into the formation of this program which eventually helped the conservationists to realise that it is due to poisoning of the lions by the communities around the park thus a decision was concluded to maintain the program in order to monitor and carry out more research of the behaviour of the lions and other predators. Given that the main purpose of the Uganda Carnivore program is conservation, the communities around Queen Elizabeth national park are not left out. They ensure that there is harmony between wildlife and the communities. The animals often destroy the farmlands of the communities and so the program has to monitor the movements of these predators to avoid poisoning of the communities and this has been done through acquiring modern tracking devices used to track the predators
How lion tracking is done in Queen Elizabeth national park
Lion tracking experience in Queen Elizabeth national park involves following a pride of lions to learn more about their behaviours including feed habits and movements and this has been made possible with the advanced tracking technology where a tracking device which is a radio collar fitted on a dominant lioness to enable the researchers to monitor the whole pride. The radio collar further sends frequencies which are delivered by a GPS system that gives the exact location of the pride of lions anytime the frequency is dialled. Lions tend to move a lot most especially if their prey is scarce however to determine that the pride is close; the tracking device simply beeps intensively to notify the researchers that they are pretty close.
Lion tracking is so different from the normal game drives simply because it involves driving off the main tracks of a usual game drive and drive deep inside the Savannah grassland depending on the location of the pride of lions, once it is identified that the lions are close, the driver stops to avoid scaring the lions and you get a rare opportunity to view the lions at a closer range and if you are lucky, you may witness the researchers doing their work like collecting samples of DNA, Urine, blood, ticks and other samples after tranquilizer is applied on the lions, you will also be able to watch as the baby lions play around their resting adults or watch the lions feed on their prey.
Lion tracking experience is done in three sessions in a day that is in the morning, afternoon and night sessions and each session lasts about 2 to 3 hours and it requires an advanced booking to be made days before the experience on which session to do and on the day of the experience, you are required to report earlier enough for a briefing from the researchers about the expectations of the whole activity before you embark on the looking for the lions. During the activity, the researchers will be able to give you information about the lions including their biology, behaviours, habitats and threats, their lifespan and their roles among other. For example information like the lioness is smaller in size as compared to the lion but they are the best hunters and can fight the males off in order to protect their cabs, the lions mark territories by creating holes using their hind legs, lions use different vocals signs to show distress just to mention a few.
Lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth national park comes at an extra cost to amount you pay for a usual game drive. International tourists pay USD 60 while East African citizens pay USD 30 to participate in this experience. Payment is only made when you access the park at Mweya Information Centre or simply contact your tour company to handle payment for you. In order to support the communities around the park, the Uganda Carnivore Program removes USD 10 from each payment to give to the community. Special note that the price of lion tracking experience is not included in the park entry fees to Queen Elizabeth national park. Advance booking is required given that there is a limit on the number of tourists taken for lion tracking experience
Lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth national park takes place in the northern part of the park that is Kasenyi plains and this area has the largest concentration of animals so while tracking, you will also encounter animals like the elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, antelopes to mention but a few. If you are lucky, you may also be able to encounter other predators such as the leopards and hyenas.
Other activities to do in Queen Elizabeth national park
If you plan to combine lion tracking with other activities in Queen Elizabeth national park, there are several other activities to do to increase your stay in the park apart from lion tracking and game drives. Queen Elizabeth is blessed with two lakes that are Lake George and Lake Edward, these lakes facilitate boat cruises to the Kazinga channel where serval water animals like the hippos and crocodiles can be spotted. The Kyambura Gorge is one of the best areas in the park good for nature walks, bird watching and chimpanzees tracking. The communities around the park offer community tours for visitors to experience their way of life around the park. Some other activities include; coffee plantation tours, exploration crater lakes visits just to mention a few.
How to access Queen Elizabeth national park
Queen Elizabeth national park can be accessed by both road and air transport. By Air, there are two airstrips available for flights accessing the park that is Mweya airstrip and Kasese airstrip. These flights are operated by Aerolink Uganda limited from Entebbe international airport. The flights last for 2 hours flight given the connections. By road, you can access the park either via Mbarara or via Fort portal from Kampala. It takes about 6 to 7 hours driving on road from Kampala/Entebbe to Queen Elizabeth national park
Where to stay in Queen Elizabeth national park
There is no need to worry about where to stay while on your lion tracking experience in Queen Elizabeth national park because the park has different accommodation options you can choose from ranging from Luxury, mid-range, budget and camping sites. These accommodation facilities are privately owned and most of them are situated outside the park however very accessible for activities. Some of the accommodations include; Mweya Safari lodge, Kyambura Gorge lodge, Elephant Plains lodge, Katara lodge, Ishasha Wilderness Camp in the category of luxury, Parkview Safari lodge, Elephant Hub lodge, Engazi lodge in the category of Mid-range, Engiri Game lodge, Pumba Safari Cottages, Buffale lodge, Simba Safari lodge in the category of budget accommodations. Finally, it is important to note that lion tracking is gone at any time of the year.