Located in the southwestern part of Uganda, Queen Elizabeth national park is undoubtedly one of the most popular game parks in Uganda. Queen Elizabeth national park covers over 1978km2 and is the oldest protected area in Uganda.
Gazetting of Queen Elizabeth national park started in 1906 when the area to the north of Lake George was declared a Game Reserve and later in 1912, the whole of the Lake George and Ishasha areas (Lake George Game Reserve) were declared restricted areas. The National Park Ordinance was passed on 31st March 1952 that led to legally gazetting of Kazinga National Park later that year.
The game park expanded considerably to include a large area to the east of Lake Edward and Kazinga Channel following the intense lobbying by the Chief Game Warden of that time, Bruce Kinloch, and the Governor.
The developments led to the birth of Queen Elizabeth national park after upgrading the Lake George and Lake Edward game reserves in 1925.
Located in the Albertine rift valley near mountain Rwenzori, Queen Elizabeth national park is continuous with parc national des Virunga in congo hence forming one of the largest protected area systems in east Africa in the Greater Virunga Landscape.
Queen Elizabeth stretches from the crater-dotted foothills of the mountain Rwenzori ranges in the north, along the shores of Lake Edward to the remote Ishasha River in the south with two rainy seasons in march-May and September-November due to the park’s location on the equator and the annual migration of the Inter tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
The highest received in maramagambo forest at 1250mm per year and the lowest received along the Kazinga channel at around 750mm per year. It’s mainly influenced by the mountain Rwenzori to the north and kichwamba escarpment to the east that cause interference with air circulation patterns.
How to get there:
The park can easily be accessed by either air through using a charter flight Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi air strip to Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha or it can be accessed by road from Kampala on 5-6 hours journey via Mbarara and Bushenyi and passes Lake Mburo National Park.
It can also be reached using the most scenic route that passes through Fortportal which is 410km and offers opportunities to Kibale, Semuliki and Mt. Rwenzori national parks. It can also be reached from the south using the route from Buhoma mountain gorilla trailhead in Bwindi impenetrable national park which is just 6km south from Ishasha sector of queen Elizabeth national park. With emphasis, a 4WD vehicle is recommended.
Queen Elizabeth national park has a remarkable variety of ecosystems from savanna, semi-deciduous lowland tropical forests to green meadows and swamps. Queen Elizabeth national park is a designated Biosphere Reserve for Humanity under UNESCO auspices due to its remarkable diversity that favors and supports livelihood of various wild game with over 95 mammal species and over 550 speices of birds that have been recorded.
Queen Elizabeth is home to various wildlife with the notable tree climbing lions on the plains of Kasenyi and Ishasha, as well as the leopards, Uganda Kobs, waterbuck, elephants, many antelope species, giant forest hog, baboons, hippos, warthog, buffalo, hyenas, chimpanzees and many more that will leave you in amusement.
Queen Elizabeth national park is classified as a birding area by birding international since it has undoubtedly the largest number of bird species with over 600 species, the largest in any protected area in Africa. Some of the recorded bird species include 11 types of king fisher, African Mourning Dove, the martial eagle, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Black-rumped Buttonquail, Swamp Fly-catcher, Grey-capped Warbler, Chapin’s flycatcher, The beautiful Black-headed Gonolek, Pink-backed Pelicans, Collard Pranticles, Pin-tailed Whyda Martial Eagle, Gabon and Slender-tailed Nightjars,Great and Long-tailed Cormorants, several species of falcons, Common Squaco Heron, Shoebill Stork, African Open-billed Stork, African Fish Eagle, African Jacana, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, African Skimmer, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, flocks of flamingos, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed Lark, White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary,Great white and White-winged Terns.
Indeed queen Elizabeth national park is every birdwatchers dream.The best way to view the game is to have a launch trip on the Kazinga channel between Lake George and Lake Edward.
ACTIVITIES TO DO ON A QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK SAFARI IN UGANDA
Launch trips on the Kazinga Channel provide the most relaxing way to view game in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The 2-hour return voyage between Mweya and the channel’s entrance into Lake Edward cruises beside banks lined with resident hippos, crocodiles and waterbirds and visiting elephant, buffalo and antelopes.
BIRD WATCHING TOURS.
Birding activities overlap with the wildlife viewing locations described above. Highlights include easy sightings of resident and migratory waterbirds on the Kazinga Channel; spectacular seasonal congregations of flamingoes on the Kyambura and Katwe soda lakes; careful searches for rare and restricted range forest species in Maramagambo Forest; and memorable shoebill sightings on the remote Lake Edward Flats in Ishasha.
Game Viewing tours.
Half an hour’s drive from Mweya, the open grasslands of Kasenyi provide the primary game viewing area in central QENP, thanks to the resident herds of Uganda kob and the lions that prey on them. Kasenyi’s experienced ranger guides can usually locate lions but predator sightings can be guaranteed by signing up for a tour with the Mweya-based Uganda Predator Project which monitors the movement of lions, leopards and hyaenas fitted with radio collars.
Conveniently located on the road to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, QENP’s southernmost sector offers a classic game viewing experience under vast rift valley skies. Expect to see buffaloes, hippos, elephants topis and more besides. The chance of sighting lions is particularly good in Ishasha; the local prides obligingly spend their days resting up in the branches of shady fig trees.
The forest-filled Kyambura Gorge extends from the Kichwamba Escarpment to the Kazinga Channel. Enjoy the giddy viewpoint on the edge of the 100m-deep chasm before descending into the depths to track chimpanzees with UWA guides.
At the foot of the Kichwamba Escarpment, the shady Maramagambo Forest contrasts with the park’s open grasslands. Guided walks afford sightings of primates and rare birds (including the forest flycatcher, white-naped pigeon and the striking Rwenzori turaco) and visit Lake Nyamusingire (home to the African finfoot, this is formed by three connected crater lakes), the copper-rich Blue Lake and the Bat Cave with its resident bat-gorged python.
VOLCANIC EXPLOSION CRATERS
Dozens of volcanic craters pock the landscape north of Mweya to remind us of the Albertine Rift’s violent tectonic history. The 27km Crater Drive between the Kabatoro and Crater gates follows a breathtaking route around the rims of extinct craters filled, variously, with lakes, forest and grassland.
The Queen’s Pavilion, at the Crater Gate on the eastern edge of the crater area, has been visited three times by British royalty. A small information centre and coffee shop stands on the site. The equator markers straddling the adjacent Kasese highway provide a popular photo opportunity.
Katwe Salt Lake
The people of Katwe town, 12km from Mweya, have been extracting salt from the saline Lake Katwe using evaporation pans since the 14th century. Local guides will escort visitors down into the crater to see the process. The adjacent Lake Munyanyange is rich in waterbirds, including migrating lesser flamingo between August and November.
Kyambura Wildlife Reserve
This small reserve to the east of Kyambura Gorge is dotted with crater lakes that are visited, seasonally, by greater and lesser flamingoes.
ACCOMMODATION in Queen Elizabeth national park
Simba Safari Camp
Mweya Safari Lodge – luxury accommodation is an ideal place for relaxation a 5 star lodge with swimming facilities a variety of bird species can be seen in this area.
Jacana Safari Lodge – luxury accommodation is an ideal place for relaxation and refreshment built over the banks of a crater lake you will loose all your worries.
The Institute of Ecology – budget, basic hostel style accommodation.
Camping – can be done at Mweya, Maramagambo Forest and Ishasha sector of the park come with camping facilities or can be provided by the company.