Queen Elizabeth National Park was established in 1952 in the west of Uganda in the Albertine rift as Kazinga National Park overlooking the magical mountains of the moon – the Rwenzoris. It stretches across the rift valley floor about 1,978km2. Queen Elizabeth National Park provides shelter to 95 mammal species, 600 bird species in Uganda making it the first park in Uganda with great bird count, second in Africa and sixth on the African continent, 10 primate species and 20 species of predator. The park is also a home of the tree climbing lions in its southern sector of Ishasha which only exist here and in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania, the famous 45m long Kazinga channel connecting Lakes George and Edward, the Kyambura gorge with its counts of Chimpanzees and a series crater lakes some of which are salty such as Lake Katwe. The combination of these makes Queen Elizabeth National Park an ideal Uganda safari destination no wonder it is apparently the most visited park in Uganda.

The park shares Kasese, Bushenyi, Kamwenge and Rukungiri districts and is 417km about 7 hours west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. The adjacent towns include Kasese in the north east and Bushenyi in the south of the park. The name of the park was altered from Kazinga National Park to Queen Elizabeth National Park to commemorate visiting of the Queen of England in 1954.

QUEEN-ELIZABETH-NP

Wildlife

Queen Elizabeth National Park contains one of the great bio diversity rankings in the world’s national parks. The combination of 10 primate species, 95 mammal species and classic big game with four of the big five and 20 species of predators. The wildlife species in Queen Elizabeth National Park include; lions, side stripped jackal, spotted hyena, leopard, Uganda kob, water buck, topi, and bush buck, elephants, hippos, warthogs Buffaloes, chimpanzees, blue monkey, olive baboons, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkey. The southern sector of Ishasha contains tree climbing lions while Kazinga channel has concentrations of hippos.

Birds

Queen Elizabeth National Park contain 600 species of birds which qualifies as the number one park with the highest counts of birds in Uganda, second in Africa and 6th in Africa. These counts of birds dwell in varied ecosystems which can be seen below;
Kasenyi Area. Though the savannah plains of Kasenyi area are known for game viewing on Uganda safaris, the area has a range of birds among which include the following;, Palm-nut Vulture, Hooded Vulture African White-backed Vulture, Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Brown Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Bateleur, Long-created Eagle, Martial Eagle, Grey Kestrel, African Crake, Black-bellied Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, Crowned Plover, Senegal Plover, African Wattled Plover, Rufous napped Lark, Kittlitz’s Plover, Flappet Lark, White-tailed Lark, Brown-backed Srub-Robin, Zitting Cisticola, Croaking Cisticola, Black-lored Babbler, Grey backed Fiscal, Grey-capped Warbler, Black-crowned Tchagra, Pin-tailed Whydah, Fork-tailed Drongo and Black-headed Gonolek.
The Mweya Peninsula. This is between Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward and the range of bird species that can be encountered by birders on Uganda safari include; African Mourning Dove, Diederik Cuckoo, Raptors, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Swamp Flycatcher, Squire-tailed Nightjar, Swamp Nightjar, Grey-Headed Kingfisher, Red-chested Sunbird, Blue-naped Mousebird, Nubian Woodpecker, Pygmy Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Swallows, Red-capped Lark, Martins, Swifts, Grey-capped Warbler, Lesser Masked Weaver, Black-headed Gonolek, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Pin-tailed Whydah, Yellow-backed Weaver and Slender-billed Weaver.

Maramagambo Forest

The maramagambo forest is a famous mature tropical forest with a range of forest birds among which include; African Finfoot, Little Grebe, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, Yellow bill, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Black Coucal, Black Bee-eater, Barbets, Blue-throated Roller, Red-throated Wryneck, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Honey guide Greenbul, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Dark-capped Warbler, Green Crombec, African Moustached Warbler, Broad-tailed Warbler, Croaking Cisticola, Black-headed Batis, Black-and-white Shrike Flycatcher, Chestnut Wattle-eye, African Paradise Flycatcher, Brown Illadopsis, Marsh Tchagra, Brubru, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Black Bishop, Western Black-headed Oriole and White-breasted Negrofinch.
Katwe Area. The range of crater lakes in this area supports a range of birds among which include; lesser and greater Flamingoes on Lake Munyanyange Others include; Eurasian Mash Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Avocet, Little Stint, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Red-capped Lark, African Moustached Warbler, Broad-tailed Warbler, Croaking Cisticola and Southern Red Bishop

Ishasha Sector

The southern extension of Queen Elizabeth National Park is not only known for tree climbing lions but for a range of birds including; Palm-nut Vulture, Shoebill, Hooded Vulture, African Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Brown Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Long-created Eagle, African Crowned Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Martial Eagle, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-bellied Bustard, African Crake, African Wattled Plover, African Green Pigeon, Senegal Plover, Ross’s Turaco, Broad-billed Roller, Striped Kingfisher, Double-toothed Barbet, Greater Honeyguide, White-headed Barbet, Grey Woodpecker, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, White-browed Robin-Chat, Green Crombec, Cisticolas, Yellow-billed Oxpecker and Grey-backed Fiscal.
Lake Kikorongo. Lake Kikorongo is very close to Lake George and hosts a range of waders. Other bird species encountered by Uganda safari undertakers on this lake include; Common Squacco Heron, Shoebill, Saddle-billed Stork, Sacred Ibis, Black Crake, African Jacana, Knob-billed Duck, Yellow Wagtail, Lesser Swamp Warbler, White-winged Warbler, Greater Swamp Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek and Carruther’s Cisticola.

Katunguru Bridge Area

While crossing the Kazinga channel from Kasese to Rubirizi or either way, there is a bridge with a papyrus swamp which hosts a range of birds including; Pink-backed Pelican, White-winged Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Pied Kingfisher, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Malachite Kingfisher, Greater Swamp Warbler, Carruther’s Cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek and White-winged Warbler.
Kazinga channel.
The 45m long Kazinga channel connects Lakes George in the East and Edward in the west. It is considered as one of the striking attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Lake George which is a small lake about 2.4m deep and 259km2 wide and gets its waters from the glaciers of Rwenzori mountain . The Kazinga channel provides an outflow for this lake connecting to Lake Edward which is bigger and is considered to be among the main fresh water lakes of Uganda which stretches to 2 000 km2. Kazinga Channel has a range of aquatics including; the Nile crocodile which is the second largest reptile in the world after salty water crocodile, Hippopotamus among others alongside a range of wild game that drinks on the channel shores and abundant birdlife that dwells along the shores of Kazinga channel. All this makes Kazinga channel worthy of encountering on Uganda safari.

Equator

Besides wildlife, Queen Elizabeth National park is also crossed by the equator which is the world’s main latitude dividing the world into the southern and northern hemispheres. The site provides a ground for water experiments to justify this divide and it is also impressive for photography.

Kyambura gorge

Situated in the eastern side of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kyambura gorge is about 1km in width and 100m in depth. The Kyambura gorge is well known for populations of chimpanzees along with other primates like Monkeys. Interestingly, the gorge has got a lush tropical forest flourishing below sea level. The floor of the gorge is traversed by a flowing Kyambura River. The combination of these makes Kyambura an attractive place to encounter on Uganda safaris.

Queen Elizabeth National Park can be connected to from the following points.

queen-elizabeth-points-of-direction

• Queen Elizabeth National Park can also be accessed on public means. Buses connect daily from Kampala to Kasese. There are other public means to Katwe and Katunguru trading centers which are very close to the park. From these centers, you can get a private vehicle to connect to your lodge.
• Queen Elizabeth National Park can also be connected to by Air travel. Aero link operates scheduled flights from Entebbe International Airport to Kasese and Mweya Airstrips. Other charter carriers offer the same service from either Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield to Kasese or Mweya Airstrips.

Birding.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is seen as an Important Bird Area in the world with 600 species of birds making it the first in Uganda, second in Africa and the sixth in world thus posing a rich ground for ideal birding opportunities while on Uganda safaris. There are a range of birds that can be encountered in the following parts of the park including; Kazinga Channel, Ishasha Sector, Mweya Peninsula, Maramagambo Forest, Katunguru Bridge area, Kasenyi Area, Katwe Area and Lake Kikorongo. Bird species that can be encountered include among others; Martial Eagle, African broad bill, Papyrus canary, Pink-backed pelican, Black- rumped Buttonquail, lesser and greater Flamingoes, Martial Eagle, Helmeted Guineafowl, Black-bellied Bustard, African Crake, African Wattled Plover, African Green Pigeon among others.
Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park is ideally done from December to February and two to three days stay can be enough to explore the range of birds in the park for a lasting experience on Uganda safari.

Chimp tracking

Queen Elizabeth National Park has got counts of chimpanzees in the Kyambura gorge that has been habituated for chimpanzee trekking experience. The chimp trekking in Kyambura is one the challenging activities that you can encounter on Uganda safaris. The chimp trek does not only expose you to chimps but also to lush tropical forest that thrives with in the gorge that is below sea level, the beautiful flowing river on the gorge floor and amazing steep landscapes. The encounter with chimps in Kyambura gorge is conducted twice a day both in the morning at 8am and in the afternoon at 2pm.

Game drives

Game drive is among the key tourist activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The rolling savannah combretum that mark the flat landscapes of Queen Elizabeth National Park offers impressive game viewing encounters. The Kasenyi and channel tracks exposes you to a range of wildlife including; lions, elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, leopard, baboons, warthogs among others. The drives in the Ishasha sector offer you chances of spotting tree climbing lions. The game drive activity is best done in the morning starting at 6:30 am and in the evening at 4pm lasting for 3 – 4 hours.

Launch trips.

The 45m long Kazinga Channel offers rewarding launch trip for travellers on Uganda safari. The launch trip which is best done in the afternoon exposes you to populations of Hippos, Nile crocodile, over 60 species of birds and a range of wild game drinking on the channel side. The Kazinga Channel launch cruise takes 2 hours. The UWA launch leaves at 2pm and 4pm daily.

Experiential tours

The experiential activities are designed to enable you have the close encounter with wildlife. The experiential tours include; mongoose tracking, predator tracking and Hippo Census. The activities tend to last between 1- 3 hours and is normally done early in the morning, evening and sometimes at night. It also involves monitoring species that migrate into the park with the help of locator devices, learning the habituation calls and monitoring atmospheric conditions.

Cultural Encounters.

There are various tribal groups that surround Queen Elizabeth National Park with diverse heritage and traditions that can be explored on Uganda safari.

Leopard Village

The leopard village nears the Muhokya village in the north of Queen Elizabeth National Park. This village exposes you to the traditions of the locals including the traditional huts of the Basongora, Bakonzo, and Banyabindi along with their handicrafts and performances.
Kikorongo Women Community. The Kikorongo Women Community offers impressive encounter of the traditional life in Kikorongo village It involves interesting music dance and drama, fire making and craft making.

Katwe Tourism Information Centre (KATIC)

The Katwe Tourism Information Center (KATIC) takes you through the offerings at Lake Katwe salt lake exploring the process of salt making, extraction and eventual production and how the people have molded their livelihood around tis natural product. They also have interesting traditional performances and handicrafts.
Nyanz’ibiri Cave Community. This community encounter exposes you the scenic views of the volcanic craters that are surrounded by rewarding tunes of cranes and eagles. The encounter allows you to take a canoe ride on the lake with pure waters amidst sights of primates and birds. The community takes you to their cultural museum and the Banyaruguru hut where various traditional artifacts are gathered.

Agro-Tour Walk

The Kichwamba Escarpment is the eastern side of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Agro-tour walk commences from the Katara village lasting 2 – 3 hours involving hiking through farmlands in the cool morning or in the evenings. There is also provision for honey harvesting.

Nature walks

Queen Elizabeth National Park can also be explored on foot.
There are rewarding nature walks in Maramagambo forest. The walk from Jacana lodge and the visitor center stretches for 1km and can be conducted unguided at a free cost except for the standard visitation fees.
Three guided walks are carried out in Maramagambo forest starting from the visitor center including;
The straight walk takes you around Lake Kyasanduka forest shore and tends to last for less than one hour depending of the traveller’s interest in birds.
A famous walk taking about 90 minutes leads to a cave where enormous numbers of bats thrive alongside a rock python.
The walk to Lake Nyamasingiri is ideal for birders. It takes about half day and offers sights of birds like snowy headed robin chat, chestnut wattle eye and scaly-breasted illadopsis.
Other nature walks are done in Mweya peninsular offering scenic views of Kazinga channel, Lake Edward and the impressive savannah landscapes.