Queen Elizabeth National Park
This is Uganda’s famous and most visited park situated in western Uganda, lying on the floor of West African Arm of the rift valley.The park was gazette as a national park in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, and renamed two years later in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth II’s visit. The park is home to over 95 mammal species and over 600 bird species. Its highest point is marked at the Katwe explosion craters 1350m above sea level whereas the lowest point is at Lake Edward 910m. This national park has two seasons dry and rainy season, the dry season starts from December, January to February and June to July, the rainy season starts from March-May and from September – November. Standard temperatures range from about 29o C and a minimum of 17oC.
Queen Elizabeth is endowed with a vast ecosystems ranging from sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands this has enabled it to be the ideal habitat for classic big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds. It is also known to be with largest number of hippopotamus in East Africa and kobs in Uganda.
Attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
It is located in Kasese district western Uganda,it is a natural channel that connects 2 water bodies; Lake Edward and George. It is one of the most prestigious park’s attractions which harbors quite a number of game which quench their thirst at the channel and birds. It is divided into 2 section south and the Kasenyi plains which is Ideal for lion tracking activity. The channel is also where the most enjoyed boat cruise in the park takes place, it starts in the morning at 11am to 1pm and evening from 3pm-5pm. During the cruise, you will have a chance to see the game such as the buffalos, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, birds and the fishing villages across the waters.
It is situated on the northern bank of Kazinga channel, it consists of a diversity of flora and fauna and spectacular view of the Ruwenzori Mountains. It also has a number of game tracks though game viewing can sometimes be challenging because of the small thorny bushes and trees but it is the best place to spot the leopards.
Ishasha Tree climbing lions
These amazing creatures can be seen in the southern part of the park; Ishasha sector. They can be spotted hanging in candelabrum trees during a game drive in this particular area. Lions are not fond of climbing trees however these ones found in Ishasha sector do because of the following reasons; getting away from insects like tsetse flies which breed during the rainy season, for a shade and cool temperatures as they rest, clear view of their prey especially the antelopes as they feed in the savannah.
These savannah plains are located in the north eastern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park, It is the breeding ground for kobs which attracts many lions and other cats which come to feast on their prey. Lion tracking is the main activity done in this area. The lions are occasionally spotted by tourists chasing and catching their prey for a meal. The plains are also a habitat to savannah birds such as the yellow throated long crow, grey crown cranes, red throated spur flow……
Other animals that can also be seen grazing include: Elephants, warthogs and buffalos. The plains also have eye catching views since they are adjacent to Lake George.
Most tourists like visiting these plains during a game drive because they have a clear glance at the wildlife as they feed especially the lions, the kobs mating. It gives a good opportunity to take clear photos of the game.
Salt mines at Lake Katwe
These mines are found outside the park in Lake Katwe. The formation is as a result of volcanic activity also among the crater lakes found in the area. It provides salt to Uganda for cooking and preservation of foods and dyeing of clothes. During your visit to these mines you will be able to observe the local people mining salt in order to earn a living and also listen to their life experience stories at the salt lake.
It is one of the popular mature tropical forest found in the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National park. It has a number of fruit bats which are found in the forest caves. Tourists can take a nature/forest walks in the forest as they watch the bats, other primates like unhabituated chimpanzees and monkeys, the pythons can also be spotted.
This is where chimpanzee tracking experience takes place in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the success of viewing these primates in their natural habitat is 90% since they are always on the move in search for food. The activity starts in the morning before the chimps leave their nest and ends towards the afternoon. Tourists trek in the forest looking for the chimps, restricted to persons who are above 15 years and are advised to keep a distance of 7m away from them. Other primates found in Kyambura include: the black & white colobus monkeys, olive baboons as well as the red tailed monkey. There are also forest birds in addition to other species among which include the martial eagle, bar-tailed godwit, black-ramped buttonquail, shoebill, African skimmer, lesser plus greater flamingo, chapin’s flycatcher, white-tailed lark, corncrake, pink backed pelican, verreaux’s eagle owl, papyrus canary, white-winged warbler, African broadbill, papyrus gonolek and the black bee-eater are commonly seen.
The Kyambura gorge is based explored on foot as you take a glimpse through the forest as you enjoy the nature.
Kalinzu Forest reserve
This forest is situated in Bushenyi district western region of Uganda, on the boundary of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The most popular activity done in the forest is chimpanzee trekking, it has more chimpanzees compared to those in Kyambura Gorge. There are 4 trails in the forest for nature walk namely: palm, river, valley, waterfall trails. Six distinct Species of Primates found in Kalinzu Forest Reserve including the Blue Monkeys, Vervet Monkeys, Black and White Colobus Monkeys and Chimpanzees, 70 or more chimpanzees have been habituated can be tracked. About 262 Butterflies, 97 Moths, Reptiles and Flowers can be seen while on a trek the forest. About 378 bird species call this their home including the great blue turaco, black and white cascket, cuckoos and sunbirds. A hike up the Kishunja Hill Viewpoint, enables you observe the whole Forest Canopy, incredible parts of the Queen Elizabeth National Park and a few Peaks of the Ruwenzori Mountains.
Besides the camping ground, the forest has no established accommodation facility so one would need to sleep in or near Queen Elizabeth National park so as to do visit Kalinzu. Not forgetting packed lunch since you will be spending the whole day doing activities.
Activities done in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Game drive; as earlier mentioned, the park is a great number of wildlife ranging from: wildcats, antelops, bufffalos, elephants, hyenas, warthog, primates e.tc. The activity is done 3 times a day, in the morning starting at 7am and ends towards the after and another starts at 3pm and ends in the evening. The morning game drive enables you to catchup with the early risers as they hunt for food. The evening game drive gives you a chance to see the animals as they rest under the shades and the during the night game drive you will likely see the nocturnal, the wildcats as they hunt.
This leisure activity is done along the kazinga channel as you enjoy the cool water and air breeze. You also get a chance to see schools of hippos basking in the water, crocodiles as they sunbath, spot some water birds , water bucks and buffaloes, elephants on the shores.
This is done in Kyambura gorge which is a home to some primates especially the Chimpanzees. Guides or trackers take you on an early morning guided trek in the forest as you search for the wild Chimpanzee. During the trek you will also spot some birds, butterflies and other primates like; monkeys, baboons. On encountering the chimpanzees you will be able to observe their ways of life, however you are required to keep a distance of 7m away from them. They are said to be close cousins to humans, are extremely endangered with only an estimated 5000 remaining in Uganda. Please note: tracking may be fairly strenuous as the chimpanzees are highly mobile as they search for food throughout the forest. Also, chimpanzees are wild animals and, as such, sightings cannot be guaranteed. However viewing success rates are over 90%
Lion Tracking in Kasenyi Plains.
This activity can only be done in these plain because of the large concentration of Kobs, it is also regarded as their mating and breeding. This attracts lions which come to feast on these antelopes as they feed. The lions can clearly be seen in the savannah plains as they hunt for prey. Tourists have a chance to spot the lions and take clear photos for memories of the experience.
The community walk includes visitation of the landing site and getting marine information, the fish preservation stoves, traditional canoe making demonstrations, proceed for net sawing, a chance to see women making crafts, then to the location which is the only place in Queen Elizabeth national park to get as close as possible to Hippos, reach the spot that has the most beautiful view. Some of these communities include; Katwe, Kasoga, Kikorongo, muhokya (leopard village) just to mention but a few.
The park is on the list of International Birding Areas (IBA) and has a Ramsar wetland site. Birding is mostly done in Kasenyi plains for savannah birds,on Kazinga channel water birds and maramagambo forest for the forest birds. The park contains over 600 bird species making it a must visit destination for birders to Uganda, Migratory birds are seen from November to April, however birds can be seen throughout the year. Some of the birds include: Snake Eagle, Barbet, Cinnamon Chested Bee-eater, Kingfisher, Lesser Striped Swallow, Zitting Cisiticola, Grey-backed Shrike, Common Fiscal, Starling and Widowbird.
Hot air balloon ride
This is one of the new unique activities done in the park, it starts early morning at kasenyi gate where the launch takes place. As you drive from the lodge/campsite to kasenyi, you get a chance to see some nocturnals. It is an exciting and fan activity as you fly over the park savannah plains as you take beautiful clear photos.
These walks are mostly done in Maramagambo Forest to see the bat and hunter caves, birds, unhabituated chimpanzees, monkeys, baboons. This natural forest tropical forest in situated in Queen Elizabeth National park. These walks will need you to be fit and ready to experience this natural forest
When planning a trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park one of the least worries should be on accommodation. There are quite a big number of lodges ranging from luxury, midrange to budget. They provide comfort and delicious international and local dishes.
Luxury Accommodations include; Mweya Safari Lodge, Katara Safari Lodge, Elephant Plains Lodge and Ishasha Wilderness Camp
Mid-range: Enganzi, park view, Kasenyi Safari Camp, simba, Marafiki Lodge, Queen Elizabeth Safari Camp.
Budget: Mweya Hostels and cottages, tembo, topi, Irunga Safari Lodge, Pumba, river Ishasha camp.
The park can be accessed using road and air transport, from Kampala or Entebbe it is approximately 6-7 hour’s drive via Mbarara or Fortportal including stopovers. It can also be accessed while coming from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in the southern part via the Ishasha sector. For those who intend to use air transport there are charter flights operated by aero link from Kajansi Airstrip in Entebbe that fly to mweya airport or kasese air strip. About 11 passengers are transported on every flight. However those that land at Kasese strip still drive approximately 3 and half hours to the park.