Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most popular savannah parks in Uganda, favourably competing with Kidepo Valley National Park and Murchison Falls National Park which offer unrivalled game viewing safaris. Covering an area of 1978 square kilometres, Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the district of Kasese in the western region of Uganda. The Park lies between Lake George and Lake Edward, with the Kazinga channel crossing the park, giving very great views over the peninsula. The Park was first named Kazinga National Park in 1952 when it was established, but was renamed after the visit by the Queen of England in 1954.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is made of vast savannah plains with savannah grasslands, forests, lakes, wetlands as well Kyambura gorge, all inhabiting a variety of both large and small mammals, as well as various bird species. There are over 618 species of birds in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the 6th highest diversity in the world and probably the highest in Africa, making the park a perfect birding destination. There are 95 mammal species recorded and about 10 primate species can be seen in the park, especially at the Kyambura gorge.
Attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park
There are a variety of attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park that draw the attention of tourists from all walks of life. These include;
Wildlife: The Park has a variety of wildlife species that tourists would see, including some of the big 5 like lions, elephants and buffaloes, as well as others like giraffes, the Uganda kob which is endemic to Uganda, warthogs, antelopes, and so much more. Seeing these animals, as well as bird species that roam the park, causes tourists to visit the park.
Tree climbing lions: These tree climbing lions in the southern Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park are a sight to look at. At the Ishasha sector, the tree climbing lions are commonly seen hanging on the fig and acacia trees of the area, lazily.
The Kazinga channel: Kazinga channel connects Lake Edward and Lake Gorge, and is home to a number of water animals and birds say crocodiles, hippos and a number of reptiles. While on a Kazinga boat safari, all these can be seen with more animals at the shores as they get a dip or drink of the fresh water, say elephants.
Kyambura gorge: This is a forested 100 metre deep valley, and hosts a number of primates like chimpanzees which tourists can see while on a chimpanzee tracking tour in the gorge. Kyambura gorge also has a variety of birdlife and plant species worth seeing.
Kalinzu forest: Kalinzu forest also offers chimpanzee tracking experiences for there are a number of chimpanzees recorded here. The bird and plant life is also good to explore with nature walks and hiking trails in the guidance of a ranger guide.
Lake Katwe salt area: Lake Katwe is an alkaline water body from where salt mining has been done for a long time. Tourists can visit this place to watch observe how salt mining is done, traditionally.
Katwe explosion crater lakes: These are found in the northern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park at a relatively high elevation. The place is a sight to marvel at, and while here, tourists can enjoy stunning views of the Rwenzori mountain ranges, the western Rift Valley escarpments as well as Lake George and Lake Edward.
Mweya peninsular as well as the Kasenyi plains are great places to be at while in Queen Elizabeth National Park. While Kasenyi plains offer great game viewing trails, the Mweya peninsular also gives great game drives as well as wonderful views of Lake Edward.
With these attractions, there are various activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park that tourists can do to explore and enjoy the park. These include;
Game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park offer great game viewing of the wildlife in the park. Game drives in Queen Elizabeth can be done all day long. Early morning game drives has tourists spotting a number of nocturnal animals as they return from their night activities, as well as other wild animals as they get out of their sleeping areas to start the day. Morning game drives are the most rewarding, as well as evening game drives. Tourists see among other animals elephants, lions, buffaloes, antelopes, hippos and so much more. Night game drives in Queen Elizabeth give tourists more chance to see the nocturnal wildlife like leopards which are rather hard to see in the day. Night game drives are conducted in the company of a ranger guide.
With about 618 bird species, bird watching in Queen Elizabeth is an activity that ought to be done in one of the best bird watching paradises. Birders shall enjoy their time here. Be sure to have a bird guide and binoculars for you stand a chance of seeing at least 100 bird species in just a day.
Boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth National Park is done on the Kazinga channel which has pools of hippos, crocodiles, water birds and other reptiles roaming around in the nearby bushes, as well as wild animals like elephants and buffaloes taking a drink from the fresh water.
Chimpanzee tracking is done in both Kalinzu Forest and Kyambura gorge, where a number of chimpanzees can be found. Tourists should do this in the guidance of an armed ranger guide. An hour at most is spent with the chimpanzees once encountered.
Balloon safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Balloon safaris in The Park are a unique adventurous activity that has tourists getting on a hot air balloon for a bird’s eye view of the park. This starts very early in the morning with a cup of tea or coffee, and ends with a sumptuous bush breakfast.
Cultural tours in Queen Elizabeth take tourists to the local communities near the park from where they get to observe and take part in the various activities in their traditional homesteads say cooking, tilling the land manually, harvest salt locally, and so much more. Traditional dances and music can be enjoyed with the locals at the end of the day.
The best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park
The best time to visit Queen Elizabeth is during the dry season which falls in the months of June to September and January to February. March to May and august to December are the best time to enjoy bird watching in Queen Elizabeth. The park can be visited all year long therefore, depending on what activity you are after.
How to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park
It is only 389km from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth National Park, a road drive therefore takes about 6 hours via Masaka Road. The drive is great for tourists get to see the countryside and enjoy some scenic views along the way. Tourists not interested in a road transfer can have a charter flight from Entebbe International Airport or Kajansi to any of the airstrips in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Aerolink Uganda has scheduled flights that tourists can look at and book, in advance.
Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth National Park
There are a number of accommodation facilities in This National Park that tourists can stay in, ranging from luxury to basic that come in lodges, hotels, tented camps or campsites. Some of the accommodation facilities tourists can choose from include Ishasha wilderness Camp, Mweya safari lodge and so much more.
Queen Elizabeth Park is a great savannah park to spend time with nature and away from the noise and bustle of the city. A 3 days wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth is one of the most booked Uganda safari packages by tourists. Most tourists however do combine it with one or more destinations say Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for gorilla trekking, Kibale National Park for chimpanzee tracking, or even rafting on the Nile River, bungee jumping or hiking the Rwenzori Mountains. Whatever is of your choice and preference can be put together, you just only need to reach out to a reputable tour operator.