Queen Elizabeth National Park is undeniably one of Uganda’s most magnificent protected areas that shouldn’t miss out on your travel plan. It was founded in 1952 making it one of the oldest conservation areas. It covers an area of about 1978 square kilometers making it the second biggest savanna grassland national park in Uganda. The park is situated along the Equator, South-western Uganda, at the base of the Great Rift Valley between Lake George and Edward and borders the Democratic Republic of Congo on the western region.
Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area comprises Kyambura and Kigezi wildlife reserves that make up a total area of 2475 square kilometers. Its temperatures range from 18 degrees Celsius to 28 degrees Celsius. It experiences its wet season from March to May and September to November and it receives rainfall amounts ranging from 750 to 1250mm. The park lies with elevation of 910 meters at Lake Edward 1390 meters in the crater region.
Getting to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is reachable from the Southern side of Kampala along Mbarara to Bushenyi-Katunguru approximately 420 kilometers and from the North via Fort Portal to Kasese through Katunguru for about 410 kilometers. You can also take the South direction from Kabale or Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park through Kihihi to Ishasha gate.
There are also charter flights to Kasese, Mweya, and Ishasha. On your way to Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can make a short stopover at Lake Mburo National Park or at the Equator, Kibale Forest National Park the famous park for chimpanzee trekking then to Ishasha gate.
What you should expect to see while on a guided or self-drive safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Expect to catch a glimpse at the 4 of the big 5 game especially the African Lions plus tree climbing lions, Buffaloes, Elephants, and Leopards as well as other wildlife species like a hyena, topi, giant forest hog, Uganda Kob, Aardvark, Civet, Bushbuck, Warthog, Bushbabies, Columbus monkeys, Hippos, Baboons, Chimpanzees and for birder, there are more than 620 bird species for you to spot out, for instance, the fish eagle, bee-eater, 11 kingfishers, falcons, shoebill stork, vultures, eagles, flamingos, and beautiful butterflies and others.
The park’s terrain also comes with a myriad of Lakes of different types and sizes, they range from great freshwater lakes and inland salt Lakes to mirror surfaced crater Lakes. It also comprises of marshland and broad savanna, mountains, and mysterious untapped wooded valleys.
Activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Launch cruise through the Kazinga channel
This is the most popular activity that attracts the majority of tourists on safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park. This channel covers about 40 kilometers long and connects Lake George to Lake Edward providing spectacular views to a wide range of wildlife species especially water birds, hippos, crocodiles, and much aquatic life.
Game drives are done early in the morning and late in the evening along the 200 kilometers of well-maintained tracks providing the best views of the park’s game and the slower you drive the more you have a wide range of wildlife views. You will also have a chance to pass through the large mating grounds for Uganda Kob. Queen Elizabeth National Park has three wildlife tracks; the northern crater sector, Kasenyi area, and the Ishasha region. All these tracks come with incredible wildlife species for you to spot out.
Nature walks feature among the biggest activities for visitors on safari to Maramangambo forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park as it is the perfect site for you to catch a glimpse at the primates and forest bird species. The trails allow you to explore the forest around Lake Nyamusingire. You may also visit the Bat Cave where the bat hungry python and the copper-rich blue Lake are located.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kyambura Gorge
Habituated chimpanzees stay in the 100m deep gorge carved by the Kyambura River which flows across the rift valley floor towards the Kazinga channel. Guided walks to look for chimpanzees begin at Kyambura fig tree camp at 8:00 am.
Queen Elizabeth National Park offers refuge to more than 620 bird species. Birding is conducted by experienced guides, and they know about the most exciting bird species and their sites around the water bodies of the park.
The park and the trail accommodation
Mweya peninsular and the northern circuit
This area comprises the visitor center, luxury lodge, and restaurant, hostel, campsite, budget food option, and also the departure point for the Kazinga channel launch trip and is still jam-packed with birds and wildlife. Its altitude offers the most outstanding views of the Kazinga channel and vicinity savanna. The peninsula is also strategically situated and offers travelers a chance to connect to the departure points for morning and evening drives to the northern circuit.
The Kazinga channel
While on a boat cruise along the Kazinga channel, you will have a chance to spot the hippos crocodiles, elephants, buffaloes, and waterbird species together with caimans, monitor lizards, marabou storks, weaver birds, and elephant pair of fish eagles on the banks of the Kazinga channel.
Katwe and explosion craters
The Katwe and explosive craters are expansive volcanic basins spread across the park. The 27 kilometers drive between Kabatoro gate and Queen’s pavilion takes in views of the enormous craters, circular Lake, the Rift valley escarpment, and the Kazinga channel all in front of the mighty backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains
The Katwe Kabatoro community on Katwe salt lake where for century traditional salt mining is done. It is one of the most popular lookout points while at the park. The near Lake Munyanyange is a bird sanctuary and migratory site for the lesser flamingos from August to November.
Kasenyi plains and Lake George
Kasenyi plains and Lake George extend from the Kasese road towards Lake George. The open savanna of Kasenyi is the best set of a real African safari experience with dream photographic opportunities of the Uganda Kob breeding ground that attract lions, warthogs grazing down on their knees, guinea fowl scuttle via the grassland, and large dark elephants, buffaloes, and numerous grassland bird species.
Between Lake George and Kikorongo comes with a swamp.
The papyrus swamps included on the Ramsar wetland site are home to the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope. For bird lovers, this is the best spot for you to sight the rare shoebill stork and many native birds on the Lake and papyrus endemics like papyrus gonolek and papyrus warbler and white-winged warbler and during the northern winter a big number of migrant waders and waterfowl.
Lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park
The notable lodges for you to spend a night in this park include the Mweya safari lodge, Hippo hill camp-luxury; Queen Elizabeth Bush Camp, Simba safari camp, Rwenzori salaam lodge.
This is one of the remotest areas that extend to 100km southwest of Mweya and it is credited for its 2 prime game circuits-the northern and the southern loops. The site is perfect for you to spot out the unique tree-climbing lions, buffaloes, elephants, and Uganda Kobs and shoebills.
The Lodges in Ishasha plains
The prominent safari lodges around this site include Ishasha wilderness camp and Ishasha Ntungwe River Camp for luxury and Savanna resort hotel for moderate, Ishasha campsite and Simba Miti cam are available for budget travelers.
Maramangambo forest and Kyambura gorge
Maramangambo forest and Kyambura gorge are situated on the southeastern side of Queen Elizabeth National Park. If you are looking for where to find chimpanzees, baboons, and many monkey species then this is the best place that you should consider visiting while on safari in Uganda.
Birds like white napped pigeons, the rare forest flycatcher, and striking Rwenzori Turaco. The Kyambura gorge is home to crater lakes, chimpanzees, and bird species such as the greater and lesser flamingos and great egrets. The notable safari lodges around this area include the Kyambura game lodge, Katara Lodge, Jacana safari lodge, Abbey guesthouse, Kingfisher Kicwamba lodge, Maragambo campsite, and others.
In conclusion, if you are searching for the best self-drive destination to spend your next vacation, Queen Elizabeth National Park shouldn’t miss out on your bucket list.