Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular of all Uganda’s national parks. Best described as a true medley of wonders, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s most splendid safari destinations. It spans up to 1978 square kilometers making it Uganda’s second largest park and it is largely a savanna grassland protected area. It boasts of its diverse wildlife species that dwell within its sprawling savanna, humid forests, shady and fertile wetlands.
Queen Elizabeth National park, which is described as “Uganda’s Great Rift Valley” by Andrew Roberts, is the second largest and it is almost 1,978 sq. km. It is bordered in the West by Lake Edward and in the North by the Rwenzori Mountains, and is divided in two sectors, the North and South. This fertile equatorial area has a very nice scenery comprised of Tropical Rain Forests and two lakes connected by a channel over looked by a high peninsula. The beauty is simply staggering with sprawling cacti, savannah, forests, rivers and lakes.
This park is a home to 4 of the big 5 game and 10 primate species including chimpanzees and on the other hand, over 620 bird species also thrive here and most of them can easily be spotted while you are safari. Queen Elizabeth National Park was established in 1952 making it also one of a few ancient parks.
It is one of the most famous protected areas and if you are looking for that one most pristine wilderness area, then look no further than Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is located in western Uganda and surrounded by Kasese, Bushenyi and Bundibugyo districts.
The climate is tropical with two rainfall peaks from March to May and September to November. Queen Elizabeth is chilly in the morning and at night with average temperature. The coldest period in Queen Elizabeth National Park is June and July, while wet seasons are March-May and September-November with total annual rainfall of up to 2390mm. Altitude is 910m at Lake Edward to 1,390m in the crater area. Mean temperature is maximum is 28c and 18c
HOW TO GET THERE
The park is easily accessible. To get here, you will drive for about 389 kilometers about 5-6 hours’ drive from Kampala. The tarmac Mbarara – Kasese Fort Portal highway runs through its centre, passing just 22km from the main tourism hub at Mweya. From Kampala, the park can be approached from the south via Mbarara (420km) or the north passing through Fort Portal (410km). These routes can be combined to create an attractive circuit with short detours to visit Lake Mburo, Semuliki and Kibale national parks. The park can also be reached from the south from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Charter flights can be arranged to a choice of airstrips at Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.
Things to see in Queen Elizabeth National Park
A Uganda safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park gets you the best sights at huge concentration of wildlife species including more than 5000 hippos, 3000 African elephants and over 10000 Buffaloes, several water bucks, Uganda Kobs, topis, warthogs and over 620 bird species. There are also several incredible primate species including chimpanzees, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys, baboons and others.
It is the most popular tourist destination and the most popular of national parks where tourists enjoy wildlife safaris. Due to its diverse ecosystems which include, sparkling savanna, lakes, wetlands, and shady, humid forests it habits a large number of wildlife, primate species including the chimpanzee and over 600 species of birds. The park also has magnificent vistas which include enormous craters caved dramatically into rolling green hills, breath taking views of Kazinga Channel and hippos, buffaloes, and elephants at the bank of Kazinga channel. There is the Ishasha plains whose fig trees hide tree climbing lions.
Most Popular Attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park
The park has outstanding wildlife attractions like the big five commonly known as the elephant, lion, hippos, buffalos and the rhinos. Over 95 mammal species have been recorded in this park. Other wildlife animals include Cape buffalo, Uganda kob, water back, warthogs, leopard, hyena and the giant forest hog.
A variety of flora is also found in this park for example the 57vegetation (the 5 levels of vegetation) which include: the bushy grassland, acacia woodland, swamp vegetation along with forest grassland.
The park also is a haven for bird watchers since a variety of bird species have been spotted and recorded. Over 612 species of birds have been recorded including the savanna and forest birds.
In the park is the mweya peninsular which is a heart of sightseeing activities with excellent views of accommodation and the fact that it overlooks katwe bay of lake Edward makes it an excellent tourist destination. It has a souvenir shop where visitors can buy items that remind them about the park.
The Kazinga channel is about 40m long joining Lake Gorge to Lake Edward. It has the perfect view of the parks’ major wildlife annals. The shores of the lake attracts a large concentration of mammals, birds as well as reptiles all year around. The animals can be viewed well by the boat cruise.
Kazinga channel has parts like the North Kazinga as well as Kasenyi. It’s acknowledged that the plains of channel are focal points for game viewing. Tracking is the only way that will enables visitors see all the wildlife in its nature setting for example buffalo, elephants and other animals that dwell in the grassland thickets of the Northern Kazinga close to Mweya. The most accessible spot for lions is in the eastern part of Kasenyi plains and the Kasese road where they quarry on the big inhabitants of Uganda Kobs.The most favorable time for game drives is during morning and late afternoon.
The Equator and the Queen’s Pavilion
The park has the Uganda’s Equator which provides a beautiful place for photo shooting along with craft shops. The Queen’s Pavilion is easily spotted by the northern entrance to the Crater Drive. In 1954 Queen Elizabeth gave a provision shelter for this site until in 1959 when a permanent pavilion was constructed for the visit of Queen Elizabeth. Renovations were made by second visit of Duke of Edinburgh in 2007 with better facilities such as coffee shop and internet facilities.
Ishasha covers an area of about 100km south of Mweya. Among the inhabitants in this place include savannah woodland, Ishasha River along with Lake Edward that has a diversity of wildlife such as climbing lions, rare shoebill stork and many others.
Things to do while on Uganda safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
There are lots of Things to Do in Queen Elizabeth National Park. This park is a perfect destination for hiking or nature walks because of the well designed trails that include the Ishasha River Trail, hiking within the Kyambura gorge, nature walks through Maramagambo forest, Nature walks in the Kasenyi Plains and hiking through the explosion Craters that reward tourists with sights of different mammals, birds and interesting landscapes among others.
This is the most popular safari activity that is offered in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park offers game drives through Kasenyi, the north Kazinga plains and the Ishasha sector. It gets you the best views over its diverse savanna wildlife species including African elephants, buffaloes, lions plus the tree climbing lions, leopards, Uganda Kobs and not to forget many birds. Game drives at this park take you through its remarkable wildlife tracks like Kasenyi which comes with vast grassland and Ishasha sector which gets you the best views over the tree climbing lions while they are relaxed at the tree branches.
A boat cruise/launch cruise is incredibly Queen Elizabeth National Park’s most thrilling water sport. It is conducted along the Kazinga channel and takes you about 2 hours and rewards you with excellent views over a huge concentration of hippo, crocodiles, water birds as well as buffaloes, elephants, antelope families a mention but a few.
With over 620 bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is remarkably a birder’s haven. Birding tour in this park gets you the best sights at varied bird species including the black bee-eaters, martial eagle, African skimmer, white winged warbler, papyrus gonolek, and papyrus canary, and corncrake, flocks of flamingos, pink backed pelicans, African broadbill, and shoebill storks.
Nature walks and hikes
With nature walks, you get the best of hidden treasures within this park. You can embark on this thrilling experience in Maramagambo forest, Kyambura Gorge, the Mweya peninsular and hike via the Ishasha River.
Chimpanzee tracking safaris are conducted around Kyambura gorge famously known as the lost valley. This area is the valley for primates that you can find in the gash savannah. There are over 10 primate species in Queen Elizabeth national park and along your trek in the gorge, you will meet a variety of wildlife species and birds as you enjoy your exciting moments in your life.
Volcano explosion craters
This is ideal around the crater which is about 27 kilometers’ drive as well as Katwe salt Lake which is 12 kilometers’ drive.
Hot air balloon safaris in the Queen Elizabeth national park
A hot air balloon tour in Queen Elizabeth National Park is a new safari experience. It gets you the best views over varied wildlife species, Rwenzori Mountains of the moon, great western rift valley, explosion of craters, lakes such as Lake George and Edward, elephant’s herbs, buffaloes all kinds of antelopes. While here, there are two balloons and well trained pilots are available to take you through your activity. This balloon activity is certified by the Uganda Civil Authority (UCA).
Where to stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth has accommodation which caters everybody. There are many accommodation options in and around Queen Elizabeth National Park. They range from luxury to budget and they include Mweya safari lodge, Kyambura Gorge Lodge, Kyambura Game Lodge, Jacana Safari Lodge, Ihamba Safari Lodge, Enganzi Lodge and the samba safari camp as well as Mweya Hostel for the budget visitors.