Queen Elizabeth National park is undoubtedly the most visited National Park in Uganda. With almost 1,978sqkms large, the park boasts the magical wildlife attractions with its tree climbing lions of isasha.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the South-Western Part of Uganda, about 410km north of the country’s capital KAMPALA.
Queen Elizabeth National Park was established in 1952 though it’s name of origin was Kazinga National Park, however it changed its present name in 1964 after the visit of the great Britain Queen Elizabeth 11.
Queen Elizabeth lies in the shadow of Ruwenzori Mountains on the rift valley floor. Its diverse habitats include tropical forests, kazinga channel, grasslands, wetlands, crater lakes provide home to 95 mammals and over 612 bird species. Big 4 mammals including tree climbing lions which are found in Ishasha the area where you pass driving from QENP to Bwindi southwestern Uganda.
What makes this park popular is its ability to offer travelers a variety of activities one can do in a single day. For instance, in the morning you can do chimpanzee tracking in Kalinzu forest or kyambura gorge. In the afternoon take a boat cruise along Kazinga channel and end with evening or night game drive.
There are experiential tourism activities such as lion tracking, hippo census, bird counts and mongoose tracking.
ACTIVITIES DONE IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park is also one the oldest parks of Uganda, it covers four districts and they are: Kasese, Rubirizi, Kamwenge and Rukungiri. It offers remarkable wild activities and these are some;
GAME DRIVING EXPERIENCE
Queen Elizabeth National Park is undoubtedly the medley of wonders with its beautiful sceneries and this why it is the most favorite place for tourists in Uganda. Inside your tourist vehicle, from the soft and comfort seats of your safari vehicle when on game drive experience, you will be able to sight some of the beautiful wonders of Queen Elizabeth National Park running for pasture in short savannah vegetation. Game viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park is authentically a thriller of adventure and it lets you to view some of Africa’s big fives like, the African Elephants,Bufalloes,Uganda kob, warthogs, giant forest hogs, gazelles, mongoose etc.
The park offers game viewing experience for tourists thrice a day with the Moring game drive, Afternoon game drive and the Evening game drive.
THE EARLY MORNING GAME DRIVE
The early morning game drives basically gives travelers an opportunity to view bunches of wild animals and some melodical voices of wild birds as they awake.
THE MID-DAY GAME DRIVE
This experience is the best one can enjoy when game viewing Queen Elizabeth National Park, it gives travelers an opportunity of viewing many wild animals as they quench for thirsty on the Kazinga Channel
THE EVENING GAME DRIVE
This experience gives travelers an opportunity to sight some of the nocturnal animals in the park such as, Leopards and Lions when using car lights.
CHIMPANZEE TRACKING IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National park also offers tourists an activity of tracking chimpanzees in the Gorge of Kyambura. Kyambura is an attractive scenic sector composed of tall trees which is home of the habituated Chimpanzees in the park. The park also boasts with quite a number of other primate species but the chimps are the most popular. Some of the other primates you can find in the hidden forest gorge of kyambura are the velvet monkeys; boldest baboons which for safety you need to close your car windows and then the black and white colobus monkeys.
Kyambura is located in the north-east of the park and it’s about 30kms from the headquarters of mweya.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the top destinations for birding in Uganda. Its home to almost 600 species of birds, meaning this is the greatest of any National Park in East Africa for too many numbers of bird species for such a small area.
The composition of savannah and forests which connects to the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo makes it easier for tourist to sight the species of East and Central Africa.
The park presents the some of the rare water birds, forest dwellers and woodlands in the forest of Imaramagambo, with also some birds of migrations such as the Osprey, martial eagle, black ramped button quail, African skimmer, Chapin’s fly catcher, white tailed lark, papyrus gonolek, African broadbill, greater flamingo the rare shoebill etc.
Some of the top sections you wouldn’t miss for birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park are;
KYAMBURA HIDDEN GORGE
Birds which are most likely to zoom inside your camera lenses include:
The sedge warbler
Yellow throated Cuckoo
Vereaux’s Eagle owl and the Pink backed pelican.
All the species inhabit inside the savannah grasslands and wetlands of the park apart from the flamingos which inhabit at the salt lakes of Katwe and Bunyampaba.
BOAT CRUISEING EXPERIENCE
Boat cruising experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park is done on the beautiful Kazinga Channel which connects the lakes of Edward and George, this is where visitors of the park have the most wild life at a glimpse. About 40kms long, the beautiful KAZINGA channel gives tourist a moment to remember when their on boat cruise. You don’t need to be a serious birder to spot some of the African bird species along the Kazinga Channel, there’s almost 60species of birds to be spotted on the channel. It also gives travelers a chance to see some of the African big fives grazing and freshening their throats like the African Elephants, Buffaloes, warthogs, gazelles hippos etc.
Boat cruise mostly offered twice a day but in peak season you can be able to do it thrice. The morning boat cruise starts at 11am and lasts for 2hours, then an afternoon boat cruise starts at 3pm and ends at 5pm, bookings are done at the mweya headquarters of UWA. Or you can contact (+256782387805)
NATURE WALKS IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Nature walking/hiking in Queen Elizabeth is one of the amazing experiences one can do to explore the beauty of the park.
It’s mainly done through the hidden Kyambura Gorge, the shady Maramagambo forest, Mweya peninsula and the beautiful R.Isasha.
On R.Isasha it’s where you could view varieties of savannah and a chance to get close to hippos when on foot.
The mweya peninsula is naturally built with savannah and woodlands with amazing sceneries and amazing wild viewings.
Besides the amazing wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park, nature walks also helps tourists to strengthen their bodies and keeping them fit for a lifetime.
CAVES IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park is undoubtedly the MEDLEY- OF WONDERS , Besides wildlife viewing you go through the amazing IMARAMAGAMBO forest where you find the cave of Bats, mainly called the “BAT CAVE” it gives tourists an amazing view for millions of bats hanging on to the walls of the cave. It’s also a habitant for the African rock python.
For a more cultural cave experience, how about a trip to the historic cave at Nyanz’ibiri community, where a local guide will explain to you how it was once used for offering sacrifices and cleansing misfortunes… and as a hiding place during Uganda’s rule by Idi Amin.
To visit this cave, contact Nyanz’ibiri Community Eco-Campsite:
• Tel: +256 772 863399, +256 792 863399
THE TREE CLIMBING LIONS OF ISASHA IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Uganda wildlife authority identify about 5 prides of Lions that have a behavior of climbing fig trees in Ishasha wilderness, Queen Elizabeth National Park. This park receives the highest number of visitors in Uganda because of its combination of activities such as game drive safari, boat cruise on Kazinga channel and chimp trekking.
Among the big cats, only leopard and jaguar can climb trees efficiently. So why do Ishasha lions climb trees? NatGeo Wild explorer Alexander Braczkowski visited Uganda in 2018 to prove why Ishasha lions climb trees. Firstly, he found that there are stinging insects in Ishasha that fly close to the ground. As a result, lions learn to climb trees where its comfortable to relax especially after a kill. Secondary, the lions also climb to the tree branches to get a good view of prey.
These lions climb trees at different times of the day. Between 9am, 11pm, 1pm to 3pm most visitor going through Ishasha spot the lions. However, it’s also true that a number of visitors miss to see them as well.
Lions with a behavior of climbing tree have also been reported in two Uganda national parks – Kidepo Valley National Park and Murchison falls national park. Around East Africa, tree climbing lions are also reported in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. It’s not clear if the reasons for Ishasha lions to climb trees are same for lions else in East Africa.
SO HOW DO YOU DIVIDE YOUR TIME IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK FOR THE BEST CHANCE TO SEE ISHASHA TREE CLIMBING LIONS?
Queen Elizabeth national park is divided into two sectors. They include; Kasenyi area in the north includes, Kazinga channel, Mweya peninsular, kyambura gorge, several crater lakes including Lake Katwe where salt mining takes place.
Ishasha lies in the south west of the park. most visitors drive through Ishasha from Queen Elizabeth to Bwindi forest or from Bwindi to coming Queen. If just driving through, you may or may see tree climbing lions. However, if you overnight in Ishasha it gives enough time for game drive and high chance to see tree climbing lions. Likewise, when you leave Kasenyi early morning, it gives you enough time for game drives in Ishasha before you continue further southwest.
Lion tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Kasenyi plains has lions that do not climb trees. Although it’s no guarantee to see lions, the Experiential Lion tracking does. Paying for lion tracking allows to go off road (what other visitors are not allowed to do) to look for lions and get close to them for 2 good hours.
N.B Do not expect to see large herds of animals such as those in Masai Mara kenya or Serengeti Tanzania. The scenery of the park is beautiful particularly the crater lakes, Ishasha, rift valley and a backdrop of Ruwenzori mountains.
HOW YOU CAN HELP SAVE THE TREE CLIMBING LIONS OF ISHASHA
It’s unfortunate one pride of 11 lions was poisoned in 2018 after attacking livestock in the community. Along with the Uganda Wildlife Authority community conservation programs, National geographic explorer Alexander Braczkowski who had been filming the lions started GoFundMe, a charity that is raising money to compensate local people that loose livestock from predator attack.
GETTING TO QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park can be accessed by either air or road. It’s about 410kms from the capital of Uganda Kampala and about 7 to 8 hours’ drive though it depends on your itinerary, because most travelers include some parks on their way.
There also flights from Entebbe Kajjansi air strip to strips of Isasha, Kasese, or Mweya, but travelers also needs to hire a private car to park headquarters/offices from the air strip. Some clients mainly contact their tour operators to send them guides/drivers to wait for them from the air strip.
WHERE TO STAY IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park owns a number of accommodation facilities, which helps travelers to fulfill their safari accommodative needs. The accommodation facilities in the park range from Luxury midrange and budget accommodations. Most of the accommodation sites, seats in the Eastern side of the park along Kichwamba escarpment. You can book now for your safari comfort inside the medley of wonders.
LUXURY ACCOMODATION IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Some of luxury lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park include:
MWEYA SAFARI LODGE-Mweya Safari Lodge is one of the luxury safari lodges in the park, it’s found in the mweya peninsular on the shores of the Kazinga Channel which connects Lake Edward and Lake George. This is one of the oldest safari lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park.it has a swimming pool where you can have fun with your friends, the rooms are astonishing and well-spaced which gives you freedom to comfort your safari dreams.
JACCANA SAFARI LODGE
Jaccana Safari Lodge is also a luxury lodge found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, it is found on the shores of the largest crater lake in the park( Lake Nyamasingire) with 10 beautiful lavish.
MID-RANGE ACCOMODATION IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Some of the mid-range lodges you can look at in Queen Elizabeth National Park include:
ENGAZI GAME LODGE
This is one of the mid-range safari lodges found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, it is also located at the kichwamba rift valley escarpment.
Engazi offers high standard accommodation services at low rates, visitors of Engazi are offered beautiful viewings of Queen Elizabeth’s savannah plains and craters which relaxes and stretches your safari experience.
BUDGET ACCOMODATION IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Some of the budget safari lodges found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, which offers services to help you save for your budget when on a safari in East Africa include: Isasha Safari Camp, Pumba Safari Camp, Kazinga channel resort etc.