Queen Elizabeth National Park lies against the backdrop of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains in the western side of Uganda and extends for an area of 1978 square kilometers. This enormous National Park was established in 1952 as Kazinga National Park but gained its current name two years later following the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in Uganda.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is characterized by varying elevations with the Katwe Explosion Crater being the highest point of the Park with over 1350 meters above sea level and Lake Edward being the lowest point with only 910 meters above sea level. Its diverse ecosystems (ranging from wetlands, rolling lush hills, vast Craters, lakes, forests to vast savannah plains) is responsible to the classic wildlife and birdlife found in the Park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is a haven to more than 95 species of mammals inhabiting the different ecosystems. The most sought-after species in the Park include Hippos, elephants, leopards, spotted hyenas, lions, Topis, Uganda kobs, Defassa waterbuck, elands and warthogs among others. Also, Chimpanzee as well as other 9 species of primates can be spotted within Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The rich birdlife of Queen Elizabeth National Park totaling to over 600 species of birds is one of the exciting reasons why thousands of tourists throng the Conservation Area. Birders to this National Parks commonly encounter the Malachite Kingfishers, Lapper-faced vultures, Pink-backed pelicans, Blue-throated rollers, white-winged warblers, yellow-backed weavers, African mourning dove, Raptors, Pygmy kingfishers, Martial eagles, pied kingfishers, gull-billed terns, lesser swamp warblers, Ruppell’s Griffon vultures, African Crake, white-tailed lark,Pin-tailed whydah, blue-breasted kingfishers, swamp flycatcher, scarlet-chested sunbirds, Brown snake eagles, shoebill storks, grey-capped warblers and Senegal plovers among others.
Other attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Besides the outstanding wildlife and avifauna, Queen Elizabeth National Park has other mind-blowing attractions that can make your safari experience complete.
This National park is situated with the Rift valley with over 10 Crater Lakes including Katwe and Nyamunuka that are also habitats for migratory bird species.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the few places in the World crossed by the Equator.
Other magnificent places to visit in Queen Elizabeth National Park are the Kazinga Channel, Kyambura Game Reserve, Maramagambo Forest As well as people and their culture among others.
Activities within Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park alone contains more than half Uganda’s total bird species and is one of the top 10 Important Birding Areas in the country with the top birding sites being the Katwe area, Kasenyi area, Mweya Peninsula, Ishasha sector, Maramagambo forest and Lake Kikorongo among others. The popular bird species to expect in these areas are the papyrus gonolek, pink-backed pelicans, Pied and malachite kingfishers, gull-billed terns, lesser swamp warblers, common Squacco herons, sacred ibis, great Honeyguide, broad-billed rollers, grey woodpecker, stripped kingfisher, African-crowned eagles, shoebill storks, Martial eagles and African fish eagles among others.
Chimpanzee tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park is conducted within the Kyambura gorge from 8:00am and 2:00pm lasting 1-3 hours. Other primates are also expected during chimpanzee tracking especially the black and white colobus monkeys and vervet monkeys among others.
Game drive is another important activity enjoyed by tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park where both day and night game drives are offered. Game tracks through the areas of northern Kasenyi plains, Ishasha sector and Katwe offers guaranteed opportunities of encountering the African elephants, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, Topis, warthogs and waterbucks among others. The night game drives in this Park are mainly conducted in the company of armed ranger/guides through the areas of Mweya peninsula between the Lake Edward and Kazinga Channel for chances of spotting the nocturnal animals especially leopards, lions, spotted hyenas and even snakes as they cross the roads.
This interesting activity is only unique to Queen Elizabeth National Park and involves tourists involving themselves in monitoring some identified mammal species using sophisticated locator devices. It is conducted in the presence of researchers and currently the experiential tourist activities available are lion tracking, Hippo census, Banded Mongoose tracking and Bird counts.
Boat cruises in Queen Elizabeth National Park are conducted within the Kazinga Channel, a long natural channel of 40 kilometers connecting Lake George to Lake Edward. Beginning at 9:00am or 2:00pm, the boat cruises are conducted in the company of Park guides and last between 2-3 hours.
Expect to see the Nile crocodiles and Hippos in the waters but if the activity is conducted in the afternoon, there are also chances of seeing the antelopes, elephants and buffaloes drinking water or cooling themselves from the banks of the channel. Also expect to see bird species such as pink-backed pelicans, cormorants, African fish eagles and papyrus gonolek during the boat cruise.
Walking on foot is a perfect way of discovering the real and detailed beauty of a destination. In Queen Elizabeth National Park it is conducted in the company of an armed ranger/guide through areas of Mweya peninsula, Maramagambo forest and around Ishasha River where hippos, warthogs, elands and Uganda kobs are a must-see.
Cultural tours allow visitors to see and experience different cultures from the ones they are used to. During these visits, be entertained in traditional dances, taste some of the local dishes and participate in daily activities of the locals. As for Queen Elizabeth National Park, cultural tours are undertaken from the leopard village, Kikorongo Women Community, Katwe Tourism Information center, Agro-tour walk, Nyanz’ibiri Cave Community and many others.
Hot air balloon tours are also conducted in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Places to stay
Queen Elizabeth national Park boasts of a variety of accommodation facilities ranging from the up-market, midrange to budget facilities that make tourists’ visit memorable. The popular luxury Safari Lodges to book with during your visit are Mweya Safari Lodge,Hippo Safari Lodge, Jacana Safari Lodge, Kyambura Game Lodge, Kyambura Gorge Lodge, Ishasha Wilderness Camp and many others.
The best mid range accommodation facilities to stay when you visit Queen Elizabeth National Park are Enganzi game Lodge, Bush Lodge, Marafiki Safari Lodge and many others.
Some of the budget accommodation facilities in Queen Elizabeth National Park include Pumba Safari Cottages, River Ishasha Safari camp, Kazinga Channel View Resort, Mweya Hostel and Cottages, Simba Safari camp and Tembo Safari Lodge among others.
Best Time to Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park
Just like most destinations in Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National is open all year round and tourists can undertake any tourist activity at any time of the year. The dry season-January, February, June, July, August, September and December are however the high season because most tourists prefer it for the fact that roads to the Park are less muddy and animals congregate around water points making game viewing easier.
The wet season-March, April, May, October and November is the low season because roads tend to be impassable thus making some activities literally impossible. However, these months are ideal for spotting migratory bird species especially around the crater lakes.
How to Get There
Queen Elizabeth National Park is about 420 kilometers from Kampala and can be reached through road and air transport. For air, chartered flights are arranged by Aerolink from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip to Mweya, Ishasha and Kasese airstrips thereby continue to the Park by road (if landed at Kasese).
Two routes lead visitors to Queen Elizabeth National Park the first one being Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara-Bushenyi-Kasese then to the heart of the Park. This route is about 420 kilometers while the second one is 410 kilometers through Fort Portal. Tourists from trekking the Mountain gorillas from the northern sector of Buhoma can connect to Queen Elizabeth National Park through Ishasha sector.