Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The park’s diverse ecosystems, which include sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, make it the ideal habitat for classic big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds.
Set against the backdrop of the jagged Rwenzori Mountains, the park’s magnificent vistas include dozens of enormous craters carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel with its banks lined with hippos, buffalos and elephants, and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide Lions ready to pounce on the herds of unsuspecting Uganda Kob.
As well as its outstanding wildlife attractions, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a fascinating cultural history. There are many opportunities for visitors to meet the local communities and enjoy storytelling, dance, music and more. The park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, and renamed after two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.
ACCESSIBILITY OF THE PARK: The Park can be accessed by either road or by air transport. By road from Kampala, the tarmac road via Mbarara town and Bushenyi leads to the center of the park, just 22km from Mweya peninsular, the tourist hub. En-route to park, visitors have a chance to enjoy short detours to Lake Mburo National Park, Rwenzori Mountains, Kibale National Park, famous for chimpanzee tracking. The park can also be accessed from the south from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
By air, charter flights can be arranged to existing airstrips of Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.
ACTIVITIES IN THE PARK
BIRDING: Classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International, The Park’s great variety of habitants mean it is home to over 600 species. This is the greatest of any East African national park, and a phenomenal number for such as small area. The park’s confluence of savanna and forest, linking to the expansive forests of the DR Congo allow visitors to spot east as well as central African species.
CAVE: Tucked beneath the shady canopy of the Maramagambo forest is the “Bat Cave”. The cave has a viewing room from which visistors can observe the resident bats and pythons.
CHIMPS TRACKING: The Kyambura Gorge experience is more than discovering the chimpanzees in their natural environment; it teaches visitors about the ecosystems of Kyambura gorge’s atmospheric “underground” rainforest, including vegetation types; bird identification and behavior, and chimp and monkey ecology.
GAME DRIVES: For a classic African experience, the tracks through Kasenyi, the north Kazinga plains and the Ishasha Sector offer virtually guaranteed buffalo, antelope and elephant sightings, along with Warthogs and baboons. With an experienced guide in the early morning or at sunset the most successful way to track down a pride of Lions, and maybe even the odd Leopard.
HIKING AND NATURE WALKS: Nature treks are one of the more active ways to explore the landscapes and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth. There is a big chance to spot a variety of forest and savanna species as well as having a unique opportunity to get extremely close to Hippos on foot!
LAUNCH TRIP: Kazinga channel is an oasis for many of the fascinating species that inhabit the park, and taking a boat cruise along it gives the visitors the chance to cruise just meters from hundreds of enormous hippos and buffalos while elephants linger on the shoreline.
CULTURAL HERITAGE AND NATURE TRAIL: You have a chance to the energetic dances of the Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performers; workers harvesting salt on the Katwe salt Lake; a traditional Banyaruguru hut; an agricultural village- all guided by those who know them best- local community members.
WILDLIFE RESEACH TOUR: A research trip is rewarding adventure for those visitors yearning to get close to wild African fauna. Visitors have a chance to participate in monitoring some of the exotic birds and mammals that fill the park, using locator devices and learn habituation calls, as well as monitoring weather, surroundings and behavior.