QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK.
Queen Elizabeth National Park was first established in 1952 as a Kazinga National Park. The national park was renamed two years later, after in commemoration of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the park.
The national park is the second largest national park in Uganda, covering a total area of 1,978km². The highest point of Queen Elizabeth national park is at the Katwe explosion craters, elevated at an altitude of 1,350 meters. The park’s lowest point is at Lake Edward, standing at 910 meters.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is situated in Kasese District, in the eastern region of Uganda. The national park is home to at least 600 bird species and over 95 mammal species.
The national park is indeed a ‘Medley of Wonders’ for any tourist visiting the park. This is precisely because Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to over 600 species of birds and 95 species of mammals.
Queen Elizabeth national park is blessed with enormous craters dramatically carved into rolling green hills, with panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel and its banks lined with numerous wildlife animals such as; hippos, buffalos and elephants.
Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth Park has always been popular among tourists for its tree climbing lions. However, due to consistent poaching activities of these lion species; as well as encroachment of their territory by neighboring communities, the species is slowly becoming a rare site in the park.
However, not all hope is lost! Tourists who wish to see these majestic species of Big Cats can do so during the ‘lion Tracking Experience’ which has been introduced in the national park.
Besides the attractions in Queen Elizabeth Park, there is a fascinating cultural history associated with the park. Tourists visiting the national park have the opportunity to meet and interact with the local communities within and adjacent the park. Guests can enjoy listening to folk tales, traditional music, dance and so much more.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is also used by many tourists on safari as a de-tour to other nearby national parks like; Lake Mburo, Rwenzori Mountains and Kibaale National Parks.
Attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
There are plenty of attractions in Queen Elizabeth Park, which has made tourists from all over the world flock the national park. These include;
Tree Climbing Lions in Ishasha Sector.
One of the main highlights of a tour in Queen Elizabeth National Park are the famous tree climbing lions found in the Ishasha sector, located in the southern region of the park. The Ishasha sector is also accessed by many tourists on de-tour to or from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The Ishasha sector is believed to have 3 prides of lions, with an estimated number totaling to at least 40 lions. However, due to poaching activities in the area, it is becoming a bit difficult for visitors to see the lions. Therefore it is advisable for all tourists visiting Ishasha to ensure that your tour guide is experienced and knows how and where to locate the lions. Most tourists are usually advised to do the lion tracking experiential activity, where you are 100% certain to see the lions.
The Kazinga Channel separates Lakes George and Edward in Queen Elizabeth national park. Tourist visiting the national park can enjoy a boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel. The launch trips in the national park take place at 8am in the morning and 1pm in the afternoon, on a daily basis. There are plenty of wildlife and bird species that visitors can view while on the launch cruise and these include; weaver birds, marabou storks, monitor lizards, caimans, fish eagles, and elephants among others.
Chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge.
Tourists can see chimpanzees The Kyambura Gorge is well known to shelter habituated chimpanzees that reside within the forest. For a price of 100 USD, tourists can track these habituated chimpanzees accompanied by well-trained UWA rangers.
The gorge also has the Kyambura River flowing through its thick forest, 100 meters just below the Kicwamba escarpment. The entrance to Kyambura Gorge makes a great spot for picnics with friends and family who you are travelling with.
Crater Lakes in Kyambura Wildlife Reserve.
There are also beautiful crater lakes situated to the east of Kyambura gorge and these offer visitors stunning views of many water bird species like the great egret as well as flamingoes.
Queen Elizabeth National Park has a total of 72 crater lakes, scattered across the national park. Tourists can embark on a 27km drive between Kabatoro gate and the park’s Pavilion, taking in the awesome views of the large, circular crater lakes, Rift Valley escarpment and the Kazinga Channel.
One of the highlights of Queen Elizabeth National Park is the famous katwe Salt Lake. It is from here that traditional salt mining is done dating back to the 16th century. Also, it goes without saying that, the surrounding Katwe- Kabatoro community on the lake, plays an important role in the mining process on the lake.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to over 600 species of birds and these are mostly found at Lake Munyanyange which is a bird sanctuary.
The Kasenyi Plains in Queen Elizabeth National Park present the perfect setting for a classic African safari experience. There are huge herds of the Uganda Kob which attracts predators like lions. Warthogs can also be seen grazing in the plains with guinea fowls scuttling through the grasslands. Tourists can also view elephants striding across the game drive tracks, which provides a picturesque moment for most visitors at the park.
Other attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park include; Lake George and the Maramagambo forest.
Activities in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Lion Tracking Experience:
Tracking lions in Ishasha sector is an experience that is not only exciting, but thrilling and educative as well. Tourists who opt to do the lion tracking experiential activity are most definitely sure to see the tree climbing lions of Ishasha. This activity costs USD 50 dollars per person.
Tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park can track some habituated chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge or Kalenju forest. Chimpanzee tracking permits cost 50 USD in Kyambura Gorge and 30 USD in Kalenju Forest. Chimp tracking activities last between 2-4 hours with an hour of direct contact with the chimps. Chimpanzee tracking activities begin at 8am.
Game drives in Queen Elizabeth Park take tourists through Kasenyi, the Ishasha sector and the northern park of Kazinga Plains. There are day and night guided game drives offered by the park; with the day game drives offering visitors views of wildlife such as; buffaloes, lions, antelopes, duikers, elephants, warthogs and baboons amongst so many more. The night game drives on the other hand will give tourists the chance to view nocturnal animals such as; lions, leopards and caracals amongst others. Game drives in this national park cost USD 30 dollars per person for day game drives, and USD 40 dollars per person for night game drives. Tourists will have to pay an extra cost of 25 USD for an UWA guide.
The park’s great variety of habitats mean that it is home to about 619 species. The large concentration of birds species found in Queen Elizabeth Park make it a top destination for birding safaris in Uganda. Bird watching activities can also be done in Ishasha sector, in the southern part of the national park.
The launch trips in Queen Elizabeth Park take tourists on an exciting expedition on the Kazinga channel. These boat cruise trips give visitors the chance to sight numerous wildlife species like; bird species, hippos, crocodiles, buffaloes and elephants on the shore lines.
The launch trips in Queen Elizabeth park take place in the early morning at 8am and late afternoon at 2pm. A boat cruise in Queen Elizabeth national park costs USD 30 per person for both foreign non-residents and foreign residents.
Guided Nature Walks.
Tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth Park can embark on guided nature walks to explore the park’s landscapes and wildlife. Major locations for nature walks include; Maramagambo forest, Mweya Peninsular and the Ishasha River. Here tourists can spot a variety of forest and savanna species; with an opportunity to get really close to hippos.
Tucked away beneath the shady canopy of the Maramagambo Forest is the ‘Bat Cave’. The cave has a viewing room from which visitors can observe the resident bats and pythons.
Other activities carried out within the national park include; cultural tours and wildlife census experiential tourism for wildlife researchers.
Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth Park.
There is a wide range of accommodation facilities available for tourists visiting the national park and these include; Mweya Safari Lodge, Ishasha Bandas, Jumbo and Pelican bungalows which are managed by UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and Pumba Safari Cottages among others.
How to Get to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Tourists can travel to Queen Elizabeth national park by air or road.
Traveling By Air to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Tourists visiting QENP can access the national park by air. There are charter flights that can be arranged from Entebbe Airport to the existing airstrips in Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.
Accessing Queen Elizabeth National Park by Road.
The national park can be accessed by travelers easily from Kampala. The park can be accessed by road via Mbarara town through Bushenyi and leading to the center of the park.
The national park can also be accessed from the south via Mbarara which is 420km to Queen Elizabeth Park. The park can also be accessed from the south via Ishasha from Bwindi National Park.
The northern route to the national park goes through Fort Portal town which is covers a distance of 410km.
QENP is undoubtedly Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The national park is dominated by sprawling savanna, shady and humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands.