PARK AT A GLANCE
Queen Elizabeth spans the equator line; monuments on either side of the road mark the exact spot where it crosses latitude 00.
The park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, and renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.
The park is home to over 95 mammal species and over 600 bird species.
The Katwe explosion craters mark the park’s highest point at 1,350m above sea level, while the lowest point is at 910m, at Lake Edward.
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, buffalo and elephants, and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide lions ready to pounce on 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 gazetting of the park has ensured the conservation of its ecosystems, which in turn benefits the surrounding communities.
Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is truly a Medley of Wonders!
Queen Elizabeth Uganda, Getting There and Access
Queen Elizabeth National Park can be accessed most easily from Kampala. The tarmac road from Kampala via Mbarara town and Bushenyi leads to the center of the park, passing just 22 km from Mweya Peninsula, the main tourism hub. Approaching the park from the south via Mbarara covers a distance of 420km while the north through Fort Portal covers a total of 410 km.
The park can also be accessed from the south from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Charter flights can be arranged to existing airstrips of Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.
Activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park
For a classic African safari 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. Taking an experienced guide in the early morning or at dusk is the most successful way to track down a pride of lions, and maybe even the odd leopard
The open grasslands of Kasenyi provide QENP’s primary game viewing area, thanks to resident herds of Uganda kob and the lions that prey on them. The park’s experienced ranger guides can usually locate lions but predator sightings can be guaranteed by signing up for a tour with the Mweya-based Uganda Predator Project which monitors the movement of lions, leopards and hyaenas fitted with radio collars.
QENP’s southernmost sector offers a classic game viewing experience under vast rift valley skies. Expect to see buffaloes, hippos, elephants, topis and more besides. The chance of sighting lions is particularly good in Ishasha; the local prides obligingly spend their days resting up in the branches of shady fig trees.
Launch Cruise on the Kazinga Channel
The Kazinga Channel is an oasis for many of the fascinating species that inhabit the park, and taking a boat tour along it gives visitors the chance to cruise just meters from hundreds of enormous hippos and buffalos while elephants linger on the shoreline.
An average of 60 bird species can be spotted during the trip. Carrying up to 40 passengers, the boats guarantee a seat with a view, while expert ranger guides narrate the creatures’ stories.
Launch trips last two hours and run three or four times a day.
Chimpanzee Tracking in Kyambura Gorge
The Kyambura Gorge experience is more than discovering 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.
Although chimp sightings are not guaranteed, visitors stand a pretty good chance of hearing and seeing our distant cousins as they are habituated. Tours last between one and three hours and start at 8am and 2pm daily.
Classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International, Queen’s great variety of habitats mean it is home to over 600 species. This is the greatest of any East African national park, and a phenomenal number for such a 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.
Present in the park are numerous water birds, woodland and forest dwellers in the Maramagambo Forest, 54 raptors and various migratory species. Key species include the Martial Eagle, Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Skimmer, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Pinkbacked Pelican, African Broadbill, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed Lark, White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, Corncrake, Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Shoebill, Bar-tailed Godwit.
See workers harvesting salt on Katwe Salt Lake. This unusual lake is far too salty to support much wildlife – though since the 16th Century it has ensured the survival of the Katwe villagers, who spend their days under the equatorial sun, walking the network of paths that cross-cross the lake and harvesting salt from its milky waters.
Katwe Salt Lake Tour gives a unique insight into the fascinating yet tough process of salt mining, as well as providing an alternative income for Katwe. See villagers at work on the lake, cross the mud walkways and enter a traditional grass hut. You will also pass the nearby bird sanctuary lake, home to thousands of birds, including flamingoes from October to May. A bird watching boardwalk will be ready in 2012.
During Katwe Village Walk, visitors are welcomed to a traditional homestead. Cooking demonstrations introduce the region’s cuisine, and there is also a trip to the local school.
Tucked beneath the shady canopy of the Maramagambo Forest is the “Bat Cave”. The cave has a viewing room built through funding from the Center for Disease Control in which visitors can observe the bats as well as the pythons that live alongside them… did you know that these serpents live amongst their prey?!
Hiking/ Nature Walks
Nature treks are one of the more active ways to explore the landscapes and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth. Locations include the shady Maramagambo forest; Mweya Peninsula with its scenic views; and Ishasha River, where you may spot a variety of forest and savanna species as well as having a unique opportunity to get extremely close to hippos – on foot!
Mweya Peninsula offers savannah and woodland with beautiful views and bold warthogs. At the southern end of the park, visitors can enjoy an easy stroll along the Ishasha River, where they can spot a variety of forest and savanna bird and mammal species as well as having a unique opportunity on this walk to get extremely close to hippos on foot, while remaining perfectly safe on the raised bank above the river.
For visitors who yearn to get up close to wild African fauna, a research trip is a rewarding adventure. This new and unique experience allows visitors to actively 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.
The experiential tourism activities currently available are Mongoose Tracking, Lion Tracking, Hippo Census, and Bird Counts. The number of people on each outing is limited in order to reduce stress on the animals and to increase the quality of the experience for visitors.
Experiential tours lasts between one and three hours. They usually take place in the early morning or evening, or occasionally at night. All activities must be booked through the Visitor Information Centre in Mweya at least 24 hours in advance.