Covering about 1,978 square kilometers, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular and accessible of Uganda's savanna reserves. The park is known for its diverse ecosystems of sprawling savanna, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands that are home to a lot of big game, ten primate species and over 600 bird species.
In addition to the abundant wildlife, the park has a magnificent scenery with dozens of enormous crater lakes carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga channel whose banks are thronged with hippos, buffalos, elephants and a cocktail of birds, tropical forests which host several primates including the chimpanzees and the endless Ishasha plains which are immersed with a lot of game including the tree climbing lions.
Queen Elizabeth Park is located in southwestern Uganda spanning the districts of Kasese, Bushenyi, and Rukungiri. It is bordered by River Ishasha and Lake Edward to the West along the boarder of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to the north by the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, to the east by Lake George, Kyambura Gorge and Kalinzu Forest Reserve and to the south by the Kigezi Wildlife Reserve.
The diverse ecosystems of Queen Elizabeth National Park mean the park accommodates a wide variety of mammal and bird species - about 100 mammal and 606 bird species. The Kazinga Channel alone is said to host the world's largest concentration of hippos and more bird species than the entire United States of America. The channel is a wildlife magnet that attracts lots of birds and animals that come to drink from the channel, cool off in the waters, take a shower, take refugee from preys and eat fresh grass along the channel. Wildlife includes buffalos, elephants, crocodiles, monitor lizards, antelopes and many birds including pied kingfisher, cormorants, and the African eagle among others.
The Mweya Peninsula is popular for big game and a number of wildlife including lions, leopards, elephants, giant forest hogs, hippos and the Uganda kob. This place is jammed with a variety of birds given its close proximity to Kazinga channel, a bird magnet.
Kyambura Gorge, located on the northeast boundary of the park is popular for the chimpanzees and a number of primates such as red-tailed monkeys, Columbus monkeys, and olive baboons. A number of forest birds such as hornbills, kingfishers and sunbirds can be found here.
The remote Ishasha section, located to the southwest of the park, is popular for the tree climbing lions that chill high up in the tree figs looking out for herds of antelopes to prey on. Other wildlife in this rarely visited area of Queen Elizabeth National Park includes herds of buffalos, elephants and the rare shoebill.
The game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park is an exciting Uganda adventure that shall leave you with fond memories of the African beauty. It entails driving through the park to track different game. It is exciting watching different animals relating in their natural habitat. The game drive is best done early in the morning by 6.30am to catch the nocturnal and hunters before they return to their hideouts. The park has well developed game trails for easy access to the park's enormous wildlife and attractions. The vast savannah of the Kasenyi plains is immersed with spectacular wildlife and is a favorite spot for game drives. Expect great sightings of prides of lions looking for prey, hundreds of Uganda kobs grazing, herds of elephants and buffalos, bushbucks, giant forest hogs bent on their knees to graze, lots of baboons scampering about in anticipation and panoramic views of the rolling grassy hills, crater lakes, and the rift valley escarpment. The game drive lasts for more than three hours.
Kyambura gorge is home to chimpanzees some of which have been habituated and are available for tracking. You require a chimpanzee permit issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority to track the chimps. While trekking the gorge you could spot a number of other primates and many forest birds.
The boat ride on the along the wildlife thronged banks of the Kazinga channel is an amazing wildlife experience. A relaxing ride of about two hours, you are treated to great sights of crowds of hippos, crocodiles, buffalos, monitor lizards, herds of elephants, and Uganda kobs among others. Most of the animals come by the channel to drink water, cool off the scorch heat and eat fresh grass along the banks. You are also treated to a cocktail of birds such as cormorants, king fishers and African eagles among others.
With over 600 bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the ideal birding destination. The diverse natural habitats of the park host diverse bird species. Some of the birds your are expected to sight during your Uganda birding adventure include great and long-tailed cormorants, common squacco heron, African open-billed stork, white-faced whistling and knob-billed ducks, African fish eagle, black crake, African jacana, water thick-knee, spur-winged and African wattled plovers, malachite and pied kingfisher, swamp flycatchers, and yellow-backed weaver.
Explore the forest on foot and get up close to a range of wildlife including primates such as baboons, a variety of monkeys, chimpanzees and a number of birds such as white-napped pigeon, and the striking Rwenzori turaco. You also get to visit the "cormorant house", a large tree that has been turned white by the birds that roost of overnight. There also beautiful crater lakes in the forest and a Bat Cave.
Visit the local community at the Katwe Salt Lake where traditional salt mining has been taking place since the 16th century. There are salt ores dating as far as the 14th century and the local guide shall explain how the salt mines were sub divided and distributed among the tribes of Uganda. You shall learn the interesting cultural strings attached to the salt mines.
It is a 5 to 6 hours drive from Kampala, and one can get to the Queen Elizabeth National Park through two major routes.
- Kampala - Fortportal through Kasese highway to the park
- Kampala - Mbarara through Bushenyi to the park
You can get to the park by a private air charter from Kajansi airfield and land at Savanna Restaurant near Kihihi. It is a 16 minutes drive to the Ishasha section of the park that is famous for the tree-climbing lions.