Queen Elizabeth National Park

If you are looking for a safari adventure with a difference, Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda might be the perfect destination for you. This park is home to a stunning array of wildlife, including elephants, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, and over 600 species of birds. But what makes it truly unique is the chance to see the rare and elusive tree-climbing lions, who lounge on the branches of the acacia trees in the Ishasha sector. You can also explore the park’s diverse landscapes, from the lush rainforest of the Kyambura Gorge, where you can track chimpanzees, to the scenic boat ride on the Kazinga Channel, where you can spot aquatic animals and birds. Queen Elizabeth National Park is a safari destination that will surprise and delight you with its natural wonders and cultural heritage.

What is Queen Elizabeth National Park?

Queen Elizabeth National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve located in western Uganda, on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley. It covers an area of 1,978 square kilometers and ranges from 910 meters to 1,390 meters in elevation. It consists of moist evergreen rainforest, dry tropical forest, woodland, and savanna. The park is named after Queen Elizabeth II, who visited it in 195412

The park is famous for its biodiversity, as it hosts more than 120 species of mammals, 375 species of birds, 250 species of butterflies, and over 1,500 species of flowering plants3 Some of the rare and endangered animals that live in the park include the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the buffalo, the hippo, the crocodile, the chimpanzee, and the red colobus monkey45

Why visit Queen Elizabeth National Park?

The main attraction of Queen Elizabeth National Park is the lion, the king of the beasts, who can be seen in different forms and behaviors. The park has two types of lions: the savanna lions, who live in the open plains and hunt in large prides, and the tree-climbing lions, who live in the Ishasha sector and rest on the branches of the acacia trees. The tree-climbing lions are a rare phenomenon, as only two populations of lions in the world are known to exhibit this behavior. The reason why these lions climb trees is not fully understood, but some theories suggest that they do it to escape the heat, the flies, or the competition from other predators6

The park also offers the opportunity to trek and observe the chimpanzees, our closest relatives, in their natural habitat, under the guidance of trained rangers and trackers. The chimpanzees live in the Kyambura Gorge, a 16-kilometer long and 100-meter deep valley that is covered by a dense rainforest. The chimpanzees are habituated to human presence, and can be seen feeding, playing, grooming, resting, and interacting with each other. The trekking can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, depending on the location and movement of the chimpanzees. The trekkers are allowed to spend one hour with the chimpanzees, observing them from a safe distance of 10 meters.

Another highlight of the park is the boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel, a 32-kilometer long natural waterway that connects Lake Edward and Lake George. The boat cruise offers a relaxing and scenic way to enjoy the park’s aquatic wildlife and birdlife. The channel is home to the largest concentration of hippos in Africa, as well as crocodiles, buffaloes, elephants, and antelopes. The channel also attracts over 600 species of birds, including pelicans, kingfishers, fish eagles, storks, and flamingos. The boat cruise lasts for about 2 hours, and departs from the Mweya Peninsula.

What else to do in Queen Elizabeth National Park?

Besides the lion, the chimpanzee, and the boat cruise, there are many other activities and attractions to enjoy in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here are some of them:

  • Birdwatching: The park is a paradise for bird lovers, as it boasts over 600 species of birds, including 11 Albertine Rift endemics. Some of the notable birds to look out for are the shoebill, the black bee-eater, the martial eagle, the papyrus gonolek, and the African skimmer.
  • Game drives: The park has several game tracks that offer scenic views of the plains, the hills, the craters, and the wildlife. Some of the popular game tracks are the Kasenyi Track, the Mweya Peninsula Track, the Ishasha Track, and the Crater Drive Track. The game drives can be done in the morning, afternoon, or evening, with the help of a guide and a vehicle.
  • Cultural encounters: The park is surrounded by several local communities that have rich and diverse cultures and traditions. The visitors can interact with the local people and learn about their history, lifestyle, crafts, music, and dance. Some of the cultural groups that offer these experiences are the Kikorongo Women Community, the Katwe Salt Lake Community, the Mweya Fishing Village Community, and the Leopard Village Community.
  • Biking: The park also offers the option of exploring the park and the villages by bike, with the help of a guide. The bikers can enjoy the fresh air, the stunning landscapes, and the friendly locals along the way.

How to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park?

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located about 400 kilometers from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. There are several ways to get to the park, depending on the budget, the time, and the preference of the traveler. Here are some of them:

  • By road: The most common and affordable way to get to the park is by road, either by public bus, private car, or tour vehicle. The journey can take 6 to 8 hours, depending on the traffic and the road conditions. The road is mostly paved, except for the last 20 kilometers, which are rough and dusty. The road passes through several towns and villages, where the travelers can stop for refreshments and souvenirs.
  • By air: The fastest and most comfortable way to get to the park is by air, either by scheduled or chartered flight. The park has two airstrips, one in Mweya and one in Ishasha, that can accommodate small planes. The flights depart from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield, and take about 1 hour. The flights offer spectacular views of the countryside and the mountains. The travelers can book the flights through their tour operators or directly with the airlines.
  • By water: Another option to get to the park is by water, either by boat or by canoe. The travelers can take a boat from Entebbe to Nakiwogo, then a ferry to Bukakata, then a bus to Masaka, then another bus to Mbarara, then a taxi to the park. Alternatively, they can take a canoe from Lake George to Katunguru, then a taxi to the park. These options are more adventurous and scenic, but also more time-consuming and less reliable.

Where to stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park?

Queen Elizabeth National Park has a wide range of accommodation options, catering to different tastes and budgets. The accommodation facilities are located in or near the park, and offer various amenities and services. Here are some of the accommodation options to choose from:

  • Luxury lodges: These are the most expensive and exclusive options, offering high-quality rooms, facilities, and services. Some of the luxury lodges in the park are Mweya Safari Lodge, Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Kyambura Gorge Lodge, and Katara Lodge.
  • Mid-range lodges: These are the moderate and affordable options, offering comfortable rooms, facilities, and services. Some of the mid-range lodges in the park are Enganzi Game Lodge, Marafiki Safari Lodge, Elephant Plains Lodge, and Parkview Safari Lodge.
  • Budget lodges: These are the cheapest and basic options, offering simple rooms, facilities, and services. Some of the budget lodges in the park are Simba Safari Camp, Pumba Safari Cottages, Bush Lodge, and Tembo Safari Lodge.
  • Camping: This is the most adventurous and cheapest option, offering tents, mattresses, and sleeping bags. The campers can pitch their tents in designated areas in the park, or in nearby community campsites. The campers can use the shared facilities and services of the park or the campsites.

When to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park?

Queen Elizabeth National Park can be visited all year round, but the best time to visit depends on the weather, the wildlife, and the personal preference of the traveler. Here are some factors to consider when planning the visit:

  • Weather: The park has a tropical climate, with two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. The rainy seasons are from March to May and from September to November, and the dry seasons are from June to August and from December to February.

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