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Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s Protected Areas situated in the southwestern region of the country spanning districts of Kasese, Rubirizi, Kamwenge and Rukungiri. Queen Elizabeth National Park adjoins Kyambura game reserve to the east, and Kigezi game reserve including the Maramagambo forest, Kibale National Park to the northeast and Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. This Park has an area cover of 1,978 square kilometers stretching between Lake Edward in the south and Lake George in the north with the two Lakes being connected by a 32 kilometer long freshwater channel known as the Kazinga water channel.

The formation of Queen Elizabeth National Park started way back in 1921 due to a rinderpest epidemic and sleeping sickness among the inhabitants of the region known as the Basongora pastoralists. This epidemic caused death among the pastoralists and led to emigration of the inhabitants from the region. It is believed that the epidemic was caused by the colonial government due to its efforts of a livestock vaccination campaign. The area increased due to the British colonial government’s decision to evict the remaining people from their lands and thus creating game reserves. The former inhabitants of the area flee across the border to seek refuge in the current Democratic Republic of Congo and those that refused to vacate the area, their homes were shuttered and their livestock were slaughtered. The Park was then founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park by combining Lake George and Lake Edward Game Reserves which was renamed two years later as Queen Elizabeth National ark to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II causing the remaining Basongora pastoralists to further move across the border with their herds into the Virunga National Park of Democratic Republic of Congo not until they started to return back in 1964 due to the strife caused by the Mulele rebellion in Congo.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is known for its abundant wildlife and currently a home to 95 mammal species and over 600 bird species. The Park is also famous for its volcanic features including the volcanic cones and deep craters such as the Katwe craters from which salt is currently extracted.


Tourist Attractions of Queen Elizabeth National Park


Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best spots to quench one’s thirst of game viewing since the Park is naturally gifted with over 95 mammal species 600 bird species, reptiles and many other living organisms. This Park is famous for its abundant wildlife such as hippopotamuses, herds of African elephants, cape buffaloes, warthogs, lions, waterbucks, topis, reedbucks, giant forest hogs, leopards, spotted hyenas, crocodiles, bushbucks to mention but a few.

Bird species                                                                           

Queen Elizabeth National Park is a home to over 619 bird species that make it one of the country’s best bird watching destinations. Bird species commonly sighted in this Park include African spoonbill, sacred ibis, African wattled lapwing, African fish eagle, little bee-eater, giant kingfisher, double toothed barbet, water thick knee, malachite kingfisher, saddle-billed stork, gull-billed tern, swamp nightjar, swamp flycatcher, cattle egret, black-winged stilt, African fin-foot, African skimmer, pink-backed pelican, western banded snake eagle, papyrus Gonolek, palm-nut vultures, long-crested eagle, collared pratincole, pel’s fishing owl, African hobby, broad-billed roller, common sand martin, crab-plover, great-white pelican, grey-winged robin chat, yellow-throated cuckoo, yellow-billed wattle eye, white-backed night heron, red-chested sunbird, shoebill stork, spotted redshank to mention but a few.

Kazinga channel

The Kazinga channel is a 32kilometer long stretch of water connecting Lake Edward to Lake George. This water channel is regarded as the beauty spot of Queen Elizabeth National Park and described as magical by visitors since it harbors most of the wild animals and bird species in the Park during the dry season.  This water channel is also the host of the launch crises in the Park a switch to viewing schools of hippopotamuses cooling in the water, herds of elephants and buffaloes wallowing in the mad, crocodiles trying out their trick hunting along the shores and many more. The Kazinga channel also houses a lot of uncommon bird species and thus categorized among Africa’s Important Birding Areas.

Tree climbing lions

Tree climbing lions are a species of lions that are so unique and exclusive to East Africa only found in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. However tree climbing lions are easily seen in the Ishasha sector situated in the southern section of the Park. These lions are seen hanging up in the candelabra trees during hot weather conditions which also helps them to easily spot their prey such as antelopes while grazing. It is believed that these ions adopted the habit of climbing trees as a way of running away from the disturbing tsetse flies on the ground. The tree climbing lions are therefore the major tourist attraction in the southern section of the Park although it is also a bird watching spot in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Kyambura gorge

Kyambura gorge is a strip of rainforest through the savannah grasslands shaped by the Kyambura gorge. The Kyambura gorge is one of the frequently visited areas in Queen Elizabeth National Park situated in the eastern region of the Park and harboring a number of primate species such as the chimpanzees, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, red tailed monkeys to mention but a few.

Crater Lakes

Queen Elizabeth National Park hosts to about 10 crater Lakes that were formed due to volcanic eruptions for example Lake Katwe, Lake Nyamunuka, Lake Munyanyange, Munyampaka and many others that harbor several bird species and thus turning out to be a few of the Park’s bird watching spots. These crater Lakes are also associated with the Park’s beautiful scenery best for nature walks, hikes and photography.

Lake Katwe salt works

Lake Katwe is one of the major three crater Lakes that crest the crater region of Queen Elizabeth National Park famous for splendid scenic crater drives. Lake Katwe is a saline Crater Lake that has inlets but no outlets which makes it a salty Lake. During the dry season, water becomes concentrated which makes it form salt pans on the bottom while crystalized salt forms on the surface. One is also able to enjoy and experience the local salt mining process as the local salt miners narrate the entire process.

Local communities

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the places in East Africa where one can have an experience of a community tour or local community encounter as he/she learns about the true African traditions, values and beliefs. This National Park has several communities where community walks and tours can be planned such as the Busonga fishing village situated on the northern shores of Lake George where vast activities can be carried out for example sport fishing, weaving baskets, visiting the elderly and medicinal people, tasting local dishes and many more. You indulge with the local people as you enjoy their interesting stories and cultural performances which are worth adding on one’s travel plan.

The Landscape

Queen Elizabeth National Park is made up of undulating hills that make beautiful scenery for sightseeing. Queen Elizabeth National Park is situated on the backdrops of the Rwenzori Mountain which gives one a very beautiful view of the Rwenzori ranges that are easily seen touching the clouds more so during the sunny days. The Park is made up of plains filled with golden brown savannah grassland vegetation best for game viewing, nature walks and birding safaris.

The Equator

Queen Elizabeth National Park is crossed by the Equator line at zero coordinates, the landmark for this major latitude demarcated by a circular sculpture. At the equator monument, many tourists stop to have an experience of where the earth is divided into two equal parts as they take photos sometimes joined by local children that spread joy and happiness to the visitors. At the equator line in Kikorongo, visitors are always entertained by a local dancers’ group known as the Kikorongo dancers’ group before they proceed to take on other activities in the Park.

Tourist activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Game drives

Game drives are the Park’s major tourist activities where one is able to have a wildlife viewing experience through the developed trails of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Game drives n Queen Elizabeth National Park are carried out in the Park’s savannah plains in sectors such as the Kasenyi plains, Mweya peninsular, Ishasha sector and others that are characterized by trails and short grass that offer clearer views of wildlife. Queen Elizabeth National Park offers morning game drives, evening game drives and night game drives and animals to lookout for include lions, buffaloes, elephants, warthogs, hippopotamuses, reedbucks, Uganda kobs, waterbucks, bushbucks, topis to mention but a few.

Kazinga channel boat cruise

The Kazinga channel boat cruise is referred to as the highlight of a Ugandan safari since gives one a glimpse of the country’s wildlife. This boat cruise offers an awesome wildlife experience where one is able to learn about African wildlife such as hippopotamuses, buffaloes, elephants, waterbucks, reedbucks, crocodiles to mention but a few with a variety of bird species. The above animals are easily seen while quenching their thirst and cooling their temperatures or wallowing. The Kazinga channel boat cruise lasts for 2 hours and is conducted twice a day that is in the morning from 11am to 1pm and the evening shift starts at 3pm to 5pm though one can book a shift according to his or her preference.

Bird watching

Queen Elizabeth National Park harbors to over 619 bird species some of which are recognized internationally by the International Birding Association (IBA). The adoptability of the Park’s bird species comes from the presence of a wide range of habitats that range from savannah grasslands and woodlands to forests and wetlands. Bird watching in Queen Elizabeth National Park is carried out along the Kazinga channel, around crater Lakes, in the Park’s sectors of Ishasha, Kasenyi and Mweya peninsular, Maramagambo forest, Katunguru bridge areas and many other areas. Bird species to lookout on a birding safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park include the majestic African fish eagle, black bee-eater, swamp flycatcher, papyrus Gonolek, African skimmer, cattle egret, malachite kingfisher, black-winged stilt, giant kingfisher to mention but a few.

Chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzee trekking is carried out in Kyambura gorge that was nicknamed the valley of pes or the valley of comedy due to the presence of chimpanzees. Chimpanzee trekking commences with a briefing about the chimpanzee trekking dos and don’ts before you head off to encounter these funny apes in their natural habitat. The chimpanzees are usually seen swinging in tree branches as they feed and groom the little ones. An hour is allowed close to the chimpanzees while you watch them go by their routine activities.

Lion tracking

Lion tracking involves tracking these kings of the jungle with the help of a radiator collar that most of the times help to monitor the lions’ movements. This is done with the help of professional researchers from the Uganda Carnivore Program. Lion tracking is mainly conducted in the Kasenyi plains where one is able to learn about the African lions and have an opportunity to get closer to the lions and learn about their behaviors and habits. Lion tracking is done by a limited number of participants to avoid interference with the natural balance of the wilderness, allow proper learning of the lion habits and for one to have a fabulous lion tracking experience.

Cultural encounters

During cultural encounters in Queen Elizabeth National Park, one is able to enjoy folklores from local elders of the communities. Cultural tours and encounters within the Park are made to fishing villages along the Kazinga channel and Lake George for example Businga village. Other cultural encounters include the Kikorongo cultural dancers which is a group of women who are deep rooted into the true African culture. This cultural dancers’ group always entertains visitors who make stopovers at the equator in Kikorongo. They as well make lots of African crafts that tourist purchase as souvenirs back to their home countries.

Hiking and nature walks

Nature walks and hikes in Queen Elizabeth National Park are always carried out around the Park’s crater lakes for example the Katwe crater drive where one is able to enjoy a wide range of interesting things for example beautiful views of the Mountains of the moon, the undulating hills, vast savannah plains and many more. The hikes and nature walks are guided by ranger guides to ensure safety of the tourists and more so taken on during bird watching expeditions in the Park. Nature walks can also be done in Maramagambo forest, Kalinzu forest and in the Kyambura gorge. Hiking through these areas, one has the opportunity to learn about several tree species, butterflies, bats, bird species, mammals and primates that reside in these forests.

Best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park

The best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park is during the dry season in the months of June to September and December to February. During the dry season, game viewing is possible since the game viewing trails are dry and not slippery neither are they muddy. The vegetation cover in the Park’s savannah plains is also low while animals tend to converge around major water bodies in the Park which makes it easy for one to freely see the Park’s wildlife. However Queen Elizabeth National Park is open all year round and game viewing and wildlife adventures can be done all year round.

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