Queen Elizabeth National Park - Uganda Wildlife Safari Vacations
Queen covers a total area of 1978 square kilometers and spans three Uganda’s districts including Rubirizi, Kasese, Rukungiri and Kamwenge. It was established as a National Park in 1952 named Kazinga channel National Park. After two years later the park’s was changed to Queen Elizabeth National Park to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.
For Uganda’s tourism, Queen Elizabeth National Park is highly rated and stands amongst the mostly visited parks. Travelers flock in for its rich biodiversity. This home of the famous tree climbing lions sprawls in the western part of Uganda bordered by Lake Edward and Ishasha River in the west, to the east by Kyambura gorge, Kalinzu forest reserve and Lake George. Besides Wildlife, Queen is home to over ten crater lakes including the ones that are easily accessed cluster that is placed north of the main road to Mweya lodge. Additionally to the north it is neared by Kasese and Rwenzori foothills and to the south by Kigezi Wildlife Reserve.
Over 95 species of mammals inhabit the lush habitats of Queen Elizabeth National Park including the twenty predators that appear in the park suburbs. They include spotted hyenas, leopards, and lions to mention but a few. Different species of antelopes like bush bucks, Uganda Kobs, Defassa water buck and more are common for anyone doing a game drive or guide nature walks. To add on the list, are the primate species that live mostly in areas that are covered by tropical rain-forests like Kyambura gorge, Maramagambo forest and more. These primates include vervet, red tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, chimpanzees along with olive baboons.
For those after the elusive species of semic aquatic Sitatunga antelopes, there are more common in the papyrus swamps around Lake George whilst duiker species are permanent residents in Maramagambo forest.
Buffaloes and Elephants are common everywhere mostly sighted in the Mweya peninsula and Kasenyi plains.
A continuous decrease in the population of elephants appeared during the years of political instabilities but due to conservation efforts made and good habitats in Queen, the numbers are improving and it’s currently estimated to 2500 individual elephants. Lions are around 200 and mostly common in the Kasenyi plains, Mweya peninsula and Ishasha sector.
A total of 610 bird species recorded in Queen thus turning it a remarkable paradise for bird watching. These species are inclusive of water, woodland and forest birds. Diverse array of water birds appear in Mweya along Kazinga channel, and then Ishasha is ideal for sights of unique species.
How to get there
You can get there by different options as detailed below:-
From Kabale via Kihihi – The Park can be reached from Kabale or Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. With a drive from Kabale, take the road towards Bwindi. Instead of turning left at Kanyantorogo proceed straight to Kihihi.
From Bwindi, it’s about 30km to Kanyantorogo, and then turn left towards kihihi, a town which is about 10-15km north of Kanyantorogo filling station. This is the only fuel source within this region. Reaching the T-junction, turn right towards the Ishasha camp which is just 15km to the Park entrance gate.
From Kampala – The usual route you can use is Kampala- Masaka –Mbarara highway with a stopover at the equator for brief explanation about it, cup of coffee and some snacks.
Later continue to Mbarara for another stopover to have your lunch. After lunch the journey continues, turn off the main Mbarara – Kabale road in Ntungamo and follow the 45km stretching tarmac road to Rukungiri town.
After Rukungiri you drive 70km along murram roads to Ishasha via Kihihi. There is a right turn about 4km out of Rukungiri for a shorter route passing through Kigezi Wildlife Reserves to join the Katunguru-Ishasha road.
Top Activities done in the Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is crowded with different Wildlife species to marvel on your Uganda Wildlife Safari vacation. There are several options to get exposed to these species but game driving is one of its kind.
It includes embarking a Safari vehicle with a pop roof and your guide on board, drive through the established tracks while taking in the awe-inspiring views of animals, landscapes, plant species and sunset/sun rise. Off tracking is illegal and if you are caught doing, you are subjected to penalties.
During the drive, the speed is low just to enable tourists take in whatever they want, capture beautiful photos at different angles. In case the speed is high, you can tell your driver guide to reduce a bit.
While in Queen, game driving is done in Mweya peninsula, Ishasha sector and Kasenyi plains where huge numbers of wild animals appear. This activity costs $20 USD per day. In case you are driving on your own but not well versed with the tracks please hire a ranger to lead you through.
This involves meeting with the chimpanzee primates in the Jungles. They are found in the Jungles therefore it requires the trekkers to move from the Park headquarters or starting point following the trails until they discover the exact location of these primates.
It’s done in a group and in sessions, choose the morning session, afternoon or evening one. While in the Jungle it’s not only about Chimpanzees but exposed to lots of species inhabited including birds. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, chimpanzee tracking takes place in Kyambura gorge and its permit costs $50 USD per person.
Launch Trip Cruise.
This is an additional option to sight some of the Wild animals and other species you may have missed on a game drive in Kasenyi plains or Mweya Peninsula.
While on the cruise you can’t stop admiring the breathtaking views of Wild animals like Elephants along the shores, aquatic species like crocodiles, and hippopotamus along with other riverside sceneries.
This cruise starts from the shorelines along Kazinga channel beneath Mweya peninsula and runs for about two hours. It costs $30 USD per person and operated daily all year round.
Accommodation in the Park.
Queen has plenty of accommodation facilities reserved for tourists to stay. These facilities range from budget, mid-range to luxury facilities offering international services.
They include Bush lodge, Mweya Safari Lodge, Kyambura gorge lodge, Simba Safari lodge, Jacana lodge, Katara lodge, Buffalo Safari lodge, Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Kyambura Game lodge and more.