SAFARI IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Sir Andrew Cohen was wrote about it that; “the grandest view I have ever seen, looking north from Ankole escarpment, with lakes Edward and George and the Kazinga Channel in the foreground and the whole snow capped range of the Rwenzori as a backdrop.”
Queen Elizabeth National Park is designated a Biosphere Reserve for humanity under UNESCO auspice. The park together with Kyambura and Kigezi Wildlife reserve form one of the most diverse ecosystems in Africa . It is situated in the western arm of the Great Rift Valley and covers 1,978sq.km from semi-deciduous tropical forest to green meadows savannah and swamps.
It is the home of the famous tree climbing lions as well as the Uganda kob, other antelope’s species, topi, hyenas, crocodiles waterbucks elephant, baboons, hippos, buffalo, and 10 primate species including chimpanzees and many more. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded, making the park a magnet for bird watchers. The bird species includes the black bee-eater, 11 types of king fisher, and several species of falcons, eagles and the raptors and many more. In the crater lakes to the north, flocks of flamingos can be found. A favorite way to view the game is by launch trip on the Kazinga Channel between Lakes George and Edward.
The history of Queen Elizabeth national park is fascinating. In the first quarter of the 1990’s in 1925, a department was set up to stop the Elephants from marauding villages and destroying cultivation- the overall aim being to keep the within certain boundaries, protecting both Elephants and people.
As a result, a series of game reserves, sanctuaries and national parks were established over the years. Across the boarder in Zaire, Parc national des Virunga was designated in 1925 by the Belgian colonial authorities and pressure to protect the adjoining ecosystem in Uganda led to the establishment of L. George game reserve and L. Edward game reserve in the in the late 1920’s.
Several geographic changes followed and later in 1952 it was gazetted into a national park known as Queen Elizabeth national park.
Inside Uganda’s most popular park
Imagine being surrounded by numerous crater lakes, the breathtaking views and fresh air for a leisurely nature walk or hike in endless grasslands, suddenly, the fog disappears and beautiful views of Mountains of the moon materialize before my eyes.
You’re at Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda’s most visited park, popular for classic big game safaris in Uganda. There are 97 species of mammals including lion, leopard, African elephant, buffalo and several antelopes but the Tree climbing Lion stands as the park’s iconic feature admired by big cat enthusiasts, in Ishasha wilderness, southern section of the park.
From the visitor center at Mweya Peninsular, with panoramic views of Lake George and Edward to stretching down to the 32 km Kazinga channel, boat cruises lead to more picturesque pods of nearly 5,000 hippos. Hippos are the 3rd largest land mammal, able to float on water for up to 16 hours.
The boat cruise carries you across the middle of the channel for up close views, of Nile crocodiles as they open their mouth wide, but not scaring away herds of buffaloes and elephants, some drinking water by the shorelines, others wallowing in the mud.
As you continue to more picturesque sceneries, colorful water birds silently watching to prey on fish; one lazy tourist thinks that fishing is illegal, but there’re plenty of them. The savannah birds enjoy peace; enthusiastic birders will be less disappointed with a checklist of more than 612 bird species recorded.
The beauty and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth national park cannot be underestimated with reference to Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda’s leading wildlife conservation body. Even the Queen Elizabeth (II) of England, loved it during her visit in 1957, from which the park was named.
Whilst, Queen Elizabeth national park does not have sheer numbers of mammals such as those of Serengeti, the savannah plains support a wide variety of game and good numbers of lions some of which climb trees. A better option would be to stay in Ishasha wilderness south of the park, there are tented camps and lodges and visitors can take game drive safari to see lions climbing fig trees.
Other mammals often see during game drives include buffalo, elephant, leopard, spotted hyena Uganda Kob, Eland, duikers, giant forest hogs, bush bucks and waterbucks.
The park also supports population of chimpanzees and 10 primate species. Kyambura gorges are 11 km stretch of underground tropical rainforests about 30 km from Mweya visitor center. Some communities of chimpanzee have been habituated for tracking, on a guided walk; you can get up close with chimps and also view primates, tropical birds, butterflies and 13 different habitats.
Touch of gold
Queen Elizabeth national park is a home to breathtaking sunsets over beautiful landscapes of rolling hills, crater lakes, and the mountains of the moon. No matter where you’re in the park, whether it’s at your lodge or queen’s pavilion, you’ll watch and photography the clouds change color.
The explosion crater lakes in and along the boundaries of Queen Elizabeth national park, are among the popular attractions. They include the Katwe explosion craters have some of the ancient salt mining works, which you can visit at Lake Katwe.
The fort-portal crater lakes are the smallest but most delightful Lake Kayninga has an up market Kyaninga lodge on its ridge. It’s a nice place to stay for outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, canoeing and photography.
The Bunyaruguru crater lakes are the smallest but most delightful Lake Kayninga has an up market Kyaninga lodge on its ridge. It’s a nice place to stay for outdoor activities like fishing, swimming, canoeing and photography.
The Bunyaruguru crater lakes, found near the park boundary include 20 explosion craters and several dry craters basins. Views of these lakes are seen from the Kichwamba escarpments or along the Mbarara-Kasese road.
The Ndali-Kasenda crater lakes can be explored on foot with several hikes, but most famous is the top of the world’s hike. Here, you can see rift valley floor and mountains of the moon ranges. There are accommodations, including budget lake side resorts from where you can stay and easily connect to Kibale forest national park, home to chimpanzee and primates.
Visit the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha
Nothing will make you happy and excited on a Uganda wildlife safari like watching tree climbing lions of ishasha as they chill and relax up in tree branches. This is also an highlight of many Uganda gorilla & wildlife safaris to Queen Elizabeth national park and Bwindi Forest national park. The famous tree-climbing lions of the Ishasha sector are found in large fig trees in the remote southern extremity of the park, so you will need a park ranger to take you through the entire game viewing experience as you appreciated what nature holds. Once you spot lions and other park wildlife, this will turn your expectations into reality. The tree climbing lions of ishasha are an important aspect in the eco tourism of Uganda and conservation is the only way to protect them for the future. Don’t miss out the opportunity to hear your guide shout loud “Lions” and you look up.
Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise
Spend you early morning or afternoon on the boat trip within Queen Elizabeth National Park done on the impressive Kazinga Channel a 40 kilometer water long natural channel that links Lake Edward and George. The Kazinga Channel is an oasis for many charming species that inhabit the park. Tourists to Queen Elizabeth national park especially those on the Kazinga channel boat ride get a chance to be in close distance with a concentration of hippos, birds, crocodiles and other park wildlife that visit the channel for drinking water but later linger around the shore lines. This 2-3 hour boat voyage is normally conducted in the afternoon when the sun is hot hence making you feel fresh and relaxed. Enjoy this and be the one to tell a story to friends and family.
After all your favorite tour activities, try out chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura gorge or Kalinzu forest on a free morning before leaving the park for another destination. Chimpanzees are beautiful primates that will amaze you. Besides during the trek, many other primate species are spots, cool sounds of nature take up the floor as you walk through the well conserved chimpanzee home. One needs a free morning or afternoon to see these beautiful creatures in Kalinzu forest reserve or Kyambura gorge. Chimpanzee trekking permits go for $50 dollars a fare price for all primate lovers.
When you visit Queen Elizabeth National Park be sure to have successful morning and afternoon game drives in both Kasenyi area and ishasha. The park is a home to impressive wildlife, lions, elephants, kobs, buffaloes, topis, busg bucks, leopards, hynas,and much more. Morning game drives start as early as 6.oo am while evening However, the most prestigious ground for wildlife viewing in Queen Elizabeth is ishasha and Kasenyi.
This has become a very popular activity for many tourists to Queen Elizabeth national park due to variety of that range from savanna to wetlands to lowland forests.Birds are in abundance throughout the park but the Mweya penusular,Kasenyi area, maramagambo forest, ishasha sector are the most favorite. Some of the birds found in the park include Raptors, African Mourning Dove, Diederik Cuckoo, Red-chested Sunbird, Black-headed Gonolek,Lesser Masked Weaver, Slender-billed Weaver, Yellow-backed Weaver,Pin-tailed Whydah, Little Grebe, African Finfoot,Red-chested Cuckoo, Black Cuckoo, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow bill, Black Coucal,Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Black Bee-eater,Honeyguide Greenbul,Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat’, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch,Swamp Flycatcher,Scarlet-chested Sunbird and much more.
Best Time To Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Dry season that runs from January to February and from June to September is considered the best time to visit with the peak safari time in Uganda being from June to September, while Migratory species arrive in August to December, and March to May offering the best birding time
Located in western Uganda, in the rift valley floor, Queen Elizabeth national park is about 5-6 hours drive from Kampala city. Several en route attractions can be visited on your way to park including equator line and drum village in Masaka, about 2 hours from Kampala. If you don’t use public buses that leave Kampala daily, arrange transportation or book accommodation and park activities with a tour operator.
When you plans to have a safari trip, what you have to put in mind is where you will have to have meals and a relaxation after enjoying adventuring. There is no need to worry because the park has different accommodation facilities that will favor all types of visitors and it also caters for budget travelers. Mweya safari lodge and Jacana lodge have excellent services and ishasha wilderness camp with lavishness accommodation. Budget accommodation includes Mweya hotels and ishasha Bandas with standards that will make your stay memorable. The park has camping sites like Maramagambo, ishasha, kingfisher camp and Kitandara Hippo hill camp.
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