QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in western Uganda in Kasese district. The park derives its name from the queen of England. It was a grazing area for the local Basongora tribes who were cattle keepers and depended on grazing and Pastoralism.

Towards the end of the last century H.M Stanley and Captain Fredrick Lugard toured the area and found out that the area was depopulated due to the frequent raids from the Bunyoro and Buganda kingdoms and also the outbreak of epidemic diseases like the small pox, and rinder pest. The basongora people could not contain the calamity compelling and completing making the area to even become more depopulated. These remnants were forced to turn to fishing as way they could earn a living. As a result of the departure of these local basongora lead to the well being of the wildlife and vegetation they started thieving and significant hence leading to the creation of the park.

In the year 1912 the areas of Lake George and Ishasha had been declared as restricted areas. This made the communities that were around the park and involved in fishing and agriculture to move to other areas making the area more depopulated. Natural calamities like the outburst of sleeping sickness continued up to 1930. And in the year 1952 the national park decree was approved and it became Queen Elizabeth national park later Kazinga national park was gazetted that very year. Due to the land mass with the area, Lake George and the game reserve was extended to embrace the bigger area in the Lake Edward and Kazinga channel.

The park was again renamed Queen Elizabeth National Park after two years to commemorate a visit made by the Queen of England. Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most famous tourist destination in Uganda, with its varied ecosystem including the Sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile soils making it an excellent and perfect place for classic large games, about ten primates and over 620 bird species.

The parks magnificent vistas include the dozens of enormous craters carved dramatically into the rolling green hills and panoramic views of the channel that is infested with hippos and the banks lined up with buffaloes, elephants, water bucks, birds like the African skimmers, Egyptians, to mention but a few. The endless Ishasha plains that contain numerous fig trees that are a hide out for the lions that are ready to pounce on the unsuspecting herds of Uganda kobs. Apart from the parks outstanding wildlife attraction, the park has a fascinating cultural history. The visitors have many opportunities of meeting the local communities and enjoy their story telling, music, dance and more. The surrounding communities have benefited a lot from the park due to its conservation of the ecosystems. The park is situated in the Albertine rift valley in the western Uganda region near the Rwenzori Mountains.

The park has two rainy seasons the first onset is from March-May and the second onset starts from September-November. The rain received varies within the park. Its highest amount of rainfall received is 1,250 mm per year and this is in the areas of Maramagambo forest and about 750 mm as its least and this is received along the areas of the Kazinga channel. This in turn results from the interference with the air circulation in the patterns by the Rwenzori in the north and the Kichwamba escarpment in the east.

The park has a variety of flora and fauna and it’s acknowledged to be a habitat for over 95 mammal species, and about 620 bird species. Due to the various species in this park has made it a unique park that is most liked by many tourists. The grasslands of the park shelters wildlife such as the buffaloes, elephants, Uganda kobs, warthogs, lions, leopard to mention but a few. Topis can be discovered in the ishasha and forest primates found in the kyambura gorge and maramagambo forest.

 

ATTRACTIONS IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK.

Wildlife.

The open grasslands of the kasenyi provide the park’s primary game viewing area all thanks to the large herds of Uganda kobs and the lions that prey on them. The chance of sighting lions in the Ishasha plains is particularly good and the local prides obligingly spend their days resting up in the branches of the shady fig trees. Hearing the elephant calls reverberate around queen’s crater-filled valleys is a magical, breathtaking and interesting experience. The park has over 95 mammal species and among these includes some of the classic big five, the elephants, buffaloes, lions and leopards other mammals found there are the numerous herds of Uganda kobs, schools of hippos on the kazinga channel, waterbucks, bush bucks, to mention but a few.

Wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Mweya peninsula.

The peninsular is the heart of sightseeing activities in the park. One can carry out a guided tour around the peninsular where you will also get chance of touring distant parts of the peninsular. The most exciting aspect about the peninsular is the fact it overlooks katwe bay of Lake Edward more so the peninsular has an African craft shop which contains crafts where tourists can buy souvenirs to take with them to remind them of their safari in made in Uganda the area also has different bird species that one can sight and these include woodland kingfisher, storks, sparrows, fire finches, weaver birds to mention but a few.

Kazinga channel.

The Kazinga channel is about 40km wide adjoining lakes Edward and George. It has a perfect view of the park’s wildlife ventures. The shores of the channel harbor and attract large concentration of mammals like elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, to mention but a few, birds like the pied king fisher, African skimmers, open billed stork, Egyptians geese, and so many more birds, reptiles like the Nile crocodiles, monitor lizards and so on throughout the year. The wildlife can be sighted well by the Nile cruise. A boat cruise gives one a chance to come closer to the wildlife that comes to the shores for water and the hippos that infest almost the whole channel.

Queen’s pavilion and the equators.

The equator provides a very good view for photographs and craft shops where one can buy souvenirs. The queen’s pavilion is spotted in the northern entrance to the crater drive. The Queen gave a provisional shelter for the site in 1954and in 1959 a permanent pavilion was constructed for the visit of the Queen. And in 2007 renovations were made with better facilities such as coffee shops, internet facilities to mention but a few by the second visit of the Duke of Edinburg.

Birds.

The park has about 620 bird species, and this makes the park to be the best park when it comes to number of bird species. Due to its variety in vegetation like the savanna grasslands, woodland, forest, wetlands to mention but a few these makes it a preferred place for birds. The parks confluence of savanna and forest linking it to the expansive forest of Democratic Republic of Congo allows visitors to spot both east and central African species. Present, the park has numerous water birds, woodland and forest dwellers. The park has about 54 raptors, among the birds are the Martial eagles, African skimmers, vultures, storks, weavers, lapwings, kingfishers, bishops to mention but a few. While doing birding the best places do birding while in the park are the Kazinga channel, maramagambo forest,mweya peninsular, kasenyi area, ishasha sector, katwe,katunguru bridge and lake kikorongo.

Maramagambo forest.

Maramagambo forest covers part Queen Elizabeth national park from Kichwamba escarpment and all through to Lake Edward. The forest is famous for the bat caves, it is also a good place for hiking, and nature walks, through the different trails that are within the forest. It has an interesting story where its name was derived from so as you take your walk through the guide can be able to give you the whole story. The forest is borded by two crater lakes Kyasanduka and nyamasingiri. The forest has a good number of primate species like the chimpanzees, red tailed monkeys black and white colobus monkeys to mention but a few and the bêtes pygmy antelopes.

ACTIVITIES IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK.

Game drives.

The park has marvelous game drives are also something a tourist should not miss out when they visit the September and January- February. The tracks are dry and the grass is short and this makes game viewing clearer and better. During your game drive you will get a chance to see tree climbing lions in Ishasha sector and the Kasenyi plains, buffaloes herds, elephants, water bucks, the beautiful Uganda kobs you will also be in position to see some birds like the bishops, doves vultures, to mention but a few. The game drive is usually done early morning or in the evening and it is for about 2-4 hours.

Boat cruise.

The launch cruise is one of the activities where you can have a glimpse at most of all the wildlife of Queen Elizabeth national park. A boat cruise along the 40 km long Kazinga channel is an interesting and awesome experience and very rewarding. Among the wildlife you will encounter are the numerous schools of hippos, buffaloes, elephants, bush bucks, water bucks, Nile crocodiles, birds like the African data, African skimmers, African Jacana, kingfishers, storks, to mention but a few while on the boat cruise you will also get a chance see one of the fishing villages the Kazinga fishing village.

Boat Cruise on Kazinga Channel
Boat Cruise on Kazinga Channel

Bird watching.

Bird watching in Queen Elizabeth national park is at its best, the park has about 620 species of birds and it is recognized by the International Birding Association due to its different adaptability of the birds comes from the wide range that is preferred by the birds, from the savannah grasslands, the maramagambo forest and wetlands.  Most birds can be viewed when you take a boat cruise on the Kazinga channel like the comorants, African datas, open billed stork, African skimmers, king fishers, black bee-eaters, fly catchers, and the majestic striking fish eagle to mention.

Chimpanzee tracking.

Chimpanzee tracking is another interesting activity carried out in the Kyambura gorge, due to the presence of these primates, has earned kyambura gorge other new names like the valley of apes and the valley of comedy among others. Kyambura gorge is a gorgeous place due to the stripes of rain forest that cut across a vast savannah dominated area. The chimpanzees swing on trees and also at times they move on the land.

Cultural encounters.

Experience the energetic performance of the kikorongo cultural performances like harvesting salt at Lake Katwe, traditional banyaruguru hut and so many other performances. The name kikorongomeans too much sunshine in the local language of the lukonzo. But the heat of the African plains has not diminished the energy of the kikorongo equator cultural performance. This vibrant performance takes place at the lodges around the park. It is a wonderful glimpse of life in the kikorongo with music, dance, drama and fire making. The local interpreter explains the significance of the performances and all you have to do is sit back relax, watch and enjoy the village life of these interesting people unfold in front of you.

Nature walks / Hiking.

Hike down in the vast kyambura gorge is a true adventure. Take the three hours chimpanzee tracking and on it you will be able to undergo through the forest which is called the valley of apes since it has a fair number of chimpanzees and other primates found in the gorge. Apart from the chimpanzees the forest has a variety of other interesting things to see which will make your hike interesting like birds, plants tree species and some other wildlife like the bêtes antelopes and so on.

 

ACCOMMODATIONS QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

There are different accommodations that are in the park and near the park. The park has luxury, midrange and budget accommodations that will favor your stay and cater for all your needs. Mweya safari lodge, jacana lodge,ishasha wilderness camp that has lavish accommodation,maramagambo but also one may also take on the hippo hill camp which is adjacent to katwe along the kingfisher camp that is on the beautiful kichwamba escarpment.  All these accommodations will make your stay memorable.

 

ACCESSIBILITY.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is situated in the western part of Uganda Kasese district about 400km from Kampala the capital city which is about 5-6 hours drive. It can be accessed through two routes Kampala-Mubende-fort Portal road or Kampala-Masaka-Mbarara road. From Fort Portal- Kasese-Mbarara provides an opportunity to reach locations such as kikorongo junction, Katunguru, and Kyambura. Those coming from other parks in the north of Queen Elizabeth national park like Murchison falls national park, Semuliki National Park, Mountain Rwenzori National Park or Kibale National Park can connect to the park through fort portal- kasese road. And those coming from national parks in the south of the park like Lake Mburo National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga gorilla national park or even Rwanda can connect to the park through Mbarara-Katunguru road.  This safari park can also be accessed by air transport. From the international airport in Entebbe or Kajjansi in Kampala to Mweya airfield.