Queen Elizabeth national park
Queen Elizabeth national park is one of the most visited safari destinations in Uganda. Nick named the “medley of wonders”, the park has a very unique and diverse eco system. The open savanna plains, the tropical forest, woodland and water bodies make the perfect sanctuary for the wildlife and bird species that call the park home. Vast herds of elephants freely roam the open plains. Vocal calls of the chimps in Kyambura Gorge or the views of the Rwenzoris make this park a remarkable destination on your Uganda safari. Originally called the Kazinga national park, the park changed its name to Queen Elizabeth national park in 1952 after the visit of Queen Elizabeth II of England.
Although this park is overshadowed by more famous destination in East and South Africa, this park offers unique and exclusive game viewing. The Big cats are the main attraction in this vast grassland. The tree climbing lions in the Ishasha sector are a sight to behold. Catch sight of the elusive leopards patched in the low braches of the cactus trees. More wildlife like elephants, buffalo, antelopes and hippos can be seen on a game drive across the savanna plains.
The boat cruise on the Kazinga channel is a relaxing yet a thrilling adventure. Get close encounters with the wildlife as they come to quench their thirst by the shores of the channel. Large schools of hippos are seen splashing in the families near the shores of the channel. The Mweya Peninsular overflows with big swarm of birds. With over 660 recorded bird species, a big number of them are seen on this boat cruise. Safaris through Queen Elizabeth are easily connected to Bwindi Impenetrable national park, Kibale Forest national park and Mountain Rwenzori national park.
Attractions in Queen Elizabeth national park.
Queen Elizabeth national park is home to 95 mammal species. With the exception of the rhino, the park has 4 of the big 5. The tree climbing lions are a major hit. Lion families can be spotted in the low branches of the cactus trees. This gives them a vantage point on their quest for prey and allows a cooler environment away from the excessive heat. Leopards and hyenas can be seen striding on the savanna grasslands. Big elephant herds are easily seen as they roam the savanna plains or going for a drink. The cape buffalo dot the savanna plains. The park is estimated to have a population of over 5000 hippos. All these can be viewed on your morning or evening game drive. These game drives are mainly done in the Kasenyi plains and the Ishasha sector. An experiential game drive allows you to drive off the tracks and get closer encounters with the big cats.
The Kyambura gorge is home to the chimpanzees, man’s closest relatives. They share 97% of their DNA with humans and share similar characteristics like facial features, vocal calls and intelligence. They are known to use tools like humans do. They use sticks to get insects out of their anthills and use rocks to crack nuts. The Kyambura gorge is a tropical forest that is believed to be an extension of the Kibale forest. Other primates include olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, grey checked mangabeys and the vervet monkey.
All nature reserves that have a water body offers amazing birding excursions. Queen Elizabeth is no exception. The different ecosystems found in the park offers sanctuary to a variety of bird species some of which are endemic to the region. The bird life on Kazinga channel is impeccable. The recorded 660 bird species are mostly seen on the afternoon boat cruise on the Kazinga channel. Large flocks of pelicans, the rare flamingo and the sought after shoebill stork are found on this peninsular.
Nestled at the bottom of the Albertine rift with the Rwenzoris as your back drop, the landscape is transcending. The unending plains are as vast as the eyes can see. The horizons are broken by the protruding hills and mountains. The various crater lakes, some offering healing to the sick birds are a sight to behold. The salt mine of Lake Katwe displays a beautiful pattern as salt is extracted from the crater lake. The views on the Kazinga channel during the boat cruise are serene.
Activities in Queen Elizabeth national park.
Game drives in Queen Elizabeth are the major way of encountering the amazing game in the park. In a customized safari vehicle, you are able to enjoy close interactions with the game in safety and comfort. These vehicles are customized for accessibility and offer panoramic views of the plains. Although it is possible to do these drives at any time of the day, the best time is early morning and late evening. Here, the predators like hyenas, lions and cats are out hunting due to the cooler conditions. The prey; antelopes, buffalo and warthogs are heading back to their grazing grounds. The night game drive offers thrilling insight of the savanna plains. Dark and unpredictable better describes the feeling. Antelopes become jumpy at every sound. You have the chance to spot the nocturnal game.
The Kazinga channel connects the 2 lakes of Edward and George. This waterbody is home to over 5000 hippos and can be seen near the banks of the river in their respective families. Huge flocks of birds line up the shores of the channel, creating epic sounds in their wake. Of the 660 bird species in the park, most of them are seen on this afternoon boat cruise. Big basks of crocodiles line up the shores soaking in the sun. Elephant families trek to the river in the afternoon heat to quench their thirst. Waterbucks, buffaloes and kobs join them to take a sip of the much needed water. This 3-hour boat cruise is relaxing yet offers amazing close encounters of the wild.
Kyambura gorge in the eastern part of the park is home to 16 chimpanzees hence the name “valley of the apes”. This thick tropical forest is lined with a dense undergrowth perfect for the survival of the apes. The ravine is 100 meters deep with beautiful backdrop. Other primate species in the gorge include; red tailed monkeys, white and black colobus monkeys, olive baboons and red colobus monkeys. This ecosystem also attracts flamingos, papyrus canary, vereux eagle owl, shoebill and many more. The chimp trek allows you to venture into the tropical forest led by experienced guides for a hour encounter with the chimps. Chimps can be trekked in Kibale national park, Murchison falls national park and Kalinzu forest.
Best time to visit
Under the rest of the world, this concept doesn’t apply. Uganda lies on the equator and receives plenty of rainfall and sunshine. Due to climate change, one cannot precisely predict the weather pattern suitably. One ought to carry a waterproof jacket and the rest is fair game. However, the area receives less rainfall in the months of June, July, August and December to February. These drier conditions are favorable for game viewing, boat cruises and primate trekking. For those interested in hiking the Rwenzoirs, the wet seasons of September, November and March till May are perfect. The rains create more snow on the peaks making a more scenic hike.
How to get there
The park is accessible both by air and road. The drive from Kampala to Queen Elizabeth takes approximately 7 hours and a flight from Kajjansi airfield takes about an hour. The park can be visited both as a single destination or as part of a broader itinerary. A 3-hour drive will take you to the Buhoma sector of the Bwindi impenetrable forest for a gorilla trekking safari. On the other side, the Rwenzori mountains are barely an hour away. The Kibale forest national park is a 3-hour journey.