Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The park’s diverse ecosystems, which include sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, make it the ideal habitat for classic big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds.
Set against the backdrop of the jagged Rwenzori Mountains, the park’s magnificent vistas include dozens of enormous craters carved dramatically into rolling green hills, panoramic views of the Kazinga Channel with its banks lined with hippos, buffalos and elephants, and the endless Ishasha plains, whose fig trees hide lions ready to pounce on herds of unsuspecting Uganda kob.
As well as its outstanding wildlife attractions, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a fascinating cultural history. There are many opportunities for visitors to meet the local communities and enjoy storytelling, dance, music and more. The park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park, and renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II.
What to do in Queen Elizabeth National park
For a classic African safari experience, the tracks through Kasenyi, the North Kazinga Plains and the Ishasha Sector offer virtually guaranteed buffalo, antelope and elephant sightings, along with warthogs and baboons. Taking an experienced guide in the early morning or at dusk is the most successful way to track down a pride of lions, and maybe even the odd leopard.
Classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International, Queen’s great variety of habitats mean it is home to over 600 species. This is the greatest of any East African national park, and a phenomenal number for such a small area. The park’s confluence of savanna and forest, linking to the expansive forests of the DR Congo allow visitors to spot East as well as Central African species.
Tucked beneath the shady canopy of the Maramagambo Forest is the “Bat Cave”. The cave has a viewing room from which visitors can observe the resident bats and pythons.
The Kyambura Gorge experience is more than discovering chimpanzees in their natural environment: it teaches visitors about the ecosystems of Kyambura Gorge’s atmospheric “underground” rainforest, including vegetation types; bird identification and behavior; and chimp and monkey ecology.
HIKING / NATURE WALKS
Nature treks are one of the more active ways to explore the landscapes and wildlife of Queen Elizabeth. Locations include the shady Maramagambo forest; Mweya Peninsula with its scenic views; and Ishasha River, where you may spot a variety of forest and savanna species as well as having a unique opportunity to get extremely close to hippos – on foot!
The Kazinga Channel is an oasis for many of the fascinating species that inhabit the park, and taking a boat tour along it gives visitors the chance to cruise just meters from hundreds of enormous hippos and buffalos while elephants linger on the shoreline.
CULTURAL HERITAGE AND NATURE TRAIL
See the energetic dances of the Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performers; workers harvesting salt on Katwe Salt Lake; a traditional Banyaraguru hut; or an agricultural village – all guided by those who know them best – local community members.
WILDLIFE RESEARCH TOURS
For visitors who yearn to get up close to wild African fauna, a research trip is a rewarding adventure. This new and unique experience allows visitors to actively participate in monitoring some of the exotic birds and mammals that fill the park, using locator devices and learn habituation calls, as well as monitoring weather, surroundings and behavior.
How to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park can be accessed most easily from Kampala. The tarmac road from Kampala via Mbarara town and Bushenyi leads to the center of the park, passing just 22 km from Mweya Peninsula, the main tourism hub. Approaching the park from the south via Mbarara covers a distance of 420km while the north through Fort Portal covers a total of 410 km.
En-route to the park, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy short detours to Lake Mburo National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Kibale National Park, renowned for its chimpanzee tracking. The park can also be accessed from the south from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Charter flights can be arranged to existing airstrips of Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.