About Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most popular game parks in Uganda and in east Africa. It is located in the western part of Uganda about 376 km from Kampala. Queen Elizabeth national park is known for its variety of wildlife, most of which was killed in the Uganda-Tanzania war. The park is a true nature hub with a number of natural attractions making it a suitable option for Uganda safaris. It has volcanic features which include volcanic cones, and deep craters, it also includes the Maramagambo Forest, not to mention the various species of wildlife that reside within its borders.
Wildlife found in Queen Elizabeth National park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for its tree climbing lions.
Queen Elizabeth national park is home to a number of mammals and birds. It is documented to have about 95 animal species and 612 bird species. The variety is well worth a visit to the park. Animal residents of the park include; the Uganda kob, warthog, elephant, waterbuck, giant forest hog, leopards, lions and hyenas. There are topi found in Ishasha, and primate in maramagambo forest and Kyambura Gorge. The park is famous for its tree climbing lions
The National Park’s 612 bird species include; the martial eagle, black-rumped buttonquail, African skimmer, Chapin’s flycatcher, pink backed pelicans, white-winged warbler, papyrus canary, papyrus gonolek and so many more. The park is every birdwatchers dream.
Game viewing at Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The park is good for game viewing all year round. The dry seasons June-September and January to February is the best time to visit because the animals are near the water sources and much easier to see. The vegetation is also not as thick as it would be in the wet season. For those interested in tracking chimpanzees, this is the best time to visit.
You can also go wildlife viewing in the park during the rainy seasons of October to December and March to May although; the tracks are slippery and quite difficult to navigate. And wildlife viewing might be interrupted by the rains.
What to do in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The park is full of interesting sites and activities. You can take guided walks to explore remote parts of the Mweya peninsula; you can go see the Kazinga channel, a 40 km long stream that joins Lake George and Lake Edward. There is a lot of wildlife that can be seen around the shoreline of the channel. Other interesting features around the park include the Katwe explosion craters, the Queen’s pavilion, and the equator. In Ishasha, you can catch site of the tree climbing lions. You can also go on boat rides on the kazinga channel, go chimpanzee trekking in the Kyambura gorge, or simply enjoy the beautiful scenery
This 2,056 square km park was set up in 1952 when the 2 game reserves of Lakes George and Edward were joined to form the Kazinga National Park. Two years later, it was re-named Queen Elizabeth National Park after the Queen of England – Queen Elizabeth II visited Uganda.
It is among the Uganda’s oldest national parks and UNESCO listed it as a Biosphere Reserve for Humanity. Along with Kyambura plus Kigezi wildlife reserves, this park is among the most diversified eco-systems on the African continent.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is truly enticing and worth visiting with family or a special person to you. However, go ready to like everything yet again as the park is gifted with breathtaking scenery plus attractions to complete an action packed holiday. This park receives as much as 1250 mm of rainfall mainly starting in March up to May and then from September up to November. The melting iced waters of Mountain Rwenzori form a large wetland system consisting of 2 primary lakes; Lake George and Lake Edward. Lake Edward was named by Henry Morton Stanley, an early explorer, after the Prince of Wales – King Edward VII. These two lakes are linked by a 40 kilometers long water channel whose shores are inhabited by thousands of hippos as well as birds throughout the year
The park is a haven for devoted ornithologists along with the beginner bird watchers. The list of birds includes 612 bird species such as the uncommon Shoe Bill, Martial Eagle, Papyrus Gonolek, Lesser & Greater Flamingos, White tailed lark and Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. There are more than 95 mammalian plus numerous species of butterflies.
Some of the Activities to enjoy include: a launch cruise on the Kazinga Channel offering you an opportunity to view wildlife. You will sail past large schools of hippos, and see various animals like the giant elephants just by the shore.
This lunch cruise is considered to be the highlight tourist activity in the park and this is done in the morning and in the afternoon. Within the open Savannah scattered with Acacia plus Euphorbia trees where you will find lions, Uganda kobs, leopards plus buffaloes, in addition to topi, huge forest hogs and the water bucks.
Connected by more than 200 km of properly kept tracks, visitors get access to the game park by using a couple of the tracks going through areas such as the renowned mating grounds for the Uganda kob. The Kasenyi area on the eastern side of the Kasese road is renowned for lions that feed on large numbers of the Uganda kobs and yet the legendary tree climbing lions may be seen resting in the huge fig trees within the Ishasha areas just 100 km south of the luxury Mweya Safari Lodge.
An additional crucial feature here is the Kyambura Gorge a steep gorge which resulted from turbulent waters of the thundering Kyambura River. It offers a green riverine forest home to the amazing chimpanzees, black & white Columbus monkeys, red tailed monkeys as well as olive baboons.
The park in addition has one of the largest areas of tropical forest in Uganda – the Maramagambo forest translated as “the forest beyond description.” There are also bat caves which are home to Pythons that prey on these bats; these pythons can easily be seen.
You will also see the stunning crater lakes dispersed throughout this park, the Katwe Explosion craters being the most notable. This group of extinct volcanoes just north of the Mweya peninsula may be explored on the 27 km winding crater drive which offers amazing views of these craters.
When to Go
Queen Elizabeth National Park covers an area of 1978 sq. Km. and is located on the rift valley floor between two lakes George and Edward. It has a number of habitats that are home to about 95 species of mammals and 612 species of birds. This gives it a very diverse wildlife population. The scenery covers everything from lush vegetation, to lakes, to wildlife and rising mountains beyond the park boundary.
The vegetation can be summed up in 5 types; forest, bushy grassland, grassland, swamp vegetation/lakeshore and acacia woodland. It residents include; Uganda kobs, elephants, warthogs, leopards, hyenas, chimpanzees, the famous tree climbing lions and so much more. It is a place that renews your appreciation for nature.
Queen Elizabeth National Park offers good game viewing and wildlife adventures all year round. Some times of the year are better times to visit than others. The dry months are the best time to go wild life viewing and chimpanzee trekking in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The dry season runs from June to September and there is a short break between the rains in January to February.
The wet season is between October to December and also March to May. Interestingly though, some of the wet months are the perfect time for bird watching in the park.
The best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park is June to August.
January, February, August and September are good months to visit too.
Peak Season is June and July
The low season is March to May and October to December which is the wet season.
Best weather conditions: This would be the dry season of June to September.
Worst weather conditions: The wet season running from March to May.
The dry season:
June, July, August, September, January and February are the drier months of the year. During this time the animals are much easier to see because they are drawn to the water sources. It is peak season, especially in June so there will quite a number of tourists in the park, never an overwhelming crowd though.
This is the best time to go on game drives and view wildlife, take guided walks and go on chimpanzee tracking expeditions. You will need warm clothes for the early morning game drives and the nights because it tends to get really cold.
The wet season:
October, November, December, March, April and May are the wetter months of the year. During this season, the scenery in and around the park is extremely beautiful. The vegetation is green and lush and captures the true picture of the tropics. There are migratory birds from Europe and Northern Africa in the park during this season which makes it the best to go bird watching.
However it is also the low season for the park, and some lodges might even be closed especially between March and May. Warm clothes and rain gear are a necessity during this time.
How to get to Queen Elizabeth national Park
Located in western Uganda, shared by districts of Kasese, Bundibugyo and Bushenyi, Queen Elizabeth national park is 1978km2 in size and 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.
It includes parts of Lakes Edward and George which are linked by Kazinga channel and other attractions. Accessing the park from Kampala is either on tarmac through Mbarara (420kms) or Fort Portal via Kasese (410kms). The park is 5-6 hours from Kampala on surface road via Mbarara. Queen Elizabeth national park can also be reached via Ishasha sector, which is south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
It is also possible to fly to any of the nearby airstrips of Kasese, Mweya or Ishasha by scheduled or chartered aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala.
You will enter Uganda at Entebbe International Airport (EBB), about 46km/29mi from Kampala, the capital city. Generally, Globetrotters Tours and travel can arrange for your pick-up from the airport, and organize any further transportation required as part of your safari package.
Aerolink flies from Entebbe to the airstrip in Kihihi, which is convenient for visiting both the northern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth Park is the Premier Wildlife Park in Southwestern Uganda, a favorite Park among visitors to the region. You have a wide variety of experiential things to and see here and can easily spend 5 days or more in the park. Queen Elizabeth National Park should be on the must-visit list of every visitor to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest since it is only a short drive and one can discover the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha, the chimpanzees of the Kyambura Gorge, the multitude of Birds, Hippos, wildlife along the incredible Kazinga Channel. Hike through the Maramagambo Forest, birding trails abound here, all in the shadows of the Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon in the north and the Mitumbe Mountains of the Congo in the East.
The park has been an example what conservation efforts can produce with the hippo, elephant populations growing by leaps and bounds.
Queen Elizabeth is one of Uganda’s most popular tourist destinations and understandably so. Its 2000 square kilometers cover a lot of territories, teeming with African Wildlife. From elephants to leopards, there are 95 species of mammals, 619 species of birds, reptiles including crocodiles and Monitor Lizards.
Not only can visitors to the park see the scenic wonders, wildlife but meet and experience Ugandan culture through interactive meetings with various communities near the park.
Big Game in Abundance
Queen Elizabeth Park is home to about 5000 hippos, 3000 Elephants and there are over 10,000 of Cape Buffaloes, but there are also Warthogs, Water-buck, Uganda Kob, Topi and even the rare semi-aquatic Sitatunga Antelope.
Queen Elizabeth Park is an Elephant success story, in fact, elephants have increased by 600% since 1980, In Queen Elizabeth Park, in particular, the growth of the Elephant population has been phenomenal returning to the levels of 1960.
Ten species of primates enjoy the park’s diverse habitats, the most popular undoubtedly being the chimpanzee. Vervet and black-and-white Columbus monkeys are easily spotted in the trees.
Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park is an incredible treat as it has a variety of habitats that range from savanna to wetlands to lowland forests. This diversity is reflected in the list of over 619 bird species, the largest amount of any protected area in East Africa. Queen Elizabeth Park is a must for birders who are visiting Uganda.
For many visitors to Queen Elizabeth National Park, the best attractions are the felines. Here you can find Lions, Leopards, Civet, Genal and Several Cats. Lions are found throughout the Park and the southern Ishasha sector is home to the best place in Africa for tree-climbing lions. Many of the smaller cats are strictly nocturnal and are best seen during nocturnal game drives.
Queen Elizabeth Park is a must visit park for those on a Ugandan safari…with lots of things to do and see in the Queen of Parks. It is the closest park to both Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where you trek Gorillas and the best location for Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda – Kibale Forest. The perfect safari that takes place is Silver-back Mountain Gorilla Trekking – Queen Elizabeth Park and Kibale Forest Chimpanzee Trekking in seven days.
Wildlife Game Drives in Queen Elizabeth prove to be a delight. There are 3,000 Elephants, over 10,000 buffaloes and you can find elephants even in the crater Valleys along the explosion crater drive. Not only are there buffaloes and elephants but warthogs, water-buck, Uganda Kob, Topi Antelopes and even the rare semi-aquatic Sitatunga Antelopes that have webbed toes.
Queen Elizabeth Park is also home to a number of feline cats that you can often spot on game drives, in some cases on Night Game Drives such as lions, leopards, civet cats, genal, and several cats. Wildlife abounds in Queen Elizabeth Park, most every visitor see some lions on his Safari that take in Queen Elizabeth Park in Uganda.
Nocturnal Game Drives
Nocturnal Game drives with spotlights is a most exciting adventure. It is the time that the predators are out on the prowl such as lions, leopards, civet cats, genal cats and serval cats.
A night game drive is taken after dinner. Darkness sets in Uganda soon after 7 pm and the nighttime action begins. Creatures that you would not see on a daytime Game Drive you will see at night and those that partake in the nocturnal game drive are simply amazed by what awaits them.
During nocturnal game drives, spotlights illuminate the night that you can see the animals on the prowl and those that are being prowled.
Kazinga Channel – Boat Safari
Queen Elizabeth Park is home to 5000 hippos which is one of the largest concentration of hippos in Africa and in Queen Elizabeth National Park they are found along Kazinga Channel.
Kazinga Channel is a 2 hour plus Boat Safari where you can see hippos, crocodiles, monitor lizards, elephant herds, buffaloes, antelopes and many different kinds of water birds.
The Kazinga Boat Safari is one of the highlights of a safari to Queen Elizabeth Park.
One of the little known about activities in Queen Elizabeth Park is Mongoose Research Tracking on the Mweya Peninsula.
This is a 3-hour activity that can be done with a guide who accompanies you as you set off to the Mongoose Research Area where you can observe the Banded Mongoose and learn about their habits and ways.
This is a fascinating activity and you will see other wildlife, birds along the hike as you venture along Kazinga Channel on the Mweya Peninsula.
We at Globetrotters travel and tours can include Mongoose Research Activity in your Queen Elizabeth Park Itinerary.
Lion Research Tracking
Each morning or late afternoon you can take part in a Lion Tracking Research Experience in Queen Elizabeth Park, these tracking times last between one to three hours and are done twice a day. Lions that have radio-collars attached to them are the ones usually being tracked. You will be with researchers and learn the habits of the Lions in Queen Elizabeth Park.
This Lion Tracking Experience is limited to just a few visitors and one must be booked ahead of time in order to take part in this unique lion tracking.
Birding in Queen Elizabeth Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda is one of the best parks for birding in Uganda if not in all of Africa with 619 species that are found in this Birders Paradise.
Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park is an incredible treat as it has a variety of habitats that range from savanna to wetlands to lowland forests.
Present in the park, are many water birds, woodland and forest dwellers in the Maramagambo Forest, 54 raptors and various migratory species. Key species include the Martial Eagle, Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Skimmer, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Pink-backed Pelican, African Broadbill, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed Lark, White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, Corncrake, Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Shoebill, Bar-tailed Godwit.
Hiking in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Nature Walks and Hiking opportunities – at Queen Elizabeth Park you are not stuck in a vehicle but you can get out explore areas such as Maramagambo Forest, Kyambura Gorge which is part of the Western Rift Valley, the Mweya Peninsula, and you hike along the Ishasha River in Ishasha.
If you are an avid hiker, love nature walks then you will find Queen Elizabeth Park just the right place for you. Queen Elizabeth Park does not mean being stuck in a vehicle but the freedom to explore and discover.
Chimpanzee Tracking – Kyambura Gorge
There are 10 species of primates found in Queen Elizabeth Park – the most popular one is the Chimpanzee which is found in the Savannah – the Kyambura Gorge which has been called “the lost valley” by BBC in a documentary and is commonly referred to “the Valley of the Apes.”
Kyambura Gorge on a Chimpanzee Trek is one of the fascinating areas in Queen Elizabeth Park to see; as you descend into the valley you will be simply amazed.
In the Gorge, you cross Rivers, meander through the thick forest in search of chimpanzees and spot other wildlife, primates and birds as you do so.
This Ironwood forest – plus fruit trees is a place buzzing with primates, including chimpanzees, baboons, and several monkey species, the forest is also alive with many birds including the rare Forest Flycatcher, White-naped Pigeon and the striking Rwenzori Turaco.
One can also visit the ‘cormorant house’, a large tree that has been turned white by the birds that roost here at night.
Maramagambo is a favorite with birders but also with hikers that take a trail leading to a Bat Cave viewing area from which pythons reside. The viewing area was constructed by the American Center for Disease Control and it is designed for your protection.
Ishasha Tree Climbing Lions
This remote southern region enjoys fewer visitors than the north, but those who venture this far may be rewarded with sightings of Ishasha’s most famous residents – the tree-climbing lions – lounging in the branches while keeping a close eye on the herds of Uganda Kob. It is also home to many buffaloes and elephants as well as the rare shoebill stork.
Ishasha is also a convenient region to pass through on the way to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A fantastic experience is to stay one or two nights at the Ishasha Wilderness Lodge in the south of Queen Elizabeth Park in the Ishasha Region.
Kyambura Wildlife Reserve
Kyambura Wildlife Reserve along with its beautiful crater lakes found in this reserve is a great add-on visit to Queen Elizabeth Park. It is a short distance from Queen Elizabeth Park.
The Kyambura Wildlife Reserve is located to the east of Kyambura Gorge and offers excellent opportunities to see many water birds including greater and lesser flamingos (during their season and time Uganda) and the great egret.
One can go on wildlife game drives here, take guided nature walks, see the crater lakes and simply enjoy this as an addition to Queen Elizabeth Park. The good news is that there is no additional cost besides your daily park fees at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Please remember the flamingos are migratory birds and are seen during the northern winter season in Uganda but after that, they head north again.
Katwe Explosion Craters Drive
The huge round basins scattered across the equator are evidence of the Albertine Rift’s bubbling volcanic activity in times past. A past which was not that long ago and occurred around the time the Egyptian pyramids were built.
The explosion craters are a must-see for those with a particular interest in the region’s fascinating geological history.
Even National Geographic has found this a fascinating area and has published pictures of it.
The 27km drive between Kabatoro gate and Queen’s Pavilion takes in views of the enormous craters, circular lakes, the vast Rift Valley escarpment and the Kazinga channel, Lake George and Lake Edward – all with a view of the Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon.
A Visit to the Ancient Lake Katwe Salt Works
This unusual lake is far too salty to support much wildlife – though since the 16th Century it has ensured the survival of the Katwe villagers, who spend their days under the equatorial sun, walking the network of paths that crisscross the lake and harvesting salt from its milky waters.
The work here is dangerous since the saline waters do much damage to the body of those who spend all day in the lake harvesting the salt. This, at one time, was like gold and brought wealth to the area but today the salt from Katwe does not bring wealth since times have changed and salt is readily available from various sources.
Katwe Salt Lake Tour gives a unique insight into the fascinating yet tough process of salt mining, as well as providing an alternative income for the Katwe dwellers. You will also pass the nearby bird sanctuary lake, home to thousands of birds, including flamingos from October to May.
Nyanz’ibiri Cave Community
This is a time to stretch your legs after long game drives with scenic walks around a slice of Ugandan paradise, at this community site known as The Cave. There are two conjoined crater lakes to hike around, village visits
See splendid panoramic views of volcanic crater lakes to the cries of crested cranes and eagles. Paddle a canoe, hike to the Transparent Lake and also spot eight species of forest primates.
Local attractions include a historic cave and Cultural Museum – a perfectly preserved Banyaruguru hut, filled with valued local artifacts that were once the tools of everyday life.
This community run lodging accommodation also offers three, fully furnished private bandas and a campsite. All visitors can have a meal at the restaurant and bar, and enjoy the evening traditional dance performances.
Leopard Village is a community-run, socio-economic development initiative that promotes cultural and wildlife conservation through ecotourism. Located near the village of Muhokya, Leopard Village sits on 3 acres bordering the northern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Visitors can tour replicas of the traditional huts of the Banyabindi, Bakonzo, and Basongora ethnic groups, watch the traditional song and dance performances, and buy handicrafts made by local communities.
Longer visits can include conversations with community members about the challenges and opportunities they face living next to the park, visits to local schools, and discussions about traditional village life and solutions for human-wildlife conflict.
Leopard Village is a partnership between the local communities of Muhokya, Kahenderoand Hamukungu, and the Uganda Carnivore Program, with support from zoos in the United States and Germany.
Kikorongo Women Community
The word Kikorongo means “Too Much Sunshine” in the local language of Lukonzo – but the heat of the African plains has not diminished the energy of the Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performers!
This vibrant dance and musical performance, which takes place at lodges around the park, is a wonderful glimpse of life in Kikorongo, with dance, drama, music, and fire-making. While a local interpreter explains the significance of the performances, you can sit back and watch village life unfold in front of you.
Kikorongo’s African Art – Craft
These workshops teach guests how to weave baskets and bowls using natural fibers – it´s not as easy as the teachers make it look! They also show you how to recycle magazines into colorful paper beads, which can be made into unique necklaces.
The good thing here is that not only do you have some cultural interaction but learn some new skills.
One of Uganda’s Best Chimpanzee Tracking locations, Kalunzi Forest can easily be added on to an itinerary that takes in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
This is one of the National Forests of Uganda and is not managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority. Here you can track Chimpanzees beginning at age 12 and not 15.
The chimpanzees here have been habituated by Japanese Researchers for many years and are quite easily found while out on a Chimpanzee Trek with guides.
You can go on Nature Walks and Hikes seeing various primates, birds, and other animals.
Kalinzu Forest is a 45-minute drive from most lodges in the Mweya Area of Queen Elizabeth Park.
The Kasyoha – Kitomi Forest Reserve
The Kasyoha – Kitomi Forest is near Queen Elizabeth Park, south of the Kazinga Channel and Lake George. The Forest is a place of discovery – primates, birds, hiking trails, crater lakes, all off of the beaten tourist path, another one of those hidden gems found in the Pearl of Africa.
While visiting the forest, one can stay at Nyanzibiri Eco-Community Camp. The Camp is located on two crater lakes, has a museum and you can visit a cave that is nearby
This is another hiking trail off of the beaten path in Uganda taking in waterfalls, crater lakes, primates and birds, forest elephants may be seen at times.
The added plus is that you hiking without the crowds