Queen Elizabeth national park is located in south western Uganda, about 45.3 km from Kasese. It is the second largest and oldest park with a large bio diversity covering an estimated 1,978km2 between lakes George and Edward connected by the Kazinga channel. The park was first gazetted as Kazinga National Park in 1952, and later renamed after 2 years to commemorate the first visit of Queen Elizabeth II in Uganda. The park is divided into different sectors which harbor over 618 bird species, 95 mammals, covered by the savannah, wetlands and low- land forest vegetation. These sectors include;
This sector is located in the south western part of the park well known for its tree climbing lions which are seen hanging on the acacia and huge fig trees in the savannah grasslands to have clear view of their prey such as kobs, run away from the insects such as tsetse flies which bite them, run away from the heat on the grounds and also laze within the tree branches. These tree climbing lions are unique creatures that are only found in Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park and Lake Manyara National Park found in Tanzania. Apart from tree climbing lions, Ishasha sector harbors 95 mammal species such as; buffaloes, forest elephants, warthogs, waterbucks, Topi, Uganda kobs and hippos, over 618 bird species such as Tinker birds, ross’ Turaco, African crake, black bellied bustard, African crowned eagle, yellow billed oxpecker, stripped kingfisher, helmeted guinea fowl, white headed barbet, wood pecker, African green pigeon, hornbill, vulture and long tailed Night jars etc. which you will encounter during your game drive within the park.
Accommodation in Ishasha sector
While on the Ishasha sector there is no need of crossing over for accommodation since the park offers accommodation facilities on that side which ranges from luxury, midrange and budget; some of these include; Ishasha wilderness camp, Mweya safari lodge, queen Elizabeth bush lodge and Ihimba lodge which provides quality services ranging from bar and restaurant with both local and international dishes, fire places, internet services and many more that you can’t miss on your safari.
Kasenyi plains also known as the Mweya are located in the North Eastern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park and 48 kms from Kasese town. The plains are on the western shores of Lake George which is joined by Kazinga channel with Lake Edward. Kasenyi plains harbor numerous wild species that are clearly viewed during the game drives in the open savannah grasslands such as big numbers of Uganda kobs which are seen breeding, lions which were uncommonly seen before can now be viewed due to presence of many kobs that are preyed on by the King of the Jungle “Lion.” Other species include buffaloes, elephants, warthogs and hyenas.
Activities in the Kasenyi plains
During the game drive, in an open roof safari vehicle within the Kasenyi plains sector you will have a clear view of large numbers of Uganda kobs, some lions, elephants, buffaloes, warthogs, bushbucks and also different bird species such as black bellied bustard, hood vulture, grey capped warbler etc. This game drive can be carried out both in the early morning and late afternoon on a lucky night oneA may have an encounter of the leopards.
Lion tracking is one of the interesting and adventurous activity only carried out in Queen Elizabeth National park. This activity is normally carried out by a tour guide from the Uganda carnivore project under the management of Uganda wildlife Authority who tracks the lions using radio trackers since these lions do have radio collars for easy spotting. The number of people allowed during tracking is limited to avoid scaring away the lions and you will have a chance to take a close look at them which takes about 3 hours and normally conducted twice a day either in the morning or late afternoon. Permits for lion tracking cost USD100 and members in the East African community 100,000 per person and booked in advance. Make it a must visit to enjoy company with the King of the Jungle as you take photos and record those unforgettable moments.
Boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel
The boat cruise along the Kazinga channel is the highlight of any Uganda safari which you can’t miss on your trip. This activity normally takes 3-4 hours and normally conducted twice a day in the morning and late afternoon accompanied by a professional tour guide who gives you the history of the channel and also wildlife along the shores, feel free to ask them different questions about anything around there. You will view different mammals such as crocodiles, hippos, elephants, buffaloes, water bucks, antelopes, bushbucks among others. Also have a chance to view different bird species such as kingfishers, African fish eagle, African skimmers, and pelicans.
Kasenyi fishing Village
This also acts as an attraction around Queen Elizabeth National Park, which amuses most tourists by the fishermen’s culture. You feel free to also participate and also have an African taste of the fresh fish snack located close to the park.
Kyambura Gorge Sector
Kyambura gorge is located in the North-Eastern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park and links up with the Kazinga channel in a distance of 11km covers 156 sq. kms of the park. It is yet another interesting sector best known for harboring primates, plants, birds, butterfly species which you shouldn’t miss on your safari. This sector is also known as the valley of Apes which is drained by River Kyambura, it was formed by the disorderly waters of Kyambura River which is 100 meters deep underneath the Kichwamba escarpment and this acts as the source of water for the animals in the park. This is one of the sectors were chimpanzee tracking is done however other primates seen here include baboons, vervet ,black and white, red-tailed and colobus monkeys; the steep slopes with beautiful crater lakes that attract many water birds, flamingos and great egrets which can be viewed during the nature walks.
Activities Kyambura Gorge Sector
This is the main activity done in Kyambura gorge which attracts many tourists. It is tiring and exhaling adventure due to the presence of steep slopes, muddy trails and slippery terrains making it difficult for trekkers to get a close view of the chimpanzees. However some of the chimpanzees are habituated meaning they are familiar with humans and do carry out their day today activities in the presence of humans. The trekking activity can be carried out in two sessions in the morning and afternoon however, it is best done in the morning hours because that’s when they are most active. This starts with the briefing about the expectations, rules and regulations to be followed during the trekking process with the company of a tour guide which takes 2-3 hours depending on the location of the chimpanzees. You will be given 1 hour and an 8m distance to enjoy the presence of these primates learning more about their behaviors, habits, taking photos and recording the moments. During the trekking you can also encounter other primates such as baboons, red-tailed, colobus, white and black monkeys. The chimpanzee permits can be got from Uganda Wildlife Authority head offices at a cost of 50$ for the foreigners and 30,000 for East African members per person.
There are a number of beautiful bird species which are seen along the Kichwamba escarpment and you only need to move along with a pair of binoculars and cameras to take photos of these birds such as the African fin foot, black coucal, barbets, African mustached warbler, blue headed bee-eater, swamp flycatcher, white winged warbler, flamingos, shoe bill stork, papyrus Gonolek, African skimmers and water birds seen along river Kyambura and many more.
This is an interesting activity which involves exploring the beautiful scenery, landscapes accompanied by a professional tour guide who is well versed with the different trails within the Kyambura gorge which can either be done early in the morning or late afternoon. You may spot different primates such as red-tailed, colobus, black and white monkeys; different bird species found within the forest gorge.
Maramagambo forest is located in the southern part of Queen Elizabeth national park in Bushenyi district is well known for cave bat experience. The forest is from Kichwamba escarpment all through Lake Edward and its canopy shade is good for activities such as hiking, bird watching and nature walks which last between 2-6 hours through the trails as you view different trees, waterfalls, crater lakes (kyasanduka and Nyamasingiri, unique and huge group of matching ants which will excite you by their size and also impressive bat caves. A view point was constructed where you will be able to see bats and big pythons that live in here. Some of the primates found here include vervet, colobus, red-tailed, L’Hoest monkeys and baboons; animal species such as the giant forest hog, African buffaloes, pygmy antelopes; bird species such the white napped pigeon, Rwenzori Turaco, forest flycatcher and red tailed bristle among others.
Cave bat experience
Maramagambo forest is well known for its cave bats with a volcanic tube like caves that attract a given number of bats and also the bats attrack large numbers pythons to this place since they are their source of food. Information about this place circulated after a tourist from Netherlands was believed to have acquired Marburg from the cave bat in this forest and the outbreak led to the closure of the area until a viewing platform was constructed by the American Centre for Disease control. Ever since then there has not been any cases recorded about the similar disease meaning it’s safe for nature walks and cave bat experience. Apart from cave bat experience the forest also inhabits primates such as chimpanzees, vervet, red- tailed, blue monkeys, baboons, elephants, warthogs many birds. It also has an historical cave at Nyanzibiri community which is used as a place for sacrifices and cleansing misfortunes. However, the historical cave is also considered as hiding grounds for the past Ugandan presidents during the dictatorial regimes.
Mweya peninsula is located in the Northern part of Queen Elizabeth national park and it is also known as the heart of Queen Elizabeth national park where the head offices of Queen Elizabeth national park are located, the airport where flights to and from queen land, a close view of lake Edward bordering Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo connected to lake George by Kazinga channel are all located. Activities carried out in this sector include game drives where you will encounter various wildlife, boat cruise on the Kazinga channel, mongoose tracking nature walks and birding.
Game drives in Mweya start from kyamunuka Crater Lake and move through the different trails in thick and thorny bushes where you will view animals such as leopards, warthogs, buffaloes, giant forest hogs, hippos, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, antelopes among others. Game drives in this sector are conducted in 3 phases that is in the morning, afternoon and at night and this is the only sector where you can have morning and night game drives accompanied by an armed ranger. During the night game drive you will have a view of the nocturnal animals such lions, leopards, civets among others. You will also encounter different bird species such as kingfishers, Bee-eaters, eagle-owl etc.
Tourists to Mweya peninsula may opt for a launch cruise on the Kazinga channel (32km water body) which starts from the landing site near Mweya safari lodge as this exposes you to view different mammals along the water banks of Kazinga channel and various numbers of birds. This cruise is conducted twice a day in the morning at 9:00am and afternoon at 2:00pm usually for 3 hours. Some of the mammals seen include Nile crocodiles, hippos, elephants, monitored lizards, Uganda kobs, water bucks and also fishermen preparing for night fishing. Water birds like swamp flycatcher, little bee-eater, sunbird, red capped lark etc.
Mongoose tracking experience
This is a unique and interesting activity done in Mweya peninsula with these unique animals. While tracking the mongoose, tourists are companied by researchers who do track down the banded mongoose which are about 400 in number and live in groups of 12 that sleep together at night in a communal underground den .These are characterized by large heads, small ears, long claws and long tails. A maximum of 4 people are allowed to go for tracking which is carried out in the morning hours 7:00am and afternoon and usually takes 1-3 hours however, its best in the morning hours. This gives you an opportunity to record the behaviors of the mongoose, register their weight, size and also get the opportunity to see other animals such as elephants, warthogs, buffaloes, antelopes among others.
When is the best period to visit these sectors?
It is best to visit these sectors in the dry seasons because the road are dry and not slippery making movements easy, the grasses are not so long making it easy to spot these animals grazing and others in the fields like the lions. However Queen Elizabeth national park is open for visitors throughout the year.