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 kobs.
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. Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is truly a Medley of Wonders!
Queen Elizabeth National Park can be accessed most easily from Kampala. The tarmac road from Kampala via Mbarara town and Bushenyi leads to the centre of the park, passing just 22 km from Mweya Peninsula, the main tourism hub. 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 via Ishasha from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Charter ﬂights/scheduled flights with Aero link can be arranged to existing airstrips of Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.
Daytime temperatures average 18-28°C. Nights can be cool so bring layers.
WHEN TO VISIT
All Year Round.
The papyrus swamps of this Ramsar wetland site are home to the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope. One can spot the elusive Shoebill plus other native birds on the lake.
The 72 huge round basins scattered across the equator are evidence of the Albertine Rift’s bubbling volcanic past, and are a must-see for those with a particular interest in the region’s fascinating geological history. The 27km drive between Kabatoro gate and Queen’s Pavilion takes in views of the enormous craters, circular lakes, the Rift Valley escarpment and the Kazinga channel – all in front of the mighty backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains.
One of the most famous lookout points in Uganda is in the Katwe Kabatoro community on Katwe Salt Lake where traditional salt mining has been practiced since the 16th century. The neighboring Lake Munyanyange is a bird sanctuary, as well as a migratory location for the lesser ﬂamingo from August to November.
The Katwe explosion craters mark the park’s highest point at 1350 meters above the sea level, while the lowest point is at 910 meters, at Lake Edward. The vast savannah of Kasenyi is the perfect setting for a classic African safari experience. Huge herds of Uganda Kob attract prides of lions; warthogs graze bent down on their knees; guinea fowl scuttle through the grassland; and huge dark elephants stride across the game drive tracks, providing dream photo opportunities for visitors.
Mweya is Queen’s focal point. It is still jam-packed with birds and animals. It’s elevated position commands gorgeous views of the Kazinga Channel and surrounding savanna, and its proximity to Kasenyi and the North Kazinga plains make it an ideal departure point for wildlife-ﬁlled game drives in the morning or evening.
A cruise down the Kazinga channel is the most relaxing way to enjoy a wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth. The banks are crammed with hippos, buﬀalos and water birds, along with caimans, monitor lizards, marabou storks, weaver birds and elegant pairs of Fish eagles. Elephants stride along the banks – all you need to do is sit back with your camera or binoculars at the ready, and enjoy the incredible spectacle.
The Kyambura River ﬂow through this thick “underground forest”, 100 meters below the Kicwamba escarpment. The gorge is best known for its resident chimpanzees – some of which are habituated and can be tracked through the forest with trained Uganda Wildlife Authority guides. The entrance to the gorge is also a pleasant spot for a picnic.
Kyambura Wildlife Reserve
The beautiful crater lakes of this reserve, located to the east of Kyambura Gorge, oﬀer excellent opportunities to observe many water birds including greater and lesser ﬂamingoes and the great egret.
Buzzing with primates, including chimpanzees, baboons and several monkey species, the forest is also alive with numerous 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.
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 herds of Uganda Kob. It is also the only area you can ﬁnd many herds of Topi in QENP as well as many teeming herds of buﬀalos and elephants. You can occasionally locate the rare shoebill at Edward ﬂats.
Classiﬁed as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International, Queen’s great variety of habitats mean it is home to over 600 bird species. This is the greatest of any East African National Park, and a phenomenal number for such a small area. The park is at a conﬂuence of the East African savanna and the West African tropical rain forest biomes that 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.
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.
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 Bunyaruguru hut; or an agricultural village – all guided by those who know them best – local community members.
Experiential Tourism/Wildlife Research
Tour For visitors who yearn to get up close to wild African fauna, a research trip is a rewarding adventure. This 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.