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QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

Queen Elizabeth National Park also known as the “Medley of wonders”, is one of Uganda’s most popular savannah parks. It has the widest variety of wildlife of compared to any other Ugandan park. This park also shares districts of Kasese, Rubirizi, Kamwenge as well as Rukungiri. The variety of habitats includes grassland savannah, forests, wetlands and lakes and this provides the setting for an extensive range of large mammals and primates. The park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park and renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II of England. In addition, it is a home to over 95 mammal species and over 600 bird species and covers an area of 764 square miles (1,978 sq km).  The park stretches between Lake Edward in the south up to Lake George in the north with the two lakes being connected by the Kazinga Channel.

Sectors in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Ishasha sector

The sector is located in the south western part of the park well known for its tree climbing lions. This sector harbors over 95 mammals and 500 bird species.

Kasenyi plains

This is in the North eastern park of the park 48km from Kasese and is best for game drives.  The Uganda Kob is the main antelope specie in the plains. They attract predators like lions, leopards, golden cats, spotted hyena and servals. Other activities here include lion tracking and boat cruise.

Kyambura Gorge

It is found in the North eastern part of the park and links up with Kazinga channel, well known for its chimpanzee tracking. Other activities include nature walks and bird watching.

Maramagambo forest

This forest is located in the Southern part of the park and activities done are nature walks whereby tourists have an opportunity to spot reptiles, birds, red tailed monkeys, bush babies, vervet monkeys and an opportunity to visit the Bat and python cave.

Mweya pennicular

The Mweya peninsular sits in the middle of the park also known as the heart of the park and at the edge of Lake Edward. It is where most of the park offices, hotels, campsites, airstrips and the visitor center are located.  The vegetation cover in Mweya is denser and hence not very ideal for game drives especially during the rainy season. Since it is close to the Kazinga Channel, it is where most visitors go for a boat cruise. Other activities here include mangoose tracking and bird watching.

Activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Game drives

A game drive involves moving around the park using a safari vehicle on demarcated routes and in search of wild animals under the guidance of the safari guide or a park Ranger. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to four of the big 5 mammals (lions, elephants, buffaloes and leopards). The park also has other wildlife species like the Uganda kobs, spotted hyenas, warthog, elands, bush babies and smaller primates that loiter in the expansive plains.

Launch Cruise

The launch cruise at the Kazinga Channel is one of the major highlights of a safari in the park because it offers a high concentration of both aquatic and savanna mammals coming to drink or take a bath in the water. In fact, the Kazinga channel has the highest concentration of hippos in Uganda and these can be spotted dipping in and out of water on a normal day. There are also large numbers of Nile crocodiles and water birds that catch the eye during the launch cruise.

Birding

The park is home to about 600 species of birds and therefore has one of the highest concentrations of bird species in the world. What makes the park so attractive to birds is that it is home to several water bodies, swamps, forests, gorges, craters and other physical features. The top birding spots in Queen Elizabeth National Park are the Kazinga channel, the savanna plains, Maramagambo forest, Kyambura gorge as well as the crater lakes.  The species to look out include the broad billed roller, fish eagles, African finfoot, cuckoos, black-bee eaters, flamingos, warblers, Turcaos, grey-winged robin chat, red chested sunbird, not to mention but a few.

Search for the tree Climbing Lions

The tree climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park are one of the main attractions for international travelers to Uganda. Lions naturally spend most of their time on the ground but the ones in the Ishasha sector of this park deviate from the norm. They spend most of their day on top of trees and it is why they are called tree climbing lions. Tree climbing lions are very rare and the other notable places to see them is Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania and Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Chimpanzee tracking

The kyambura gorge is one of the best places for Chimpanzee tracking in Uganda. The chimpanzees in Queen Elizabeth national park hide deep inside the gorge and never come out into the savanna for fear of predators. There was a forest corridor connecting them to chimp communities in Maramagambo and Kalinzu forest but it has been cut off by humans and the only way to see the chimps is to descend down the valley. Chimpanzee tracking here also offers tourists a chance to spot red tailed monkeys, baboons, black and white colobus. Apart from primates, visitors can also spot different kinds of reptiles and insects. The chances of encountering the chimps are very high and the activity takes between 2 to 4 hours at most.

Nature walks

This is one of the few tropical rain-forests left in Uganda located in the southern part of the park. Actually, the main activity in Maramagambo forest is the nature walks. During this nature walk, tourists have an opportunity to spot reptiles, birds, red tailed monkeys, bush babies, vervet monkeys and chimpanzees. There is also an opportunity to visit the Bat and python cave where you can watch the battle between predator and prey from a hidden platform.

Lake Katwe tour

Lake Katwe is a salty lake found a few kilometers away from Lake Edward. There is no wildlife to encounter due to the salinity of the lake but the socioeconomic activity carried out is what draws tourists to the place. For hundreds of years, salt mining has been carried out in the lake and most of it is used in Ugandan homes. The miners use rudimentary methods of mining which they learned from their ancestors but which can also be hazardous to their health. The tourists who visit Lake Katwe are taken for a tour to learn about the different processes of mining the salt and also to mingle with the local people.

Cultural Experiences

By visiting local communities, tourists learn a lot about their cultural heritage, traditions and what they do for a living. The tribes living outside Queen Elizabeth national park draw attention from tourist who are interested in attending traditional dance performances, visiting one of the local homes, checking out the local schools and projects by organizations operating in the area. The Kikorongo equator cultural group even takes the performances to lodges and hotels in the evenings.

Lion tracking

Lion tracking involves one taking a close look at lions and learning their behavior. The tracking of lions is done by researchers using radio callers and radiation locators to find where the lions are hiding. The lions move in the groups of 3-25 individuals and these groups are called Prides. However, the number of lions increases during the tracking activity. Therefore, it’s ideal to keep or note down the number seen first to avoid confusion. It is good to take note of the different signs that help locate the lions. For example, the nocturnal vocalizations (loud roars) as well as the hyenas as they laugh and any other unusual distressing call for prey. You should also take note of the bent grass in the plains since it might help you know the direction where the lion has moved.

 

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