Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth national park is understandably the most popular savanna park in Uganda and the best place to see lions including the tree climbing lions. The park is in the western region of Uganda spanning the districts of kasese, kamwenge, Rubirizi and Rukungiri. It is located in south western Uganda and lies astride the Equator with monuments on both sides of the road making latitude 00 . Queen Elizabeth is also one of Uganda’s most popular tourist destinations, annually receiving one of the highest number of visitors than any other country’s national parks debatable because of its name Queen Elizabeth all named after the Queen of England after her visit in Uganda. The park occupies an estimated 1978 sq km[764 sq mi] , The park is known for its abundant wildlife including African Elephants ,African Buffalo, Ugandan kob ,Hippopotamus ,Topi, waterbuck, warthog, giant forest hog, Nile crocodile, leopard , spotted hyena ,chimpanzee and climbing lions. The park is home to 95 mammals species and over 600 bird species and it has four of the big five namely Elephants , Leopards, lions and Buffalo., it’s a home to thousands of hippos that populate the waters of kazinga channel which connects Lake Gorge to Lake Edward known for having the largest herd of hippos ,chimpanzees and other primates are found in the adjacent kyambura gorge and “underground forest “ lok for the black and white colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, olive baboons among others. The park is also famous for its volcanic features including volcanic cones and deep craters, many with crater lakes such as the katwe craters 4m in which salt is extracted. Lake Bunyampala also for salt Nyamunga crater lake, also known as the hospital for the animals, many visit to have their wounds treated or the aging animals for its water that contain Sulphur, The park is home to the famous tree climbing lions that choose the branches of acacia trees after the night / early morning meals. The tree also provides shade from the sun which raises the experience of winds. Queen Elizabeth National Park together with the adjacent Virunga National Park were designated as lion conservation unit by the IUCN in 2006. The park is also an important bird area according to bird international , it has the highest number of birds found in any protected area in East Africa. In 2020 Uganda wildlife Authority executive director Samuel John Mwndha stated that wildlife in the park has been increasing in the last five years.
History of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second oldest park in Uganda. 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. The area currently occupied by the park was previously a grazing area for the local Basongora pastoralists like the Batagwenda and Banyaruguru in the Bunyaruguru highlands and Bakonzo on the Rwenzori Mountains side. When the British explorers ,explored the area ,they made confirmatory report that the area had become depopulated as a result of cattle raiding from Bunyoro and Buganda, but the main cause of the depopulation included epidemics such as smallpox and render pests. The posttourists could not contain such calamity compelling and making the area completely to become depopulated, the wildlife and vegetation thrived significantly hence leading to the creation of the Park.
Activities at Queen Elizabeth National Park
Boat safaris on kazinga channel
Kalinga channel is a stretch of water connecting Lake Edward to Lake George, and with this you get a chance to see elephants as they take a bath and a bath , school of Hippos as they guard their territories, crocodiles, birds, monitor lizards, buffaloes, bush bucks among others. The launch trips are twice daily. There are shared boats but you can choose a private one with your company.
Kyambura Gorge is an underground forest 100m below the kichwaba escarpment and also home to 10 primate species like the famed chimpanzees, olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys . The chances of sighting the chimps are not high but high but the experience trekking through the forest is amazing. The tracking also teaches visitors about the ecosystem of kyambura Gorge’s atmospheric rainforest, including vegetation types; bird identification and behavior; and chimp and monkey ecology.
The park was classified as an important bird area by Birding International Queen’s great variety of habitats the park is a destination for over 600 bird species; Lake Munyanyange adjacent to the park is a bird sanctuary as well as a migratory location for the lesser flamingo from August to November. Also areas like kasenyi plains ,launch cruise on kazinga channel, kyambura gorge mweya peninsular among others . The birds are relatively easy to spot and you can expect great photo shots as you explore the park and its environs. The park’s confluence of savanna and forest, linking to the expansive forest of the DRC allow visitors to spot eastern as well as Central African bird species.
Natural treks are one of the more active ways to explore the landscapes and wildlife of the park. Walks are available at the mweya peninsula where you have great birding and views across kazinga channel and Lake Edward. In Ishaka, you have an opportunity to walk along Ishasha river where you have a chance to get close to the Hippos with your ranger guide. Maramagambo forest is another site with the famous bat caves and several bird species.
Queen Elizabeth National Park has a fascinating cultural history, there are many chances for visitors meeting the local communities and enjoy storytelling, dance, music and more. Energetic dances from the Kikorongo Equator Cultural Performers, workers on the katwe salt lake. All guided by those who know them best.
The best season for the game drive in Queen Elizabeth is the dry season between the months of June and September and January to February; on the game drive you will get the chance to see the tree climbing lions of Ishasha, plus to do some lion tracking research in the Kasenyi plains. You can see the Uganda kobs, buffalo herds, hippos in the morning and warthogs among the rest