Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda is a great place for game drives. There, you’ll find all sorts of wildlife, including one of our favourites, the lions. Lions are the most majestic animals found in Uganda’s savanna and it’s a real treat when you can finally get up close enough to see them in action. Queen Elizabeth National Park is the only park in Uganda where you can participate in a Lion Tracking Experience with researchers. While it is more expensive than a normal game drive, it is definitely worth the extra money because you are pretty much guaranteed to see some lions up close.
Lion sighting during normal game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park
On our first game drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park, we experienced our first real lion sighting, when we saw a couple of lions resting in a tree. We had earlier come across a young lion in Murchison Falls National Park but he was hiding in the bushes and we could hardly see him.
This sighting in Queen Elizabeth was much better but the two lions in the tree were still quite far away from the main track. We struggled to get close enough to take decent photographs of them. Like many national parks in Africa, going off track is strictly forbidden. Our guide had to respect the rules. Because you can’t go off track, you need to be lucky or equipped with a really good zoom lens if you want the perfect shot.
The following morning we did manage to find a pride of lions closer to the road. But we weren’t able to follow them when they wandered off to rest in the thickets, after giving up on their hunt. In fact, if we hadn’t seen them moving, we would never have noticed them. They were very well camouflaged by the thick scrub and long grass found in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Spotting lions and photographing them during a normal game drive seemed to be a lot trickier than we’d first expected.
Our lion tracking experience
The following morning was a different story though. We took a guided tour with a researcher who used radio tracking to locate where the lions were. He quickly found two separate prides of lions for us! There was one pride of five lions with a couple of juvenile cubs, and one pride of seven lions with four juvenile cubs!
The added benefit of doing the tracking with a researcher is that we were allowed to go off track. That meant that we got right up close to the lions, regardless of where they were in the park. As you can see, we were able to get within a few metres of both prides. This gave us some excellent photo opportunities and a great vantage point from which to quietly observe them. We especially enjoyed watching the juvenile cubs play with each other.
How do the lions get tracked?
The head lioness in each of the prides was fitted with a radio collar, which meant that the researcher could find her with the help of a directional antenna held out the window of his jeep. He followed the signal until he found the lions. It didn’t take him long at all.
Why track the lions?
Lion tracking did not start as a tourist activity. In fact, the lion tracking experience was started to monitor the movement of the lions, to map out their territories and to learn more about their behaviour. It also helps park rangers know when the lions are sick or when they are in danger (e.g. when they get too close to the villages and risk being shot by villagers).
How to sign up for the lion tracking experience in Queen Elizabeth National Park
If you get a chance to visit Queen Elizabeth, we highly recommend doing the radio tracking experience. It will give you the best opportunity to see the lions up close. However, this activity is limited to a small number of tourists each day. You’ll need to book in advance if you’d like to participate. If you are using a tour company for your Ugandan holiday, they should be able to book the experience for you.
If you are self-driving, you will need to contact the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The lion tracking experience happens each morning around sunrise and also in the late afternoon, around 4 pm. It lasts for between two and three hours depending on the lions’ activities.
How much is the lion tracking experience in Queen Elizabeth Nation Park?
The cost for the lion tracking experience is US$60 per person.
I always thought that the Hippo was my favourite African animal but after Queen Elizabeth National Park, I changed my mind. Watching lion prides so close to our car was an experience that I never thought would become addictive.
We were lucky enough to see lions again in Namibia, Botswana and South Africa and we never grew tired of watching them. They are such incredible animals.