Set against the backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains, the Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s second-largest and most popular game reserve. It is one of the two most popular tourist destinations in the country, alongside the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
The Queen Elizabeth National Park’s diverse ecosystem includes grassland savanna, tropical forests, sparkling lakes, wetlands and swamps. They provide a perfect setting for an extensive range of wildlife. The park is home to over ninety-five mammal species and over six hundred species of bird. That’s a lot of species!
Founded in 1952, the park was originally known as the Kazinga National Park. It was renamed in 1954 to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. The park is approximately 1,978 square kilometres in size and is not just famous for its wildlife opportunities but also for its natural features such as volcanic cones, deep craters and crater lakes. It’s a magical place to visit and we loved every second that we spent there.
Where is Queen Elizabeth National Park?
The Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the west of Uganda, 400 kilometres from Kampala, the Ugandan capital. This stunning conservation area is bordered on the North-East by Lake George and on the South West by Lake Edwards.
Why visit Queen Elizabeth National Park?
The abundant wildlife
In the Queen Elizabeth National Park you will find four of the Big Five; Elephants, Buffalos, Leopards and Lions. Sadly, the only place in Uganda to see the Rhinos is at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary on the way to Murchison Falls National Park, which we visited earlier during our ten day-trip around Uganda.
However, Rhinos or not, there are enough species to keep you busy as a photographer! Other than the four mentioned above, Hippopotamuses are also found by the hundreds, as well as many types of Antelopes, Crocodiles, Warthogs, Giraffes and even Chimpanzees!
The incredible birdlife
With so many different species of birds thriving in the park, the Queen Elizabeth National Park is heaven for bird lovers. The park is home to numerous water birds, woodland and forest dwellers, fifty-four raptors and various migratory bird species.
Some of the species you may see during your stay are the Palm-nut Vulture, Shoebill, Yellow-Billed Stork, African Fish-Eagle, Great Egret, Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Skimmer, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Pink-backed Pelican, African Broadbill, Greater Flamingo and many more.
Bird watching can be enjoyed all year round in the Queen Elizabeth National Park but the best time is from late May to September when the rain is less and the food is abundant.
Take a boat trip on the Kazinga channel
One of the best things to do in the park is a cruise on the Kazinga Channel. The Kazinga Channel’s banks are lined with hoards of lazy Hippos, Cape buffalos, herds of Elephants, Antelopes, Crocodiles and so much birdlife!
A boat trip was a nice and relaxing way to enjoy the wildlife and the beautiful scenery all around. The boat tour lasted for two hours and we wished it would have never ended. Just spectacular!
The Lion tracking experience
To be sure to spot Lions, you can sign up for a Lion tracking experience with one of the park’s research teams. Lion tracking began as a way to monitor the movement of Lions living in the park. Researchers could map out their territories and learn more about their behaviour. They would learn when the Lions were sick and when they were getting too close to the villages and at risk of being shot by villagers. They eventually turned it into a tourist activity, to bring keen tourists closer to these majestic animals.
This is the only safari that will let you go off-road in the park and get super close to a pride of lions (without disturbing them of course). How do the researchers track the lions? The head lioness in each pride is fitted with a radio collar. The researcher’s car is fitted with a directional antenna that listens for the signal from the collar, allowing them to know in which direction the Lions are. They then follow the signal to the lions, giving you get the best possible photo opportunities. Be sure to bring your best camera and zoom!
The tree-climbing lions
Queen Elizabeth is the only park in Uganda where you can find the famous tree-climbing Lions. You’ll find them hanging around up the acacia and sycamore fig trees in the remote plains of Ishasha in the south-west of the park.
There are three reasons why the Lions climb up trees, to escape from the ground heat or the rain, to keep an eye out for prey and to protect themselves from bites when the ground is infested with breeding insects in the rainy season.
These majestic animals are always a delight to watch, whether it’s on the ground or up in a tree.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Bush Lodge which is situated inside the park. It was an excellent base for our daily safaris. The lodge offers twelve self-contained bandas, as well as two self-contained tents and for the more budget-conscious, ten non-self-contained tents.
We stayed in a self-contained tent and it was so amazing to fall asleep to the sound of the Hippos who were roaming in the distance. We also enjoyed the outdoor shower and being able to shower under the stars, with the occasional visit by a family of Vervet Monkeys.
Dinner was included in our package and was served outside in front of the lodge, once again to the sound of the Hippos. The best part was having to be escorted back to our tent at night. There is no fencing, so you can sometimes encounter wildlife. A bit of an adrenaline rush on the way to and from dinner; we loved it!