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Kazinga Channel in southwestern Uganda is located a few meters south of the EquatorOn the journey here, you can pass from one hemisphere to the other, pausing at zero degrees to take photos. The channel is a squiggle of fresh water, roughly 35 kilometers long and 2,500 feet wide. 

Though officially a river, its flow is almost unnoticeable. Lying within the Albertine Rift Valley, the 1207-kilometer arc of lakes and mountains that separates Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania from DR Congo, Kazinga Channel connects two freshwater lakes at a near-identical altitude — Lake Rutanzige (also known by its colonial name, Lake Edward) and Lake Katunguru (also called Lake George).

Together, these freshwater bodies offer year-round water for the forest-scattered grasslands that surround them: the Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area, Uganda’s most biodiverse protected zone. Kazinga Channel bisects this area’s core: the 1978-square kilometer Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The park is home to over 95 mammal species but bird-wise, it’s booming. 

Though smaller than blockbuster safari destinations of East Africa— the Maasai Mara in Kenya or Serengeti in Tanzania — Queen Elizabeth harbours considerably more avian species: over 600, in fact, a number that, according to BirdLife International, no protected area in Africa can beat.

What Is Kazinga Channel Known For?

Kazinga Channel

Kazinga Channel is one of the best wildlife-viewing spots in the whole of Uganda. This natural river channel attracts many wild animals of Uganda, including one of the world’s densest concentrations of hippopotamus and numerous Nile crocodiles.

Elephants and buffalos also frequent its banks, making it a prime destination for safari boat cruises and wildlife game viewing in Uganda.

As you might expect, the Kazinga Channel is also teeming with a variety of African birds. You can easily spot 60 or 70 species of bird on a single 2 hour boat cruise excursion. If you are a bit of a twitcher, you are going to love it! Here are some of the species you might see:

  • African Skimmer
  • Pink-backed Pelican
  • Great White Pelican
  • White-breasted Cormorant
  • African Openbill
  • Saddle-billed Stork
  • Glossy Ibis
  • African Wattled Lapwing
  • Water Thick-knee
  • Grey-hooded Gull
  • White-winged Tern
  • Gull-billed Tern
  • African fish eagle
  • King Fishers

Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise

The Kazinga Channel boat cruise is a 2-hour wildlife viewing experience along the river and one of the must do activities on a safari Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The boats are open sided, covered to protect you from the strong Equatorial sun or rain, and fitted with seats so you can relax and watch the views drift by. Some boats also have a bar so you can enjoy a drink while you travel.

Boat tours typically depart two times a day from Mweya Safari Lodge and are led by knowledgeable local guides who will tell you everything you might ever need to know about the location, environment, and the animals you spot.

Boat safaris all take the same route, starting near the mouth of Lake Edward and travelling east along the Kazinga Channel for about an hour, before turning round and coming back again.

Kazinga Channel boat ride operators

There are three boat ride operators;

  1. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)
  2. Mweya Safari Lodge.
  3. MV Kazinga

The Mweya safari lodge and MV Kazinga boats are smaller and more personal, seating 10-12 people, while the UWA boats have two decks and can host 40 people, with 20 upstairs and 20 downstairs. The Uganda Wildlife Authority boats might feel more crowded, but does give you the chance to enjoy the view from both the upper and lower vantage points.

Cost of The Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise

wildlife safaris in Uganda

A two-hour Kazinga Channel boat trip with UWA costs:

  • US $30 per person for foreign non-residents
  • US$ 25 for foreign residents
  • Uganda Shillings 30000 for East African Citizens

The smaller boats from Mweya Safari Lodge are a bit more expensive, costing about US $50 per person. The MV Kazinga boat cruise cost US$30 for foregin non-residents and foreign residents and UGX 70,000 for East African Citizens.

that the boat cruise fees do not include the park entry fees, which are US$ 40 for foreign non-residents, US$ 30 for foreign residents and Ugx 20000 for East African Citizens.

Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise Safari Timings

Kazinga Channel tour

UWA boats usually depart at around 10 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm. If you do the late one you might be able to enjoy a beautiful African sunset over the Kazinga Channel.

Timings can change, so do check with your lodge or tour guide, and it is a good idea to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

The boats of Mweya Safari Lodge operate more frequently throughout the day between 9 am and 5 pm. The MV Kazinga Boats leave Mweya Peninsular three times a day at 8:30 am, 2:00 pm and 4:30 pm.

Daily life

Kazinga Channel

But it is not just wildlife on the Kazinga Channel. As you cruise along, you will be able to get a glimpse into the lives of the local people who call the area their home. In the many African parks and reserves where settlements are banned, but Queen Elizabeth NP is different. Queen is part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where rural communities, visitors and wildlife coexist.

When the national park was created in 1952, its dozen or so villages remained, their residents scratching a living by growing bananas, tending smallholdings and fishing for ngege (Nile tilapia, delicious grilled) or emamba, emale and semutundu (lungfish, mudfish and catfish).

The boat cruise will take you past fishing villages, and it is interesting to see a different side of the park, with the boats pulled up on the banks, and the people busy working.

Best Time a Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise

Kazinga Channel

The best time for a boat tour on the Kazinga channel is during the dry Seasons: June to August and December to February. 

During these dry, hot days, the animals tend to congregate around the channel’s water, making it easier to spot elephants and predators. If you are planning a family safari vacation in Uganda, make sure to add a Kazinga Channel boat trip to your itinerary. 

Your kids will love getting up close and personal with the wild animals like elephants, hippos, crocodiles and buffaloes and you will create memories that will last a lifetime.

Getting To Kazinga Channel

Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise (6)

There are many ways to get to Queen and Kazinga Channel. One of the most familiar routes is by road. You can drive from Kampala to Queen via the 309 km smoothly surfaced road, which takes 6 to 8 hours and passes through Masaka, Mbarara, and Bushenyi cities.

Alternatively, you can take route a 400 km Fort Portal-Kasese road, which takes about 6-8 hours. This route fits well with chimpanzee trekking adventures in Kibale National Park.

If you prefer to fly, you can take a domestic scheduled flight from Entebbe Airport to Kasese Airstrip or Mweya Airstrip, which takes about 1.5 hours. If you fly to Kasese, you will have to drive 40 km (30 minutes) to Kazinga Channel, whereas Mweya Airstrip is just a few minutes away. The best route to Kazinga Channel depends on your itinerary and choice of safari lodge.

For example, if you are coming from trekking endangered mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in the southwest highlands, you can drive through the Ishasha Sector of the park and join Mbarara-Kasese Road at Katunguru.

Alternatively, you can pass via the smooth Kabale-Ntugamo-Ishaka road and join the Mbarara-Kasese road at Ishaka town. No matter how you choose to get there, visiting the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth NP is an unforgettable experience you won’t want to miss.

Places to Stay Near Kazinga Channel

Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise (5)

1. Bush Lodge

Bush Lodge offers budget-friendly accommodation close to the Kazinga Channel. Non-frills bandas and tents provide basic comfort with shared facilities. Expect communal dining under the stars and a bonfire, creating a social and memorable experience.

2. Mweya Safari Lodge

Mweya Safari Lodge is one of the most famous lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park. This wood and thatch safari-style lodge boasts a commanding cliff-top position on the Mweya Peninsula within Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Overlooking a stretch of the Kazinga Channel it offers possibly the most reliable in-house wildlife viewing of any Uganda safari lodges.

There is also plentiful birdlife in the gardens, and on a clear day you can see the snowcapped Rwenzori Mountains or Mountains of the Moon. Mweya Lodge has 54 rooms. It is not as intimate or exclusive as smaller Uganda safari camps, but the prime location and on-the-ball management ensure it remains a very popular choice on luxury safaris in Uganda.

3. Kyambura Gorge Lodge

As the name suggest Kyambura Gorge Lodge is situated close to the stunning Kyambura Gorge, also known as the Valley of Apes. It is located at the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park, on a former coffee plantation at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. Here, you are able to track wild chimpanzees on foot and have a classic safari experience in comfort and style.

Guest accommodation consists of 8 bandas, made out of timber and brick, with thatch or iron sheet roofs. Rather charmingly, each banda is named after a chimpanzee from the Kyambura Gorge. 2 banda are doubles, 5 are twins, and one is designed for a family or honeymooners.

Other Boat Safaris in Uganda

Kazinga Channel

If you enjoy safari boat cruises and wildlife viewing on the water, here are some other amazing Uganda boat safaris you might want to consider:

1. Nile River Boat Cruise to Murchison Falls

Take a boat trip on the Nile River to Murchison Falls offers an opportunity to see plenty of wildlife en route; hippo by the hundreds, massive crocodiles, and the possibility of elephant, buffalo, giraffe and acrobatic black-and-white colobus monkey swinging in the trees.

The Murchison Falls are the real highlight though. Imagine the explosive force of the wide Nile River being pushed through a small narrow cleft of about 8 meters in the Rift Valley escarpment. Sit back and enjoy the sunset with a drink in hand while cruising back.

2. Boat Cruise on Lake Mburo:

The tranquil waters of Lake Mburo offer a serene boat safari tour amidst stunning scenery. Look out for crocodiles, hippos, buffaloes, and waterbucks basking on the shores, as well as masses of birdlife including vibrant kingfishers, pelicans, herons, storks, and the elusive African Finfoot.

3. Boat Cruise on Lake Bunyonyi:

Visit the “Lake of Many Little Birds” to do a boat cruise on Lake Bunyonyi. This attractive lake is the second deepest in Africa. It is dotted with numerous islands of different sizes and shapes. It is a peaceful haven that is missed by most visitors on Uganda tours but definitely worth a visit.

Our Safaris to Kazinga Channel

We offer many trips from Kampala and Entebbe to Queen Elizabeth National Park. You can also check out the huge range of Uganda safaris available on our website or contact us for a tailor-made safari itinerary.