The 1978km2 Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular destination for wildlife safaris in Uganda. The park is situated near the gorilla trekking destinations and it is one of East Africa’s most bio-diverse protected areas. This Uganda safaris park is home to over 600 bird species and nearly 100 mammal specie, including four of the Big 5, hippos, Crocodiles, Chimpanzees, and tree-climbing lions.
Besides wildlife, Queen Elizabeth National Park has some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes in Uganda. Here, you’ll find freshwater lakes, brackish crater lakes, rainforests, rolling savannah and swamps nestled below the snow-capped Mountains of the Moons.
Queen is also home to humans too. It is one of the living examples of man and biosphere reserves or conservation areas in the world where man harmoniously co-exists with wildlife.
Queen Elizabeth National Park was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park. It was renamed Queen Elizabeth National Park in 1954 to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II of United Kingdom when Uganda was still under colonial rule. Read More about Uganda National Parks History.
Location of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, about 400km (7-hour drive) from Kampala. The park lies on equator at the base of Africa’s Great Rift Valley.
It is flanked by Lake George in the northeast and Lake Edward to the southwest, linked by a wildlife-filled stretch of water known as the Kazinga Channel. Queen Elizabeth National Park is also contiguous with DR Congo’s Virunga National Park and Uganda’s Kibale National Park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park Tours
If you are looking for a Queen Elizabeth safari, look no further. We have a range of wildlife safaris that features Queen. The park can be visited as a stand-alone destination but it can also be part of an itinerary that includes Uganda’s other top experiences such as gorilla trekking in Bwindi or chimp tracking in Kibale. Queen Elizabeth Park offers a variety of accommodation options ranging from family-friendly lodges to intimate tented camps. Check our recommended pre-packaged Queen Elizabeth safaris or simply contact us for a tailor-made itinerary.
Is Queen Elizabeth National Park Safe To Visit?
Despite the incident that happened in Queen Elizabeth National Park on the 7th October 2023 the Uganda security forces have worked tirelessly and in a co-ordinated manner to ensure that not only is Queen Elizabeth a safe place to visit but Uganda remains a safe place for all tourists. All of Uganda tourism stakeholders have not only condemned the incident but are working together to ensure that all tourism sites are safe places to travel to.
What Animals Are In Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to almost 100 species of mammal, including 4 of the Big 5. It is the easiest place in Uganda to see lions, which quite often climb trees in the Ishasha sector but are more common on the Kasenyi Plains, where they feed on large herds of Uganda kob.
About 5000 hippos, 300 chimpanzees, 10000 African buffalos, 3900 African bush elephants, 200 African lions, 20000 Uganda kobs and a variety of antelopes also reside in the park.
Elephant, buffalo, hippo, waterbuck and crocodile are generally numerous along the Kazinga Channel, which can be explored on boat trips that also offer great bird watching and occasional sightings of leopard and giant forest hog. There is also around 10 species of monkeys, including baboons, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkeys, Vervet monkeys, and blue monkeys.
Other Queen Elizabeth National Park animals include spotted hyenas, side striped jackals, mongoose, warthogs, bush pigs, and more. Giraffe and zebra are absent.
Tree-Climbing Lions Of Ishasha Sector
Queen Elizabeth National Park is also one of the few places in Africa where visitors are almost guaranteed to see tree-climbing lions, found only in the park’s southern Ishasha section.
Unlike their leopard cousins, lions are not usually particularly skillful tree climbers. Their imposing bulk puts them at the top of the predator hierarchy and imparts the power to pull down powerful prey.
But they are not well designed for nimble balance or agile leaps. While all lions can and occasionally do climb trees, it is very seldom that they make a habit of it.
Yet, in Queen, the lions are famed for their arboreal tendencies. The most likely explanation for their behaviour is that it helps them to escape the irritation of insect bites on the ground and perhaps to capitalize on the cool breezes a few meters above ground level.
Bird Species In Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth Park’s astonishing variety of habitats harbors more than 600 bird species. This is the second-highest of any park in Africa. The lakes, rivers, and wetlands are home to a plethora of plovers, herons, storks, pelicans and egrets. Other notable birds of Queen on your Uganda birding tours include:
- Great blue Turaco
- White-winged tern
- Gull-billed tern
- African skimmer
- Swamp flycatcher
- African crake
- Papyrus Gonolek
- Sooty chat
- Moustached grass warbler
- Black-headed Gonolek
- Red-chested sunbird
Lake Katwe In Queen Elizabeth National Park
The ancient Katwe salt lake was formed by a volcanic eruption around 10,000 years ago. The lake is situated in the interesting village of Katwe. It is located about 4 km west of main gate (Kabatoro gate).
Lake Katwe is famous for its salt industry. Salt mining on the Crater Lake dates back to at least 600 years ago. And today some 3000 people still use the same traditional methods.
Women pull salt from evaporation ponds when it’s dry enough (generally December to March and July to September) while men dig rock salt year-round.
Lake Katwe salt extraction project is one of the living examples of man and biosphere reserves or conservation areas in the whole world where man harmoniously co-exists with wildlife.
How To Get To Queen Elizabeth National Park?
Two routes are running from Kampala/Entebbe to Mweya – the primary tourism hub of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The most scenic route passes through Fort Portal City.
It is a 483 km (8-hour drive). This route also offers detours to Kibale Forest for chimpanzee trekking tours. You can also visit Semuliki for bird watching and tour Rwenzori for mountain hiking/climbing.
The most popular 437 km route runs through Masaka, Mbarara, and Bushenyi. This route also offers stopovers at Equator Monument at Kayabwe. On this route, you can also take a detour to Lake Mburo National Park which is home to many Zebras. This route takes around 6-7 hours.
You charter a flight from Entebbe International Airport on Kajjansi Airstrip to Kasese, Mweya, or Ishasha Airstrips. This is the fastest way to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The flight takes approximately 1 hour, but it is more expensive compared to a Uganda road trip. And you‘ll miss out on seeing the rural villages, people and their lifestyle, plus the lush countryside. Further Reading: Uganda Flying Safaris
Queen Elizabeth National Park Entry Fees 2024
- Adult foreign non-resident: US Dollars 40
- Adult foreign resident: US Dollars 30
- Children foreign non-resident: US Dollars 20
- Children foreign resident: US Dollars 10
- Adult East African Citizen: Uganda Shillings 20,000
- Children East African Citizen: Uganda Shillings 5,000
Things To Do In Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Day Game Drives: You can enjoy early morning, afternoon and evening game drives. Queen Elizabeth National Park games drives typically lasts 3 to 4 hours.
- Night Game Drive: night game drives around Kazinga Channel offer a chance to see rare nocturne creatures like leopards, civets, jackals, hyenas, as well as lions, hippos, and leopards.
- Kazinga Channel Boat Cruise: the relaxing two hour afternoon boat trip takes you on the 32-km long Kazinga Channel which is home to some of the world’s densest concentrations of hippos.
- Search Tree Climbing Lions: A large number of visitors visit Queen’s Ishasha sector to track the legendary tree-climbing lions that spend long lazy days dozing in the pretty fig trees
- Bird Watching: With over 610 recorded bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park, offers sensational bird watching on game drives, boat cruises, and nature walks.
- Community Visits: You can visit Lake Katwe Salt Mines and witness how locals traditionally harvest salt and interact with the mining community.
- Chimpanzee Tracking: Queen offers Chimpanzee tracking in the mystical Kyambura Gorge. You can also track chimps in the nearby Kalinzu Forest.
- Tracking Radio Collared Lions: You join a research team who track and monitor some of lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park though locator devices.
- Guided Nature Walks: You can take a guide nature walk verdant Maramagambo Forest.
Lodges In Queen Elizabeth National Park
With a wealth of wildlife acting as a drawcard, there are many Uganda safari lodges and camps in Queen Elizabeth National Park. They range from luxury, mid-range to budget options. Read more about the best places to stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
When To Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park?
Queen Elizabeth NP is open all year around, but wildlife viewing safaris are best from January to February and June to August (the Dry seasons). However, this scenic park is at its most beautiful in the Wet season months of March, April, May, September, October and November.
April May, October and November are very wet months and during that time, the rain might interfere with your planned safari activities. Further Reading: Best Time To Visit Uganda
How May Days Do You Need In Queen Elizabeth National Park?
Two days is theoretically enough for a stand-alone Queen Elizabeth National Park safari tour, and several Uganda tour operators offer this option. However, given that the driving time from Entebbe or Kampala is at least 7 hours in either direction, two days makes for a very rushed safari trip and will limit how much you can fit into your tour itinerary. For this reason, we would recommend a minimum of 3 days, preferably 4, for a stand-alone Queen Elizabeth safari. If you’re also planning to add a gorilla trekking adventure, we would recommend 4 days as the realistic minimum for your safari, and 5 days or longer as ideal.
Can I Combine A Queen Elizabeth Safari Gorilla Or Chimp Trekking?
A Uganda wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park is often combined with gorilla and/or chimp trekking. The most convenient gorilla trekking destination coming from Queen Elizabeth NP is Buhoma sector, on the northern boundary of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Depending on which lodge or camp you stay at in Queen, it is only a 3- to 4-hour drive between there and Buhoma. It is also possible to drive between Queen and other trekking sites in Bwindi Impenetrable or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, but you’ll be looking at more like 5 to 7 hours on the road.
Queen Elizabeth NP is even more convenient for seeing chimpanzees, since two popular trekking sites border the park and can be visited as a day trip from any lodge or camp in the vicinity. Of these, Kalinzu Forest Reserve is recommended to budget-conscious travelers over the forested Kyambura Gorge since it offers an attractive combination of low fees and a high success rate.
It is also straightforward to tag Kibale Forest National Park – which is Uganda’s premier chimpanzee trekking destination, but costlier than Kalinzu – onto a budget Queen Elizabeth NP safari.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park?
More affordable Uganda safari packages that focus solely on Queen Elizabeth NP typically cost around US$200 to US$250 per person per day. You can expect to pay slightly more for a package that includes chimpanzee trekking, and significantly more for one that incorporates a US$700 gorilla trekking permit. In all cases, the price should be inclusive of accommodation, meals, transport, park fees and activity costs, but it will exclude tips, unscheduled activities, drinks and other personal purchases.