Queen Elizabeth National Park

A Lion In A tree In Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda Safari Travel Guide

Queen Elizabeth National Park In Uganda, Safari Travel Guide

Queen Elizabeth National Park  is a UN Biosphere Reserve and most popular destination for wildlife safaris in Uganda.

This fabulous Uganda safari park has over 1978 km2 of rolling savannah, beautiful lakes, lush rainforests, and fertile wetlands to explore, right in the south of the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, or the Mountains of the Moon.

Along with all the awesome terrain to adventure, there are tons of opportunities for wildlife watching as well. Queen Elizabeth National Park has more than 600 species of birds and 95 mammal species, including 4 of the Big Five.

There are an estimated 5000 hippos, 3900 African bush elephants, 10,000 African buffaloes, 300 Chimpanzees, a variety of antelopes, monkeys, reptiles, giant forest hogs, and the rare tree-climbing lions. It’s also home to humans, too.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the few Africa safari parks to have communities living inside its boundaries. All of which means there is an unusually diverse range of ways to experience it on your Uganda safaris.

Lions walking through tall grass of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Lions Walking Through Tall Grass Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Location: Where Is Queen Elizabeth National Park?

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in southwestern Uganda, approximately 400km (7-hour drive) from Uganda’s capital, Kampala.  The park is situated on the Equator at the base of Africa’s Great Rift Valley.  

It’s flanked by Lake George in the northeast and Lake Edward to the southwest, linked by a stretch of water known as the Kazinga Channel, and is contiguous with Virunga National Park in Congo. The smaller Kibale National Park, Kigezi and Kyambura Wildlife Reserves all border the park and serve as buffer zones.

Near the northern boundary of the park are four other major protected areas: Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Semuliki National Park, Toro Game Reserve and Katonga Game Reserve. The Uganda gorilla-trekking Eden of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies about 218 km to the south.

A Brief History Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

In 1952, Queen Elizabeth National Park was founded as Kazinga National Park. In 1954, the park was renamed Queen Elizabeth to commemorate a visit from Queen Elizabeth II of UK, while Uganda was still under colonial rule.

In 1970s, Queen Elizabeth National Park had great herds of elephants, buffaloes, antelopes and hippos. It was one of the premier safari parks in Africa. During the troubled 1980s, Ugandan and Tanzanian troops which occupied the country after Amin’s demise did their ivory-grabbing, trophy-hunting best.

Thankfully, animal populations have recovered since then with thanks to improved national park security and an emphasis on ant poaching patrols.

Key Attractions In Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda

1. The Landscape Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Forested volcanic crater in Queen Elizabeth National Park with Lake George in the background
Forested volcanic crater in Queen Elizabeth National Park with Lake George in the background

To those who know and love the wild spaces of Africa, each one offers its own brand of unique beauty. And Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park is no exception.

The landscape is dotted by volcanic explosion craters. These magnificent calderas are filled with either saltwater lakes or rich savannah. The park is a medley landscape of unique features and habitats. Fortunate visitors on Uganda safaris can go from exploring vast savannahs dotted by acacia and euphorbia trees.

You can also discover the lush paths beneath the canopy of the Maramagambo Forest or drift down the dramatic Kazinga Channel on a boat cruise.

2. Animals In Queen Elizabeth National Park

While the scenery is in itself a drawcard, Queen Elizabeth National Park offers superb game viewing as well, with over 95 recorded mammal species.  This makes it a prime destination for a wildlife safari in Uganda. The park’s savannah plains host a rich variety of animals, including four of the Big 5 animals.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the few places where you’re almost guaranteed to see tree-climbing lions, found in the Ishasha sector. Queen also has large groups of hippos, crocodiles, antelopes, giant forest hogs, warthogs, spotted hyenas, side-striped jackals and Banded mongooses.

Around 10 primate species, including olive baboons, black and white colobus  red-tailed monkeys, vervet monkeys and blue monkeys. Also the famous chimpanzees roam the park’s verdant rain forests of Kyambura gorge and Maramagambo.

Four Of The Big Five

Africa Bush Elephants in Ishasha Sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Africa Bush Elephants in Ishasha Sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Your Uganda safari tour to Queen Elizabeth National Park offers you a great opportunity to see the iconic African Big Five animals. The park has healthy numbers of four of the Big 5 (excluding rhinos). These are:

  • African bush elephant – around 3900
  • African buffalo – around 10,000
  • African lion- around 200
  • African leopard

Remember that the term Big 5 does not refer to the biggest animals, but rather the animals that 19th century big game hunters considered the most dangerous creatures to hunt on foot in Africa.

Antelopes

Topi Antelopes in Ishasha Sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Topi Antelopes in Ishasha Sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is also hosts a plenty of antelope species, including over 20,000 Uganda kobs, Uganda’s national antelope. Other antelope species you can look for during your Uganda wildlife tour in Queen include:

  • Bushbucks
  • Topis
  • Waterbucks
  • Sitatunga
  • Duikers
  • Bates’s pygmy antelopes

3. The Rare & Famous Tree-Climbing Lion

Tree-climbing lion resting in a tree in Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda
Tree-climbing lion resting in a tree in Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda

Queen Elizabeth National Park is also hosts a plenty of antelope species, including over 20,000 Uganda kobs, Uganda’s national antelope. Other antelope species you can look for during your Uganda wildlife tour in Queen include:

  • Bushbucks
  • Topis
  • Waterbucks
  • Sitatunga
  • Duikers
  • Bates’s pygmy antelopes

4. The Chimpanzees Of Kyambura Gorge

Forested Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda
Forested Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda

Chimpanzees are highly intelligent apes that share 98 percent of our genetic make-up. And they are considered our closest living relatives. In the mystical forests of the 100 meter-deep Kyambura Gorge in the heart of Queen Elizabeth National Park ecosystem, there is a small, isolated population of about 30 chimps that have become known as the “Lost Chimpanzees”.

These chimps are isolated from the other populations in the larger forested areas of the park. They are lone survivors cut off by the historic deforestation of the area. They have been habituated for Chimpanzee trekking tours in Uganda.

Other primates such as Baboons, Red-tailed monkeys, and Black-and-white Colobus monkeys also live in the gorge. And many many forest birds can be observed here.

5. Chimpanzees Of Kalinzu Forest

A Chimpanzee in Kalinzu Forest near Queen Elizabeth National Park
A Chimpanzee in Kalinzu Forest near Queen Elizabeth National Park

Kalinzu Forest is situated in the south-east of Queen Elizabeth Park. The forest is home to around 300 Chimpanzees. Besides chimps, you can also encounter a variety of birds and other diurnal primate species in Kalinzu Forest.

6. Hippos Of Kazinga Channel

Hippos in Kazinga Channel of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Hippos in Kazinga Channel of Queen Elizabeth National Park

The stunning Kazinga Channel connects Lake George and Lake Edward.  The channel boasts of one of the densest hippo populations in Africa. These huge animals spend most of the day submerged in water coming out at night to graze.

The males are extremely territorial and aggressive. They use their long incisors to defend their patch and their loud, distinctive honking to assert their presence. The Kazinga Channel also attracts a rich array birds, numerous Nile crocodiles, elephants, buffalos, and Nile monitor lizards.

7. Birds In Queen Elizabeth National Park

It is no exaggeration to suggest that Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best destinations for bird watching in Africa. The park’s astonishing variety of habitats harbors more than 610 different bird species. This is thee second-highest of any park on the continent. The lakes, rivers, and wetlands are home to a plethora of plovers, herons, storks, pelicans and egrets.

In dense forest of the Kyambura Gorge and Maramagambo, you’ll find cuckoos, woodpeckers, and warblers. Particularly impressive are the hundreds of flamingos that congregate at Lake Munyanyange from around August and November.

African Spoonbill in Queen Elizabeth National Park
African Spoonbill in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Other notable bird species in Queen Elizabeth National Park include:

  • Great blue Turaco
  • Papyrus Gonolek
  • White-winged tern
  • Gull-billed tern
  • African skimmer
  • Swamp flycatcher
  • African crake
  • Blue-throated roller
  • Sooty chat
  • Black-and-white shrike-flycatcher
  • Northern black flycatcher
  • Black-headed Gonolek
  • Moustached grass warbler
  • Red-chested sunbird
  • Slender-billed weaver

8. Lake Katwe Salt Mines

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 on the north shore of Lake Edward. And it is about 4 km west of Main gate (Kabatoro gate).

Lake Katwe is famous 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.

Top Things To Do Queen Elizabeth National Park

Buffalos Wallowing In Kazinga Channel, Queen Elizabeth National Park
Buffalos Wallowing In Kazinga Channel, Queen Elizabeth National Park

1. Game Drives In Queen Elizabeth National Park

You can enjoy early morning and in the evening Uganda safari game drives in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The games drive is conducted in the beautiful Kasenyi savannah plains. The plains are located North Kazinga Plains and Ishasha.

You get a chance to see different species of Uganda animals like buffaloes, leopards, elephants, giraffes, lions, antelopes, hippos, various reptiles and birds.

You can go on a night game drives around Kazinga Channel. During the night drive, you can see rare nocturne creatures like leopards, civets, jackals, hyenas, as well as  lions, hippos, and leopards.

2. Boat Cruise On Kazinga Channel

Boat Cruise On Kazinga Channel In Queen Elizabeth National Park
Boat Cruise On Kazinga Channel In Queen Elizabeth National Park

The two hour boat trip on the spectacular Kazinga Channel starts in afternoon.

This relaxing cruise offers you a chance to explore the oasis of wildlife. You will see large groups of hippos, elephants, buffaloes, and crocodiles.

The Kazinga channel is also a birdwatcher’s paradise!

Hundreds of waterbirds congregate along the banks of the Channel. It is the best place to see the majestic African Fish Eagle in action.

3. Tracking Tree Climbing Lions

A large number of visitors visit Queen Elizabeth National Park to Ishasha sector to track the legendary tree-climbing lions.

You can also  enjoy an up-close encounter with these incredible creatures and observe this unusual behavior in this sector. The Ishasha is mainly visited by travellers on the way to the Uganda gorilla trekking destination of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

4. Bird Watching In Queen Elizabeth National Park

Grey Crowned Crane in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Grey Crowned Crane in Queen Elizabeth National Park

With over 610 recorded bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park, is without doubt one of the best bird watching paradises in Africa. The park offers sensational bird watching to travellers on Uganda birding safaris. Uganda has about 1,080 bird species and more than a half can be found here.

5. Local Community Visits

You can also incorporate local community tour in your Uganda wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

You can meet the local people in and around the park to experience Ugandan culture through storytelling, dance, music and more.

You can visit Lake Katwe Salt Mines. Here, you will  witness how locals traditionally harvest salt and interact with the mining community.

You can also take authentic coffee plantation tour. Situated in the buffer zone between the national park and the farmlands, this exceptional initiative is run by the Omwani Women’s Cooperative, an association of local women committed to growing organic coffee beans without the use of pesticides/chemical fertilisers.

Here, you’ll marvel  at  over 1 500 Arabica and Robusta coffee plants. And witness the beans being processed by hand at a communal processing plant. You end your experience with a sampling of the plantation’s finest Uganda coffee product.

A Fishing Village In Queen Elizabeth National Park
A Fishing Village In Queen Elizabeth National Park

6. Chimpanzee Tracking Adventures

You can also track wild Chimpanzees on foot in the forested Kyambura Gorge. You can also track chimps in the nearby Kalinzu Forest. Kalinzu is considered the most reliable place to see wild chimpanzees in Uganda after Kibale Forest.

During your chimpanzee trekking tour, you will get the chance to spend an hour on an up-close encounter with ‘man’s closest living relative.

7. Tracking Radio Collared Lions

A Lion Tracking research trip can be a rewarding adventure .

The adventure offers you a great opportunity to get a closer look at the King of the Jungle. It is also one way of  contributing to an important conservation initiative. 

You  join a research team who track and monitor some of lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park though locator devices.

The data collected will further the conservation program.

8. Guided Nature Walks

You can take a guide nature walk verdant Maramagambo Forest. The forest is home to many primates, birds, and butterflies. It also has many unique plant species and a Bat Cave where you can see the huge African Rock Python.

Queen Elizabeth National Park  Fees – Uganda Wildlife Authority Fees (2022/2024) 

Queen Elizabeth National Park Tourist Entry Fees
Queen Elizabeth National Park Tourist Entry Fees

Children below 5 years do not pay entry fees

Park entry fees are valid for 24 hours from the time of entry into the park.

So, you can enter the park at any time from 7 am to 7 pm within the 24 years. This is irrespective of whether your accommodation is located within the park boundary or outside the park boundary. You can exit and get back in.

Queen Elizabeth National Park Activity Fees
Queen Elizabeth National Park Activity Fees

Activity fees are per person and they don’t include entrance fees.

Where To Stay, Accommodation, Camps, & Safari 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. Here are of the best Queen Elizabeth National Park safari lodges and camps where you can stay during your Uganda wildlife safari.

Ishasha Wilderness Camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Ishasha Wilderness Camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park
  • Ishasha Wilderness Camp – Luxury
  • Mweya Safari Lodge – Luxury
  • Katara Lodge – Luxury
  • Kyambura Gorge Lodge – luxury
  • Enganzi Game Lodge – Midrange
  • Bush Lodge – Midrange/Budget
  • Kasenyi Safari Camp – Midrange
  • Park View Safari Lodge – Midrange
  • Enjojo Safari Lodge – Midrange/Budget
  • Enganzi Game Lodge – Midrange
  • Pumba Safari Cottages – Budget
  • Topi Lodge – Budget

How To Get To Queen Elizabeth National Park?

By Car

There are two routes run from Kampala City/Entebbe City to Mweya. Mweya is 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 National park for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda.

You can also visit Semuliki National Park for bird watching and nature walks. And tour Rwenzori Mountains National Park for mountain hiking tours in Uganda.

The most popular 437 km route runs through Masaka, Mbarara, and Bushenyi. This route also offers stopovers at Uganda Equator Monument at Kayabwe for amazing photo shoots and water experiments.

On this route, you can also take a detour to Lake Mburo National Park which is home to many Zebras and Impalas. You can also visit Igongo Cultural Centre and Museum. This route takes around 6-7 hours.

By Plane

You charter a flight from Entebbe International Airport on Kajjansi Airstrip to Kasese, Mweya or Ishasha. This is the fastest way to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The flight takes around 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.

Best Time To Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park

Wildlife viewing is at its best during the park’s two dry seasons: from December to February and from June to September. For bird watching, visit between late May and September.

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