Originally Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) was gazetted as the Lake George and Lake Edward game reserves in 1925 and was later upgraded in 1952 to create one of Uganda’s oldest parks. The Park was formed officially, along with Murchison Falls National Park in 1952. The park was formerly known as “Kazinga National Park” and in 1954 two years after its formation, when Queen Elizabeth II visited Uganda, it was renamed to commemorate her visit.
The Equator and the Queen’s Pavilion
Queen Elizabeth lies directly on Uganda’s equator providing a beautiful place for photo shooting adjacent to the Kasese highway along with craft shops where you can buy a souvenir or two. The Queen’s Pavilion is easily spotted by the northern entrance to Crater Drive. In 1954 Queen Elizabeth was given a provision shelter at this site until 1959 when a permanent pavilion was constructed to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s visit. Renovations were made on the second visit of the Duke of Edinburgh in 2007 with better facilities such as a coffee shop, information Centre and internet facilities.
Why you should visit Queen Elizabeth National Park?
The park has several activities and attractions ranging from Launch Cruises, Tree Climbing Lions, and the Mweya Penisula to the Kazinga channel.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. The park’s diverse ecosystems, which include sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, make it the ideal habitat for the classic big game, ten primate species including chimpanzees and over 600 species of birds. QENP contains 95 species of mammal – more than any other park in Uganda. QENP hosts 619 bird species, the second-highest of any park in Africa – the 6th highest of any park worldwide. The park’s diverse habitats are the major reasons for these remarkable numbers.
Classified as an Important Birding Area by Birding International, QENP is heavily endowed for birdwatchers with species representing the parks’ varied habitats. Its location at the overlap of the East African Savanna and Congo forest also means that species from both biomes are present.
Tree Climbing Lions
The park is home to the famous Tree Climbing Lions. The chance of sighting lions is particularly high in Ishasha as they spend their days resting up in tree branches.
Tree climbing lions in Uganda can only be found in the Ishasha sector in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Be sure to find these on any of our tours.
Ishasha is located on the road to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park thus offering a classic game viewing experience under the vast rift valley skies.
It covers an area of about 100km south of Mweya. The Park’s distant southern segment gives a genuine African wilderness experience. Among the inhabitants in this place include savannah woodland, Ishasha River along with Lake Edward which has a diversity of wildlife such as climbing lions, rare shoebill stork and many others. You should therefore expect to see buffaloes, hippos, elephants, topis and more.
QENP lies on the floor of Africa’s Western Rift Valley, which runs from northern Uganda to Malawi.
Mweya Peninsula and the Kazinga Channel
Mweya Peninsula is the most visited attraction within Queen Elizabeth National Park. Mweya’s popularity revolves around its rich biodiversity, quality accommodation and its nearness to an Airstrip.
The peninsula provides direct access to the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward.
It is the heart of sightseeing activities with excellent accommodation in the park. The only way to enjoy your tour in this park is by touring with a ranger guide. This person helps you explore the park as well as the distant parts of the peninsula. Two Servants Tours & Safaris can organize all the activities that you may want to get involved in. The most exciting aspect about this peninsular is the fact that its overlooks the Katwe bay of Lake Edward. More still, it has a souvenir shop full of Uganda safari items that will always remind you of the park.
The Kazinga channel is about 40m long adjoining Lake Gorge to Lake Edward. It has the perfect view of the parks’ major wildlife ventures. The shores of the lake attract a large concentration of mammals, birds as well as reptiles all year around. The animals can be viewed well by the Nile cruise or probably at the entrance of Lake Edward. The operation of the cruise runs from 11.00 and 13.00 furthermore voyages between 15.00 and 17.00 run depending on the demand of the tourists.
Crocodiles have only recently been seen in the Kazinga Channel. They disappeared for 8,000 years after they were eliminated from Lake Edward by toxic ash from local volcanoes. Hippos are efficient lawnmowers. They prefer to graze short grass, each animal eating about 40kg each night
Kazinga channel has parts for instance North Kazinga as well as Kasenyi. It is acknowledged that the plains of the channel are focal points for game viewing. Tracking is the only way that will enable you to see all the wildlife in its natural setting for example buffalo, elephants and other animals that dwell in the grassland thickets of the Northern Kazinga close to Mweya. The most accessible spot for lions is in the eastern part of Kasenyi plains and the Kasese road where they quarry the big inhabitants of Uganda Kobs. The most favourable time for Uganda safaris game drives is during morning and late afternoon hours. The work of the range guide is to help you get enough information about the park and still get the most memorable experience in Africa.
From the lodge terrace, it’s almost impossible to tell which way the Kazinga Channel is flowing. It flows west (to your right) from Lake George to Lake Edward. But since the change in water level along the 36km Channel is just 40cm it moves extremely slowly. The Katwe explosion craters mark the park’s highest point at 1,350m above sea level, while the lowest point is at 910m, at Lake Edward.
Few reserves in the world can boast such a high biodiversity rating and with landscapes including savannah, bushland, wetlands and lush forests. Covering 1978 sq. km, scenic Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most popular parks in Uganda. The remote Ishasha sector, in the far south of the park, is famous for its tree-climbing lions; these females, who enjoy spending the long, hot afternoons snoozing photogenically in fig trees, are the most memorable sight in the entire park but don’t miss the superb birdlife or the wonderful boat trip on the Kazinga Channel either.
Volcancic Explosion Crater
Many volcanic craters pock the landscape north of Mweya to remind us of the Albertine Rift’s violent tectonic history. The crater drive between the kabatoro and crater gates follows a breathtaking route around the rims of the extinct craters filled with various features such as lakes, forests and grasslands.
Katwe Salt Lake
The people of Katwe town, 12km from Mweya have been extracting salt from the saline lake katwe using evaporation pans since the 14th century. Local guides escort visitors down into the crater to see the process. The nearby lake Munyanyange is rich in waterbirds, including migrating lesser flamingoes between August and November.
The Kyambura Wildlife Reserve
This small reserve to the east of the kyambura Gorge is dotted with crater lakes that are visited seasonally by greater and lesser flamingoes.
The Local People
Bunyaruguru people live on the kichwamba Escarpment to the southeast of QENP. The area to the north of the park is home to the Basongora pastoralists while the Bakonzo farmers cultivate the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountain beyond.
How to get there
There are two ways to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park; one is by road via various routes and the other is by air
Two routes run from Kampala to Mweya, the primary tourism hub in the park. The most extraordinary route passes through Fort Portal (about 410km) and offers detours to Kibale, Semuliki and Rwenzori Mountains National Parks. The alternative is a 420km stretch running through Mbarara and Busenyi via Lake Mburo National Park.
Queen Elizabeth’s Ishasha sector is directly on the main route to and from Buhoma, the main mountain gorilla trekking trailhead in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which lies 62 km south
This is achieved by arranging chartered flights to airstrips at Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha with several domestic airlines such as AeroLink