Queen Elizabeth National Park Savannah
Large herbivores species including hippopotamus, elephant, buffalo, Uganda Kob, waterbuck, Topi and large carnivore species including lion, leopard, and spotted hyena are the main attractions the bring a massive number of tourists to Queen Elizabeth National Park each year, more than any other savannah park in the Uganda. Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the Western Region of Uganda, spanning the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi, and Rukungiri. The park is approximately 400 kilometres (250 mi) by road south-west of Kampala capital city. It includes the Maramagambo Forest and the borders of Kigezi Game Reserve, Kyambura Game Reserve, Kibale National Park in Uganda, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda (QENP) formerly known as Kazinga National Park was established in 1952 but was renamed in 1954 to commemorate the visit by Queen Elizabeth II. It lies on the floor of Africa’s Western Rift Valley covering 1,978 sq km at an altitude of 884- 1,337m/2,900- 4,386ft.
You can enjoy a holistic experience in this splendid park with diverse habitat including grassland, savannah, forests, wetlands and lakes. This provides the setting of an extensive range of large mammals, primates, birds and butterflies.
The park’s vegetation is a variety of flora and fauna but consists of mostly thickets of small trees including acacias and evergreens. The park, however, has five levels of vegetation; bushy grassland, Acacia woodland, lakeshore or swamp vegetation and forest grassland.
The park is a habitat for over 95 mammal species with over 600 species of birds. Four out of the big five animals can be found in QENP. The rhino is not present.
The park’s grasslands harbour impressive wildlife species such as chimpanzees, leopards, lions, elephants, hippopotamuses, water buffaloes, waterbuck, Uganda kob, warthog, hyena, giant forest hog and several types of antelopes, such as duiker, bushback and reedbuck.
Topis and tree climbing lions can only be found in Ishasha. Forest primate can be found in Kyambura gorge and Maramagambo forest. The Nile crocodile can be found at the kazinga channel. Apart from the rhino, giraffe and zebra are also absent.
The best time to view wildlife is in the dry season (January to February and June to August) where wildlife concentrate near the river shores and waterholes.
Bird-life of Queen Elizabeth NP
The park is home to more than 600 bird species. Notable species include; Hooded Vulture, Martial Eagle, Grey Kestrel, African Wattled Plover, Black-bellied Bustard, Black-lored Babbler, White-tailed Lark, Pink-backed Pelican, Black-crowned Tchagra, Slender-tailed Nightjar, Blue-naped Mousebird, Papyrus Canary, Pygmy Kingfisher, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, the lesser and greater Flamingo and many more.
Kyambura gorge provides spectacular scenery for chimpanzee tracking in Queen Elizabeth National Park. There are several chimps habituated in this gorge. Chimps stay in groups (called troops) of about 30-80 members. Chimps usually chew on leaves and use them as a sponge to dip in water and suck out the moisture. They also use twigs to pick into termite holes and enjoy nuts, fruits, seeds and flowers. Their vegetarian diet is usually supplemented by meat, like young antelopes or goats.
They have been spotted killing smaller primates like young baboons, blue monkeys and Colombus monkeys. There isn’t any particular breeding season and the females give birth every four-five years. They are quadrupedal, walking fast on their four limbs. They are swift climbers, setting their nest high in trees.
Queen Elizabeth National Park has a number of other primates found within its habitats and these include:
- Black and white Colombus Monkey
- Blue monkeys
- Olive baboons
- Vervet monkeys
- Red-tailed monkeys
Chimpanzees are, by nature, a lot more aggressive but the groups you can visit are habituated. Aggression towards humans in that context is extremely rare but you have to exercise caution when near chimps. These are some of the precautions to be observed while tracking chimps in QENP’s Kyambura gorge.
- Keep a safe distance from primates – Do not visit chimps when you are ill or with an infectious disease
- Do not use flash photography
- Back away slowly if the animal approaches you
- In the forest, the path or trail does not belong to you. Never block the animal’s path.
Sectors in Queen Elizabeth NP
The Mweya Peninsula
The peninsula is located on the northern bank of the impressive Kazinga Channel at the convergence of the channel with Lake Edward. The peninsula is the heart of sightseeing activities with the fact that it overlooks Katwe bay of Lake Edward. The Mweya peninsular with well-maintained tracks include the Channel Track all the way down to Katunguru gate, then across to Kabatoro gate. Kabatoro gate has a chunky ground cover with dense vegetation dominated by candelabra thorn that creates game viewing challenges.
The park operates a 20 seater motorized boat which runs two trips a day. However, there can be more rides depending on the number of visitors. Trips set off from the landing stage beneath Mweya lodge. Booking is done at the visitor information centre. Leopards are best viewed at Mweya peninsula.
The Kazinga channel
The Kazinga channel is a wide, 32-kilometre long natural channel connecting the two Lakes; Lake Gorge (which is to the east) and Lake Edward (which is to the west). On the Eastern side of the Kazinga Channel is Lake George a tiny lake with an overall depth of 2.4 meters and 250 sq km. This lake is fed by streams flowing from the spectacular Rwenzori Mountains just north of this lake. The outflow from Lake Gorge flows through this Kazinga Channel and drains west into the adjacent Lake Edward (which is among the main fresh-water lakes in Uganda) that covers a total area of 2,000 sq km.
The shores of this channel draw a large number of wild animals, birds in addition to reptiles all through the year. The channels host the largest population of hippos and plentiful Nile crocodiles.
The boat cruise is extremely rewarding for viewing wildlife that comes to the banks of the channel for water. The boat cruise is operated from 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm local time. The boat cruise begins at the Mweya peninsula, 20 km west of Kasese-Mbarara main road through Katunguru. There are special hire taxis available at the Katunguru trading centre charging around Ush30,000 or $10 to Mweya.
The channel has two parts; North Kazinga and Kasenyi. The shores of the lake attract a large concentration of mammals, birds and reptiles all year around. The animals can be viewed well by the Nile cruise or probably at the entrance of Lake Edward. The most convenient and favourable place to spot the lions is within the eastern section of Kasenyi plains on which they prey on a large number of resident Uganda Kobs within that area.
This is also called the “Valley of Apes” located in the far eastern corner of Queen Elizabeth National Park. It covers 1 km across and about 100 meters deep. The gorge has a rich wildlife bio-diversity that comprises of primates, wild animals and birds. The amazing gorge will marvel you with the verdant, rich tropical rain-forest right close to the Equator crossing with tree canopies providing shade and cover from the harsh sunshine. There is a great assortment of plant life at the gorge.
There are 3 salty crater lakes, that attract huge numbers of the beautiful flamingos. This gorge can best be explored on foot, taking a nature walk will unveil the natural beauty of the gorge.
The forest is from the Kichwamba escarpment all through to Lake Edward. The forest canopy shade is an ideal destination for hiking, nature walks, primate trekking and birding. The walk can take 2hours or even half a day where you can explore the beautiful crater lakes. The primates found here are Chimpanzees, Black and White Colobus monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys, baboons, Red Tailed monkey for Blue monkeys, and Vervet monkeys. The forest is habitat for nocturnal species; the Pottos and the bushbabies.
The other major attraction is the impressive bat caves. There is now a secure viewing centre established outside of these caves where you can get a glimpse of pythons and bats that hide there.
Kasenyi is located within the north-eastern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park and is 48 kilometres by road, south-east of Kasese. The open savannah plains are on the western shores of the adjacent stunning Lake George, just near to the area where the Kazinga Channel confluences with this lake. The region is an open savannah, and it is swarmed with various wild animals. Lions are commonly seen here because this area is dominant for the kob’s breeding and feeding. There are also many bird species found in this area such as yellow-throated long crow, red-throat spurfowls and grey-crown cranes.
Katwe crater lake
Though many explosion craters are extinct, few still release sulphurous smells. The 3 major concentrations are; Katwe Explosion Craters in QENP, Bunyaraguru Crater Field on the Kichwamba escarpment and the Ndali-Kasenda Crater Field close to Kibale National Park.
The Katwe explosion craters are situated at the north of the impressive Mweya Peninsula. The enormous Kyemengo Crater is absolutely the most alluring among the Katwe Explosion Craters. The craters in the past reduced Lake Edward to a poisonous mess. Unlike Volcanoes, Explosion Craters actually do not pile cones they merely blow ash as well as rock to distances far away. The craters are now filled with water forming breathtaking lakes and many have smells of sulphur in their waters. The crater lakes are exceptional viewpoints for nature walks and birding.
You can enjoy a spectacular Crater Drive which presents distant sights of the stunning crater lakes, the Great Western Rift Valley plus its escarpments, Lake George, the Rwenzori Mountains of the Moon, the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward while on your way. Lake Kitagata can be seen which is a lake fed by salty hot-springs with no wildlife around.
The Ishasha sector at the south-west rim section of QENP is notably known for its resident Tree climbing lions that are spotted hanging on branches of huge fig trees whereas the Uganda Kob (which are the major food to these lions) graze in the plains. This section is only 2 hours drive from the Mweya Peninsula.
Ishasha is a very memorable destination with splendid sights of the King of the jungle perched up high on one of the branches of the huge fig trees, lazily resting away as the day goes by. In addition, you can also come across buffalo herds, antelopes, elephants and hippos. However, this is not always guaranteed as it majorly depends on the day you visit this part.
Lake George is small and shallow and located in the western part of East Africa’s Rift Valley. The lake is supplied by several inflows from the extensive mountain Rwenzori ranges such as Dura, Mpanga, Nsonge, Rumi and Mubuku. Its outflow is into the Kazinga Channel that drains toward the adjacent Lake Edward. The lake, at 914m altitude, experiences two rainy seasons having the rainfall peaks within May as well as October. The islands on this lake are Kankuranga, Iranqara and Akika. A lot of fishing is done in this lake. The shores are dominated by papyrus reeds and swamps where you can catch a glimpse of the sitatunga antelope, rare Shoebill and other birds.
The Equator and the Queen’s Pavilion
Uganda’s Equator provides a beautiful place for photo shooting. The Queen’s Pavilion is easily spotted by the northern entrance to the Crater Drive. The pavilion which was first established in 1954 was renovated by the second visit of Duke of Edinburgh in 2007 with better facilities.
Weather & Climate
The climate in Queen Elizabeth National Park is warm. The landscape is beautiful and green. Temperatures remain stable year-round, being near the equator. Daytime temperatures rise to around 29°C/84°F and slowly fall to around 17°C/63°F at night.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is open all-year-long, but wildlife viewing is at its best from January to February and June to July (the dry seasons) though there is always the potential for rain. However, this scenic park is at its most beautiful in the Wet seasons from March to May and August to December. Rain happens less during December through January, with June and July having the least rain. Wet seasons occur in March to May and from August to December.
Dry seasons January to February and June to July
January & February – Expect rainfall at any time though this is generally a dry season. June & July – There is a slight potential for rain during these months, the driest months. Daytime temperatures average 29°C/84°F, and nighttime temperatures average 16°C/61°F. Wildlife is easier to spot as animals gather around water points and the vegetation thins. The trails are dry making chimp trekking easier. Birding is best done in late May to September.
Wet seasons March to May and August to December
March, April & May – Increased rainfall is in April. Temperatures are pleasant (around 29°C/84°F) in the later afternoon and cooler (17°C/63°F) in the morning. Roads can become impassable and chimp trekking trails are slippery.
August, September, October & November– This time of year is similar to March through May, with rain peaking in November. There is plenty of wildlife to see. Migratory birds can be spotted. However, roads may become inaccessible after heavy rains and forest trails get slippery. Afternoon thunderstorms should be expected, and it might drizzle.
The best time to visit QENP is in January/February and June to August during the dry season. High Season, June to September, is a prime time for gorilla trekking and there are many tourists in Uganda.
The gazetting of the park has ensured the conservation of its ecosystems, which in turn benefits the surrounding communities. There is rich culture found in QENP with Toro, Banyaruguru found here. You will find crafts shops where you can get a souvenir and in turn help the community. The community engages in activities such as fishing, salt mining, farming.
It is recommended to take anti-malarial medication and apply mosquito repellent because there is a high risk of transition during the rainy season (March to May and October to December) in all parks apart from the high altitude mountainous park.
Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts, shoes or boots because of the abundance of thorns and sharp twigs and to prevent bug bites.
Resist the temptation to jog or walk alone in the park.
Wildlife is not confined to the park and roam freely around the lodges and camps, avoid venturing out of your lodge alone at night or dawn.
In 2008, there was a case of Marburg Virus infection at the bat caves in Maramagambo forest. In collaboration with the American CDC, this has been controlled and you can safely view the bats and pythons at the entrance of the caves.
Wildlife can be unpredictable and you are advised to use your common sense and exercise caution and respect for the animals. Please observe all wildlife safety precautions and park rules when enjoying your Africa safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. These include but are not limited to:
- Keep a safe distance from wildlife.
- Do not feed wildlife.
- Be aware of your surrounding and stay alert.
- Stay in designated trails and tracks.
- The road does not belong to you. The animals always have a right of way.
- Do not honk in the park or at animals.
- Watch where you put your feet while walking in the bush.
- Never run away from a predator when confronted.
- Never walk between a hippo and water. It may panic and charge because its safety route to the water is blocked.
- While camping, store food carefully to avoid attracting wildlife.
Begin by looking at the visa requirements for travelling to Uganda.
By Road from Kampala
- Buses are found at the Baganda bus-park and near Nakivubo stadium in Kampala.
- 6 hours drive from Kampala through Mbarara, Bushenyi is 420 kilometres.
- 6 hours drive from Kampala through Fort Portal to Kasese is 410 kilometres.
– 60 minutes Charter flights from Entebbe International Airport to the Airstrip in Mweya, Kasese or Ishasha.
Nkuringo Safaris organises small group tours and private tailor-made safaris to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Our track record for great safaris since 2007 has given us an edge in crafting unforgettable journeys. Tailor-make every trip to suite our guest’s style of travel. Talk to one of us to help you plan your savannah journey to QENP.