Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the southwest of Uganda near kasese, covering an area of 1978 sq km . it is uganda’s second largest , popular and most accessible savanna reserve .It was declared as a biosphere eserve purposely to harmonizing human activities with the conservation and protection of wildlife, wetlands and natural resources in 1979.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is bounded by the Ishasha River and Lake Edward to the west along DR Congo boarder,by Kasese and the Rwenzori foothills to the north , To the East by Lake George , Kyambura/kyambura gorge and the kalinzu forest reserve ,the kigezi wildlife reserve to the south .
Much of Queen Elizabeth National Park is primarily known for open savana, in some areas studded with dense cover of acacia and euphoria trees but it also embraces large area of thick swamps around lake George , the intensive Maramagambo forest in the southeast, and the forested Kyambura Gorge along the border with the kyambura Game Reserve , Endowed with atleast ten crater lakes within the park, including the highly accessible cluster right north of the main road to mweya Safari lodge , as well as the whole Ugandan shores of lake George , plus the connecting kazinga channel .
Queen Elizabeth National Park has a lot to offer to any tourist and a one of uganda’s Eco tourism destinations, what a life time memorable site it is.
Having protected as the lake George and Edward game reserve since the late 1920’s the present day Queen Elizabeth National Park was gazetted as kazinga National park in 1952, purposely to protect landscapes of prolific wildlife typical of the rift valley flow from Lake Edward to the Rwenzori Mountains . In 1954 it was renamed Queen Elizabeth National Park in memory of the Queen of England’s visit to this place.
With a total of 95 mammal species recorded here and the highest for any Ugandan national parks, this makes this park a remarkably Uganda wildlife spot. These include ten primate species ,including chimpanzees , black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons, red tailed monkeys , blue monkeys,vevet monkeys and l’Hoest monkeys. And around 20 predators are native to this park.
Side-striped jackal ,Lions, Leopards , spotted hyenas , Uganda kob (wappen tier) , bushbucks, Topi’s, defassa water bucks and many antelope species .in her papyrus swamps around lake George dwells the elusive semi –aquatic sitatunga antelopeand four duikers species are resident in maramagambo forest . Bufalloes are common sight and are usually redish in colour due to interbreeding with the Congolese forest redder forest buffalo.
Today Queen Elizabeth N ational Park boasts around 2000 Elephants and with over 50 lions readily observed . for the birdwatcher this park is the best spot because over 600 bird species are found in this park.some of them include :open billed stock, African jacana , Malachite and pied king fishers, African skimmers, grey headed kingfisher , grey capped warbler, Black headed gonolek, swamp fly catcher , pin tailed whydah, martial eagle, black rumped buttonquail, common squaco heron, shoebill stock, African fish eagle, African tailed lark, verreaux’s owl , collard pranticles, gabon and slender –tailed morning dove, night jars great and long tailed comorants , black bea eater, white winged warbler , papyrus gonolek, white and pink backed pelicans among others.
The ethnic groups virtually attached to this area are; bakiga, banyankole, bakonjo , These carry out a variety of traditional and economic activities –notably salt mining, crop and animal farming ,fishing and have avariety of dress codes as well as languages , an interesting discovery to interested tourists.
TOURIST ACTIVITIES AND ATRACTIONS IN QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
An experience of this game drive in QENP will automatically get you an exciting Uganda adventure to tell the rest of your life there is to live. This involves driving through the park so as to view animals . it is best done in the early morning and late afternoon hours when the weather is calm .
QENP has well maintained tracks , giving visitors quick access to the parks wildlife and other attractions. These tracks cut through the mating grounds of the great Uganda kobs as the outstanding gigantic forest hogs are seen moving around the park bush . you will enjoy a memorable sight of elephants as they make their way down to the waters during hot days , hungry lions looking for their prey while bush bucks and buffaloes can be found on the channel track .
The out unique panorama along the crater track leads you to volcanic craters at the foothills of the misty mountains of the moon , outstanding of all, the great overlooking Mt. Rwenzori shall be seen.
THE LAUNCH CRUISE
This is a boat trip along the hippopotamus crowded banks of kazinga and it gives you a unique unbeaten wildlife experience . crocodiles are a common sight and occasionally a common leopard can be seen . many bufalloes rest in the waters while big herds of elephnats enjoy themselves drinking and playing along the channel banks .you will see Hippos as surrounded by vast numbers of migrants and resident birds , this boat cruise puts one , right in the heart of amazing nature.
In maramagambo forest, these are short to long guided nature walks offered at the great QENP . this will expose you to a diversity of wild.the pythons in the ostracism of the bat caves floor with their prey the bats . this bats cave is near the attractive blue lake and hunter’s cave . other trails lead you to the heart of the surrounding craters and habitats to many forest birds as well as some primates like the chimpanzee.
A nature walk in the eastern part of the protected area and supports similar mammals to the rest of the park. It harbours three saline crater lakes , which attract a large number of flamngoes not found anywhere else hence a great birding safari destination in Uganda . this steep kyambura gorge , formed by the turbulent waters of the roaring kyambura river , provides a luxuriant riverine forest , habitat to lions . chimpanzee tracking is also carried out here . black and white colobus monkeys ,olive baboons as well as plenty of forest birds, snakes and many others . Avisit to the gorge presents a great opportunity to see chimpanzees in their natural habitat.
CHIMPANZEE TRACKING IN KYAMBURA GORGE
The gorge also called the’’ valley of Apes’’ is located in the far eastern corner of the well known Queen Elizabeth National park .the gorge is actually drained by river Kyambura . the landscape is among the most impressive you will find in Uganda and it is swarmed by a rich wildlife biodiversity that comprises of primates ,wild animals as well as birds .
Basing pn reports by the researchers about 16 chimpanzees are remaining within this distant yet very impressive valley .chimpanzee tracking in this gorge is possible since these chimpanzees are habituated (which means they are used to humans) a process which took about 2 years .reservations for chimp tracking are made at Mweya Visitor information center or at the visitor centre at the gorge .
Some of the activities that can be carried out in this gorge other than chimpanzee trekking is guided nature walks where you have chance to view a varity of wildlife like black and white colobus monkeys ,giant forest hogs ,red- tailed monkeys and many more .
The gorge is a vital water source to quite a number of wild animals and is surrounded by savanna ,however is generally well known for its big number of primates living within the gorge .
The gorge is best explored on foot so taking a nature guided walk by any of the well trained and knowledgeable guides willunveil to visitors the natural beauty of the gorge as well as flora and fauna within the depths of the gorge .there are various nature trails within this area which are well maintained so as on your fitness anything can be arranged for you so that you don’t miss out on this great wildlife here .
ISHASHA SOUTHERN SECTOR
This trail to the southern part of the park will let you see the tree climbing lions on a large fig tree tree or sometimes on acacia trees. In this sector one is also able to view more animals like the hyenas, Uganda kobs, buffaloes, elephants, warthogs, leopards and more bird species in the open savanna grassland.
A VISIT TO THE TRADITIONAL SALT
You will see how the salt ore looks like since the 14 century , here salt has been mined by traditional methods to date. You will also understand how the salt mines have been divided and distributed to the various tribes in Uganda. As explained by your guide , you will learn the interesting cultural strings attached to the salt mines.
HOW TO GET TO QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
From kampala ; Take an early morning mbarara –kabale road , turn off the main road at ntungamo and follow 45km road to rukungiri . from here drive 70km along a murram road to ishasha via kihihi.
.. Get your permit before entering the park
.. Drive only between 7:00am and 7:oopm and allow plenty of time to reach your destination
.. Do not drive more than 45km per hour
.. Do not bring pet animals into the park
.. Do not bring firearms or ammunition into the park
.. Give animals right of way and don’t disturb wild animals
.. Do not pick or cut any plants as well as kill any animal /living creatures.
.. Do not litter in the park
.. Do not start fires or throw cigarette ends