Queen Elizabeth National Park

OVERVIEW

Queen Elizabeth provides a great way to see how the ecosystem is naturally managed as predators and preys defy odds to survive.  It boasts of lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, bushbuck, Uganda kob, toppi, black and white monkeys, crocodiles, hippos. Its claim to fame is the thriving population of tree climbing lions it has, and over 600 recorded bird species.

Why visit Queen Elizabeth National Park

This Big 5 destination offers eye opening educative trip for the kids as it is packed with sensational adventures: boat cruises, game drives and nature walks. By the same token, it is equally very experiential and relaxing for the adults, a place to visit if you have a sentimental attachment to nature and the rules of the jungle! Queen Elizabeth National is the point of convergence of remarkable landscapes; tropical forests, lush savannahs, freshwater lakes, gorges and permanent rivers. This diversity in turn attracts over 600 bird species. Its wow factor goes beyond having big numbers; rather, it is ease with which you are able to see over 70% of these birds. Some of the popular names on its check list are; shoebill stork, White-backed night heron, African finfoot, Great blue turaco, Grey-winged robin-chat, African skimmer, Ayres’s hawk eagle, Caspian plover, Pink-backed pelican, Palm-nut vulture, Rufous-bellied heron.

Equator

It is one of the only five parks in the world that has both a Northern and Southern hemisphere. This is thanks to the Equator which passes through it at zero latitude. Queen Elizabeth National Park is also home to scenic crater lakes that have been ranked among the world’s most beautiful by powerhouse travel media. One such is National Geographic.

Kazinga Channel

Kazinga channel is the cycle of life of the park. It is a vast river that connects Lake George to Lake Edward. It subsequently feeds River Nile with water from Rwenzori which flows into the latter lake. A boat cruise over this gem will unveil to you birds sitting on the tall trees that line its banks. Most of them are species that prey on fish like the African fish eagle and pied eye kingfisher. You will also find pods of gigantic crocodiles idly basking along the shores and patiently waiting to make a kill!  There will also be schools of hippos basking in the sun and watching over their juveniles as they learn to swim the shallow parts of the river.

Tree climbing lions of Ishasha

Ishasha is a part of Queen Elizabeth famously known for its tree climbing lions. Whereas lions are terrestrial creatures, this is not the same with lions of Ishasha which are known for their climbing skills. In fact, Ishasha is the most reliable place to see tree climbing Lions in Africa. This is not all Ishasha is bio diverse with lots of species of birds and mammals like buffalos, topi, elephants, monkeys, and much more. The behavior of climbing trees has been observed all year through and the best time to look out for these magnificent creatures is in the heat of the day. There is no confirmed study to explain this behavior but several thoughts have been shared.

Kyambura Gorge

At the heart of Queen Elizabeth National Park is Kyambura Gorge, an underground forest that has been home to man’s closest cousins for over 200 years now, chimpanzees. Witnessing these smart primates fight each other so as to lead their group will leave you feeling like you are in a wildlife documentary episode. It is a captivating moment of truth that offers so much learning from the wild. As you walk out of the gorge, a herd of elephants could appear in a distance as they cross from one side to the other in search for food. It is until this moment that you will realize why they are ranked as the biggest land mammals in the world.

Best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park

Wildlife viewing in Queen Elizabeth National Park is excellent from January to February and June to July (the Dry seasons). It is also possible for one to visit the park in the wet seasons from March to May and August to December.

Activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park

  • Game drives
  • Chimpanzee tracking
  • Bird watching
  • Boat trips

 

Lodges of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Mweya Safari Lodge

This is one of the first lodges we visited when we started as tour guides years back. Staff may change but the standards remain high. It sits on Mweya Peninsular which is the intersection of the Kazinga channel and Lake Edward. Nothing beats its views of both water bodies. It is out of this world. Despite being so full with guests due to its size, the lodge’s staffs still manage to keep a certain intimacy. Mweya’s lawns are kept cropped by the local warthogs. As you walk past it, you are likely to bump into a family of Banded Mongoose. They are quite habituated to people but never the less, these are wild animals. Don’t be tempted to play with them otherwise you will be in for a surprise.

No worries about catching malaria while here, the rooms are well furnished and fitted with nets in a curtain screen like arrangement. Mosquitos can’t sneak in.

You can’t miss the outdoor dining experience on the verandah of the main lobby. It is a lovely vantage point from which you can enjoy the splendid views over the Kazinga river to bathing elephants and their young ones.
Be aware of the local wildlife after dark and always take an escort to your room. We have personally experienced lion in the lodge. Hippos often graze the lawns after dark.

Elephant Plains Lodge

This vibrant destination is brand spanking new but you can hardly tell as the staffs are excellent. They will make you feel at home with their warm, attentive and professional management. This is one of the things that make the lodge a must-visit for travelers to Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Standing at an altitude of 941 metres above sea level, Elephant plains boasts of cottages that are spacious and well-appointed with large beds. Each has verandah with an imposing view of the rift valley escarpment and its endowments such as Kyambura Gorge, Lake Gorge and a rolling savannah. The surrounding plants are lovely. Though they are still young, you can tell that in a short period of time, they will add a more spectacular feel to the place.

The food is what is in season and available. Both vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisines are fresh and flavorful and a great mix of African and other cuisines.

The only reason for the 4 stars, instead of 5 is that there are a few issues with things like the safe in the room not working and the electricity going out in the rooms.

Ishasha Jungle Lodge

Having just read three reports from over indulged travel writers, we found this a very good lodge in a very remote area. Its location in the southern section of Queen Elizabeth National Park qualifies it as a great place to stay during your pursuit of the tree climbing lions. The lodge is surrounded by riparian forest vegetation and a savannah filled with acacias. Ishasha Jungle Lodge is far basic. It is a captivating eco-friendly lodge, entirely made with local materials and African art. It features en-suite wooden deck cottages with spacious rooms and bathroom, all finished with canvas.

It has excellent size rooms with good on suite facilities inclusive of outdoor showers. The eating area is simple and looked after by friendly staff who welcomed us with a warm lunch and home juice, just the perfect treat we needed after that long drive from Kampala. At the end of our second day, one of them escorted us to and from the cottages due to the risks from wildlife. Initially, I thought this was unnecessary till the second morning when we saw cape buffalo prints near our room.

We have no complaints about the 3 course meals that we were provided.

Jacana Safari Lodge

This destination is an ideal place to stay for romantic pair. It features luxury suites with panoramic windows, each with a view of both Maramagambo tropical jungle and Lake Nyamusingire, one of the most scenic craters in Uganda. Its eco-friendly suites are decorated in African design, with full bathroom and comfy beds.

Not so far from the main lounge is a swimming pool where you can bask in the sun with a glass of Champagne.
The chef, will impress you with every little edible flower or sauce. Delightful! Because Jacana is on edge of the park, you don’t start paying your 24 hour park entrance fees till you actually go on safari, as opposed to staying inside the park.

Marifiki Safari Lodge

The warmth and service here is heart melting. The lodge is within easy reach from most gates of Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is great. Its cottages and tents are made of well-polished timber, but what most remember about them is their incredible views of Lake Gorge. Marafiki is surrounded by flora and fauna of the majestic wilderness.

The only thing we felt was a bit below par was the swimming pool. It appeared to be under filled and rather cloudy, it did not seem to have a pump working. With the peak tourism season now around the corner, we are optimistic that they will fix them.