Located in western Uganda, the Queen Elizabeth National Park or QENP is one of the most visited and popular national parks of the country. Known for its diverse biodiversity including animal and bird species, QENP includes the Maramagambo Forest and borders the Kyambura Game Reserve, Kigezi Game Reserve, Kibale National Park, as well as the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Situated against the backdrop of the elegant Rwenzori Mountains the park with its large savannah tracts, humid forests and the presence of wetlands, lakes and the Kazinga Channel connecting Lake George towards the northeast and Lake Edward in southwest makes for an ideal natural habitat for some of the most well-known wildlife.
WHAT TO SEE
Covering an area of 1978 sq.km the park was established in 1952 and named as the Kazinga National Park. However, after two years to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth II, the park was renamed to its present name.
The park also spans the 0-degree latitude or the equator with monuments on either side of its main road that mark the exact spots where the equator passes through.
Things to do
The QENP offers a wide array for wildlife for animal and bird lovers. The safari unfolds sighting of a myriad range of wildlife that resides here. With 95 mammal species and more than 500 bird species, some of the wildlife in the park includes the African buffalo, hippopotamus, Ugandan kob, Nile crocodile, African leopard, African bush elephant, lion, chimpanzee, white and black colobus monkey, blue monkey, red-tailed monkey and more.
The tree climbing lions are a famous find in the areas around Ishasha and are a sight with their black manes and athletic climbing skills.
The bird species within the park include the grey-headed kingfisher, African mourning dove, warbler, black-headed gonolek, martial eagle, Gabon, cormorants, slender-tailed nightjars, buttonquail, heron, African open billed stork, African fish eagle, African skimmer, papyrus canary, pelicans and more. The Kazinga channel is the ideal place to view birds and water birds that flock in hundreds.
Besides, the wildlife and birding safaris, the national park is also known for Chimp Tracking. The Kyambura gorge on the east of the park is a wonderful picturesque destination for hiking and trailing the chimps of the region.
Launch or boat cruises along the 45km long Kazinga Channel is also a fantastic way to view the encompassing landscape and wildlife.
Hiking or nature walks are organized in the Maramagambo Forests that are also a great way to explore the wildlife and encounters with the leopard, chimpanzees, L’Hoest’s Monkey, woodpeckers, bulbuls, sunbirds are not too hard to imagine.
Besides the flourishing bird and animal life that is on display, the QENP also provides a peek into the cultural life of the locals of the country. Various villages around the park are excellent ways to interact with the local community and seek insight into their traditions and cultures. The village of Muhokya with its traditional huts of the Bakonzo, Banyabindi and Basongora and their arts and dances, or the Kikorongo village for its arts, stories and dances, or the Katara village for interactions with local farmers along the Rift Valley are some of the activities that can be undertaken after an eventful morning at the safaris.
Besides, the physical landscape within the park is known for its volcanic features such as the deep craters, volcanic cones and several crater lakes such as the Katwe craters. The Bunyaruguru crater field is a popular idyllic point with its scenic landscapes, canoeing, birds as well as a museum built in traditional architecture.
The QENP is close to and in fact borders many surrounding game reserves and the Virunga and Kibale National Park. Other wildlife areas around the park include the Semuliki National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Katonga.
The QENP is hence a wonderfully complete destination whose main strength does rest upon its wondrous wildlife and birding, however, its serene and eye-catching landscapes along with the cultural influence of the region make it worth a visit.
How to reach
Air: Kampala the capital of Uganda is the nearest airport to the park at a distance of 400km. Charter flights can be arranged to the airstrips of Mweya, Kasese and Ishasha.
Road: The park is well connected to Kampala. One can enter the park from the south via crossing the town of Mbarara and from the north through Fort Portal.