QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second largest and the most beautiful Park in Uganda. It covers approximately 1,978 Square Kilometers (764 Square Miles). It’s located in South Western Uganda in areas of rolling plains East of Lake Edward and south of the Rwenzori Mountains slopes.
The Park lies on the floor bed of the western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley across the equator in the Albertine region. The Rift Valley was formed by a continental crack in the Earth’s crust, stretching the length of Eastern Africa, and its unique geological past has shaped the landscape, with this area in particular being famous for its 72 bowl-shaped craters. Seven of these craters contain lakes; some rich in minerals, some fed by hot springs.
Queen Elizabeth National Park that extends from Lake George in the north-east to Lake Edward in the south-west and includes the Kazinga Channel connecting the two lakes was founded in 1952 as Kazinga National Park.
It was later renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. Hence the name ‘Queen Elizabeth’ National Park.
The Park’s temperatures range from 18ºc to 28ºc. The park has two rainy seasons, from March-May and from September-November, but rainfall varies greatly within the park. The highest is about 1,250 mm per year and occurs in the Maramagambo forest but only about 750 mm per year falls in the area along the Kazinga channel.
When it comes to scenic beauty and other naturally specular wonders, it’s hard to beat Queen Elizabeth National Park with its sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes, varied ecosystem that all teem up to rank it as a top tourist destination.
The Park is Uganda’s most pristine and top tourist destination because of the many wonders it offers to travelers and in fact it was baptized as ‘the medley of wonders’
The Park vegetation cover varies. It has five levels of vegetation. Namely bushy grassland, Acacia woodland, Lakeshore or swamp vegetation along with forest grassland. And each vegetation has modified habitats for some of the Parks wildlife.
Queen Elizabeth National Park boasts to house over 2,500 elephants, about 5,000 hippos, and more than, 10,000 buffalos alongside the unusual Ishasha tree climbing lions, leopards, warthog, crocodiles, civet, aardvark, striped-side jackal, Uganda kob, bush babies, Defassa water bucks, bush bucks, spoted hyenas, giant forest hog, ten primate species including black and white colobus, red-tailed, olive baboon, vervet blue monkey, L’ Host’s monkey and not forgetting the Chimps among others
Sitatunga antelopes and some Duikers species are occasionally spotted in the papyrus swamps along Lake George.
It harbors a population of over 600 bird species among which are immigrants, rare, and not found elsewhere in Uganda they includes fish eagle, Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Bee eaters, kingfishers, African jacana, shoebill stork, African White tailed Lark, falcons, eagles, papyrus Gonolek, vultures, flamingos, Pink-backed Pelicans, White-winged Tern, Gardon and Slender-tailed Morning Dove, Black-rumped Button quil, Pin–tailed wyda, African skimmer, African fish eagle, White-winged warbler, night jars and Grey-Capped Warbler among others.
BEST TIME TO VISIT QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the country’s most beautiful tourist destination. The Park is open year round for superb game viewing, however best times to visit may vary according to visitors’ preference. The Park is occupied by two seasons; the Dry and Wet season with each providing its own highlights.
Dry season in this Park runs from June-September and From January-February and this is the best times to observe African wildlife wonder freely in their natural habitat.
The Park vegetation are more open to allow better views-the grass grow low, no serious bush and tree are scattered.
Because of the dry season there is very little or no rain, therefore wildlife are forced to migrate towards the water points like rivers, swamps and these areas become a hive of activity and you are more likely to spot wildlife in the morning and evening as they come to quench their thirst.
The dry season is indeed the best for Safari in this Park and the temperatures are pleasant. For those who come with the idea of tracking the chimps at Kyambura gorge, this season is the best-it will not disappoint you!
The Wet Season in this Park goes from October-December and from March-May. This brings with it bushveld vegetation looking lush. For those who enjoy viewing scenery filled with green lush vegetation, this season is just perfect for you.
Because of the rainy season, the vegetation tends to be a bit dense which may make game viewing a little difficult in this season. The wildlife tend to hide in dense vegetation making it a bit harder to locate and observe them.
However this season also comes with some advantages. For Safari addicts, going for a game drive filled with newborns and spotting wildlife with their young ones is a memorable safari experience.
Birding is also excellent during this time as residents combine with migrant to give birders the best of birding experience.
WHEN TO GET TO QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK
Getting to Queen Elizabeth National Park is mostly by road. There are two alternative routes that can lead you to the Park;
- Kampala-Mbarara-Bushenyi-Queen Elizabeth National Park (420 Km)
It involves passing through smooth and well paved tarmac road from Kampala to Mbarara town where you will have a stopover for lunch break and later proceed to Bushenyi then finally reach the wonderful Park. The journey 420Km/ about 5-6 hours’ drive away from Kampala the country’s Capital.
Driving through this route is just enough to impress you; passing through Western Uganda’s wonders before finally entering the Park through the southern wing is something you can live to remember.
- Kampala-Fort Portal-Kasese-Queen Elizabeth National Park (410 Km)
Connecting to Queen Elizabeth National Park through breath taking Fort Portal then Kasese is more amazing. The journey is 410Km\ about 5-6 hours’ drive. You will enjoy scenic view teeming up with refreshing breath before finally entering the Park.
Flight possibilities is available for those who want to fly to Queen Elizabeth National Park. Chartered aircraft from Kajjansi airfield or Entebbe Airport offers flights to Mweya and Ishasha airfields located within the vicinity of the Park.