Queen Elizabeth National Park in the western Rift Valley is Uganda’s premier wildlife reserve. The protected area also encompasses Kyambura wildlife reserve and Kigezi wildlife reserve and runs from the foothills of the Rwenzori mountains in the north, to the Ishasha border post in the south, just over 2,500 km². Here, the grasslands of Uganda meet the eastern edge of the rainforest and magical scenery combines with abundant wildlife (predators as well as primates), a vast concentration of hippo and the tree-climbing lion. In summary a safari in the Queen Elizabeth National Park offers wildlife, spectacular scenery and landscapes and is easily linked with both Bwindi National Park to the south and Kibale National Park to the north. It is also easily reached from Kampala, so can even be visited for a couple of nights’ quick break.
Areas within Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Kazinga Channel which joins Lake George and Lake Edward is the prime area for both birding and wildlife safaris in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. You can take a boat cruise to watch for elephant, buffalo and kob on the shore as you glide along. Hippo, crocodile and water birds can be seen along the banks and birders can spot malachite and pied kingfisher, great white and pink-backed pelicans and the open-billed stork.
In the Kyambura (pronounced and sometimes spelt Chambura) Wildlife Reserve in the east of the park, a series of three saline crater lakes attract large numbers of flamingos, not found anywhere else in Uganda. Guided walking safaris through the Kyambura gorge may result in sightings of wild chimpanzees which have been habituated to small numbers of visitors. There are also caves where you can see thousands of bats, python and monitor lizard.
In the more isolated Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, to the south, you can scan the woodlands for the famous tree-climbing lion which are regularly, if improbably, found perched on the boughs of ancient fig trees. Ishasha is dominated by acacia woodland and scrubland and features the meandering Ishasha River, banked by a riparian forest. This is also the only place in the park to see topi.
To the southeast of Queen Elizabeth National Park, you can explore the Maramagambo forest on cool forest trails. This forest is a valuable representative sample of east African medium altitude semi-deciduous forest, which is becoming increasingly scarce. It’s a good habitat for chimpanzees, enormous pythons and colonies of cave-dwelling fruit bats.
Birding Safaris in Uganda
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s finest birding destination. There are over 560 species of bird found here including the martial eagle, black-rumped buttonquail, Verreauxs eagle owl and African skimmer.