Queen Elizabeth National Park


Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in western Uganda, spanning the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, Bushenyi and Rukungiri which is 1,978km2 big with the bigger percentage 50% in Bushenyi, 33% in Rukungiri and 11% in Kasese and 376km in distance by road from Kampala. Queen Elizabeth National Park also spans the equator line; monuments on either side of the road marking the exact spot where it crosses latitude 00 and its Uganda’s most visited park and is often paired with Gorilla trekking in Bwindi and Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest.

The park was gazetted in 1952 as Kazinga National Park by combining the Lake George and Lake Edward Game Reserve. It was renamed two years later to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II to become Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The land currently occupied by the park was a hunting ground for the local tribes which include the Batagwenda, Banyaruguru in the highlands and Bakonzo on the Rwenzori mountains side. At the creation time of the park, the land was never settled due to the infestation of tsetse flies in the area that caused sleeping sickness. As a result, the people who lived there had moved to other neighboring landscapes which left the park an exclusive wildlife habitat. When gazetted as a park, hunting was reduced though any animals that wondered out of the park into the human settlement areas were hunted. In the year 1979 hunting wild animals by soldiers was permitted during the rule of President Iddi Amin, this caused considerable loss of Uganda’s wildlife. However due to the successive conservation strategies by Uganda Wildlife Authority, the population was fairly recovered making Queen Elizabeth one of the parks with a wildlife haven in East Africa and also making it the most preferred destination for wildlife activities in Uganda.

Queen Elizabeth is famous for its volcanic features like volcanic cones and deep craters, crater lakes such as Lake Katwe from which salt is extracted. It also includes the Maramagambo forest and borders Kigezi Game Reserve, Kyambura Game Reserve and Kibale National Park and the Virunga National Park in DRC. Queen Elizabeth National Park is famous for big cats including the tree-climbing lions and Leopards.

Queen Elizabeth is home to 95mammals, 600 bird species and 10 primate species including the Chimpanzees. It also has a diverse ecosystem, which includes the sprawling savanna, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands making it the perfect habitat for wildlife available. Some of the animals include tree-climbing lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, hippos, buffaloes, waterbucks, warthogs, forest hogs, Uganda kobs, oribis, crocodiles, red-tailed monkeys, chimps, blue monkeys, plus bird species like grey crowned heron, shoebill stork, African Finfoot, fish eagle, martial eagle, white-tailed lark and may more.

Queen Elizabeth National Park has four gates situated in different sections of the park and these include:-

Katunguru gate; this is in the northern region of the park, 382km from Kampala and is the main entrance into the Mweya peninsular.

Ishasha gate; is used mostly by tourists intending to visit the Ishasha section of the park, one that is popular because of the tree climbing lions.

Crater gate; is a gate in the north eastern section of the park and located close to the equator markers and can be accessed both from Mbarara and Fort portal.

Kabutoro gate; is the main gate to the park, used mostly by tourists visiting the Kabutoro community and the Katwe salt lake.



Queen Elizabeth National Park has multiple attractions that are the reason for the big numbers of tourists in the whole Uganda namely;

Equator; Queen Elizabeth National Park is known for the equator crossing at zero coordinates with the sculptures at both sides of the road, a spot tourists love and take pictures from for a stop.

Kazinga channel; this is another beautiful spot, the link between Lakes George and Edward. This channel facilitates boat cruises which expose tourists to different wildlife like hippopotamus, crocodiles, buffaloes, pride of lions, and birds.

Ishasha Sector; famous for its unique tree climbing lions, its dominated by candelabra trees with big branches for the lions to hang up on and savannah woodland tree species like the huge fig, coctus and acacia trees and many more making it a home for large herds of buffaloes and elephants.

Wildlife; Queen Elizabeth National Park is of the largest parks and avails a broad spectrum of wildlife like tree-climbing lions, buffaloes, leopards, hippopotamus, elephants, rhinos, kobs, warthogs, birds, bats, insects, hyenas, chimpanzees, baboons, mongooses, monkeys and African rock pythons.

Mweya peninsula; which is 10km2 of the park’s focal point. An area between the lakes George and Edward and the Kazinga channel, a site to die for in regards to beauty and a spot for both boat cruises and game drives.

Landscape; Queen Elizabeth has an exquisite view of the brown savanna grassland vegetation, crater lakes, hills and other volcanic features with the Rwenzori Mountains as the backdrop which makes for a beautiful scenic view for tourists to enjoy. It also enables the wildlife to flourish in the park.

Kyambura Escarpment; Kyambura is associated with features like the Kyambura gorge shaped by Kyambura river also known as `Valley of Apes’ and its resident to about 10 primates like chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons and others.

Crater lakes; Queen Elizabeth has about 10 crater lakes as a result of the extinct volcanoes and the park being located in the western rift valley of Africa and some of the lakes are Lake Katwe known for its salt, munyanyange lake and bunyampaka crater lake as some of the famously known lakes in the area.

Local communities; many people are part of these communities like the bakonzo, banyabindi and basongora and live and survive around the park. Some of the communities are busonga fishing village, omwani coffee plantation, kikorongo women and leopard village (muhokwa village) and all actively take part in tourism.



Lion tracking

This is different from the normal game drives as it targets lions both ordinary and tree-climbing lions. Queen Elizabeth is famous for having the largest population of tree-climbing lions in the world, these are found in the Ishasha sector. Queen Elizabeth is the only park that offers lion tracking as an activity and this is only done in Kasenyi plains sector and tourists get close to the lions in their habitats, learning about their behaviors, feeding habits and hunting skills. This is led by experienced and knowledgeable researchers from Uganda Carnivore Program and it’s either done early in the morning or evening and lasts between 1-3hours. Tracking requires prior booking through African Pearl Safari.

Queen Elizabeth National Park has one of the best spots in Uganda for game drives. The Kasenyi plains in the north east of the park are especially popular for animal spotting as a tourist can find a variety of notable creatures like lions, tree climbing lions, elephants, leopards, spotted hyenas, jackals, buffaloes, kobs, waterbucks, warthogs, and forest hogs. Normally a rest stop is done at Bunyampaka Lake. The game drive circuits not only offer the scenic views if animals and birds but also the natural beauty of the open savanna tropical rainforests and myriad of crater lakes and all this is done with a game ranger or guide.

Chimpanzee tracking

This is an activity where a tourist will take a stroll through the forests in order to experience the site of primates. This is mainly done in the ‘Valley of Apes’, Kyambura gorge and this gorge shows off a unique world to the tourist. The vegetation is perfect for primates and here a tourist must see or meet chimpanzees which is not the case in other parks like Kibale National Park. When tracking a tourist will see the chimpanzees in their comfort, swinging, eating and playing, the tracking takes about 2-4hours with a guide and other primates like vervet monkeys, black and white monkeys, blue monkeys, Mona monkeys, olive baboons, grey checked mangabey monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkeys and red colobus monkeys can also be sighted.


At Queen Elizabeth National Park, Birding is an experience truly enjoyed as the park has more than 600 species of birds with some internationally recognized by the International Birding Association. Spots like the Maramagambo forest and Kalinzu allow the presence birds, most of the birds can be seen along the Kazinga channel like cormorants, king fishers, fly catchers, and fish eagles. Migrating birds can be seen from November-April and an observatory was created in 1997 with the aim of studying migratory and resident birds in the parks. The different species include Finfoot, yellow bills, robin chat, warblers, flamingos, shoe bills, green pigeons, martial eagles, martins, black crake and many more with the best time for viewing being in the mornings.

Boat cruise

This happens at the Kazinga channel section of the Queen Elizabeth National Park where tourists are exposed to a 40km long stream of water which connects Lake George to Lake Edward and is located beneath the Mweya Peninsula close to Mweya safari lodge. This boat cruise is the highlight of Ugandan safaris and is a 3-4hours long activity conducted by professional guides with information and history needed by a tourist and it’s done twice a day. However exceptions are made when the need arises and the cruise is launched thrice a day. Animals like hippopotamus, crocodiles, buffaloes, elephants, waterbucks, antelopes and bushbucks with birds like spoonbills, fish eagles, king fishers, herons and shoebill stocks can be sighted during the cruise.

Guided nature walks

Nature walks are another exclusive way to explore the scenic views and ecosystems of the park with a guide who will in detail give information to the tourists about the importance of wildlife. These walks can be done in the morning or evening and take about 2-3hours with a trained armed ranger to ensure the tourists safety. The famous trails are Maramagambo forest, Kyambura gorge, Mweya peninsular and Ishasha. Birds like robin chart, chest-nuts, fin foots and bats with animals like elephants, buffaloes, hyenas, leopards, warthogs, forest hogs with primates like chimpanzees, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, olive baboons and red tailed monkeys can be sighted.

Community cultural experiences

Cultural experiences in Queen Elizabeth National Park are very exciting to get involved in and tourists almost always have it added for their planned activities. Tourists are fully involved and immersed into the community to understand and appreciate their ways of life. Activities like dance, drama, music, fire making, and crafting, harvesting and salt mining are available for tourists to partake along other activities like lion tracking, bird watching, and chimpanzee tracking. Some of the known communities are the Kikorongo women communities, omwani coffee plantation, leopard village, nyanzibiri cave community, Kabutoro community and Katwe salt lake community.


The best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park depends on personal preferences and the type pf experience you are seeking, however the best time to consider is the dry season which is June-September and December-February which ensures easy navigation, spotting of the wildlife and clear skies especially for the birders.

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