Queen Elizabeth National Park

With more than 600 bird species observed, Queen Elizabeth National Park is a true bird paradise. There are also almost 100 mammals, including ten primate species. That includes the chimpanzee. The park was given its name in memory of queen Elizabeth of England’s visit in 1954. Uganda was still an English protectorate in those days. The park was called Lake George and Lake Edward Game Reserves from the 1920s onwards. In 1952, the park was granted national park status and was renamed Kazinga National Park. In 1954 it was renamed Queen Elizabeth National Park. During the period of dictator Idi Amin, the name of the park was changed to Rwenzori National Park. After dropping off Amin, it was renamed Queen Elizabeth National Park again.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is 1,978 km2 large and the equator cuts through the park. At the place where this happens, there is a small memorial along the road. The Ishasha River and Lake Edward border the park. It runs along the Congolese border to the north to the southern foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains and the city of Kasese. To the east, the park borders Lake George, Kyambura Gorge and Kalinzu Forest Reserve. To the south, the park borders Kigezi National Park. The 22-mile Kazinga Channel divides Queen Elizabeth National Park into a northern and southern part. This canal is a natural connection between Lake Edward and Lake George.

The landscapes of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park consists of savannah, dense jungles, lakes and marshes. To the north, the crater lakes form a landmark with breathtaking views. These lakes are remnants from the time when the Rift Valley was formed and dozens of volcanoes spewed their fire. Here is also the highest point of the park: 1,350 m above sea level. The lowest point is at Lake Edward: 910 m above sea level.

At Katwe-Kabatoro there is a large lake, the Katwe Salt Lake, where since the 16e century salt is extracted. Vast papyrus swamps can be found around Lake George. The Kyambura Gorge, a 10-mile-long gorge south of the Kazinga Channel, is a world in itself. The bottom of the gorge is located at a depth of 100 meters and is overgrown with jungle vegetation. In the middle of the gorge flows the Kyambura River which flows into the Kazinga Channel. Crater lakes can also be found in the Kyambura Wildlife Reserve around the gorge. The Ishasha Sector in the south of Queen Elizabeth National Park is known for its huge fig trees.

Dark years

As in Murchison Falls National Park, the animal world of Queen Elizabeth National Park has suffered greatly from the wars of the 1970s and 1980s. In particular, the large grazers were slaughtered to serve as food for the warring parties. After calm returned, populations began to increase again.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to a diverse animal world

With no less than 95 mammal species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most mammal-rich national parks. This also has to do with the very varied landscapes that characterize the various sectors of the park.

Of course, the big grazers like the Uganda kob, waterbuck and caped buffalo inhabit the savannah. The topi, a beautiful antelope, can be found mainly in the Ishasha Sector. The forest buck and warthog are not rare. Another species of boar is the giant forest boar, a pig washed out of the clumps with shaggy hair and navigable tusks. Although you will also encounter them on the plain side, they are mainly located in the vegetation on the edge of the savannah and in the jungle. It is an animal that is especially active at night and at dusk.

Fortunately, elephant stocks have also recovered, with the elephant population estimated at 2,500 animals. Predators such as the lion, leopard and spotted hyena can also be found there, although you need a little more luck for that. The very shy sitatunga can be found in the vast payprus swamps at Lake George. For hippos, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the place to be. The population is estimated at about 5,000 animals.

Due to the presence of so many landscape types with associated vegetation, no less than ten primate species occur in Queen Elizabeth National Park. In addition to two night monkeys, the bush baby and the potto, you will also encounter red-tailed cat, green meerkat and green baboon. For chimpanzees, the Kyambura Gorge is a good place. In this gorge lives a small group of rehabilitated chimpanzees that you can visit.

Tree climbing lions in Ishasha

A special attraction are the tree-climbing lions in Ishasha. The lions live here for the hottest of the day in huge fig trees. This behaviour, which is also known from a lion group in Tanzania, is learned and unique. As far as we know, there are no  other lions in Africa that exhibit this behavior.