Queen Elizabeth National Park

This a true African wilderness of jaw dropping beauty with large concentrations of both predators and prey still enduring. Its huge skies, open savannahs, patches of forest and rolling hills have majesty. Altogether, it covers 1,978km of utter wilderness in the Western Rift Valley, and spans the equator line. Once here, brace yourself for 600 bird species and 95 mammal species. These range from elephants, lions, buffaloes, leopards, toppi, chimpanzees, Uganda kob, bushbuck, hippos, crocodiles…the list goes on.

This Big 5 Destination is set in a field of beautiful crater lakes, some of which are unanimously ranked among the 10 most crater beautiful worldwide (by Travel Advisories like CNN).

There isn’t much to expect along the highway that cuts through this gem–because it is too noisy for wildlife. In contrast, a visit to Kasenyi doesn’t disappoint. It is a open mating ground for both heavy browsers and small herbivores like toppi. This healthy concentration of prey attracts lots of lions, hyenas. If you particularly want to chance on leopards, a drive to the southern wing of the park will lead you a savannah with lots of fig trees. Upon their branches, leopards spend much of the day stalking prey. A drive along this area will further astonish you with sights of tree climbing lions. The search for them is an absolutely rewarding experience considering that there are plenty of other animals around including a lot of bushbucks.

In the interest of not interfering with the eco-system, the parks trails are made of smooth murrum, as opposed to tamack. None the less, they are easy to drive through as they are routinely well maintained.

Boat cruise at Kazinga Channel

Kazinga is a 32-kilometre long scenic river connecting two permanent freshwater lakes of Queen Elizabeth; Lake Edward and Lake Gorge. The parks different mammals come to this river at different times of the day to quench their thirst. This provides an incredible wildlife viewing opportunity which you can do from the comfort of a double decker boat. You will also watch hippos practically piled on top of each other in the shallows. Brace yourself for pictures of elephants and buffalo as they amble down to the shores of the calm water to cool off, while keeping a wary eye on the many crocs camouflaging in the green river.

During your return journey of this two hour-long cruise, you might spot a leopard lazing on a tree branch at the shoreline.

Chimp tracking in Kyambura Gorge

For the primate lovers, Kyambura Gorge provides an unmatched chimpanzee trekking experience. It is an underground forest where a community of 11 wild chimps swing from tree to tree with abandon. Compared to other chimp destinations like Budongo and Kibale, this easily accessible location is much more atmospheric. The resident chimp family here is, quite naturally, highly habituated to humans. This implies it’s quite usual to see alpha males wrestling down each other to impress the females. You can expect to see babies learning how to hunt for black and white monkeys, especially in the riverine forest patches.

Don’t forget to wear comfortable hiking boots when coming to Kyambura, the excursion ranges from 1-6 hours depending on the proximity of the particular part where the chimps are dwelling.

Birdwatching

Queen Elizabeth has 600 bird species of which 530 can be see anytime of the year, the others are migratory species which can best be seen from November to April. Notables include Shoebill, Heuglin’s gull, Rufous-bellied heron, Palm-nut vulture, Red-chested sunbird, Papyrus gonolek, Pink-backed pelican, Pel’s fishing-owl, Black-rumped buttonquail, Grey-winged robin-chat, Broad-billed roller, Great white pelican, Caspian plover, Great blue turaco, Collared pratincole, Crab-plover, Common sand martin, African skimmer, Spotted redshank, Yellow-throated cuckoo, Western banded snake eagle, Yellow-bellied wattle-eye, African hobby, White-backed night heron, White-winged tern, African finfoot and Ayres’s hawk eagle among others.

Best time to visit

Wildlife viewing and bird watching in this park is good year-round, but at its best from late May to September. During this time the rain is less and food is abundant.