Queen Elizabeth National Park Guide

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the most popular and picturesque natural reserves in Africa. Located in the western part of Uganda, the park spans the districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi, and Rukungiri, providing a unique ecological habitat that supports an immense variety of flora and fauna. The park, with its diverse ecosystems including savannah, bushy grassland, acacia woodland, swamps, and various types of forest, stretches over an area of 1,978 square kilometers, making it the second-largest national park in Uganda.


Established in 1952, the park was initially known as ‘Kazinga National Park.’ However, its name was changed two years later in honor of a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. Over the decades, the park has not only provided sanctuary to a variety of wildlife but also offered an unmatched tourist experience that includes game viewing, boat rides, and bird watching. Despite several challenges including poaching and civil unrest in the late 20th century, the park has managed to sustain its biodiversity and continues to be a key conservation area.


The park is renowned for its biodiversity. It hosts an impressive array of wildlife with over 95 mammal species and around 500 species of birds. This includes elephants, leopards, lions, Ugandan kob, hyenas, giant forest hogs, and chimpanzees, among others. It is also home to a number of primates including chimpanzees and monkeys. The area around the Ishasha River is particularly famous for its tree-climbing lions.

In terms of bird life, the park is incredibly diverse, accommodating both savannah species and water birds. Key species include the African fish eagle, the African skimmer, white-winged terns, and the long-crested eagle.

Geography and Location

Queen Elizabeth National Park is located in the Western Rift Valley, running from the base of the Rwenzori Mountain range in the north to the Ishasha River in the south, which marks the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. To its west is Lake Edward, which is connected to Lake George by the Kazinga Channel, a popular location for boat safaris.

The park’s geography is characterized by diverse ecosystems that include sprawling savannah, shady humid forests, sparkling lakes, and fertile wetlands. These ecosystems make it the ideal habitat for the classic big game, primate species, and over 600 species of birds. The park’s elevation ranges from 910 meters at Lake Edward to 1,390 meters above sea level in the hillier areas.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is a melting pot of wildlife and geographical splendor, offering an unrivaled experience in the heart of Africa. It continues to attract global attention for its rich biodiversity, stunning landscapes, and efforts towards conservation.

The Diverse Sections of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Explore the different sections of Queen Elizabeth National Park, examining the unique features that define each region.

The Northern Sector – Mweya Peninsula

The Mweya Peninsula, forming the northern section of the park, is one of its most famous regions, primarily for its incredible concentration of wildlife. Overlooking the magnificent Kazinga Channel, which links Lake George and Lake Edward, the Peninsula provides visitors with a unique opportunity to see animals such as elephants, buffaloes, and countless bird species. Moreover, a boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel is a highlight of the Mweya Peninsula, offering a chance to spot hippos, crocodiles, and a myriad of bird species.

The Southern Sector – Ishasha Plains

The southern region of the park, known as the Ishasha Plains, is renowned for its tree-climbing lions, which can often be seen lounging on fig tree branches. These lions are one of only two populations in the world known to exhibit this unusual behavior. The Ishasha sector’s open savannah and woodland make it a perfect destination for game drives, where visitors can also see Uganda kob, topi, and buffaloes, among other wildlife.

Kyambura Gorge

Kyambura Gorge is a remarkable section located on the eastern boundary of the park. Known as the “Valley of the Apes,” it hosts a thriving population of chimpanzees. The Gorge is a verdant, steep ravine, running through the savannah and filled with dense tropical forest. This ecosystem forms a stark contrast to the surrounding grasslands, providing a habitat for numerous other primate species, such as black and white colobus monkeys and olive baboons, alongside the chimpanzees.

Maramagambo Forest

Maramagambo Forest is one of the largest surviving natural forests in Uganda and forms part of the broader park ecosystem. The forest is known for its variety of birdlife, primates, and its famous bat cave, which is home to a large population of bats and pythons that live in unusual harmony. Guided forest walks in Maramagambo offer a more tranquil, immersive experience in contrast to the Savannah game drives.

Kasenyi Plains

The Kasenyi Plains are situated in the northeast of the park, providing another ideal spot for game drives. The area is a popular mating ground for Uganda kob, which consequently attracts predators such as lions. The resultant predator-prey interactions provide riveting wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, with its various sectors each boasting unique features, truly embodies the essence of African wildlife diversity. From the Mweya Peninsula’s bustling wildlife around the Kazinga Channel to the distinctive tree-climbing lions of Ishasha Plains, the lively chimpanzee population in Kyambura Gorge, the dense biodiversity of Maramagambo Forest, and the active wildlife interactions on the Kasenyi Plains, the park offers a rich and varied exploration of East Africa’s extraordinary natural heritage.

The various Entrances or Gates of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park has several entrances or gates. Here are the major ones:

Katunguru Gate: Situated on the northeastern edge of the park, this gate is the most direct entry point from Kampala, Uganda’s capital. It also offers easy access to the Mweya Peninsula, a key wildlife viewing area.

Kikorongo Gate: This gate provides access from the northern direction, perfect for those coming from or going to Kibale National Park. It’s close to the Kikorongo Community Conservation Area and the explosion craters region.

Kasenyi Gate: It’s another key entry point on the northern side, ideal for those targeting the Kasenyi Plains, a prime game viewing spot in the park.

Ishasha Gate: Located on the southern edge of the park, this gate is the entry point for those coming from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or the southern region of Uganda. It’s the closest gate to the Ishasha sector, known for its tree-climbing lions.

Hamukungu Gate: This gate is also on the northern side, offering access from Kasese and Fort Portal.

Kyambura Gate: Located on the eastern boundary, this gate offers direct access to Kyambura Gorge, a prime location for chimpanzee tracking.

These gates help to effectively manage the visitor flow and provide easy access to various sections of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Accessing the Expanse of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Spanning an impressive area of nearly 2,000 square kilometers, Queen Elizabeth National Park is strategically accessible through various entry points or gates. This essay will explore the numerous ways one can access Queen Elizabeth National Park, by road and air, and the unique experience each route offers.

Access by Road

Road travel is the most common mode of reaching Queen Elizabeth National Park, offering an opportunity to enjoy Uganda’s stunning landscapes along the way.

From Kampala via Mbarara: The most direct route from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, is through Mbarara and Bushenyi to the park, which is approximately a 6-hour drive. The journey will bring you to the park through the Katunguru gate, providing direct access to the famous Mweya Peninsula.

From Bwindi: If one is heading from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the southern Ishasha gate is the most convenient access point. The journey offers an enchanting drive through the ‘impenetrable’ forest, and this route is a favorite among visitors hoping to spot the Ishasha sector’s tree-climbing lions.

From Kibale: If coming from Kibale National Park, the northern Kikorongo or Hamukungu gates are the most appropriate, with a travel time of roughly 2-3 hours.

Access by Air

For those who prefer a quicker and more scenic route, air travel offers an alternative way to reach Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Chartered Flights: Chartered flights can be booked from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi airfield near Kampala to any of the two airstrips in the park – Mweya and Ishasha. This approximately 2-hour flight not only reduces travel time but also provides a breathtaking aerial view of the park’s expanse.

Scheduled Flights: Aerolink Uganda operates scheduled flights from Entebbe to the Mweya and Ishasha airstrips, offering convenient and reliable air travel options for visitors.

Access by Water

While less common, it is also possible to access some areas of the park by water. The park borders Lake Edward, and from certain points, boat access is possible to the Mweya Peninsula.

Access to Queen Elizabeth National Park is versatile, allowing visitors to select a route that best aligns with their itinerary, time constraints, and the experience they wish to have. Whether it’s a panoramic road trip from Kampala, a short hop from neighboring national parks, or a scenic flight that unveils the park’s beauty from the skies, each journey to the heart of Queen Elizabeth National Park is as memorable as the exploration within its borders. This diversity in accessibility is part of the reason why the park is a preferred destination for many visitors, serving as a gateway to Uganda’s rich and diverse natural heritage.

Tourism Activities Carried Out in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park offers a plethora of activities for the adventurous traveler, nature enthusiast, and wildlife aficionado. Here are the main tourism activities that one can indulge in while visiting this iconic park:

Game Drives

The park’s diverse ecosystems of savannah, wetlands, and forests are teeming with wildlife, making game drives a major highlight. The Kasenyi Plains and Ishasha sector are especially known for their game drives, where one can spot lions, elephants, buffalos, antelopes, and more.

Boat Cruises

The Kazinga Channel, connecting Lake George and Lake Edward, is an ideal spot for boat cruises. These cruises offer unparalleled viewing of large concentrations of hippos, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species. A sunset boat cruise is particularly mesmerizing.

Bird Watching

The park is a haven for bird lovers, boasting over 600 bird species, one of the highest in any protected area in the world. Key bird-watching spots include the Mweya Peninsula, Ishasha sector, and Maramagambo Forest.

Chimpanzee Tracking

Kyambura Gorge, often referred to as the “Valley of the Apes,” provides the unique opportunity to track chimpanzees in their natural habitat. This thrilling activity allows you to observe these primates up close and understand their behavior.

Nature Walks

There are several trails throughout the park that offer guided nature walks. These walks, like the Maramagambo Forest walk or the Mweya Peninsula walk, immerse you in the park’s diverse ecosystems.

Community Cultural Visits

Near the park are communities that offer cultural tours, showcasing traditional dances, music, and crafts. This is a great way to learn about the local cultures and support community tourism.

Wildlife Research Tours

Unique to Queen Elizabeth National Park are the wildlife research tours. These involve joining a research team and participating in activities like lion tracking. It’s a unique opportunity to contribute to conservation efforts.

Tree Climbing Lions Viewing

The Ishasha sector is famous for its tree-climbing lions. Watching these magnificent creatures lounging on fig tree branches is a unique sight, making this a must-do activity in the park.

Visit the Katwe Salt Lake

A tour of the Katwe salt lake gives visitors an insight into the traditional salt mining process, which has been practiced by the local community for generations.

Exploration Crater Lakes

The park has several explosion craters, some of which have formed beautiful crater lakes. A drive or hike to some of these craters offers panoramic views of the park and beyond.

Hot Air Balloon Safaris

Offering a unique perspective of the park, hot air balloon safaris are available in the Kasenyi and Mweya areas. This activity often culminates in a delightful bush breakfast.

Cave Exploration

The “Bat Cave” in Maramagambo Forest provides an intriguing adventure for the more daring visitor. Here, one can view thousands of bats and the resident pythons that feed on them.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is a wildlife and nature enthusiast’s paradise. The park offers a myriad of activities designed to immerse visitors in the beauty and diversity of the park’s ecosystem while ensuring memorable encounters with the park’s wildlife. Whether you’re tracking chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge, spotting tree-climbing lions in Ishasha, or enjoying the tranquility of a boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel, each activity offers its unique charm, contributing to a holistic safari experience.

The Ideal Seasons For Exploring Queen Elizabeth National Park

While the park offers an immersive experience year-round, certain seasons can enhance the richness of your encounter with this magnificent natural sanctuary. This essay discusses the best times to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park, taking into account the climate, wildlife visibility, and activity opportunities throughout the year.

The Dry Seasons (June to September and December to February)

The dry seasons, extending from June to September and December to February, are traditionally considered the most favorable periods to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park. During these months, rainfall is minimal, making the dirt roads more navigable and the vegetation less dense. These conditions enhance wildlife viewing, as animals are more easily spotted and tend to congregate around water sources.

Game drives during the dry seasons are typically more rewarding. The Kasenyi Plains and the Ishasha sector, known for their lion populations, see increased wildlife activity, as the dry weather drives animals to remain near watering holes. The dry months are also optimal for bird watching, as migratory species augment the local bird population.

The Wet Seasons (March to May and October to November)

While the wet seasons – from March to May and October to November – may present some challenges such as muddy roads and thicker vegetation, they also bring unique attractions. The landscapes of the park become particularly vibrant during the rains, presenting stunning photographic opportunities.

The wet season is the breeding period for many bird species, making it a fantastic time for birdwatchers. Furthermore, the rain rejuvenates the park’s vegetation, providing ample food for herbivores and consequently attracting a variety of predators. For those interested in the park’s flora and beautiful scenery, the wet seasons offer lush greenery and wildflowers in bloom.

The rainy periods may also provide more solitude for visitors, as they tend to be less crowded. For tourists seeking tranquility, these periods offer an opportunity to experience the park in its raw, unadulterated form.

Determining the best time to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park largely depends on individual preferences and the activities you wish to undertake. The dry seasons, with their favorable wildlife spotting conditions, are excellent for game drives and general exploration. Conversely, the wet seasons offer vibrant landscapes and a quieter, more tranquil experience. Regardless of the season, however, Queen Elizabeth National Park remains a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise throughout the year, promising unforgettable encounters with Africa’s vibrant fauna and breathtaking landscapes

Safari Lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Mweya Safari Lodge: Perched on a peninsula overlooking the Kazinga Channel, Mweya Safari Lodge offers luxurious accommodations with spectacular views. It features elegantly furnished rooms, a restaurant, a swimming pool, and even a health club.

Kyambura Gorge Lodge: This eco-friendly lodge, formerly a coffee processing plant, offers stunning views of the Kyambura Gorge and the surrounding savannah. The lodge provides comfortable bandas (cottages), and a swimming pool, and offers chimpanzee trekking experiences.

Ishasha Wilderness Camp: This exclusive tented camp nestled within the remote Ishasha sector of the park offers an authentic African safari experience. Its position by the Ntungwe River provides the chance to spot wildlife coming for a drink.

Katara Lodge: Situated on the Great Rift Valley escarpment, Katara Lodge boasts stunning views of the park’s savannah plains. The lodge offers spacious cottages with private decks, a swimming pool, and a spa.

Kasenyi Safari Camp: Overlooking the vast Kasenyi savannah plains, this camp offers well-appointed safari tents for a closer-to-nature experience. Game drives and lion tracking are readily accessible from this location.

Elephant Plains Lodge: Offering luxurious cottages and family suites, Elephant Plains Lodge boasts a unique panorama of the park, Lake George, and the Rwenzori Mountain range. It features a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a craft shop.

Enganzi Game Lodge: Nestled on a hill bordering the park, Enganzi Game Lodge provides comfortable cottages with fantastic views of the surrounding savannah. The lodge emphasizes eco-friendliness and sustainability.

Simba Safari Camp: This budget-friendly camp offers various accommodation options from dormitory rooms to cottages and tents. It provides easy access to the Kasenyi plains and Kazinga Channel.

Parkview Safari Lodge: Located near the Kyambura Gorge, Parkview offers spacious cottages with wooden finishes, a restaurant serving local and international cuisine, and a vantage point for viewing wildlife.

Marafiki Safari Lodge: Overlooking Lake George, this lodge offers unique safari tents on raised wooden platforms and private safari villas. The lodge is known for its wood-fired pizzas and its eco-friendly design.

Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge: This budget lodge offers eco-friendly bandas with an open-air design allowing for close-to-nature experiences. It’s located near the Kazinga Channel, making it an excellent base for boat trips.

Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge: Located by the shores of Lake George, Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge offers a tranquil setting with rustic-style rooms and a pool overlooking the lake.

Mazike Valley Lodge: This lodge offers a luxury experience with its well-appointed cottages, stunning views of the park, and a variety of activities including game drives, bird watching, and cultural visits.

Pumba Safari Cottages: For budget-conscious travelers, Pumba Safari Cottages provide comfortable accommodations with stunning views of Lake George. The lodge offers safari tents and family cottages.

Buffalo Safari Resort: Located near the Kikorongo gate, Buffalo Safari Resort offers budget-friendly accommodation with a restaurant, bar, and easy access to game drives and the Kazinga Channel boat cruises.