Tucked away in the section of the Albertine Rift Valley that runs through western Uganda, slap bang on the equator, Queen Elizabeth National Park is an extraordinarily diverse and beautiful reserve that encompasses golden savannah plains, lush green woodland, mystical rainforests, verdant wetlands and rugged volcanic craters. Situated between Lake Edward and Lake George, with the dramatic Rwenzori Mountains as a backdrop, it is clear to see why the park is Uganda’s most popular tourist destination.
The varied range of habitats has allowed an equally varied range of wildlife to flourish. 95 species of mammal can be found here, along with an incredible 611 bird species – the second highest number of any national park in Africa.
Classic safari experiences can be had in the Kasenyi, North Kazinga and Ishasha sections of the reserve, where sightings of buffalo, elephant and antelope are virtually guaranteed on guided game drives. The Ishasha section is especially famous for its prides of tree-climbing lions, which laze in large fig trees watching the endemic Uganda Kob antelope grazing on the open plains.
The Kazinga Channel bisects the park from west to east, connecting Lake Albert to Lake Edward. Boat cruises along the channel are a wonderful way to enjoy a laidback safari experience. The boats launch from the Myewa Peninsula, which showcases stunning views over the channel and surrounding savannah.
The dramatic Katwe Explosion Crater, which marks the reserve’s highest point at 1 350 metres, is a short hop from here too, as are the dozens of smaller explosion craters, carving out round basins in the terrain.
Visitors can track chimpanzees in the Kyambura Gorge or the Maramagambo Forest, looking out for some of the nine other primate species that occur here too. In addition to a mouth-watering array of birds, Maramagambo also features a bat cave with a viewing room that allows visitors to watch the comings and goings of these flying mammals.
East of Kyambura Gorge, the Kyambura Wildlife Reserve features beautiful crater lakes with a splendid array of nesting water birds. Lake George, a Ramsar wetland site, has scenic papyrus swamps that are home to the elusive Sitatunga antelope and the much sought-after Shoebill Stork.
In addition to its incredible wildlife attractions, the park has a fascinating cultural history, offering many opportunities for visitors to engage with the local communities, experiencing their energetic dances, hard-working demeanours and friendly attitudes.
The park has two rainy seasons, occurring from March to May and September to November.
Although visits can be made throughout the year, the dry seasons are the best times for game viewing, as animals gravitate towards rivers and waterholes.