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Queen Elizabeth
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Queen Elizabeth National Park


... is the most accessible savannah wildlife reserve in western Uganda. At almost 2000 square kilometres it represents a really substantial tract of diverse Rift Valley scenery.

The northern part of the reserve straddles the Equator and contains broad open savannah grasslands, where herds of buffaloes and elephants can often be seen.

The wildlife may not be prolific in QE, but it has recovered remarkably since being decimated during the Amin regime of the 1980's.

To the west of the main transit road the landscape is pocked by a rash of shallow volcanic craters, several of which contain seasonal lakes. A network of small tracks lead to some spectacular viewpoints.

Strangely the national park is divided into a number of sub-sectors which are entered through separate gates. Outside these areas one gets the feeling that the levels of conservation and protection are rather more vague.

The Mweya area of the park is bisected by the Kasinga Channel, which connects Lake Edward and Lake Albert.

Motorboat safari along this channel is considered to be a major highlight of the reserve and often provides the chance to see buffaloes, elephants, hippos and crocodiles at close quarters, plus a host of bird-life.

Forming part of the north-east border of the reserve, the Kyambura Gorge is a modest geological feature filled with an evergreen forest which is home to an isolated population of chimpanzees.

The chances of good sightings are reasonable, although not as good as Kibale Forest, so visitors tend to trek in both locations.

The hills to the east of this part of the reserve are covered with agriculture, the farms come right up to the border of the reserve, but the hilltops do provide great views out over the reserve and are also home to a number of accommodation options.

The journey through the southern part of the reserve is a straightforward transit, there is generally very little to see in the way of wildlife. Despite this being the major safari route through the west of the country, traffic is remarkably light throughout the year.

At the turn-off to Ishasha, there is significant human settlement inside the reserve, which seems rather strange, but once through the gate into this southern sector the landscapes once again open up and we are again back on safari.

Even in this prime area, the wildlife is not particularly impressive. There appears to be good numbers of animals around, but finding them amongst the long grass can be a real mission and when you do, they can be very skittish, especially the lions and elephants.

The fact that vehicle are not permitted to go off-road makes it even more difficult to take full advantage of important sightings.

A real highlight of this Ishasha area are the Ugandan kobs, which are closely related to Zambia's iconic pukus. This part of western Uganda used to witness mass migrations of this animal up and down the Rift Valley to rival the Serengeti Migration.

When to visit ...

When it comes to deciding when to visit, the seasons here are not very pronounced, but there is a slight preference for Dec/Jan and Jun/Aug, when there is usually slightly less rain.

How we like to include this area in trips ...

Queen Elizabeth National Park may be one of the best areas for savannah safari in Uganda, but by the standards of other countries it really is rather weak. It is not a place that you would necessarily travel around the world to visit.

However, if you are already planning to visit the gorillas of Bwindi Forest and chimpanzees of Kibale Forest, connecting the two by means of an overland journey through QE makes a great deal of sense.

The majority of our guests stay 2 nights in one of the lodges to the north of the reserve, which provides a full day for exploring the reserve, as well as plenty of time for the considerable connecting journeys either side.

Guests wanting to deploy a little more time in the area might choose to add 1 or 2 nights in the Ishasha area to the south of the reserve, making a total of 3 to 4 nights.

Katara Lodge ... is situated in farmland overlooking the north-east sector of the reserve, convenient for both the Kazinga Channel and the Kyambura Gorge. It is a pleasant and reliable place which tends to be our most common recommendation in this area.

Ishasha Wilderness Camp ... is the only option in the southern sector of the reserve, a pleasantly simple tented camp in a lovely riverside position.

As well as the nearby Bwindi Forest and Kibale Forest, QE can be combined by light aircraft with Murchison Falls and the extremely remote Kidepo Valley, as well as by road to the white-water rafting at Jinja.

Uganda trips usually hub out of Entebbe, with combinations typically extending over 7 to 14 nights.

These trips also commonly combine with Tanzania, most notably for safari in Serengeti and Ngorongoro, a trek on Mount Kilimanjaro and time down on the islands of Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia.

It is also possible to combine Uganda with other countries across Africa, although the connections tend to be less smooth.

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Lenny Franklin
Lenny Franklin, Senior Safari Consultant
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