Hunting exhibits such as stuffed lions, leopard skins, deer heads and elephants tusks may still be found adorning some hotels and lodges, but the emphasis is certainly more on shooting with a camera these days. Much of Uganda’s wildlife was poached out in the past, especially elephants, but now the area is protected and elephants numbers are boosted by those entering the park from the Congo, where poaching is still a problem.
When looking at some maps of Uganda, you may be forgiven for being a little confused.
Several of the National Parks and lakes have changed their names more than once since independence in 1962, and not all maps have kept up with the changes.
For example the Queen Elizabeth National Park was called the Ruwenzori National Park for many years until it returned to its royal colonial name. Meanwhile the Ruwenzori Mountains to the north of Queen Elizabeth N.P. were formed into the new Ruwenzori National Park in 1991. Confused? You will be!
ANIMALS AND BIRDS
The wide bio-diversity of habitats means that Queen Elizabeth National Park contains the most astonishing number of species – almost 100 types of mammal and 606 different birds! The Kasinga Channel alone is said to contain the world’s largest concentration of hippos, but interestingly enough not many crocodiles! Other wildlife includes warthogs, buffalo, rare aquatic sitatunga antelope, giant forest hog, beautifully horned Uganda kob, topi, waterbuck, elephant and leopard. There are no giraffe, zebra, impala or rhino.
Kyambura (or Chambura) Gorge on the north-east boundary of the park, is real Tarzan territory with thick treetop canopies and vines dangling down to the soft forest floor. The terrain comes complete with chimpanzees who crash about and chatter high up in the branches. If they don’t feel like being seen, they just keep one step ahead of the out-of-breath terrestrial visitors.
The Maramagambo Forest, south of the Kasinga Channel is also home to large numbers of chimps, plus a number of other monkey species.
Some rare and odd birds inhabit this park and keen birders come from all over the world to clock up a sighting of the peculiar, pouting shoebill (or whale-headed) stork. This giant bird stands 4-foot high (more than 1 metre) and wears a rather timid expression. This and a myriad of other birds and animals are best viewed from a boat on the Kasinga Channel.
Dry Season: June to September is the driest time when most animals remain near water, but be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms at any time. The hot dry time is January to February and is a good time to visit. Dry season temperatures average 80°F (25°C).
Rainy Season: It rains anytime from October to December and March to May when many roads become impassible.
QUEEN ELIZABETH SPECIALITIES
• Sunset over the water
• Warthogs and hippos mowing the lawn at Mweya Lodge
• Boat ride on the Kasinga Channel
• Chimpanzees in Kyambura (Chambura) Gorge
• Beautifully positioned safari lodges
The park covers 770 miles ² (1995 km²).
Road access from Uganda’s capital city of Kampala is 206 miles (420km).
There is a landing strip at Mweya lodge for light aircraft or a larger airstrip at Kasese town.