Full of elephants, leopards and hippos, Queen Elizabeth National Park is not one to miss on your trip to Uganda. The park is also home to the world famous tree climbing lions. The park has lovely savannah plains against the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains. Here is your Ultimate guide to Queen Elizabeth National Park. I have visited Queen Elizabeth National Park 3 times and absolutely love it!
Where is Queen Elizabeth National Park?
Queen Elizabeth National Park is in the South West of Uganda, next to the town of Kasese. The equator passes through the park. The park also borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the western side. The park includes Lake Edward and Lake George with the Kazinga Channel between the two.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is extremely large at approximately 1974 square kilometres. In the southern part of the park, the Ishasha sector is famed for it’s tree climbing lions. Ishasha gets it’s name from the Ishasha border nearby and is filled with fig trees which is which the lions love to climb.
How to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Located in the South West of Uganda, next to the town of Kasese the only way to access Queen Elizabeth National Park is by road or small plane. There are daily direct flights from Entebbe to Kasese and the flight is approximately 1h15. The park is approximately 6.5 hours’ drive from Kampala and 2.5 hours from Kibale National Park. It’s the perfect place to stop off at if you are going to Bwindi Impenetrable forest from Kampala.
Note March 2022: The Kazinga channel Bridge at Katunguru partly collapsed and is not currently crossable. It is in the process of reconstruction; in the meantime, a ferry is possible to cross the channel. Expect long waits even for this short journey.
Where to stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park
There are many lodges both surrounding and in Queen Elizabeth national park. Lodges within the park boundaries offer the possibility of animal watching from your accommodation. Other lodges outside of the park offer stunning views from the surrounding hills although are slightly further to access the game drive.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is located on the equator and is also one of the lowest spots in Uganda so is generally very hot. If you are considering going for a lodge with a pool, this is the perfect opportunity.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is very large so the location of your lodge really affects how long the drive is in the morning for a game drive. If you are going to Ishasha, choose a lodge near here as the access from the other side of the park can be over an hour from the northern part of the park.
How long to stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park
The best amount of time to spend in Queen Elizabeth is 2-3 nights. This allows at least 1 full day of animal watching activities.
If you are staying in Queen Elizabeth for 1 full day, spend the morning on a game drive and the afternoon on a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel. I did this on my trip and I came back to my lodge for lunch and had a midday swim, it was quite dreamy.
If you are going onto other safari parks in Uganda, prioritise the Ishasha Sector, home to the tree climbing lions.
If you choose to spend 2 full days in the park, make sure to take a Game drive in different in both the Ishasha sector and the northern part. Do not miss a river boat trip on the Kazinga channel.
Why Visit Queen Elizabeth National Park?
The true gem and fame of Queen Elizabeth national park is the tree climbing lions. These lions will climb up and enjoy the shade of the tree to rest, to avoid ground insects or to just enjoy the comfy branches! As well as lions, Queen Elizabeth National Park is host to many other exciting animal species.
The scenery of the park is quite unique, its location at the bottom of a valley between the Rwenzori mountains and Mirama hills. The Rwenzori mountain range is one of the highest in Africa and is the perfect backdrop to animal watching.
Queen Elizabeth is also home to 2 very large lakes: Lake George and Lake Edward. Because of these enormous lakes and the Kazinga channel that runs between them, Queen Elizabeth is home to many marine animals. I don’t think I have ever seen so many hippos in my life then in Queen Elizabeth National Park!
Animals you can expect to see on a Queen Elizabeth National Park game drive
- Tree climbing lions
- Families of elephants
- Water buck
- Ugandan kob
- A huge variety of Birds
Entrance to Queen Elizabeth National Park
You must pay to enter Queen Elizabeth National Park to the Ugandan Wildlife Authority that contributes to the conservation of the park. There are many entry gates, Kabatoro is the main gate. There are no limits to the number of entrances per day like other permits such as gorillas or chimpanzee tracking.
You can buy entry to the park at any entry gate. They do not accept cash but they do accept card payments and mobile money. The cost of entry depends on your citizenship, updated prices can be found here.
If you have booked through a tour agency for your whole trip, you would have paid to enter for the national park in advance. However, you must register at the entry gate. The Ugandan wildlife authority monitors all entry and exits to the National parks to prevent poaching.
What to do in Queen Elizabeth National Park
The true highlight of Queen Elizabeth National Park is a safari game drive. The name game is really crucial here, time to play the game with nature. You may be very lucky and see every animal, but as it is with nature
It is time to adopt the mentality of the early bird catches the worm. Start your game drive early to see all the animals out to get breakfast. This has 2 advantages, it means you can avoid being out in the complete heat of the day and the colours of the sunrise across the plains of the park are just stunning. I left my lodge at 6am to start the game drive at a good time.
If you are driving yourself around Uganda, you can choose to hire a ranger guide. I would highly recommend this option. The rangers are very experienced and can spot and track anumals very well. As well as this, they know their way around and prevent you from getting lost which is very easy in Queen Elizabeth!
When driving around the park, you are not allowed to exit the marked tracks unless with specific permission. If you are passionate about seeing lions, consider paying extra for lion tracking. Some of the lions in Queen Elizabeth are fitted with tracking collars. This allows the authorities to survey the lions frequently. As well as this, it allows direct lion tracking. If you choose this option the lion trackers are allowed off the track directly to the lions location. Other specialist tracking on offer include chimpanzee tracking, night game drives and also nature walks.
Salt Crater Lake
During game drive in the northern part of the park, make a quick stop at the salt crater lake, Bunyapaka. In a crater formed by a (no longer active) volcano, is a salty lake. In the dry season, the local communities harvest the salt. At the top of the lake is a café, souvenir shops and a toilet. The toilet is the only one in the park and is just 1000USX. The local community members offer an explanation of how the salt is harvested at the lake shore. As well as this, they sell the salt harvested there. The lake has high sulphur concentration so I wouldn’t recommend eating it. There are flamingos that call the lake home.
Boat trip in Kazinga channel
The Kazinga channel is a channel between lake Edward and lake George and is approximately 40kms in Length. Taking a boat cruise down this channel you can see animals in a very different way to the game drive. Expect to see hosts of hippos taking in the sun, elephants coming to bathe or if you are lucky even a leopard going fishing.
There are 2 options of boat to take, one offered by the local community or one offered by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. The boats offered by the UWA tend to be bigger (sometimes 2 floors) and are restricted to certain areas. The community boats are smaller and start from the local villages. As well as this, the money supports the local community more directly.
As well as the wildlife, you can see local fishermen at work in the channel. The UWA has restricted fishing in both Lake George and Lake Edward. However, fishing is allowed in the channel providing the boats are registered with the authorities. Keep an eye out for both the telephone numbers and registration numbers on the fishing boats. This is because if they take part in any illegal activities (such as hippo hunting), they can be tracked and prosecuted.
Animals that you can expect to see on a Kazinga boat cruise
- Hippos a plenty!
- Water buffalo
- Lots of birds
- Elephants bathing
- Leopards fishing
Now you are ready for your trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park! Have a fab time and I hope you see all of the animals.