Bordered to the north by the Rwenzori Mountains, to the west by Lake Edward, lies Queen Elizabeth National park, a protected area that covers almost 2,000 sq. km of grasslands, open bush, riverine and lowland forests, wetlands and rivers.
Ranking among the top visited national parks in Uganda, this vast and exciting park was once one of the most beautiful and the richest in East Africa. Though most of its game was destroyed during civil strife (the 70s to mid 80s), its beauty remains. It has a wide variety of wildlife that can best be seen on game drives, and on a launch trip along the Kasinga Channel that links Lakes Edward and George.
The park is divided into two sectors, the north with the park headquarters at Mweya, and the south with its own sub-headquarters at Ishasha. Each area is distinct and different. The northern sector has a number of established game viewing circuits and is one of the most scenic areas. Many will find the launch trip along the Kasinga Channel from Mweya the most interesting for game viewing, as the animals come down to the water’s edge. Hundreds of hippos can be seen at close range.
The wetlands of Lake George and Lake Edward are internationally important, and are a special fascination to birdwatchers. The birds, include pelicans, kingfishers, cormorants, saddle bill storks and fish eagles.
In the south, the rugged terrain around Ishasha is quite different . This region is also home to the famous tree-climbing lions (whose habit of lounging in the upper branches of old fig trees is usually not found in other lion populations).
In the park are several “enclave” villages that exploit the local salt pans and the fish stocks of the lakes.
Activities in the Park
Several well-established game drive circuits start from the park’s headquarters at Mweya and from Ishasha. Walking safaris are organised from Fig tree Camp through the tropical forest in the Chambura Gorge, while visits to the Maramagambo Forest or Lake Nyamusingire can occasionally be arranged. Launch trips along the Kasinga Channel from Mweya are available three times a day. The boat trips are also arranged to Isinga Chimpanzee Sanctuary twice a day.
Mweya Safari Lodge overlooks the Kisinga Channel. The nearby Uganda Institute of Ecology has budget accommodation. Campsites with some bandas are available near Ishaba. Hotel accommodation is available in Kasese and Mbarara.
How to Reach the Park
The main Mbarara-Kasese tarmac road runs through the park. The turn-off to Ishasha is at Katunguru, just south of the Kasinga Channel. It is a four hour drive from Mweya to Ishasha, but this is almost impassable in the rainy season. The turn-off to Mweya is about 30 km south of Kasese. It is 20 km from the turn-off to the park headquarters. The journey from Kampala to Mweya takes six hours.