With over 600 species of birds, Queen Elizabeth National Park has the great bird count in Uganda, the second on the continent and the sixth on the world scale. The birding encounters on Uganda safaris and tours are conducted with in Maramagambo forest, Lake Kikorongo, Katwe area, Ishasha sector, Katunguru Bridge Area and Mweya peninsula. The range of bird species that can be encountered include; Papyrus canary, Martial Eagle, African broad bill, Black- rumped Buttonquail, Pink-backed pelican, lesser and greater flamingoes, Pied Kingfisher, Lesser Swamp Warbler, Malachite Kingfisher, Greater Swamp Warbler, Carruther’s Cisicola, White-winged Warbler, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, Green Crombec, Grey-backed Fiscal, Cisticolas Yellow-billed Oxpecker, the range of 2 – 3 days is enough to enable you explore the birds of Queen Elizabeth National Park and the ideal time for the activity is between December and February.
The Kyambura gorge on the eastern side of Queen Elizabeth National Park has counts of chimpanzees some of which have been habituated for chimp trekking encounters. The gorge as it sounds has got steep slopes which make trekking chimps in Kyambura a bit challenging. The forested landscapes that exist underground ensure the thriving of chimpanzees. Hiking the steep landscapes covered by tropical forest is an attraction in itself added to the chimp trekking experience. The chimpanzee trekking in Kyambra is done in two sessions i.e. in the morning 8am and in the afternoon 2pm daily and it tends to last 1 – 5 hours. Due to the nature of the landscape, the percentage of encountering chimpanzees in Kyambura is average compared to other chimpanzee trekking destinations like Kibale National Park.
Game drives / Wildlife viewing.
The savannah landscapes of Queen Elizabeth National Park are a habitat to a range of wild game including the four of the big five of the land animals such as lions including tree climbing lions, leopard, buffaloes and elephants. The Kasenyi plains are marked with open savannah where game viewing is ideally done. The savannah woodland that fronts the Kazinga channel is traversed by the channel track which also gives you opportunities of encountering elusive animals like leopard. The park has counts of antelopes including; defassa waterbuck, Uganda Kob, topi and bushbuck along other animals like spotted hyena, side stripped jackals not forgetting counts of primates like Olive baboon, blue monkeys, vervet monkeys, L’Hoest’s monkey and red tailed monkey among other wildlife. The extension to the southern sector of Ishasha offers impressive views of the tree climbing lions which only exist in this part of Uganda and in Lake Manyara National Park in Southern Tanzania in the whole world. The game viewing activity is done early in the morning starting at 6am and in the evening at 4:30pm local time very day and normally last 3 – 4 hours.
Queen Elizabeth National Park offers impressive launch cruise along its 45km long Kazinga Channel connecting the lakes George and Edward. The rewarding recreational launch cruise on the Kazinga Channel does not only offer you an encounter with the calm flowing waters that originate from the glacial peaks of Rwenzori mountains but also to enormous numbers of aquatic life including the Nile crocodiles and Hippopotamus that dwell in the waters. The wild game like elephants, buffaloes and antelopes tend to visit the channel shores in search of drinking water. The range of bird species (over 60) thrive along the channel. The launch cruise is better done in the afternoon and it commences at 3pm from Mweya jetty and another departs at 4pm daily. There are also private boats that depart at 2pm and 4pm daily. The boat cruise lasts for two (2) hours.
The experiential tours range from predator tracking, mongoose tracking and Hippo Census. These activities are also conducted by Uganda safari tour undertakers in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The experiential activities always take 1 – 3 hours and is always conducted in the morning, evening and rarely at night. Unlike other wild game viewing normally done on game drives, the experiential tours allows travellers on safari tours in Uganda to a relative close encounter with wildlife including being allowed to drive off track. They can also participate in monitoring the migrant species movement including mammals and birds that enter the park.
There is wide range of cultural communities that live in areas surrounding the Queen Elizabeth National Park thus there is a wide cultural base that travellers in Uganda safaris and tours can encounter. Different tribal communities surround Queen Elizabeth National Park providing a fertile ground for arrange of cultural encounters. Some of these include;
The Leopard is positioned in the village of Muhokya covering 3 acres of land in the northern section of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The leopard village contains the traditional huts of the Banyabindi, Bakonzo and Basongora along with their traditional arts and crafts not forgetting the dance groups that perform cultural dances.
Kikorongo Women Community
The Kikorongo Women Community is within Kikorongo village close to Lake George. The community offers traditional dance performances, fire making experience, craft making, stories and riddles among other heritage components.
Katwe Tourism Information Centre (KATIC).
The northern section of Queen Elizabeth National Park has series of crater lakes among which include the famous Katwe salt lake. The visit to the salt lake exposes you to the process of salt formation exploring how the absence of outlets causes salt formation. The local people will demonstrate to you the process of salt extraction, processing, packaging and distribution. The way of life of the locals and how they derive their livelihood from the lake is also an area of concern. The cultural encounters can also be encountered.
Nyanz’ibiri Cave Community.
The Nyanzibiri literally means two lakes. The Bunyaruguru crater field has series of crater lakes some of which are twin like. The lakes offer impressive scenic views and a recreational canoe paddle exploring a range of primates and remarkable flora along with great sounds of birds like grey crowned cranes among others. Take a visit to the cultural museum where the traditional tools of the Banyaruguru are kept. The museum is built in a traditional Banyaruguru architecture.
The Agro tour walk is found in Katara village along the Kichwamba escarpment marking the eastern wall of the western arm of the great east African rift valley. The encounter lasts for about 2 – 3 hours hike traversing the local farms, exploring into the local homesteads and traditional means of honey harvesting. The encounter is always conducted in the morning or its evening.
The rainforest of Maramagambo provide impressive nature walks. There is a free nature walk for about 1km from Jacana lodge to the Maramagambo visitor center except the standard visitation fees. The encounter might expose you to species like white and black colobus, red tailed monkey, vervet monkey and rarely the L’Hoest’s Monkey, leopard and Chimpanzees. The range of bird species might also be encountered along the tail including; sunbirds, greenbuls, woodpeckers and other rare species.
The visitor center is a starting point for the three trails that will take you to explore the rain forest of Maramagambo. These include;
- The straight walk takes you around Lake Kyasanduka forest shore and tends to last for less than one hour depending of the traveller’s interest in birds.
- A famous walk taking about 90 minutes leads to a cave where enormous numbers of bats thrive alongside a rock python.
- The walk to Lake Nyamasingiri is ideal for birders. It takes about half day and offers sights of birds like snowy headed robin chat, chestnut wattle eye and scaly-breasted illadopsis.
Other nature walks are done in Mweya peninsular offering scenic views of Kazinga channel, Lake Edward and the impressive savannah landscapes.
Tree climbing lions in Ishasha
Positioned in the south of Queen Elizabeth National Park along the route to the gorilla trekking safari destination of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Ishasha sector has been worldly known for its populations of tree climbing lions. The tree climbing lions are unique species are they are rare to encounter in any part of the world. Apparently they thrive in the Ishasha sect in the south of Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda and in Lake Manyara National Park in Southern Tanzania.
To encounter these unique species while on Uganda wildlife safari requires one to undertake a game drive across the savannah landscapes of Ishasha. The tree climbing lions tend to climb their most loved fig trees in the mid-morning and once they have climbed they might stay there for long. However, it is not certain the lions have to climb trees thus like other wild life there is no guarantee.
Most travellers and Itinerary makers tend to incorporate Ishasha game drive as an en route activity while transferring to or from Bwindi. And though this makes it possible to see these tree climbing lions, the chances are limited as the travellers and safari guides are always on the rush to reach the other destination. Thus, it is advisable for travellers with keen interest in these species to have a night in Ishasha and spend a whole day driving with in the Ishasha sector which increase their chances of encountering the tree climbing lions.
Importantly to note is that Ishasha does not only have tree climbing lions, the area has got similar wildlife like the upper parts of Queen Elizabeth National Park including elephants, Kobs, water bucks among others that combine to make the game drives in Ishasha sector memorable.
While on transit, at least 2 hours should be allocated for Ishasha game drive in search of tree climbing lions.