Queen Elizabeth National Park’s diverse ecosystems, big game and ten primate species make it Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. With a backdrop of the rugged Rwenzori Mountains, sparkling lakes joined by the Kazinga Channel, sculptured craters indenting the landscape, rolling hills covered in lush grass dotted with feeding buffalo and elephant the park’s many and varied vistas are a paradise for photographers and nature lovers alike.
The park area used to be primarily a grazing area for local pastoralists. When European explorers Stanley and Lugard came upon the area, they found it to be by and large unpopulated mainly due to cattle raiding and epidemics of rinderpest and smallpox. The few people that remained were concentrated around Lake George and Lake Edward and survived from fishing.
Thus allowing the game populations to move into the area and increase their numbers and for the vegetation to alter and become more varied. These events played an important role in determining the area as a protected area. To diminish unregulated hunting In 1906, the area north of Lake George was declared a game reserve.
By 1912 the whole of Lake George and Ishasha areas became restricted areas due to outbreaks of sleeping sickness. This forced agricultural and fishing communities to vacate the area leaving it largely abandoned. Sleeping sickness outbreaks continued up until the mid 1930’s, keeping human populations low and wildlife populations to increase.
The National Park Ordinance was passed in 1952 and the park was originally called Kazinga National Park, it became the Queen Elizabeth Park in 1954, to commemorate a visit by the Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Mweya is perhaps the nucleus of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, here is the departure point for the Kazinga Channel launches, Visitors Centre, lodges and restaurants.
The Kazinga Channel is a long waterway, which connects Lake Edward and Lake George. Strewn along the channels banks are hippos, basking crocodiles, buffaloes and a multitude of water birds. Watch for large water lizards and bathing elephants as you cruise along on a boat safari, sit back and enjoy the passing scenery with your binoculars and camera at the ready.
Down in the less visited southern part of the park you may have the opportunity to observe the unusual sight of lions, resting up in the branches of an acacia or fig tree in the Ishasha Sector. Herds of kob, buffalo and elephant abound in this area. Take some time to study the shores of Lake Edward and you may be rewarded with a rare shoebill sighting.
If you are on your way to see the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park then Ishasha is a mere 70Kms away, a scenic and favourable route to use.