Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth National Park 


August 25th - 27th, 2016

The drive south from Fort Portal to Queen Elizabeth National Park took almost three hours. We stopped near the entrance to the park right on the equator and took some group photos.

As soon as we entered the park we started seeing animals – various antelopes, baboons and a group of buffaloes cooling themselves in a mud hole.

While driving along the main road we saw an elephant crossing one of the side roads. So Francis turned around just to see if there may be more coming and as soon as we turned we saw this huge herd of about 30 to 40 elephants cross the street right in front of us. They had a lot of tiny babies with them and the mothers aggressively turned towards us to scare us off. This was an incredible and really unexpected sight so close to the park entrance. 

We stayed at Kyambura Gorge Lodge, another amazingly beautiful lodge overlooking the park on one side and a river gorge on the other. The rooms were huge, each contained in its own little hut. After dark we were only allowed to walk to and from our rooms with a lodge staff member, because occasionally lions, buffaloes or elephants walk around the grounds here at night.

Game Drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park covers an area of nearly 2,000 square kilometers. It includes two large lakes (Lake George and Lake Edvard). The park was founded in 1952 and named after the Queen in honor of her Uganda visit in 1954. Our first day in the park started with an early morning game drive through the northern part near the shores of Lake George. On the way to the park we saw lots of baboons just hanging out by the side of the road.

Once inside the park we saw many Ugandan Kobs, which are a small antelope with elegantly curved horns and the national animal of Uganda. We also came across waterbucks, buffaloes and several warthogs. But most excitingly I saw my first ever hippopotamus in the wild. There were three in a small waterhole and we saw one walking through the grass in the distance.

We had a short break by a small crater lake (Lake Buyampaka), which is used for salt making. It also had a large group of flamingos in the middle.

Kazinga Channel Boat Ride
After a couple of hours rest and lunch back at the lodge we drove out to the Kazinga Channel for our afternoon boat ride. The Kazinga Channel is a 32 km long natural channel that connects Lake George and Lake Edvard. The 2 hour boat ride along the western end of the channel was amazing. The channel is teeming with wildlife both in the water and along the shore. We saw lots of large birds, buffaloes in the water, crocodiles lying by the beach and a monitor lizard in the tree.

We also followed four male elephants walking along the shore for some time.

But the most exciting part where the hippos. There were probably a hundred or so in the water along the shores. They were quite hard to see, because they can stay under water for up to five minutes and usually only come up with their eyes and nostrils above the water. We saw some only a few meters from the boat. Even though they are herbivores, hippos are among the most unpredictable and aggressive animals in Africa. It is estimated that over 1,000 people are killed by hippos every year.

There are several fishing villages along the shores of the channel and the lakes. They were allowed to remain here and continue fishing after the area was turned into a National Park. There is no fishing allowed in the Kazinga Channel (and no tourist activities in the two lakes). The people living in the villages receive 20% of all park fees in order to discourage them from any poaching or other activities that could threaten the wildlife in the park.

Drive from Queen Elizabeth to Bwindi
Today was a long driving day as we made our way South to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. But it was a very exciting drive, as the first part still went through Queen Elizabeth Park and we saw lots animals. We had lunch at a camp site right on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In fact I was able to walk across the border and stand in the DRC (but I won't count this as a new country on my list).

An illegal immigrant in the DRC.

The excitement rose after lunch because we were looking for the famous tree climbing lions of Uganda. They are difficult to find, but we turned out to be very lucky once again when Francis spotted two females in a huge tree high up in the branches. This is a very rare behavior for lions and has only been observed here and in one other place in Tanzania. The lions climb up into the tree to rest and escape the flies on the ground. We drove up very close. The lions watched us carefully but didn't seem to be too bothered by our presence.

Afterwards we continued our drive to Bwindi Forest Lodge stopping along the way whenever we spotted monkeys in the trees or something like this beautiful crested crane next to the road.

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