Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most popular savannah reserve and has the widest variety of wildlife of any Ugandan park. The variety of habitats includes grassland savannah, forests, wetlands, and lakes. This provides the setting for an extensive range of large mammals and primates. Four of the Big five are present (rhino are absent) and chimp tracking is available.
This is the most reliable park in Uganda for lion, which is particularly common on the grassy Kasenyi Plains but is more famous for its tree-climbing antics in the Ishasha sector. Huge herds of buffalo and elephant are found in the savannah areas of the park and an amazing number of hippo inhabit the Kazinga channel on which daily boat trips are conducted.
The park is set against a backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains. Additional scenic points are Kazinga Channel between Lake Edward and Lake George and at least 10 crater lakes. The most accessible part of the park is open savannah, but large forest areas are open to the public. These include the forested Kyambura Gorge and the extensive Maramagambo Forest in the southeast.
Elephants and buffalo are very common, and the lion is surprisingly easy to spot. There are many interesting antelope species such as Uganda kob, and bushbuck. Hippo and crocodiles are common in the Kazinga channel. A troop of a chimpanzee has been habituated for tracking and nine other primate species are found, including the black-and-white colobus monkey. Giraffe and zebra are absent.
Tree-climbing lions are a specialty of the Ishasha sector of the park, where they can often be found resting in huge fig trees. Giant forest hog, is unusually easy to see, both on drives and boat trips. Buffalo are particularly attractive as they are often reddish-brown due to interbreeding with forest buffalo from neighboring Congo. Chimp trekking is available in the steamy, tropical forest of Kyambura Gorge.
Queen Elizabeth National Park can be visited throughout the year, but the best time for wildlife viewing is the Dry season (from June to August and January to February) when animals are concentrated near rivers and lakes. Some of the roads can become impassable after heavy rain.
Queen Elizabeth NP has the largest checklist of any protected area in East Africa with over 600 bird species recorded. This is mostly due to the wide variety of habitats: from savannah to forest to wetland. Many of the birds in the park are regarded as specials within East Africa, which makes it a prime birding destination. The swamps in the Ishasha sector are a good place to look for the elusive shoebill stork. Migratory birds are present from November to April.
The birdlife in Queen Elizabeth NP is good year-round, but at its best from late May to September, when the rain is less and food is abundant. June to July has the least rain, while April to May and September to November has the most rain. The heavy rains might result in delays due to impassable roads and slippery hiking trails. These may limit your bird-watching time. From November to April, migratory birds can be found in the park.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is open all-year-long, but wildlife viewing is at its best from January to February and June to July (the Dry seasons). However, this scenic park is at its most beautiful in the Wet seasons from March to May and August to December. April May, August, and September are very wet months and during that time, the rain might interfere with your safari.
The climate in Queen Elizabeth NP is warm. Temperatures remain uniform throughout the year. Daytime temperatures rise to around 29°C/84°F and slowly fall to around 17°C/63°F at night. Queen Elizabeth NP doesn’t have a real Dry season, so there is always a potential for rain. Rain happens less during December through January, with June and July having the least rain.
Dry seasons –January to February and June to July
January & February – Rain should still be expected even though this time of year enjoys dry weather, in general. Rains can even happen for days at a time.
June & July – There is a slight potential for rain during these months, the driest months. Daytime temperatures average 29°C/84°F, and nighttime temperatures average 16°C/61°F.
Wet seasons –March to May and August to December
March, April & May – Rain peaks in April during this time of increased rainfall. Temperatures are pleasant (around 29°C/84°F) in the later afternoon and cooler (17°C/63°F) in the morning. Roads can become impassable and trails used for chimp tracking get slippery.
August, September, October & November – This time of year is similar to March through May, with rain peaking in November.
How to get there – Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth NP is located about 410km/255mi north of Kampala. The direct drive takes at least seven to eight hours, but your itinerary will most likely include some parks on the way. It is also possible to fly to any of the nearby airstrips of Kasese, Mweya, or Kihihi (for Ishasha) by scheduled or chartered aircraft from Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airfield near Kampala.
You will enter Uganda at Entebbe International Airport (EBB), about 46km/29mi from Kampala, the capital city. Generally, your tour operator will arrange for your pick-up from the airport, and organize any further transportation required as part of your safari package.
Queen Elizabeth NP is a very popular destination in Uganda and the park is generally safe to visit in our opinion. This is especially the case in the busier areas of the park including Mweya and Kasenyi Plains. The Ishasha sector of the park is more remote and borders the DRC. There has been an isolated kidnapping incident in this area in April 2019. you should get local advice before visiting the Ishasha sector of the park.
It is recommended to take anti-malarial medication and apply mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective) to help counteract the risk of malaria (and remember to cover exposed skin in the evenings). There are also vaccinations recommended for Uganda, which you should ask your travel clinic or local doctor about.
Wildlife viewing should always be done with caution and respect for the animals. Use your common sense and remember that the behavior of wild animals can be unpredictable. Limiting dangers is easily done by following the expert directions of your guide. And please take note of the wildlife viewing and chimp trekking safety precautions below.