The park is easly accessible. The tarmac Mbarara-Kasese-Fort highway runs through its centre passing just 22km from the main tourism hub at Mweya. From Kampala, the park can be approached from the south via Mbarara (420km) or the north passing through Fort Portal (410km). these routes can be combined to create an attractive circuit with short detour to visit Lake Mburo, Semuliki and Kibale national parks. The park can also be reached from the south from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Charter flights can be arranged to a choice of airstrips at Kasese, Mweya and Ishasha.
A variety of accommodation caters for all budgets. Mweya Safari Lodge, Jacana Safari Lodge and the ishasha Wilderness Camp offer upmarket accommodation while the Mweya Hostel at Mweya and Ishasha bandas provide budget accommodation.
Campng is possible at Mweya, Maramagambo and Ishasha. Convenient options just outside the park include Hippo Hill Camp close to Katwe and Kingfisher Camp on the lovely Kichwamba escarpment. A new lodge is under construction in the Kyambura Wildlife Reserve.
The park is home to 95 mammal species while the birdlist is 612 species long. This diversity is the result of an impressive range of habitats. Fifty-seven vegetation types have been identified though these can be summarized as just five: forest; grassland; bushy grassland; Acacia woodland and lakeshore/swamp vegetation. Residents of the park’s grasslands include elephant, Cape buffalo, Uganda kob, waterbuck, warthog, giant hog, lion, leopard and hyaena. Topi are found in Ishasha, while forest primates are found in Kyambura Gorge and Maramagambo Forest.
In African protected areas, the park’s impressive birdlist is exceeded only by the neighboring (and far larger) Virunga National Park. To name but a few key species: martial eagle, black-rumped buttonquail, African skimmer, Chapin’s flycatcher, pink-backed pelicans, white-winged warbler, papyrus gonolek, papyrus canary, corncrake, lesser and greater flamingo, and shoebill stork.
The peninsula is the hub for tourism activity and accommodation in the central section of the park. A nature walk with a ranger guide enables you to explore remoter parts of the peninsula. This and other activities can be arranged from Mweya Information Centre. The facility overlooks the scenic Katwe Bay of Lake Edward and contains a souvenir shop and exhibits that describe the national park and its rift valley.
The 40km-long channel that connects lake George to Lake Edward provides the park’s prime wildlife spectacle. Its shoreline attracts large numbers of birds, mammals and reptiles year round. These can be seen from two covered launches, Topi and Simba, that cruise between Mweya Jetty and the channel’s entrance into Lake Edward. The launches run at 15.00 and 17.00. additional voyages run at 11.00 and 13.00 subject to demand.
The plain north of the Kazinga Channel is the primary game viewing area. A network of tracks enables you to find elephant, buffalo and other animals in the mosaic of grassland thickets that covers the North Kazinga area near Mweya. However lion are most reliably sighted on the open Kasenyi plain east of the Kasese road where they prey on a large population of Uganda kob. Game drives are most rewarding in early morning and late afternoon. A ranger guide is recommended to help you make the most of your experience.
The Katwe Salt Lake is home to Uganda’s oldest industry. Salt has been extracted from the lake using evaporation beds and the process is continued today.
The cluster of extinct volcanoes north of Mweya Safari Lodge can be explored by the winding 27km Crater Drive between the Main and Equator Gates. This provides superb views into numerous craters, some filled by lovely lakes, as well as towards the Rwenzori and across the rift valley floor.
The spot where the equator crosses the Kasese road is marked by two concrete circles which provide a popular photostop. The Queen’s Pavilion stands nearby at the northern entrance to the Crater Drive. A temporary shelter at this site hosted H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954; a permanent pavilion was built in 1959 for a visit by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. This was restored for a second visit by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2007. A new information Centre on the site include internet facilities and a coffee shop.
100km south of Mweya, the park’s remote southern sector provides a true wilderness experience. Diverse habitats, including the Ishasha River, savanna woodland, and the marshy Lake Edward Flat support a variety of wildlife including Ishasha’s famous tree climbing lions, and the rare shoebill stork.
This area, which protects the south-eastern banks of the Kazinga Channel, contains four crater lakes, in which thousands of flamingos periodically congregate.
The dark depth of Maramagambo forest contrast starkly with the sunny plains around the Kazinga Channel. One of Uganda’s largest tracts of tropical forest, Maramagambo is notable for its primate and bird populations. Trails explore the forest around Lake Nyamusingire. Wildlife sightings vary from day to day, but guaranteed events include the Bat Cave (with a resident, bat-hungry python), and the copper-rich Blue Lake.
Habituated chimpanzees live in the 100m deep gorge carved by the Kyambura River as it flows across the rift valley floor towards the Kazinga Channel. Guided walks to search for them start at Kyambura’s Fig Tree Camp at 08.00 and 14.00. the 3km road to the gorge is clearly signposted from the main highway.
The 1978km2 Queen Elizabeth National Park enjoys a stunning location on the rift valley floor between Lakes Edward and George where a mosaic of habitats support 95 mammal species and remarkable 612 species of birds. Forty years ago, Douglas Willocks described the diverse features that led to its creation in 1952. There still exists no better introduction or a more enticing invitation to visit the park.
Scenically the area had everything. Thirty miles to the north, the blue Rwenzori exploded from the plain, a composite, jagged mass of mountains, sixty miles long and forty wide and looking in certain lights as if you could reach out and touch them. Across Lake Edward to the west, the Mitumbe hills stood sentinel on the Congo, blue too in the long sight but in the closer green, wooded, precipitous, unfriendly and epitomizing darkest Africa. The eastern boundary of this possible park was marked by the calm green escarpment of the western Rift Valley. And between all the hills, mountains and lakes was endless savanna, its constantly repeated motif the branched cactus arms of the candelabra euphorbia tree.
The park forms part of an extensive system of contiguous protected areas, namely the Kigezi (265km2) and Kyambura (154km2) Wildlife Reserves, Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Kabale National Park (766km2) and, in neighboring DRC, the 2000km2 Virunga National Park. Rwenzori Mountains National Park lies a few kilometers north.
The dramatic scenery is largely due to mountains beyond the park boundary. The park itself lies on the rift valley floor where it rises 480m from 910m at the Kazinga Channel to 1390m in the Explosion Crater field. The low altitude and its location directly on the equator mean that temperatures can be warm, rising from a mean minimum of 18oC to a mean maximum of 28oC. The park receives up to 1250mm of rain, mostly during March-May and September-November.