Queen Elizabeth National Park is in Western Uganda. The park covers an area of over 774 sq miles between Lake Edward and Lake George, around the Kasinge Channel connecting the two.
The park has a wide variety of terrain, including volcanic craters, grassy plains and tropical forest. The Kasinga Channel has the largest concentration of hippos in the world!
This park is like a more concentrated version of East African parks as far as animals are concerned, although, unless the mist-shrouded Ruwenzori Mountains are visible, there are less splendid vistas than you will find elsewhere.
The Ugandan Kob is an endemic antelope, and is on the coat of arms along with the crested crane, look out for it on the currency!
The park was established in 1952 as Kazinga National Park and to commemorate the Queen’s visit to Uganda and the park in 1954 it was renamed to Queen Elizabeth National Park. It has had a couple of name changes during its existance, although it returned to its original colonial name recently, having previously been called the Rwenzori National Park for some time.
This park can be accessed most easily from Kampala. from the old bus park and the new bus park many buses leaving in the morning and going to Kasese pass through the park. the ticket is 15,000 USH. but the buses will start only when they are full. the conductor may say that the bus will leave at 0700 but finally it will leave when it is full, the time maybe 1000 also. bus journey is safe and enlightening. alternatively there are various tour operators who are willing to make an exclusive trip to QE NP but they are very expensive. one should get off on Katunguru Gate. there are many taxis there and one can negotiate the cost of dropping at Mweya. it should be around 30,000 USH. there taxi drivers will also take you for a game drive as required.
A very long straight road bisects the park, connecting Kasese(1 hour) and Fort Portal (2-3 hours) with Mbarara and south Western Uganda over the high Escarpment. The road is pockmarked with potholes and so driving can be slow going or bumpy but the views are great and you can have a game drive without leaving the tarmac. Regular minibus taxis connect all of these cities along this route and are easy to find anywhere along the road every few minutes in both directions. Avoid taking them at night through the park if possible as accidents with elephants and other large game on the road are common.
Inside the park the paths are fairly well maintained and can in dry weather be traversed in small 2 wheel drive cars. In the wet season however or if you want to go off road (with the lion research team for example) a four wheel drive vehicle is necessary as a lot of the park is on thick clay type mud which can quickly get cars stuck. The park is also fantastic to travel through on a motorbike, though venturing too far from the main paths is not recommended as there will be no one to assist stricken riders.
Most overland or inclusive tours travel through the park on converted minibuses with the more higher end outfitters using land rovers or other specialized safari vehicles. The park is also popular with self drive tourists and expats on day trips from Kampala and cars can easily be hired from the capital for this purpose.
Backpackers not wishing to take expensive tours are best to head to Kasese, where a car and driver can be hired for around $120 for a day and can act as an improvised game vehicle. It is best to track one down the day before you wish to have a drive and get them to meet you at around 5am at your hotel.
Be aware that a lot of the drivers are wise to this requirement and if they start picking up additional ‘guides’ that you have not asked for then tell them to stop as they will expect further payment. Another trick is for the taxi drivers to arrange your chimpanzee permits for which they will ask for the $50 fee and subsequently drive you to Kalinzu or Maramagambo forest where you will be taken on a primate trek. You can and do see chimpanzees in these forests, but it is a $15 activity and your driver will pocket the rest. If you want to track chimpanzees in Kyambura gorge, it is best to book your permits in Kampala, but they can be booked on the day if you insist your driver take you to the Kyambura HQ where they have an information booth and you may be able to jump onto the afternoon trek.