This is a wonderful national park, sometimes dubbed ‘the Pearl of Africa or Switzerland of Africa’. Quite simply this fertile equatorial area is especially scenic, with two lakes connected by a channel overlooked by a high peninsula. You will also find volcanic craters, grassy plains and tropical forest. As a result it has one of the highest biodiversity ratings in the world.
Hunting exhibits such as stuffed lions, leopard skins, deer heads and elephants tusks may still be found adorning some hotels and lodges, but the emphasis is certainly more on shooting with a camera these days. Much of Uganda’s wildlife was poached out in the past, especially elephants, but now the area is protected and elephants numbers are boosted by those entering the park from the Congo, where poaching is still a problem.
When looking at some maps of Uganda, you may be forgiven for being a little confused. Several of the National Parks and lakes have changed their names more than once since independence in 1962, and not all maps have kept up with the changes. For example the Queen Elizabeth National Park was called the Rwenzori National Park for many years until it returned to its royal colonial name. Meanwhile the Rwenzori Mountains to the north of the Queen Elizabeth were formed into the new Rwenzori National Park in 1991. Confused? You will be!
The wide bio-diversity of habitats means that Queen Elizabeth National Park contains the most astonishing number of species – almost 100 types of mammal and 606 different birds! The Kazinga Channel alone is said to contain the world’s largest concentration of hippos, but interestingly enough not many crocodiles! Other wildlife includes warthogs, buffalo, rare aquatic sitatunga antelope, giant forest hog, beautifully horned Uganda kob, topi, waterbuck, elephant and leopard.
There are no giraffe, zebra, impala or rhino.
Kyambura gorge is real Tarzan territory with thick treetop canopies and vines dangling down to the soft forest floor.
The terrain comes complete with Red-tails, Columbus, Baboons and Chimpanzees who crash about and chatter high up in the branches. If they don’t feel like being seen, they just keep one step ahead of the out-of-breath terrestrial visitors.
The Maramagambo Forest, south of the Kazinga Channel is also home to large numbers of chimps, plus a number of other monkey species. Some rare and oddbirds inhabit this park and keen birders come from all over the world to clock up a sighting of the peculiar, pouting shoebill (or whale-headed) stork. This giant bird stands 4-foot high (more than 1 metre) and wears a rather timid expression. This and a myriad of other birds and animals are best viewed from a boat on the Kazinga Channel.