Best Queen Elizabeth National Park Safaris

In many ways, Queen Elizabeth National Park – one of Uganda’s best safari areas – is East Africa in microcosm. To enter the ‘Queen’ is to embark on a magical mystery tour. There is so much to experience in just this one protected area, including witnessing animal behaviour seen in few other places.

The key to the diversity on display is the location: in the shadow of the Rwenzori Mountains lies an intricate tapestry of open savannah, shadowy forests and hippo-thronged lakes. Visits to local coffee plantations can add an extra dimension to Uganda safaris.

Queen Elizabeth safaris can be enjoyed on foot, with guided walks in the Kalinzu Forest and Mweya Peninsula (where you can track mongoose and imagine life on much shorter legs); with a chimp safari in the Kyambura Gorge or Kalinzu Forest; by boat along the lake-linking Kazinga Channel; or more conventionally on a game drive.

The densely wooded gorge is known as the ‘Valley of the Apes’ and is a highlight of any Queen Elizabeth safari. The presence of chimpanzee in the heart of the reserve makes this one of the few national parks where both savannah and primate encounters are possible. Chimp trekking can be a much more boisterous experience than mountain gorilla trekking, so be prepared to witness all manner of activity.

As in much of Uganda, the birding is exceptional. Also, you won’t want to miss an excursion into the southern Ishasha sector in search of the renowned tree-climbing lion, and the herds of kob they prey on.

When to Go

On the whole, the two dry seasons are the best time for a Queen Elizabeth safari. There’s less chance of rain, and this lack of precipitation also leads to thinning vegetation, making wildlife easier to spot. Conditions for chimp trekking are easier when it’s drier underfoot, and you’ll most likely emerge from the shade of the trees into warm sunshine. Birders do best from late May to September, when the most species are present. Increased demand for gorilla trekking from June to September means you should book well in advance.

Queen Elizabeth National Park is at its prettiest during the two wet seasons, which, in true East African style, neatly intersect their drier counterparts. During the low-season months of April, May, October and November, you won’t quite have the park to yourself – but it may feel like it. Heavy rains during these months may interrupt some activities (and make ephemeral roads impassable), but the trade-offs come in the form of lush, green landscapes, migratory birds, and – after the afternoon thunderstorms – lovely lucid air and epic views. Discounts are also possible.

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