Queen Elizabeth National Park enjoys a stunning location on the rift valley floor

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 supports 95 mammal species and a 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, in the blue Rwenzori explored from the plain, a composite jagged mass of mountains, sixty miles long and forty wide and looking in certain light 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 hill, mountains and lakes was endless savanna, its constantly repeated motif the branched cactus arms of the candelabra euphorbia trees.’

The park forms part of an extensive system of contiguous protected areas, namely the Kigezi (256km2) and Kyambura (154km2) Wildlife reserve, Kalinzu Forest reserve, and neighboring DRC, the 200km2 Virunga National Park. Rwenzori National Park lies a few kilometers north.

Flora and Fauna:
The park is home to 95 mammal species while the bird list 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, and Acacia woodland and lake shore/swamp vegetation.

Residents of the park’s grasslands include elephants, cape buffalo, Uganda kob, water buck, warthog, giant forest hog, lion, leopard and hyena. Topi are found in Ishasha, while forest primates are found in Kyambura gorge and maramagambo forest.

In Africa protected areas, the park’s impressive birdlist is exceeded only by the neighbouring (and far lager) Virunga National Park. To name but a few species: martial eagle, black-rumped buttonquail, African skimmer, chapins flycatcher, pink-backed pelicans, white-winged warbler, papyrus canary, corncrake, lesser and greater Flamingo, and shoe bill stork