east africa maps
No. 6 - QUEEN ELIZABETH NP
The Uganda Maps series dates back to a wall mounted map of QENP which I painted for a new Information Centre at the park’s Queen’s Pavilion in 2007. This was rather a contrived project, the sole purpose of which was to provide H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh with something to open after scoffing a posh lunch in a newly restored Pavilion. I repainted and reprinted it for wider distribution, then painted maps of other parks, all the time coming to appreciate that this was far more fun than real work.
Uganda’s most scenic park lies on the floor of the Albertine Rift Valley between lakes Edward and George with fabulous montane backdrops created by the rift’s bounding escarpments and the snow-capped Rwenzori mountain (5100m).Initially known as Kazinga National Park, QENP was renamed in 1954 to commemorate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. 2056km2 in size, the park adjoins the adjoining Kyambura (154km2) and Kigezi (265km2) wildlife reserves to the south, Kibale N.P. in the north, and the Congolese Virunga N.P. to the west.
QENP contains a wide range of habitats including lakes, rivers, swamps, grassland, woodland and forest which are home to an impressive variety of wildlife.
Mammals: 95 species (more than any other park in Uganda) include elephant, hippo, lion, leopard, spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, giant forest hog, warthog, Uganda kob, Cape buffalo, Defassa’s waterbuck, bushbuck, reedbuck and topi. Ten primate species, including chimpanzee are present.
Birds: QENP’s varied habitats support a birdlist of 612 species, a total exceeded in Africa only by the neighbouring, and far larger, Virunga N.P. Birding opportunities range from waterbird sightings from the comfortable Mweya launch to careful searches for rare species, in the Maramagambo forest. Philip Briggs, African bird expert and author of the Bradt Guide to Uganda suggests the following highlights to interest both keen and casual birdwatchers: papyrus Gonolek; shoebill (Ishasha); black bee-eater (Ishasha & Kyambura); greater and lesser flamingo (crater lakes); African finfoot (Maramagambo); pink-backed pelicans; (Kazinga Channel), red-throated sunbird, black-headed Gonolek and nesting hamerkops (Mweya).
Reptiles: Nile crocodiles and monitor lizard can be seen along the Kazinga Channel: a resident python is often found in the Bat Cave in Maramagambo forest.
At the western end of the 40km-long Kazinga Channel. Mweya Peninsula is the starting point for the park’s most famous activity; the launch trip up the channel to Lake Edward. The shoreline is home to hundreds of hippos and a spectacular variety of waterbirds while elephant, buffalo and other animals are regular visitors. Places on the launch, and guides for game drives, should be arranged at the Mweya Information Centre. This excellent facility enjoys a panoramic view across Katwe Bay towards the Rwenzori and contains exhibits describing the park and its rift valley setting. A range of animals can be observed on guided walks exploring the peninsula.
Game tracks explore the rift valley floor north of the channel. A range of large mammals lives in the bushy North Kazinga savannas while the more open Kasenyi grasslands to the east are known for their lion prides and herds of Uganda Kob. Additional game tracks explore the remote Ishasha sector in the far south of the park. Wildlife in this magnificent wilderness includes topi and tree-climbing lions. Across the bay from Mweya, the grasslands of the little visited Pelican Point enjoy a remote feel that belie their proximity to Katwe town.
The Equator crosses the main road near Lake Kikorongo. Concrete circles marking the spot provide a popular photo stop, as does the nearby Queen’s Pavilion. This has been the venue for several visits by British royalty, most recently in November 2007 when the Duke of Edinburgh opened a new information centre at the site. The Queen’s Pavilion stands at the start of the 24km Crater Drive which winds among the Katwe Explosion Craters. Though active as recently as 5000 years ago, the depths of these extinct volcanoes are now filled, variously, by lakes, forest, acacia woodland and grassland.
Savanna experiences in QENP are complemented by walks in shady forest. Trails in Maramagambo Forest enable birdwatchers to add forest species to their water and grassland sightings while a descent into the Kyambura Gorge offers the chance to track habituated chimpanzees and other primates in their natural habitat.
East of the gorge, is Kyambura Wildlife Reserve. This is best known for its crater lakes, some of which are regularly visited by flamingos.
Bradt Guide to Uganda (7th edition: 2013) Philip Briggs & Andrew Roberts.
Updates on blog: http://bradtugandaupdate.wordpress.com
Uganda Wildlife Authority
For information about Uganda’s national parks www.ugandawildlife.org
Guide to Queen Elizabeth National Park - Andrew Roberts
African Bird Club: www.africanbirdclub.org
Uganda Conservation Foundation: www.ugandacf.org
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