Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda in June 2015

Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda is a “must see” national park which we always include in our program itineraries. Located within the Albertine Rift Valley between Lake Edward and Lake George, just south of the Rwenzori Mountains, it is one of the most amazing areas to explore for its variety of landscapes (savannah, forests, crater lakes, lakes, hills and valleys).
Crater lakes in the North of Queen Elizabeth
Therefore returning to Queen Elizabeth National Park is always interesting. However, from our last visits in this year 2015, we must acknowledge that some changes are taking place in the Northern sector of the park and, in general, are affecting the beauty and the conservation of the area. The Northern sector of the park, between Kasese, Katunguru and Kyambura, is traversed by a public tarmac road. With time, we noticed that more and more buildings, trading centers and infrastructures are developing in this area of the park, clearly affecting and encroaching on the nature and the wildlife. We used to stop over during the safari for a rest at Lake Bunyanpaka, a salt lake near Kasenyi; now all the lake is surrounded by shops, new lodges and many people are moving around, in what is or was the natural habitat of the lions. Along the main road they have been placed huge, monstrous electricity poles, not those a bit nice, but really those huge metallic poles which damage all the beauty of the landscape. Along Kazinga channel you will find fishermen and boats all over, wondering if this is still a protected area. 
There is nothing of the feeling of “remoteness” and “wilderness” in this area. Moreover, viewing wildlife is a becoming a frustrating experience: basically very few animals can be seen, like few Ugandan kobs or buffaloes or elephants. Sometimes you might find the elephants trying to cross from one side to the other of the main tarmac road while trucks and big buses are along their way. On top of this, it is becoming evident the widespread of infesting grass, like the lanterna camara, which is taking over much space, causing a challenge to the survival of animals which cannot live in that habitat. This lanterna camara is so spread that it is the common grass you will find in the gardens of majority of lodges around the Northern sector of Queen Elizabeth.
Ntungwe River Plains in Ishasha
In conclusion, this area of the park is losing fast its appeal and there are many challenges in the conservation which should be addressed if this park has to remain a tourist destination for which tourists pay a certain fee in exchange of services. We hope that the Uganda Wildlife Authority will be able to coordinate efforts with the Local Government and the Uganda Road Authority to reduce the impact of what is happening.
            Fortunately, there is another side of the story. As you proceed South along the so called Ishasha Road, passing through Maramagambo Forest, you will reach a very different region, the Southern Sector, which is still intact in its beauty. Here you will find amazing sceneries of savannah plains near the course of the rivers Ntungwe and Ishasha. Here you can have a real sense of the “african experience”. You can find in this area many animals and birds. The presence of the so called “tree climbing lions” is not a legend, but a reality, as long as you are a bit lucky and patient in looking around the different figs trees along the trails of the sector. There are two main trails in this area, the Southern and Northern or Ntungwe trails. Any of them can be a real surprise and bring you closer to elephants, buffaloes, antelope topis.
Tree climbing lions spotted in June 2015
Even the area just outside the protected reserve is actually becoming a natural continuation of the savannah. In this side, farmers and villages are moving a bit farer from the park and some of the lodges, initially surrounded by farms, are more and more surrounded by natural habitat. This is the case of our Ishasha Jungle Lodge, which is today found in a tract of natural riparian forest and surrounded by natural savannah, becoming more and more area and refuge to wildlife.

In conclusion, the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park in 2015 is still a “must go” tourist attraction of Uganda.

2 comments:

  1. Really.. It is very amazing place to visit. This place is loaded with the gift of very pleasant natural views.

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  2. Just come back from the Queen. Your post is so true ! Heartbreaking because this region is (was) so nice. People everywhere.

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