The Falls lie in the largest protected area of Uganda being part of the greater Murchison Falls conservation area. This includes the Budongo Forest which spreads for miles and miles and is yet to be explored. The broad stretches of the River Nile are squeezed into a narrow gap of the Rift Valley Gorge and the water roars through the narrowed gap creating the most spectacular falls in East Africa.
Spectacular Murchison Falls
Daily boat launches from Paraa take visitors along the river shore and sightings of Hippos, crocs and all types of waterbirds including the shy shoebill, are generally plentiful.
The entire park lies lower than most of the other tourist areas in Uganda and is accordingly much hotter at certain times of the year.
North of the river, elephants are seen frequently but not in the numbers of the 1960s when herds of up to 500 were reported and the area was considered to have the highest density of elephant in Africa. All the wildlife has increased significantly in numbers since the 1990s and the park has a good, recovering population of Rothchild's giraffe (scarce anywhere else in Uganda). There are good numbers of Uganda Kob, buffalo, Jackson's hartebeest and warthog.
The vegetation in this area consists mainly of long grass interspersed
with borassus palms, riverine woodlands and acacia trees (hence the giraffe). Wildlife Safari MFNP
South of the river the vegetation is mainly denser woodlands. The Budongo Forest includes the forest reserves of Budongo and Kaniyo Pabidi. This is a premier area for bird watchers and has the most varied forest fauna in East Africa. Of particular note is what is known as the "Royal Mile", the stretch of road connecting Nyabea Forestry College to the main research station and thought to be the best single birdwatching site in Uganda. Some of the more unusual bird species include the yellow footed fly catcher, ituri batis, lemon bellied crombec, white thighed hornbill, black eared ground thrush and chestnut capped flycatcher.
There are around 800 chimpanzees reported in the area and one of the best Chimpanzee tracking sites in Uganda is found in Busingiro. Other primates found in the forest include red-tailed monkey, blue monkey, black and white colobus monkey, potto and various galago species. The forests are also a first class area for tracking down the 250 butterfly species for which Uganda is famous.
Specialist guides are available for trips to see the butterflies as well as the 465 plant species found in the forest.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is 1978 square km; has 57 vegetation types but it is mostly open savannah with acacia and euphorbia it also includes extensive wetlands and a huge tract of tropical forest; supports 612 bird species (only Virunga NP) has more in Africa including 54 raptors; home to 95 mammal species including around 2,500 elephants, 20 different predators with 200 lions (40 tree-climbing lions in Ishasha); supports 10 primate species including chimps in Kyambura gorge and Maramagambo Forest; good for Uganda Kob, large herds of buffalo, giant forest hog, waterbuck, topi, hyena, and crocodile. Leopards are seen quite regularly.
Queen Elizabeth is fairly small but it holds a lot of diversity and should really be looked at in distinct chunks to get a proper appreciation for what it has to offer. The park itself is part of a
much larger conservation area including the Rwenzoris, Kibale Forest, Virunga National Park and Kigezi / Kyambura.
The entire park is divided north from south by the Kazinga Channel, a 40 km long channel of water flowing gently from Lake Gorge in the east to Lake Edward in the west.
The northern area features the Kasenyi plains (with a good game viewing network) in the east towards Lake Gorge;the Explosion craters in the west towards Mweya Lodge and Lake Edward.
The Mweya Peninsula on the northern bank of the Kazinga Channel at the confluence with Lake Edward is the main safari attraction in the north. To the south, Kyambura Wildlife Reserve is in the east on the edge of Lake Gorge, the main attraction is Kyambura Gorge.
Maramagambo Forest and Kigezi Wildlife reserve are in the east of the southern sector. The Ishasha plains are in the south bounded by Lake Edward and the Ishasha River on the DRC border. The area boasts a tropical climate with temperatures never rising above 30 or dropping below 16 degrees centigrade.
Activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Mweya and Kazinga Channel
The Mweya peninsula is the focal point of the northern sector and has a great location with excellent views across the Kazinga Channel towards the Rwenzoris. The Mweya Information centre has guides with whom nature walks are possible - $10 for a few hours.
The Kazinga Channel launch cruise along the shoreline at 0900, 1100, 1500 and 1700 hours to get a close up view of good resident game (particularly hippo, buffalo, elephant) and fairly prolific birdlife including lots of water fowl. The launch cruise runs clockwise down the southern bank towards Lake Edward and returns back on the northern bank - try and get a seat on the left side or find a spot on the top deck.
Wildlife Safari in the northern circuit
A fairly good road network runs parallel with the Kazinga Channel- a
fair area for game viewing, apparently one of the few places where the giant forest hog are regularly seen during the day.
The west of the main road includes the "Explosion Craters" with a large cluster of 7 crater lakes and dry calderas. Lake Nyamunuka is clearly
visible from the main road into the park - usually good for buffalo.
The area is generally good for elephant herds in the dry season.
To the east of the main road includes the Kasenyi Plain which has the largest concentration of game in QENP. The area includes a large breeding ground for Uganda Kob and is also good for buffalo, lion and grassland birds. There is a substantial breeding population of shoebill
in the Kikorongo swamp.
The Kyambura river cuts 100m chasm for about 16km through the sorrounding savanah as it runs towards Kazinga Channel and forms the eastern boundary of QENP. The gorge protects an isolated patch of riparian forest including a habituated population of chimps.
Success rates for viewing are quite high at around 80% and the forest is good for birds and the guiding is of high standard. Only 8 permits are available for either 0800 or 1300 treks which last around 2 -3 hours.
Permits should be booked in advance and cost $50 each. The habitats of gorge includes red tailed, vervet, balck and white colobus monkeys, olive baboons and giant forest hog. The gorge rim itself and Fig tree camp is about 3 km from the main road, about an hours drive from Jacana Lodge or Mweya Lodge.
Maramagambo is one of Uganda's largest tropical forests. Noted for it's rich diversity of forest birds and primates including a strong population of un habituated chimps, Maramagambo Forest is relatively undeveloped yet readily accessible (about a kilometre away from Jacana lodge).
Different guided walks are available from simple nature trails with the opportunity to visit the bat caves (home to several thousand Egyptian fruit bats) to the full day walking
trails with a focus on the forest and its birds. A full day guided trails costs US$10.
Tree climbing lion
The southern sector is bounded in the west by Lake Edward and the Ishasha River on the border with DRC. The area has 2 main game driving
circuits. Southern circuit is where the main kob breeding grounds are found and is best known for the 40 odd tree climbing lions that frequest clusters of sycamore figs and albizias. The northern circuit passes through the Lake Edward flats, a good area for general game viewing and a fair chance to see the shoebill. The road in the northen circuit can
be very dodgy after rains.
The Ishasha River has a well established camp site set in good forest, particularly good for birdwatching. Ishasha wilderness Tented camp on the Ntungwe River is the best base from where to explore the area.
Elephants are surprisingly good in Ishasha - there is a big herd of around 80 or so individuals on the southern circuit.