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Published: September 3rd 2012
Diary 6 - Queen Elizabeth National Park
We camped at the Simba Camp Site in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, in Western Uganda for 2 nights – 21-22 July. The area had a bar, dining and lounge room, and a variety of accommodation from double rooms, rooms with multiple bunk beds and the tent area.
The park covers an area of over 1978 sq kms between Lake Edward and Lake George, around the Kasinga Channel connecting the two.
The park has a wide variety of terrain, including volcanic craters, some forming lakes, grassy plains and tropical forest. The Kasinga Channel has the largest concentration of hippos in the world!
This park is like a more concentrated version of East African parks as far as animals are concerned, although, unless the mist-shrouded Ruwenzori Mountains are visible, there are less splendid vistas than you will find elsewhere.
The Ugandan Kob is an endemic antelope, and is on the coat of arms along with the crested crane, both of which are on the local currency.
The park is named after Queen Elizabeth 11 and was established in 1954. The park was later re-named Ruwenzori before it returned to
its royal name. QENP is known for its wildlife, although many animals were killed in the Uganda-Tanzania War. Many species have recovered, including hippopotamuses, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees; it is now home to 95 species of mammal and over 500 species of birds. The area around Ishasha in Rukungiri District is famous for its tree-climbing lions, whose males sport black manes, a feature unique to the lions in this area. The only animal we didn’t see was the lion. The group was disappointed but seeing all the other animals and birds was magnificent.
The park is also famous for its volcanic features, comprising volcanic cones and deep craters, many with crater lakes such as Lake Katwe, from which salt is extracted.
We went on a boat on the Channel and saw most of the animals on that trip. We did a game drive after breakfast, the 2 hour boat ride at 11.00am and another game drive at 1.00pm. The 2nd
game drive was where we saw the leopard up the tree. Everyone was pretty excited about that. We came back to camp at about 4.00pm. It was a really hot day so we were all looking forward
to a cool shower and a beer (the award winning Nile Crown costing 5000 Ugandan shillings – 2200 Ugandan shillings to US$1.00) and Tom had a gin and tonic – so he must have been feeling a lot better.
After a hearty meal (vegetable soup, vegetables, spicy pork etc) we settled back at the bar for some good conversation with the group members.
It rained during the night and included thunder and lightning. We were up at 5.00am Monday 23 July, and away by 6.30am. It was dry when we got up. Another hearty breakfast as we had 6 hours of driving to do before having a late lunch. We once again drove through underdeveloped villages; some houses had connected power but none seemed to have running water. There were a lot of banana and tea plantations as well as the usual maize, cassava and other temperate and tropical vegetables. Children were going to school at 7.00am.
We stopped in Kabale and did some shopping – snacks, local red wine & diet coke. One of our group’s couple Brie & Mark from Ireland had to visit the local doctor with severe abdominal, pain. They had a blood
test and within 20 mins knew the results – Ecoli. Strong antibiotics followed.
We arrived at our camp, the Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort which had a bar, dining area, pool table, a variety of accommodation. We pitched our tents (which now takes 3 minutes) and settled in for the evening. Every evening, the resort people build a camp fire which was excellent because the nights were cool. They sell gin by the 250ml bottle plus tonic for 14000 Ugandan shillings (
Ugandans are really friendly people. They speak Swahili and English. I thought the country was badly affected by all the civil strife (which is was through Amin et al) however, it is recovering very well. Many Tanzanians go to Uganda to be educated because it is a better standard. There are more brick homes, hotels and shops. It is still a developing country with a lot of poverty, but there are +ve signs. They want more tourists to come to their country and I would recommend it as the scenery is a little mountainous, with lakes. There isn’t much remnant vegetation left of the hills as it is all terraced with crops growing so the rural economy
is still based on subsistence farming.
We went to bed early with great anticipation because tomorrow was to be the highlight of our Ugandan section of our trip – the gorillas.
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