From lake Bunyonyi we continued North towards Queen Elizabeth National Park, the most popular national park in Uganda thanks to it’s countless animals including elephants, hippos and lions.
The drive there was quite long but extremely scenic, even when it rained, it was great to experience, the rain drops were huge, flickering from rain to hail several times, pummelling the car as we drove.
We stopped along the way at around lunch time in a tiny village that was only about 20 houses big. We stopped because we clearly spotted a guy with a small roti shop at the side of the road. We got 4 rotis, 2 each, and 2 drinks from the shop opposite. The locals were fascinated by us and sat with us as we tried our hardest to communicate and chat with them. The meal cost us less than 50p in total.
After a good few hours we finally made it to Kichwamba on the edge of the national park. Our guest house was here, but we weren’t sure exactly as it wasn’t on google so we ended up almost entering the park before eventually finding it.
After the homestay in Bunyonyi, our accommodation here, Parkview Safari Lodge, felt like utter luxury. After a nice welcome drink and introduction, we were shown to our stilted rondavel with views out over the national park and savannah. It was stunning and we loved staying here. We spent the rest of the late afternoon watching elephants from our balcony through the binoculars. There were also lots of mongeese playing under the cottage, as well as some large antelopes we thought were waterbucks.
We woke early the next day with the aim of getting into the park before sunrise. We hoped this would give us the best chance to encounter animals, mainly the lions which are best spotted at dawn. We packed the car with lots of water and snacks, sun cream and some tsetse fly bug spray I bought online. It seemed to work well as we got quite a few tsetse flies coming into the car, but they would abruptly leave and neither of us got bitten.
We entered the park before 6:30 and bought our tickets. We were told at the gate that the Kasenyi route was the best place to spot lions. It was so easy to find, the map had colour coded trails and the signs were easy to read. What’s more, most of the trails were even on google maps! We were glad we didn’t pay for a guide and were by ourselves with our own flexibility.
We set off on the Kasenyi trail. We saw lots of Thompson gazelles, warthogs, various birds, waterbucks, even elephants and plenty of hippos. But no matter how hard we tried, no lions. We pulled over almost every other safari van we saw and asked about their luck. Nobody we met that day saw the lions 😦 It was just bad luck. We were a bit gutted to be honest…
A little defeated, we headed over to the Mweya region to eat at Tembo canteen. The Ugandan food was actually really delicious. Curries, rice, matoke, either fried or mashed, roti… Our kind of thing really. There were marabou storks at the canteen and they came really close to us. Oh my, are they ugly! There were also little yellow birds making handing nests, I think they were weaver birds. They were a lot cuter!
After lunch we decided for a change of scenery and to ditch the car for a boat trip. At the entrance gate, we asked about the boat ride along the Kazinga channel, she said that the 3pm boat was the best for seeing animals, so we bought our ticket from the information office at Mweya and were first on the boat at the dock. The boat was great, we saw loads more hippos, buffalos and elephants, and tonnes more birds. The slow pace of the boat was calming as well and the breeze was a nice relief from the sun.
Ah we headed back out of the park, we went via loads more trails, including the river train and Leopard pass. Unfortunately, we spotted no leopards. The weather was starting to turn, so we got back to our hotel just before dark and rains came. Not before seeing our pals again!
The hotel had reserved us a table in the restaurant, but during check-in when it asked for our tour company I put N/A. So guess what we were reserved as?
Queen Elizabeth National Park was beautiful, and we loved the self drive safari. We were disappointed we didn’t see lions or leopards, but the amount of wild animals we saw was incredible. We were so close to staying another night in our stilted cottage. To try and see the lions the following day. But we made the decision to keep moving. Next stop, Lake Mburo National Park!