Queen Elizabeth and Isasha sector game drive safari
August 22-23, 2010
A Game drive safari in Uganda would not be complete without a tour to Queen Elizabeth National Park and its Ishasha sector. This park, in western Uganda, is dominated by a drier savannah featuring small hills, ancient volcanic craters containing salt lakes, majestic Euphorbia trees and many animals. Unfortunately, we found several area of the park damaged by fire and, due to the uncommon hot and dry days, we don't see any lion.
The best time of day for game drives in Africa is early in the morning or late in the evening, when the animals are more active due to the cooler temperature. Normally, there are less animals during the hottest hours, as they search for shadow. So, we start our Queen Elizabeth game drive just after the sunrise.
In Queen Elizabeth national park there are several craters coming from ancient extinct volcanoes and filled with mineral lakes (normally salt or sulphur).The footprints inside the crater are left by animals, typically buffaloes and elephants, coming here when they are injured. Apparently, they have learned that the mineral salts contained in the crater are curative.
The coolest hours of the day, without the sun, are also ideal to see the hippos out of the water because, as their skin is very sensitive, they spend most of the time in the water.
Queen Elizabeth pictures. Due to an unusually dry and hot season in Uganda, this year there are less animals than normal in Queen Elizabeth national park and Isasha sector, but we have found most of the animals concentrated along the Kazinga channel, searching for fresh air and water. However, we still see many antelopes and several buffaloes, but no lions or elephants.
Wide areas of Queen Elizabeth national park are damaged by fire. It seems that the fires are started and controlled by humans, in order to burn the dry grass and create new fertile soil for fresher grass as soon as the rains will arrive.
I've noticed that this technique is used very frequently in developing countries, but, as an agricultural engineer, I personally don't approve this practice. Beside the fact that inside a national park, populated by wild creatures and designed as such, the humans should leave only to the nature the power to do the things, burning the grass will have very negative effect on the long term.
While it's true that a fire could make mineral salts readily available for new vegetation and may also stimulate some seeds to sprout, on the long term it will damage the soil, altering its capacity to either hold and drain the water, slowing transforming it into a desert. Instead, letting the dry grass to decompose naturally, will enrich the soil's structure, making it more fertile and less sensitive to either unusual rain downpours or unusually long dry seasons.
Fires in Queen Elizabeth national park, Uganda.
A nice Kobus kob
, one of Uganda's national animal.
Due to the hot and dry weather we don't see many animals during our safari in Queen Elizabeth, but the landscape, dominated by thousands of giant Euphorbia trees ( Euphorbia candelabrum
), is spectacular and worth the trip by itself.
We see a small group of waterbucks ( Kobus ellipsiprymnus
We reach another crater where there are salt mines inside.
Again, we see thousands of giant Euphorbia trees all around.
Queen Elizabeth national park, like any other national park in Uganda, is an excellent destination for birders. Here we see a long crested eagle ( Lophaetus occipitalis
) and other small colorful birds.
The elephants are concentrated where there is some water and fresh grass.
Ishasha pictures. We do a game drive into Ishasha national park (actually, a sector of Queen Elizabeth) searching for the famous tree-climbing lions, but we cannot see any feline again, due to the unusually hot and dry weather. We see few wildlife as well, with just some monkey, waterbuck and elephants.
During the safari to Queen Elizabeth and Ishasha, we stay at Hippo Hill camp, a fixed tented camp, simple but comfortable and having excellent food.
The Hippo Hill Camp in Queen Elizabeth national park.