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Geography of Queen Elizabeth National Park/Geographic Features

The Geography of Queen Elizabeth National Park/Geography covers a wide scope of Geographic aspects. This is because the current physical portrait of the park says a lot about both its historical and present geography.

Queen Elizabeth National Park’s altitude ranges from 910 m to 1350 m and it is at the equator in the Albertine Rift Valley.

This park is part and parcel of a broad transboundary ecosystem of grassland-forest-wetland. This system consists of Kibale National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The system also includes the rest of the reserves in the Queen Elizabeth Protected Area which are Kigezi Wildlife Reserve and Kyambura Wildlife Reserve. These protected areas engirdle Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Queen Elizabeth National Park covers an area of 1,978 km2 encompassing Lake George in the North East of the park to Lake Edward in the South West. The western boundary of Queen Elizabeth National Park is a continuation of Virunga National Park.

This park has various landforms like the Kyambura Gorge, volcanic craters, different plants, and water bodies. The park is also a great biodiversity point that supports high numbers of animals and plants.

Being a Man and Biosphere Reserve, Queen Elizabeth National Park holds human settlements in its vicinity since time immemorial. These have contributed both positively and negatively toward the park.

The geography of Queen Elizabeth National Park includes its

  1. Location
  2. Geology and soil
  3. Landforms or physical features
  4. Biodiversity
  5. Altitude
  6. Weather
  7. Climate
  8. Population and its impact

Let us dive into the wondrous geography of Queen Elizabeth National Park    

Location Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park sits in Western Uganda in Kasese District. However, the other districts that stretch around the park are Bushenyi, Kamwenge, and Rukungiri Districts.

The park is in the South West of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and reaching there will take about 400km by road.

Queen Elizabeth National park lies along the geographic coordinates, 00°08′14″S 30°02′28″E and on GPS coordinates Latitude: -0.2000 Longitude: 30.0000.

Geology And Soils In Queen Elizabeth National Park

The current soil formation in Queen Elizabeth National Park proves that in the Pleistocene period, great volcanic and tectonic activity affected the park. This also led to the formation of the Albertine Rift Valley.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, therefore, lies on the floor of the Albertine Rift and its present geological shape was formed about 3 million years ago. This happened when the elevation of the Rwenzori Mountains divided the Paleo-lake Obweruka which was then as big as the present-day Lake Tanganyika.

Paleo-lake Obweruka

Now, the Paleo-lake Obweruka is divided into Lake Albert, Lake George, and Lake Edward.

Today, most Ugandan shores of Lake Edward, the Northern and Western shores of Lake George, and the Kazinga Channel all lie inside Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Even though Lake George and Lake Edward have a similar origin and even close surface altitudes of about 913m above sea level, they are a bit characteristically different.

Lake George is a roughly circular lake of 250 square kilometers and less than 3.5m deep. This lake extends to Lake Edward through the 32km Kazinga Channel, and it is surrounded by wide-ranging marshes.

Lake Edward on the other hand covers about 2000 square kilometers and is about 120m deep. It is the smallest of the four major freshwater bodies that curve from the Albertine Rift floor base. The lake is also portioned between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lake George and Lake Edward areas went through immense tectonic activity over 500,000 ago as witnessed by over 35 crater lakes in the region and many other dry calderas that are about 20km within the Kazinga Channel region. The most famous of these crater lakes is the Katwe Crater Lake which is well known for salt mining.

However, it is believed that the major volcanic activity occurred between 8,000-10,000 years ago. It consequently stripped the flora and fauna in the area as proved by the current archeological remains.

How The Violent Tectonic Activities In Queen Elizabeth National Park Affected Its Soils

Consequently, the soil in Queen Elizabeth National Park is volcanic and research shows that it contains volcanic ash.

This has hence made the park soils very fertile, thus supporting agriculture outside the park boundaries.

Land Forms/Physical Features In Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park has a varied range of landforms that support the biodiversity and the local community in it.

The park has,

  1. Volcanic Features
  2. Kyambura Gorge
  3. Water Bodies (Lakes, Rivers, and Swamps)
  4. Grassland Plains
  5. Savannah Woodlands
  6. Tropical Forest

Volcanic Features

The volcanic features in Queen Elizabeth National Park consist of volcanic cones and deep craters. The most famous of these craters is Lake Katwe which has supported salt mining for hundreds of years.

These natural explosion craters were created when lava from molten rocks blew off the surface of extinct volcanos with great pressure.

Volcanic features in Queen Elizabeth National Park include;

  • Katwe Crater Lake
  • Lake Munyanyange
  • Lake Bunyampaka
  • Bunyaruguru Crater Lakes
  • Nyamunuka Crater
  • Kyemengo Crater
  • Kikorongo Crater Lake
  • Lake Mahiga
  • Kitagata Crater

The sector with volcanic features in Queen Elizabeth National Park is the Katwe-Kikorongo Area.

Some other craters can also be seen in Kyambura and the Northern part of Maramagambo Forest.

Kyambura Gorge

Kyambura Gorge is a landform in Queen Elizabeth National Park that was created through faulting. Faulting occurred when the rift valley was formed during the volcanic era, hence creating the gorge.

Kyambura Gorge passes through the savannah landscape and the Kyambura River flows inside it. The sedimentary rock steeps of the gorge rise to 100 meters high from the river level.

The Bunyaruguru cliff near the gorge was also formed through the rift valley formation. It provides beautiful scenery while you slope inside Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Inside Kyambura Gorge is a riparian forest where an isolated Chimpanzee family of 23 lives with other primates like Monkeys and Baboons.

Water Bodies (Lakes, Rivers, And Swamps)

Queen Elizabeth National Park has several wetland systems with the lakes and rivers being the most notable ones.

Lake George, for instance, is Uganda’s first Ramsar site which was established in 1988. It is also an Important Birding Area that supports various water birds in both in its fresh waters and the surrounding marshes.

Lake Edward is also another physical feature in the park that supports many animals like the Hippos.

The marshy parts of Lake Edward and Lake George are home to the endangered Shoebill and other wading birds.

Kazinga Channel is the 32km river that connects Lake George to Lake Edward. It is the most famous spot for boat cruises in the park and it supports a wide range of animals like Hippos and Elephants.

River Ntugwe in Ishasha, Kyambura River, and various swamps are also some of the water bodies in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Grassland Plains

This feature is common in the Kasenyi sector which is mostly a savannah grassland plain. However, there are also a few cactus plants spread throughout the plains.

The plains support a wide range of animal life like Antelopes, Elephants, Buffaloes, and Lions.

Savannah Woodland

The Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park has various savannah woodland tree species like cactus trees, big fig trees, and acacia trees among others

Tropical Forest

The main region with tropical rainforests in Queen Elizabeth National Park is the Maramagambo Forest.

The Kyambura Gorge also has tropical rainforests in its vicinity. These forests are home to various primates like Chimpanzees, Monkeys, and Olive Baboons. Altitude Of Queen Elizabeth National Park-h2

The altitude of Queen Elizabeth National Park ranges between 910m and 1,350m above sea level.

The highest altitude is at the Katwe explosion craters region which stands at 1,350m above sea level. On the other hand, the lowest point of the park sits at Lake Edward, 910m above sea level.

Biodiversity In Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park has the highest biodiversity level among all the national parks in Uganda. This is a core reason why it attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Because of the broad biodiversity of the park, Queen Elizabeth National Park has gained a reputation for being,

  1. Important Birding Area(IBA)
  2. Important Archeological Site. This is because human bones that are believed to have existed 8000 to 10,000 years ago were found in Lake Kikorongo.
  3. Man and Biosphere Reserve.
  4. Having Lake George as a Ramsar site.

Major biodiversities in this park are the vegetation and the animals.

The vegetation in Queen Elizabeth National Park comprises of majorly two types. These are the Central African rainforests and the East African grassland. This results from the strategic location of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The park rests in a place where the Central African rainforests meet with the grasslands of East Africa since its western border continues to Congo.

This has hence created favorable habitats for numerous animals. The variety of the habitats thus comprises of

  • Open grasslands
  • Grasslands with thickets
  • Thick bushes
  • Forests
  • Wetlands

These habitats rest on the scenic dramatic volcanic beauty of the Albertine Rift.

Animals are also a great biodiversity in Queen Elizabeth National Park. As a matter of fact, a survey records that in the 1960s, the savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Virunga landscape had the highest biomass of large mammals ever documented on earth. These were primarily Hippos, Elephants, and Buffaloes.

In the 1960s, there were over 30,000 Hippos supported by Lake George and Lake Edward. In this period, management even used the culling method to protect the vegetation in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

However, this reality changed over time for various reasons. One of them was the Uganda-Tanzania war of the late 1970s to the early 1980s which severely reduced the number of animals. The war caused lawlessness in the country and poaching became a norm.

Also, the Rinderpest epidemic of 2003, killed about 10% of the Hippo population.

Despite all these shortcomings, the animal population recovered and it is still currently increasing tremendously.

Some of the animals whose populations recovered over the years are Hippos, African Elephants, Buffaloes, Lions, Leopards, and Chimpanzees. Based on the last census by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, below are some of the current estimated figures for some animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

  • Hippos-5000
  • African Elephants-2500
  • Buffaloes-1700
  • Lions 76
  • There are over 600 bird species.

The Flora (Plant Life Or Vegetation) In Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park has about 1400-1500 diverse plant species. This rich vegetation is because of the various habitats like the

  1. Grassland
  2. Woodland
  3. Bushland
  4. Swamps
  5. Savannah thicket
  6. Wet and dry forest

Some of the plant species at Queen Elizabeth National Park include;

  1. Capparis tomentosa
  2. Dichrostachys cinerea
  3. Vossia cuspidate
  4. Aeschynomene
  5. Celtis Durandii
  6. Xymalos Monospora
  7. Markhamia Platycalyx
  8. Funtumia Africana
  9. Strombosia Scheffleri
  10. Craterispermum Laurinum
  11. Dtypetes Spp
  12. Cassipourea Spp
  13. Oxyanthus Speciosus
  14. Beischmiedia Ugandensis
  15. Rinorea Ilicifolia
  16. Parinari Excelsa
  17. Carapa Grandiflora
  18. Pleiocarpa Pycnantha
  19. Chionantthus Mildbraedii
  20. Diospyros Spp
  21. Trichoscypha Submontana
  22. Macaranga Schweinfurthii
  23. Syzygium Spp
  24. Pseudospondias Microcarpa Sp
  25. Erythrococca Trichogyne
  26. Trichilia Volkensii
  27. Teclea Nobilis
  28. Dictyandra Arborescnes
  29. Tabernaemontana Odoratissima
  30. Trichilia Rubescens
  31. Sapium Ellipticum
  32. Trema Orientalis
  33. Ficus Spp
  34. Uvariopsis Congensis
  35. Musanga Leo-Errerae
  36. Myrianthus Holstii

The Fauna (Animal Life) In Queen Elizabeth National Park

There are over 96 mammal species in Queen Elizabeth National Park and they consist of large and small mammal species.

The most notable mammals in the park include

  • Elephants
  • Hippos
  • Cape Buffaloes
  • Waterbucks
  • Uganda Kob
  • Warthogs
  • Topi
  • Giant Forest Hogs
  • Lions
  • Leopards
  • Chimpanzees
  • Olive Baboons
  • Black and White Colobus Monkeys
  • Red-Tailed Monkeys
  • Bats

However, the park also has reptiles like the Nile Crocodiles and various amphibians too.

Major Wildlife In The Different Sectors Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Kasenyi Area

This region harbors the highest number of animals in Queen Elizabeth National and is the major destination for safari game drives.

There are thousands of Antelopes, three Lion prides, and herds of Buffaloes.

The Ishasha sector

This sector is famous for the rare tree-climbing Lions, but there are also other animals.

Kyambura Gorge

The gorge is majorly home to the only habituated Chimpanzee family in Queen Elizabeth National Park which is the Kyambura Gorge Chimpanzee Community.

Maramagambo Forest

This forest in the South East of the park is a sure place to see the different Monkey species.

The Katwe-Kikorongo Area

Flocks of both the Lesser Flamingos and the Greater Flamingoes are the major sight in the Katwe-Kikorongo area. This is especially in Lake Munyanyange.

Mweya Peninsular

This region is famous for Mongooses, but various animals roam this region, including large mammals.

Weather Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

The weather in Queen Elizabeth National Park is generally warm. The day temperatures normally increase to over 29°C/84°F and at night, they drop to about 17°C/63°F.

Characteristics Of The Weather In Queen Elizabeth National Park

  • The weather in Queen Elizabeth National Park is normally hot during the day and cold at night and early mornings to around 9:00 am.
  • This park mostly experiences sunshine during the day, especially during the dry season. However, it will rain on some days of these sunny days, even though it is in the dry season.
  • The highest humidity in Queen Elizabeth National Park is in May which is 85% and the lowest in January which is 63%.

Climate Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

The climate in Queen Elizabeth National Park varies according to the landscape. That is, the savannahs to the Northern and Southern parts of Lake Edward are the driest. In this area, rainfall drops to about 30-40 mm.

The months of March, April, May, and August to November are wet in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

On the other hand, the dry months in the park are January and February and June and July.

Characteristics Of The Climate In Queen Elizabeth National Park

  • Throughout the year, the temperatures in Queen Elizabeth National Park remain constant that is about 29°C/84°F during the day and around 17°C/63°F at night.
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park has two dry seasons and likewise two wet seasons in a year. The dry seasons are from January to February and June to July while the wet seasons are from March to May and August to December.
  • However, the park does not have a definite dry season as it rains throughout the year. However, the dry season has little amount of rain with the level being in July.

Population Geography In Queen Elizabeth National Park

For thousands of years, people have been living inside Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Archeological evidence shows that men lived in the area even since pre-history. In historic times, Lake Katwe was the major source of wealth and power for whoever had a portion of it. Then, the price of salt was like that of gold!

About 100 years ago, Queen Elizabeth National Park was so densely populated and the main people that lived inside it were pastoralists and fishermen.

The pastoralists kept large herds of cattle and they took advantage of the plenteous Euphorbia Candelabrum to make fences for cattle demarcations.

However, the outbreak of Small Pox, Rinderpest, and Sleeping Sickness affected many people and some migrated as a result.

Major tribes around Queen Elizabeth National Park are the Bakonjo and the Basongora.

Currently, there are 11 fishing villages in the park and they are called “fishing villages” to maintain the original occupation of the locals. This is so that they can freely access the lakes for fishing.

The 11 fishing villages in Queen Elizabeth National Park include;

  1. Kazinga
  2. Katunguru in Kasese
  3. Katunguru in Bushenyi
  4. Kasenyi
  5. Katwe-Kabatoro
  6. Kisenyi
  7. Rwenshama
  8. Kashaka
  9. Kahendero
  10. Kayanja
  11. Hamukungu

Apart from Kazinga and Katunguru in Kasese, all the above fishing villages are public with the status of wildlife sanctuaries.

The number of people living in these villages was estimated to be 45,000 in 2011 and fishing and salt mining are their main sources of income. The population around the park instead depends greatly on agriculture.

The presence of human settlements definitely affects the biodiversity in the park. For example, when people get wood for making handicrafts, cooking, and smoking fish, it affects the vegetation.

However, some locals have also helped in the conservation of the biodiversity in the park.

Impact Of The People On The Geography Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

There have been both positive and negative impacts of the people on the biodiversity of the park.

Positive Impacts Of Human Settlements To The Geography Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

  • Improvement of infrastructure

There are different lodges that the locals have constructed to promote tourism in the park, especially budget safaris.

Also, some roads have in overtime been constructed to make transport easier, for example, the construction of the Katunguru Bridge.

  • Promoting cultural and community tours

When visitors come to the park, some venture into visiting different communities and this promotes tourism in the park.

  • Involving the locals in conservation programs

Conservationists always sensitize and try to involve the local community in taking part in conserving the wildlife of Queen Elizabeth National Park. In this way, they can also give a hand in preserving biodiversity.

 Negative Impacts Of Human Settlements To The Geography Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Some of the negative impacts of the human settlements on the park are

  1. Poaching
  2. Encroachment in parkland
  3. Deforestation

Some of the negative impacts of the people on the park are due to;

  1. The cost of conservation to the local community; some locals find that conserving wildlife is a hard price to pay since the animals later destroy their crops and property and put their lives at risk.
  2. Competing for land use and boundaries; this is because the locals look for land for cultivation and pastoralism.

Also, the Basongora who were former residents and owners of the land have over the years been trying to get back their ancestral land.

What Are Conservationists Doing To Curb The Negative Impacts?

Sensitizing locals; the best thing that conservation authorities are doing is sensitize the locals on the importance of sustaining the wildlife of Queen Elizabeth National Park. This is through different clubs, cultural groups, and communities.

Implementing the law; conservationists have also considered following the law to reprimand those who poach.

Demarcating land; The fishing villages are demarcated to help them know the borders that belong to them and to those that belong to the park.

Queen Elizabeth National Park’s Geography is a major element of what makes it the beautiful park that it is. Geography is the reason thousands of tourists flock to the park every year. Get to experience the wonderful scenery of this park by booking your safari today!

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