The review below is the personal opinion of Terrill and not that of SafariBookings.
Elephants and hippos galore!
Recently we went to Queen Elizabeth (QE) for the second time in eight years. It's one of Uganda's classic parks and a staple of wildlife tourism. Although my experience of the park is highly suggestive, I can give a perspective. I've been to Murchison, Mburo, and Kidepo several times, and each park has its strengths and weaknesses.
We approached QE from the south where you get a breathtaking view of the park from atop the escarpment. From there on, though, the road deteriorates severely. The tarmac main road through the park toward Kasese is liked a bombed-out runway, really disappointing for Uganda in general. My thought was that those responsible should be ashamed at how they've let the place go downhill. Another example of that is the tourist center inside the park. It's old. It's outdated. It's kind of pitiful. It looks like the park authorities haven't invested a dime in the place since it was built decades ago. Meanwhile they have made millions of dollars off it. That doesn't bode well for the management of the park. This makes me really sad. President Museveni boasts about making Uganda the 'Switzerland of Africa' but his government can't manage to maintain one of its greatest natural resources.
We did one game drive, in the morning. When we got to the gate, there was no one there. I honked, yelled, and looked around to no avail. So we opened the gate ourselves and started our game drive (we later paid at the tourist center but could have easily done our drive and left without paying!). In terms of animals, we didn't see much variety: hippos, elephants, warthogs, and waterbuck. That was about it in the wooded area that we were in. But we did see some cool things like three hippos running across the road in broad daylight, and later a hippo soaking in a mudhole, also in broad daylight. Almost every loop we turned down, we came across elephants. It seemed like they were everywhere. This made me a little jittery as I've been charged a few too many times.
Mid-morning we went to Mweya peninsula where we paid our dues and took tea at Mweya Lodge, which by all appearances is a very lovely place (too bad we can't afford it!). Even as someone who just goes in and out of amateur birdmanship, I could tell that the place was teeming with bird diversity.
Our lodging was the The Bush Lodge, a very pleasant luxury tented camp on the south side of Kazinga Channel. We were pleased with almost every aspect of the place. Lots of birds around. We saw a giant forest hog among the tents on the first evening and heard hippos around the clock. The food and accommodations were very much worth what we paid. One downside was that the local town was just up the channel, and its sound carried down to the camp for much of the day and night. So our experience of hippos and hyenas was mixed with discos, Muslim calls-to-prayer, and the incessant noise of heavy trucks crossing the bridge.
Later in the day we took a boat ride from The Bush Lodge, using local boatsmen instead of the companies. I really like injecting money in their pockets instead of the wealthy tour companies. The flipside is that the boat itself was a bit of a clunker, emitting noxious fumes for two hours that gave me a terrific headache! But our guide was knowledgeable without being annoying, and even the driver was a pleasant chap who also knew his birds. We saw hippos and hippos and more hippos, around every bend in the river. We also saw buffalo, elephant, bushbuck, warthogs, and several dozens species of birds.
So all in all it was a mixed-bag type of safari. Some animals we saw lots of, others none. The park has no zebra or giraffe, which is kind of a bummer. Lions were around but we didn't see them, nor leopards (much to my chagrin as the leopard is my 'holy grail' of wildlife). It was disappointing to see how neglected the park seems to be, from the condition of the main road to that of the park facilities to the fact that no ranger could be found at a main gate. It's like they are taking the park and what is provides for granted. That cannot be sustainable. Still,it's a lovely place, and any time one gets the chance to see those great animals and the teeming birdlife in the wild, it's a privilege and one I'd never want to complain about (apart from minor human-related quibbles).