Best described as a medley of wonders, Queen Elizabeth National Park features as the second largest savanna grassland protected area after Murchison Falls National Park offering refuge to countless wildlife species, Lakes and Mountains. The 1978 square kilometers conservation area isn’t only famous for wildlife experiences but also for its cultural encounters that make Uganda safaris complete. Queen Elizabeth National Park features as a World bio sphere reserve with a RAMSAR wetland site and at times it is described as the pearl of Africa. This protected area is located along the Equator, western Uganda just at the base of the mighty Rift Valley between Lake George and Lake Edward and it is surrounded by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on the western part. The park is popular for its four of the big five game in Africa (Lions plus the rare tree climbing lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards) and many other wildlife species and over 620 distinct bird species. Besides unique wildlife experiences, Queen Elizabeth National Park also features the most thrilling cultural encounters from the adjacent communities and they are worth including in your travel plan. For cultural enthusiasts on Uganda safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park, consider the following cultural communities a must to include in your travel itinerary;
The Leopard village is a socio-economic development project and it is run by the community with aim of boosting both cultural and wildlife conservation through ecotourism. The project is situated next to Muhokya village and it straddles within a 3 acre land at the border to the northern area of Queen Elizabeth National Park. A visit to this village allows you to explore the unique traditional huts of the Banyabindi, Basongora and Bakonzo ethnic groups, be entertained by the most thrilling traditional songs and dance performances and also purchase some handicrafts that are made by adjacent local communities. For longer exploration, you will be able to interact with community members on challenges and opportunities they are encounter as one of the adjacent communities at Queen Elizabeth National Park. Besides, you will also pay a visit to local schools and discussions on traditional village life styles and solutions for human-wildlife conflict. The Leopard Village partners with the rest of the local communities in Muhokya, Kahendero and Hamukungu and the Uganda Carnivore program as well as the support of the zoos from the United States and Germany. All the fees and donations are directly transferred for community development, conservation and education programs and to the individual artists. Your visit to Leopard Village is one way that you can support conservation of the wildlife in the area and sustainable development in the local communities.
Kikorongo Women Community
Locally, the word Kikorongo denotes too much sunshine though the heat of the African plains hasn’t reduced the energy of the Kikorongo Equator cultural performers. You will enjoy the sound performances that are conducted at the lodges adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park and you will certainly be thrilled by the lifestyles of the Kikorongo, the dances, music performances, drama and fire making. You will also be amazed by the interpretations of most of the significance performances as you relax and watch the real rural life. You can visit Kikorongo’s African Art Craft Workshops to learn more on how to make baskets and bowls with natural fibers. The community members at this workshop will also demonstrate to you how to recycle magazines into colorful paper beads that can be turned into beautiful necklaces. You can even buy some of the locally made basket, bowls and many other items.
Nyanzibiri cave community
A visit to Nyanzibiri Cave Community allows you to stretch the legs a little bit after your exciting wildlife viewing experiences and scenic walks in and around the Uganda’s paradise at this community site. There are 2 conjoined crater Lakes for you to hike around, village walks, catch the most spectacular panoramic views of the Volcanic Crater Lakes and the sounds of the crested cranes and eagles or paddle the canoe, hike to the transparent Lake, sight the 8 (eight) primates species. There are also other local tourist attractions for you to explore some of which include historic caves and cultural museum, a well preserved Bunyaruguru hut that features valued local artifacts which were previously used for daily operation. The community also operates some lodging facilities as well as a restaurant and bar.
Katwe tourism information center (KATIC)
Lake Katwe features among the rarest Lakes in Uganda and it is very salty to accommodate wildlife species but it has accommodates the Katwe villagers ever since 16th century. A visit to this Lake offers you opportunity to explore more about the salt mining process in this community as away of generating income. Along the way, you will catch a glimpse at the different bird species at bird sanctuary Lake which include the flamingos that flock into the area around October and May. You will be welcomed to traditional homestead and have cooking demonstrations for the areas’ cuisines as well as visiting the nearby schools.
Agro tour walk
You will embark on a 2 to 3 hours’ trail that starts from the rural Katara village with hike via the farms of Kicwamba escarpments in the morning or evening. You will also catch a glimpse at the birds, exotic and medicinal plants and sites of cultural significance. Experienced tour guides will take you through this exploration and you can even tryout honey harvesting in the community.
In conclusion, Queen Elizabeth National Park isn’t only for wildlife viewing but a perfect destination for you to encounter incredible African cultural experiences of lifetime.