The Kazinga Channel in Uganda is one of the most impressive features found in Queen Elizabeth National Park. This narrow waterway links the small Lake George and to the larger Lake Edward. The water in the channel is brought about by streams originating from the Rwenzori Mountains. These streams feed the smaller Lake George and after which flows though the Kazinga channel and to the much larger Lake Albert.
The Kazinga Channel is 32 km long and has a large concentration of birds, crocodiles and hippopotamus. Most of the major mammals in Queen Elizabeth National Park congregate on the shores of the channel to bathe, drink and feed making it a great place for animal viewing. The hippo population (1,600) in Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Kazinga Channel is one of the three largest in the world. Regardless of how many you have seen elsewhere, you will be deeply surprised by the sheer numbers here. Apart from hippos, Nile crocodiles, buffaloes, elephants, monitor lizards and many species of antelopes can easily be sighed near the shores of the Chanle. The Kazinga Channel attracts almost every kind of animal you would think about during an Africa safari. If one is lucky, they might even spot lions and leopards drinking by the channel.
The Kazinga Channel is one of the best birding spots in Uganda with over 58 species like the African Shoebill, African skimmers, Black bee-eaters, Black Crake, Crested Crane, Darters, Great and Long Tailed Cormorants, Great White and Pink-Backed Pelicans, Jacana, Marabou Stork, Open-Billed Stork, Pink-backed pelicans, Saddle Bill Stork and Yellow Billed Stork. The great variety of animals and birds found in the Kazinga Channel has made a boat cruise along the channel one of the top activities in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It has also helped Queen Elizabeth National Park become the most visited in Uganda.
Boat Cruise along the Kazinga Channel
A boat cruise along the Kazinga Channel is one of those great wildlife experience while on a safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park and allows tourist fully explore all the best things that the channel has to offer. Since 1952, the slow boat cruise has been organized for tourists to spot several large mammals that come to drink, feed and bathe around the shores. The Boat cruise cost $30 and is done in shifts between 9 am to 5 pm. Each cruise lasts for two hours and starts from a landing site near Mweya Safari Lodge. There are two boat options available for visitors – One can use the smaller but more expensive boat owned by Mweya Safari Lodge or the double-decker boat owned by the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The boat owned by Mweya Safari Lodge is more comfortable and suitable for those who wish to have a more private cruise.
One of the interesting things about the slow boat cruise apart from the animals is the opportunity to pass by the local fishing villages. In the late afternoon, the fishermen can be seen preparing their fishing gear as they get ready to head for the waters in the night. There are no fishermen in the waters in the early afternoon because of the dangerous hippos. However during the night, the hippos go to graze on land allowing fishermen to catch fish without fear.
The best time to visit the Kazinga Channel is during the dry season. During this time the channel becomes an oasis that gathers even more park ans domestic animals – all relying on the water to drink, cool off and feed. It is important to go for the boat cruise with a good camera to take good photos of the animals and water. The best time to take photos is in the late afternoon
How the boat trip to the Kazinga Channel is arranged
Tourists visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park need to sign up for the activities they wish to take part in at the park offices. The activities include game drives in the different part of the park, chimpanzee tracking in Kyambura Gorge or a launch cruise along the Kazinga Channel. One needs to select which shift they prefer before a seat is reserved. Most tourists book their safari using the services of a local Tour Operator. Using the services of a Tour company is convenient as they help arrange everything (accommodation, transportation) including booking the boat trip.
Before setting off to the water, visitors are led to the shores and allocated seats. Once everyone is on board, an announcement is made in which the captain, crew and guides are introduced to everyone. The guide is very important during the cruise as they help answer all questions related to the channel and the game park. They are able to give visitors all the facts about the park, birds and animals.
After the spotting all the animals during the two hour launch cruise, it is time to head back to the park headquarters and lodge. By this time everyone is so excited after spotting all the animals.