Article from the series: Frequently Asked Questions about Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo
The fourth episode of our weekly SEE AFRICA BREATHE AFRICA podcast is, as always, preoccupied with the questions you send us. In the first segment, Kahiri and Miha have many provocative, critical and inspiring things to say as a reply to the following:
It’s crazy how many African countries are insanely rich with natural resources and yet can’t live like, let’s say, Norway after they discovered oil back in the 1960s. Is it because their natural resources are in the hands of foreigners?
The question was emailed to us after the fourth episode discussing Africa’s Secret History, and it proved once again that my Gorilla Highlands Experts colleagues are serious thinkers. I hope such topics expand your understanding of our region and enrich your future visits! But we also want to be very practical, so we were more than excited to get a call from our brother in Germany — a man from a Rwandan family who grew up in Uganda — that can be summarised as:
How do I access the attractions of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park with my own car and make sure my German friends have a great experience on our trip?
I tried my best to give our caller Josh all the details and make him comfortable, but I wish to add some more advice on driving in Queen Elizabeth National Park. For more about the park, also see my description of different parts of Queen Elizabeth and enjoy the anecdotes that I shared earlier.
The Roads and Tracks of Queen Elizabeth National Park
Despite being a protected area, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a number of public roads running through it. You are free to drive on these roads, without paying any park entrance fees. For example, the recently renovated Mbarara – Kasese tarmac highway runs through the park. Access routes to the fishing villages all pass through the park. Moreover, the only Katunguru – Ishasha public road (70km/44mi) lies entirely within the national park. These roads are all regularly maintained by Uganda’s central government and are always motorable. But with the exception of the highway, they are made of murram, a clay like-material that is typical for our continent.
There are of course park access tracks (side roads) as well, made specifically for tourists to reach the park and its animals. You should never use them without first securing a park entry permit or you will be charged for illegal entry. These tracks are clearly marked and their routine maintenance is done by Uganda Wildlife Authority. It is advisable to use a 4×4 vehicle while driving through these tracks as some spots are slippery while others are waterlogged.
Rules to Obey While Driving in the Park
While driving through the park on any road, you have to be careful of your speed, for you may well encounter animals crossing at any time. This means the posted speed limits have to be adhered to religiously. On the highway this is 60-70 kmph (37-43 mph) while on the tracks the maximum recommended speed is 45 kmph (28 mph).
When you come across animals on the road, especially elephants, the driver is advised to stop at least 10 metres (33 feet) away, and wait until they leave. You should always keep the engine on to allow you to act fast in case they want to attack. Switching your vehicle off is only recommended when you come across a shy animal or when you see animals of interest, such as a leopard or a rare bird, and you don’t want to scare them away. And please be advised: driving off the track to get closer will be penalised with a USD 150 fine — imagine what would happen if everyone did it!
There is always a park entrance gate just after you get off the public road to the park track. This is where you can purchase a park entrance ticket as well as learn the dos and don’ts of the national park. It is only at these designated points that one can find bathrooms along the tracks.
Finally, please don’t hoot, allow passengers to exit the vehicle outside of designated stops, or litter anywhere.
Together we can keep our beautiful savannah safe and comfortable for both animals and us!
OTHER SHOW NOTES
All Gorilla Highlands Experts Articles about Queen Elizabeth National Park
Marcus Westberg’s article on what makes our region special
New Year’s Eve program at Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
New Year’s Eve program at Lake Burera, Rwanda
photos by Marcus Westberg