Nearly every visitor takes a boat safari on the Kazinga Channel where the hippos and crocodiles are stars, but buffaloes, elephants, lions, leopards and just about all other animals might be seen. Wildlife drives are best in this northern region, but the famous tree-climbing lions are only found in the distant Ishasha region. You’re more likely to see them here than any other place in Africa, though it’s far from guaranteed. In Kenya, some young lions playfully venture up into trees, you can also find them in Lake Manyala-Tanzania but it’s quite hard to find one. I have occasionally organise long safari trips extending to Tanzania but not been very successful with the tree climbing lions. Some visitors even think its gossip.
I have however repeatedly found them in the fig and acacia trees of Ishasha but cannot attest since I have sometimes stricken out on my quest to find them (of course with the visitors) in the company of UWA experts who seem to know every tree in the sector. But, the search is still rewarding since there were plenty of other game around including a lot of elephants. Be sure to go for a game drive with a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide. Ishasha sector of QENP is the best place to see tree climbing lions in Africa.
The mysterious tree climbing lions of Ishasha sector is found south of Queen Elizabeth National Park. –the beautiful Plains are little visited by tourists, this is off the beaten track, all this makes it all the more rewarding for a game-drive or two.
It is completely unknown why the lions of this area climb up into giant fig and acacia tree's to hang around. The lions of Ishasha have been climbing the trees for edges and have passed the adaptation down from generation to generation. Whether they are still climbing for the same reason as when they started, again no one knows, but they mostly do it during the rainy season, why not in the dry season when it’s hotter on the ground?
The males of these lions sport manes that are black, another unique feature. There are about 3 prides in this region of the park, so chances a quite high that you won’t see any of those with the manes. No one knows their accurate total number but we think they are about 45 total. – But why would they be more than this if we still need the rest of the game in the park anyway?
While you park under the tree, its stunning observing them as they periodically gaze down at you, then back out over the horizon. In the heat of the day, and with stomachs swollen full of food, they occasionally reposition themselves in the trees. It is truly an amazing sight to behold!
Ishasha is renowned for tree climbing lions but you will pleasantly be surprised that there is more to this area of Queen Elizabeth National Park than the lions. The topography in this area of the park is significantly different from the other areas of QENP. The landscape of Ishasha is made up of riverine forests and savannah grasslands and has a real feeling of remoteness.
Ishasha is home to the only Topi found in QENP as well as many other savannah animals including elephants, buffaloes, Kobs etc and lots of birds such as compact weaver, black coucal, and other water birds like herons and storks near the Lake Edward marshlands.
Note: Ishasha sector is so much more than arboreal cats but it takes time to explore. Good to visit if you are not in a hurry – it takes a day to explore and return to your lodging in QENP in the Mweya area, - meaning that you need 3 nights in QENP. It’s also a great spot to break the journey to the mountain gorilla tracking (trekking) Bwindi Park. You can take the three nights in Mweya area as that only gives two full days to explore there. Then on the drive to Bwindi make a decision on a trip but good if you are trekking gorillas in the Buhoma area as it’s just a few hours. If you choose to break the journey there are Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Ishasha Ntugwe Camp Savannah Resort Hotel and others out then continue to Bwindi the next morning.
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