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In our previous article, we exclusively explained a tourism package in Uganda called Gorilla Habituation Experience in Bwindi and Chimpanzee Habituation in Kibale National Park. In this article, we shall talk about another tourism package in Uganda called experiential tourism, also known as research tourism, available in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Experiential tourism is a unique experience that allows visitors to actively participate in monitoring some of the mammals that fill the park and exotic birds using some of the complex scientific locator devices. Participants/tourist will be in position to learn from the researchers the habituation calls, group dynamics, composition, behaviors and monitoring weather that will be added to the researchers’ and the park databases. This information collected contribute to a valuable information to the overall understanding of wildlife ecology that facilitates conservation of Queen Elizabeth National Park.
As of November 2016, the experiential tourism activities available are Lion Tracking, Mongoose Tracking, Hippo Census (seasonal), and Bird Counts.
The Banded Mongoose Project is based on and around Mweya Peninsula, in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, western Uganda. The Mweya Peninsula supports a population of over 400 banded mongooses living in twelve social groups. The banded Mongoose Research Project is run by the universities of Cambridge, Exeter and Zürich. The banded mongoose are small mammals with gigantic appetites and complex social and communication systems which fascinate wildlife researchers. These mongooses were featured on the BBC documentary series Banded Brothers. Working in groups of up to four people, participants will have the opportunity to accompany the researchers through areas of the park normally off-limits to tourists, and record the behavior of these highly social creatures. Additionally, they will learn to identify individuals, register their weight, record weather, surroundings and location, and monitor the mongooses’ behavior. As well as enjoying a thrilling experience, visitors can also make a valuable contribution to a longstanding research project, as the data collected will be used by the researchers at the Banded Mongoose Research Project. This supports the ongoing research and conservation at Mweya. Sessions last between 1-3 hours and tracking is possible at 7am or 5pm, however, morning sessions tend to be more active and are more likely to last longer.
Lion experiential tourism is one of Uganda’s most thrilling experiences. You can take part in Lion Tracking Research Experience in the morning or late afternoon. The tracking times last between one to three hours and are done twice a day. Usually, the pride of lions to be tracked have a lion with a radio collar attached, and through a complex designed radio antennae, you are 100% sure of seeing the lions. You will be with researchers and learn the habits of the Lions in Queen Elizabeth Park. Lions move in groups of 3- 25 individuals in a pride. During the tracking, the number of lions being tracked can grow without warning when an individual or multiple lions join the initial group. It is therefore important to keep note of the number of lions being tracked. During this great experience, take note of nocturnal vocalizations (roars) and their intensity, including hyena calls and any distress calls from prey. Researchers will tell you various tricks used in tracking lions. For instance, they will tell you that when lions move through tall grass, they create a very slight trail of bent grass. Additionally, lions will scent mark their territory by scraping the ground with their hind feet, creating shallow parallel scrapes of bare soil measuring approximately 12cm in width and 20cm in length. Drying, sticky urine sprayed on a prominent bush is also a common sign left by lions. They will also rub their heads in bushes, leaving inconspicuous blonde hairs behind. This experience tracking is limited to just a few visitors and one must be booked ahead of time in order to participate in this unique lion tracking experience. Since Queen Elizabeth National Park is the only Park in Uganda where the Lion Tracking wildlife research is offered, you must incorporate Queen Elizabeth Park into your Itinerary if you want to enjoy the Lion Tracking Research Experience. We can join the Lion Tracking Research Experience into any of our safaris that take in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Please note that the number of people on each experiential tourism activity is limited so as to reduce stress on the animals and to increase the quality of the experience for visitors. The activity lasts between one and four hours depending on a number of factors. They usually take place in the early morning or evening, or occasionally at night. All activities must be booked through the Visitor Information Centre in Mweya at least 24 hours in advance.
Visitors for experiential tourism get additional bonus in the park by viewing several other wildlife species as Queen Elizabeth National Park is understandably Uganda’s most popular tourist destination. With the diverse ecosystems of the park that include sprawling savanna, shady, humid forests, sparkling lakes and fertile wetlands, all these set against the backdrop of the jagged Rwenzori Mountains.
In our next articles, we shall tell you more about Hippo Census and Bird Counts in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
If you like to include the experiential tourism at Queen Elizabeth Park – please let us know and we will include when writing up your itinerary. Once again, if you need more information, please contact us!!!