Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is a 764 mi² (1,978 km²) protected area in western Uganda. It is the countries most popular national park. Queen Elizabeth NP is incredibly diverse and is home to over 95 animal species, more than any other park in Uganda. The park is also a popular destination for birders, with a species list of 612 birds, which is the largest of any protected area in East Africa. The park lies on the floor of Africa's Western Rift Valley and stretches from the base of the towering Rwenzori Mountains in the north, to the Ishasha River in the south and is bordered on the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo. Queen Elizabeth National Park straddles the equator line. The park was founded in 1952 as the Kazinga National Park and was renamed in 1954 after a visit by Queen Elizabeth II. The park is incredibly scenic and boasts numerous volcanic craters. Queen Elizabeth NP is truly special and has a lot to offer visitors.
Kasenyi lies east of the Kasese highway and is the most popular area to search for big cats in the early morning and late afternoon. Kasenyi is open savannah grassland and is the stereotypical African landscape. Large herds of Ugandan Kob graze in Kasenyi and attract predators that feed on them including lion and leopard.
Kasenyi is where our balloon flights take place. Lift off just before sunrise and drift over the Euphorbia trees and thickets in search of lion, leopard, elephant, kob and other antelope while having panoramic views of Lake George and the Rwenzori Mountains. This is a whole new approach to early mornings on safari.
Getting to Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth can be reached by either road or air.
By road, there are two ways to reach Queen Elizabeth NP from Kampala. You can expect the journey to take 5 to 6 hours regardless of which route you choose and both options are via a tarmac highway. The northern route and often considered the more scenic one via Fort Portal and Kasese is 410 km. The more southern route through Mbarara is 420 km long and passes along the edge of Lake Mburo NP which is a potential stopover en route to Queen Elizabeth NP.
By air, flights can be chartered to any of the three airstrips in the area, Kasese, Mweya or Ishasha.
Your ballooning adventure begins early in the morning when you leave your camp or lodge to get to the meeting point at the Kasenyi gate of Queen Elizabeth NP for 5:30am. This early drive in the dark is a chance to see nocturnal animals that live in and around the park. On arrival to the Kasenyi gate, you will follow the ground crew to the site that has been chosen for lift off. The specific location changes daily based on current wind and weather conditions.
When you arrive at the take off point, you will meet your pilot and be given a safety briefing and instructions for boarding the balloon as well as landing procedures. As the ground crew unpack the balloon, passengers can sip on a steaming cup of coffee or tea and watch the cold inflation of the balloon. This is done using two large petrol powered fans that fill the balloon with cold air.
Once the balloon is mostly inflated but still lying on its side, the ground, the crew will invite you inside the balloon. It is overwhelming how large it is. The 16 passenger balloon has a capacity of 300,000 cubic feet. Inside, you will learn about the ropes that are used by the pilot to control the balloon during flight. When the balloon is mostly inflated with cold air, the pilot enters the basket while it is still lying its side and begins to further inflate the balloon with hot air. With the addition of the hot air, the balloon slowly begins to rise in the air and uprights itself. When the balloon is completely vertical, it is time for passengers to climb into the basket and prepare for lift off.
For approximately an hour, you will float over the savannah of Queen Elizabeth NP. The pilot will fly at varying altitudes during your flight to give you different perspectives, taking advantage of the wind currents at the varying altitudes. No two flights are the same ensuring that your experience is truly unique. The flight gives passengers great photo opportunities that are different from an ordinary safari on the ground. As you gently drift over the park, you can watch the sun rise as savannah below come to life with birds and animals.
After landing, in keeping with an old ballooning tradition, the pilot and passengers celebrate the flight with a glass of sparkling wine. After the toast, passengers sit down to a delectable bush breakfast prepared by Mweya Safari Lodge. The bush breakfast makes for a memorable ending to your ballooning adventure in Queen Elizabeth NP.
Rates & Information
Flights are $380 USD per person inclusive of VAT and tax.
We offer flights daily departing from the Kasenyi gate at 5:30am.
Flights are approximately one hour in length and include a bush breakfast after landing.
Flights must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
We accept payment in either US Dollars or Euros to our bank account in Uganda. Please note that all bank charges are at the expense of the client.
We accept payment by VISA card (payments by VISA will be charged a 5% service charge)
In case of cancellation due to weather conditions, we offer a full refund.