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The Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha

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Ishasha Tree Climbing Lion

Never heard of the tree-climbing lions of the Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda? It is high time you visited this magical place!

Located in Western Uganda, the popular Queen Elizabeth national park was gazetted in 1952 as Kazinga channel national park and it was later renamed in 1954 to commemorate the visit by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Famous for Lake Edward formerly known as Rutanzige or Edward Nyanza and Lake George formerly known as Lake Dweru, Queen Elizabeth has over 95 mammal species including elephants, buffaloes, hippos, lions and leopards that are occasionally seen, lots of antelopes and hogs. Kazinga channel—a natural channel that connects two famous rift valley lakes acts as a drinking point for most of the animals in the park giving tourists a chance to view lots of wildlife during the boat cruise along the 32kms long channel.

From a rewarding boat cruise and Kasenyi game drive in the northern sector of the park dominated by savannah grasslands and small patches of savannah woodlands teeming up with lions favorite—the Uganda kobs, Water bucks, wart hogs, giant forest hogs, buffalos, elephants, lions and sometimes leopards, head on to the southern sector of the park Ishasha legendary for tree climbing lions.

The famous tree-climbing lions of the Ishasha sector are found in large fig trees in the remote southern extremity of the park. These tree-dwelling lions prey on the Topi, Uganda Kob, and (if feeling confident!) Cape buffalo which grazes Ishasha’s beautiful acacia studded savanna.

Ishasha is 124kms from Mweya Safari Lodge so the return excursion takes the greater part of a day. It is however ideally placed for a visit on a safari holiday in Uganda that involves tours through the western circuit. The Ishasha is the gateway to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the home to the endangered mountain gorillas.

Personally, I have had of only two places in the world with tree climbing lions including Lake Manyara which is situated in Northern Tanzania and Ishasha Southern sector of Queen Elizabeth NP in Uganda however I have experienced one magical place that I feel proud to say that it is the best place to view these jungle kings. Ishasha has the highest percentage to see tree climbing lions as they can comfortably relax in a single branched fig tree for up to 7 hours.

When visiting Ishasha, look out for the lions in big fig trees which are accessed by small demarcated tracks which increase the luck to find them. Our experienced guides know where the lions have been sighted in their recent trips which help spotting them as well.

Lions are not supposed to climb trees, or at least that’s what I had believed until I came across three adult lions; two females and one male up in a tree one sunny afternoon, a few kilometers from Ishasha main gate—Katookye in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park. They had clambered up, appearing comfortably resting on fig branches as they spot their surroundings.

In a company of two visitors in my land cruiser safari truck, we decided to spend around two hours watching them to get to know their next program. They seemed comfortably resting in fig than on the ground as they rotated from one branch to another. They eventually doze off, eyes pinched tight in quiet content, oblivious to the attention of humans attracted by their interesting behavior. We had our packed lunches from here and we were only limited by time leaving them resting after 3 hours.

We enjoyed the spectacular views of the extensive savannah on our way out teaming up with large herds of buffalo’s, Uganda Kobs, elephants and Topis. Ishasha sector is strategically located along the road to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which makes it a good place for the enroute game drive when going to catch up with the mountain gorilla tracking the following day.

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