Where to spot tree climbing lions in Africa? Tree climbing lions can be seen in ishasha sector Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda. Lions are the largest cats in Africa. They help in stabilizing the eco-system by maintaining the population of herbivores animals such as buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, zebras, rhinos and hippos among others. Lions prey on sick and weak animals and this has helped to reduce the spread of diseases and parasites in the parks. The overall population of lions has reduced in 26 African countries and there are about 25,000 individual lions in the wild. The main cause of a reduction in the number of lions is human interference, habit loss, trophy hunting, poaching and diseases brought by other wildlife animals in the wild. Increased in human population has led to deforestation and clearing of more land for settlement and farming.
Uganda is one of the countries in Africa where you get to find lions. These lions can be found in Queen Elizabeth national park, Murchison falls national park and Kidepo valley national park. The lions in Queen Elizabeth Park are famous for their unique behaviors of climbing trees and they have been named as tree climbing lions by tourists. There are 400 lions in Uganda and out of these 130 lions are found in queen Elizabeth national park which is the most visited national park in Uganda. The park receives rain throughout the year and retains its scenic beauty for most times of the year. The park is the best because of its beautiful landscape with maramagambo forest, kazinga channel, kyambura gorge and the craters, wildlife most especially tree climbing lions, a variety of bird species
Adult tree climbing lions are not found everywhere in the world. Many of the lions stay out of tress once they become old, unless if being surrounded by a herd of buffalo and climbing is always the only safety option. Tree climbing lions are only found in Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda and in Tanzania they are found Lake Manyara national park. Individual lions have also been spotted climbing trees in Serengeti national park in Tanzania and Kruger national park in South Africa but these can’t be compared to seen queen Elizabeth national park and Lake Manyara. In Ishasha, a whole group of lions can be spotted resting on the trees which makes Queen Elizabeth national park the best place to see tree climbing lions. The tree climbing lions in Lake Manyara in Tanzania are difficult to see and finding them is not guaranteed.
Most lions prefer staying on the trees and leave tree climbing for the young ones or smaller cats such as leopards. The lions in Queen Elizabeth and Lake Manyara are different from other lions and they are always seen resting on acacia and fig trees early afternoon or when the weather is hot. Several people have explained this unique behavior with some people believing that the lions have natural to climb these trees like any other cats. Climbing trees should there not be a surprise given that these cats have sharp claws like others. Other people lions of iIshasha sector in Queen Elizabeth national park have adopted a unique behavior from other generations of lion prides before them.
Other lion researchers say that the lions climb trees to avoid bites from insects such as tsetse flies and mosquitoes that stay on lower ground. Same researchers believe that these lions climb trees escaping too much heat at midday on the ground and this is mostly seen in dry season. The leaves and tree branches of acacia and fig trees offer a cool breeze and relief from midday heat. When these lions climb to the top of the tress, they rest as they monitor their territories for prey and other competitors such as leopards and hyenas. Whatever reasons for climbing trees, these lions have attracted more and more tourists each year to Lake Manyara in Tanzania and Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda.
The plains of Ishasha sector are very different from other sectors of Queen Elizabeth national park. These plans of Ishasha are made of savannah grasslands and riverine forests. The tree climbing lions are one of the reasons why visitors visit the park. Many of the visitors to Queen Elizabeth national park visit Mweya and kasenyi plains and here they can easily go for game drives, boat cruise on kazinga channel, and chimpanzee trekking kyambura gore and nature walk in maramagambo forest. Visitors get satisfied after seeing prides of lions in kasenyi sector.
Ishasha sector has 4 prides of lions. About 150 individuals are estimated to be living with in these 4 main prides. The lions love climbing acacia and fig trees in plains most especially in dry seasons. Because most of these lions spend most of their time on top of trees, there are high chances of seeing them. These lions are always monitored by park authorities and they can be easily tracked on request. Visiting the tree climbing lions in Ishasha can be combined in an overall safari of Queen Elizabeth national park or other nearby parks such as Lake Mburo, Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga gorilla national park.
One can get to Queen Elizabeth national park using road or air transport. You can take a chartered flight from Entebbe international airport or Kajjansi airstrip direct to the airstrip in Ishasha. Those who want to travel using road transport can get a car from Kampala or Entebbe though Mbarara city to Kasese to the part and this can take you about 6 hours. The park can also be accessed from Bwindi impenetrable national park and it can take you about 2 to hours.
It’s also possible to travel with a private vehicle hired from a tour company. It’s advised to use a 4×4 vehicle because the roads to Queen Elizabeth national park are not very good and can be dusty or even muddy in rainy seasons. Visitors that arrange their own safaris, need to hire a guide to help them on the right routes to use while going to the park and in allocating the lions.
When you see a pride of animals, you will see them resting on the tress branches of acacia and fig trees as they look out for antelopes. Their stomachs are most of the times full because of the prey they eat in the night and they are always struggling to position themselves in the trees branches. The lions are not as fit as lions and you will always see some struggling to climb or descend off trees.
Queen Elizabeth national park is open throughout the year and visitors can go to Ishasha sector anytime of the year. There dry season that is April, June and July are considered to be the pick of the seasons for tourists in Uganda. This season is perfect for a safari because the roads have less mud and the lions are easily located on tree branches because of much heat on ground. The rainy months are April, May, October and November and they are the best for bird lovers.
While in Ishasha, one can go for a cultural tour of the local people. This cultural tour is led by a lady called Agatha. Agatha and her friends will share information with you about the Bakiga people, culture and way life. They will take you to homesteads and huts of individuals to learn how to prepare local meals such as millet banana etc. you can go to the garden and learn how to harvest millet and by the end of the visit you will be knowing the Bakiga culture and you would have tasted some of their local brew.
The Ishasha plains are a habitat to topis, kobs, warthogs, baboons, elephants, leopards, buffaloes, antelopes and a number of bird species such as black coucal, herons, compact weaver, storks and grey crowned cranes. You can arrange a game drive in advance to see animals in the sector. One can also opt for a game drive at kasenyi sector to see lions that don’t climb, kyambura gorge for chimpanzee trekking, maramagambo for nature walks as well as kazinga channel.
The tree climbing lions at Ishasha sector are in danger and they are getting into extinction. The greatest threats to climbing lions is human interference around the park. There was a time 11 animals were found dead in the park as a result of poisoning. It is suspected that these lions were given poison by the pastoralists who had lost their domestic animals such as cows and goats to the lions. The communities living around the park lead their animals in to the park to water places for drinking. The lions find domestic animals so attractive and easy to catch most especially during dry season when they have come to drink water in the park. When lions eat a domestic animal, the people set up traps and poison them.
Uganda wildlife authority is trying hard to make sure that there is a good relationship between the park animals and nearby communities. UWA is fighting hard to ensure that the communities benefit from tourism in form of jobs and giving back 20% of money earned from tourism back to communities every year. Lion tracking was introduced in Queen Elizabeth national park by the Uganda carnivore project to help and raise funds for lion conservation.
Ishasha wilderness camp:
This place is good for people who love to be close to nature and experience what it is to live in the wild bushes of Uganda. The camp is located on the banks of River Ntungwe in the southern sector of Ishasha. The camp has 10 luxury tents facing the river which enables you to see some of the park animals as they come to bathe and drink water i.e. hippos, antelopes, elephants. You can also see Vervet monkeys and colobus monkeys near the camp swinging on the tress.
This lodge offers both mid-range and luxury facilities and it’s found on the borders with Ishasha sector. The lodge is built African way with local materials crafted by local artists to make one feel the African wilderness. The lodge has cottages that give you enough comfort as you relax waiting for the next activities in the sector. While at the lodge you can see a number of wild animals moving around the area such as vervet monkeys, baboons, black and white colobuses.
Other places to stay in include Ishasha Ntungwe river camp, Ishasha jungee lodges, savannah resort hotel
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