When Ishasha lions take on the trees


Located about 450 kilometres south west of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, in the Western Rift Valley, the Ishasha sector of the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s sole habitat of climbing lions.

While the rest of the game park is predominantly savannah grassland, Ishasha has the vegetation pattern of a tropical rainforest. This is most probably why the climbing lions make their home here.

Because of the peculiarity of these wild cats, the National Geographic Traveler magazine gave Queen Elizabeth National Park the nod as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. The park certainly is one of the continent’s lesser-known gems.

As Uganda’s most visited national park, Queen Elizabeth as a whole is a “wonder” but it is the spectacle of the Ishasha climbing lions that earned the park its rightful place as one of Africa’s destination greats.

Read: Hungry lions in Serengeti gnaw at tourist truck’s tyres


Joseph Byamukama, CEO of Adventure Kama Safaris, a travel and tour company in East Africa, told TIA that he was compelled to add the Ishasha sector to his itinerary because his clients were most interested in seeing the “king of the jungle” casually resting on a tree branch rather than lazing around on the ground as usual.

“This park has hundreds of lions, but most of them don’t climb,” he said. “There is something about the Ishasha lions that makes them special and ‘superior’. Only a few places in the world can boast of this lion species.”

Byamukama is referring not only to the lions’ unusual behaviour but also to their physical characteristics, which differ somewhat from other prides across the continent. The male climbing lions have black manes – locks unlike those of their counterparts.

According to the park’s website, the lions mostly ascend the trees in the afternoon, especially on extremely sunny days, probably to escape the vigorous sting of the tropical tsetse fly.

Read: Kenya: Six lions escape from nat park, wildlife services intensify search


In Africa, there are only two known climbing-lion habitats: Ishasha in Uganda and Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. However, reports indicate that sightings of climbing lions in a few other national parks are on the increase.

The climbing lions of Ishasha live alongside other wildlife that add to travellers’ delight: elephant, buffalo, various antelope species, and warthog. This is indeed a destination that earns its place on every discerning traveller’s bucket list.

Written by Alex Taremwa


Uganda – the global birding destination

Uganda is the home of more than 50 per cent of all birds in Africa. Also, more than 10 per cent of the world’s birds reside in Uganda. Arguably, Sir Winston Churchill was right to refer to Uganda as “The Pearl of Africa” in his 1908 book titled My African Journey.  Uganda’s biodiversity partly explains Churchill’s observation.

A Total of 768 bird species were recorded from 28 national parks and non-protected areas across the country. In 2013, the African Bird Club voted Uganda as the destination for bird watching; and in 2012, the country was labelled the best destination on the Lonely Planet Website.

Uganda cumulatively has registered 1067 bird species, which is 50 per cent of African bird species and 10 per cent of global bird species.

Red-throated Bee-eater Murchison Falls National Park Uganda Photo by Brian Zwiebel


African Openbill Photo by Arthur Matsiko


Gull-billedtern Photo by Arthur Matsiko


African Paradise Flycatcher Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Uganda Photo by Brian Zwiebel






Woolly-necked Stork Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda Photo by Brian Zwiebel

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