The Tree Climbing Lions of Ishaha sector in Uganda: Where to See tree climbing Lions in Africa
Have you ever imagined how magical a lion would look when resting up on a tree branch? It is indeed a magical moment and is possible within Queen Elizabeth National Park (Ishaha sector) in western Uganda. The tree climbing lions of Ishaha are the number one reason why the remote and isolated sector of Ishasha, southern part of the Park is thronged by thousands of visitors each year. In Uganda, these extraordinary lions are only found in Queen Elizabeth National Park as it is rare to find lions on trees, except here and Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park.
With the tree climbing lions of Ishaha, you will be able to spot the cubs playing and hanging in tree branches in addition to adult ones. However, this doesn’t mean that lions don’t entirely climb trees. Majority of these animals, often referred as “Kings of the jungle” stay away from trees once they grow to a certain size and weight although will climb trees when surrounded by aggressive buffaloes hence the only option for keeping safe is to climb the tree. This is entirely different from the ones of Ishasha sector as they can relax on tree branches for several hours although for a number of reasons, as we shall discover.
Reasons why lions climb trees in Ishasha sector
Reasons for lions climbing trees within Ishasha sector are still unknown although several theories have been drafted to explain this extraordinary behavior. It is believed that these lions have a natural (inborn) ability to climb and stay in fig tree branches for several hours. Similarly, it is said that they have after many years adapted to the habit of climbing trees following several generations of lion prides before them.
Other explanations have been connected to the fact that these lions climb trees to avoid irritating insects especially Tsetse flies on the lower ground. Additionally, some researchers believe that they escape the hot afternoon heat on the ground especially during the drier months of January, February, June, July, August and September. This could be true because the best time of the day to find numerous tree climbing lions is from midday to about 2pm when the sun is too hot. The tree branches and green leaves provide the cool breeze as well as relaxation from the extreme afternoon heat.
About Ishasha sector
Ishasha is one of the sectors that make up Queen Elizabeth National Park and is primarily marked by savannah grasslands as well as riverine forests that make it incredibly different from other sectors of the Park.
Of the total 400 lions distributed across Uganda’s Protected Areas, over 150 are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park alone hence making it the most iconic place to see the Kings of the jungle. The black-manned lions are common within Kasenyi plains and Mweya peninsula, then rarely around the Crater area. Other animals found in Queen Elizabeth National Park include leopards, Hippos, Uganda Kobs, Nile crocodiles, Defassa waterbucks, serval cats, elephants, common warthogs, banded mongoose, Cape buffaloes, primates (especially chimpanzees, olive baboons, vervet monkeys and many others found within the small forest in Kyambura Gorge) and over 600 species of birds within its 1978-square kilometer landscape.
Best time to see tree climbing lions of Ishasha sector
The best time to see the tree climbing lions of Ishasha sector is the dry season-June to September and January to February when sunshine is hot and lions spend majority of their time on tree branches. They are best seen during the hot afternoon hours.
How to get to Ishasha sector, southern Queen Elizabeth National Park
Travellers can get to Ishasha sector by air or road. The sector is served by Kihihi Airstrip (in Kanungu) and then you continue to Ishasha by road. Road is the commonest means of getting to the spectacular area and journey takes 6-7 hours from Kampala/Entebbe Town.