The Top 10 Things one Must Experience in Uganda

The Top 10 Things one Must Experience in Uganda – From Gorillas to our Tasty Rolex

Visitors to Uganda have many choices when it comes to Experiences.  Here are The Top 10 Things one Must Experience in Uganda – the Pearl of Africa.  Gorilla and Chimpanzee Trekking are for most the top things to experience in Uganda.

Track-Mountain-Gorillas-Rwanda1.  Mountain Gorilla Trekking:

Uganda is known for its Mountain Gorillas and people come here to track for Mountain Gorillas, what most do not know is that you can not only track Mountain Gorillas where you are with a Gorilla Family for one hour.  In Uganda you can be with them for four hours on a Gorilla Habituation Experience.

Uganda, not Rwanda, not the Democratic Republic of Congo has the Gorilla Habituation Experience.  A very limited group of visitors are allowed to participate in the Habituation Experience, Plan ahead if you like to be one of the few that will spend 4 hours with the Mountain Gorillas, definitely a Must Experience in Uganda.

Chimpanzees-Rwanda2. Chimpanzee Trekking:

When it comes to Chimpanzee Trekking in East Africa, there is no better country than Uganda. with almost 5000 chimpanzees Uganda has the largest  chimpanzee population in East Africa.  It has more parks and places for Chimpanzee Tracking and it has the best primate park in East Africa –Kibale Forest for the best Chimpanzee tracking around.

Uganda is the only country in East Africa that not only offers great Chimpanzee Treks, but a full-day with the Chimpanzees in Kibale Forest on a Chimpanzee Habituation Experience that lasts from early morning to late afternoon where you are with Researchers and guides.  Another one of those top-things for visitors to Uganda to Experience.

Kidepo-Valley-Park-uganda3.  Kidepo Valley Park:

There are many Wildlife Parks found in East Africa, however there is no other park such as Kidepo Valley Park, that is Africa as it used to be without the crowds, the Africa of over 50 years ago.

Kidepo Valley Park, named the #3 Wildlife Park by CNN has been also called “the Lost Eden.”

Less than 10 new visitors come here, you are experiencing the African Wild without the Crowds and while here visit the fierce Warrior- Nomads, the Karamajong People in one of their villages, called Manyatta. Hike up the Morungole Mountains and visit the most remote tribe in Uganda – the Ik people.

best-tropica-fruit4. Taste some of the Best Tropical Fruit Africa has to offer:

When it come Pineapple, Ugandan Pineapple is the best. Mangoes, papaya and the enormous, sticky, Jackfruit, a most amazing treat.

Fruit Lovers will love Uganda and tasting some of our delicious fruit, fresh off of a tree is a must do and taste thing in Uganda.

Our Oranges might be green, but are tasty and sweet if you know which one to buy…and when it come to Bananas, Uganda is the Banana Republic of Africa with over 50 varieties grown.

If you are a vegetarian or Vegan, Uganda’s great fruit is one reason you will be just fine here. You have to experience the tasty Tropical Fruit of Uganda.

Lake-Bunyonyi-Relax-Chill-Out5. Dip your Toes into Lake Bunyonyi:

Lake Bunyonyi  is one of those top things to experience in Uganda, a place where you can just be and dip your toes into the clear Lake Bunyonyi – one of the top places in Uganda to relax and chill out, take a dugout canoe ride to one of the 29 islands, swim, hike, bike, relax more.

Lake Bunyonyi is not only famous for its beauty, it has become well-known as the best places in Africa for lovers of crayfish.

Some years ago Louisiana Crayfish was brought here and it has thrived, locals hardly eat them, but visitors from around the world delight in the various dishes offered by lodges and hotels around the Lake.

Enjoy a Scene at Lake Bunyonyi from “lord of the Rings.”

Jinja-adventure-capital6. Adrenaline Pumping Adventures on the River Nile:

Jinja on the River Nile just east of Kampala is home to must do experiences for visitors to Uganda such as white water rafting, Kayaking, bungee jumping, but also biking, horseback riding, ATV Quad Biking, Sunset Cruises on the Nile, Nile Perch Fishing and more.

Jinja – is east of Kampala, a mere two hours drive, it looks like a sleepy African Town, however looks can be deceptive and they are in the case of Jinja.

Jinja is the adrenaline pumping adventure capital with lots of choices when it comes to exciting adventures, especially on the River Nile.

Jinja, is one of the must experience towns for visitors to Uganda.

rolex-small7. Rolex – we eat them – we don’t wear them:

In Uganda we do not wear a Rolex – we eat it.  Rolex is Uganda’s favorite fast food and consumed for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Uganda is home to many unique dishes, Rolex being one of them and Nsenene – Grasshoppers fried to perfection being another.

Rolex are a favorite among Backpackers, but it has also come to restaurants in various forms, try one or two.

Like said, we don’t wear Rolex – the watch that is, we eat the affordable variety – The Rolex Chapati with scrambled eggs and whatever else might delight your tastebuds.

Batwa-People-original-People-of-the-forest8. A Day with the Original People of the Forest – the Batwa Pygmies:

The Batwa People have lived for over 500,000 years in the forests of Southwest Uganda leaving a small ecological footprint.

Their history, their ways of living are unique and you can experience their lifestyle while with them in the forest, seeing the forest through the eyes of its original people in Bwindi Impenetrable Fores, Buniga Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla Park.

A visit with the Batwa People will be most rewarding since most visitors have no clue who these people, who lived here for over 500,000 years area, but you can find out on a forest walk with them.

ishasha-lions9. The Tree-Climbing Lions of Ishasha:

The Ishasha Area is one of the best areas in all of East Africa for Tree-Climbing Lions.

It is located inside the southern area of Queen Elizabeth Park half-way from Mweya to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

You can stay overnight here in the fabulous Ishasha Wilderness Camp while you trek the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha.

The Tree-Climbing Lions of Ishasha are attracting more and more visitors, not just from around the world, but from Uganda itself.

10. Uganda’s Hidden Tropical Islands:Ssese-Islands-Lake-Victoria

Uganda is landlocked nation, a thousand miles from the Indian Ocean, yet it has its hidden Tropical Islands, the Ssese Islands where you can walk on sandy beaches, fish, swim, hike, bike and eat some fresh fish from Lake Victoria.

The perfect setting at the end of your safari in Uganda, a place where you can relax for a few days before returning home to your country.

The Ssese Islands have been called by Lonely Planet, Uganda’s Secret Tropical Islands and to most visitors to Uganda they are just that.  We can arrange a visit for you.

The Top 10 Things one Must Experience in Uganda – here you have them – an eclectic collection of things and places that are uniquely Uganda – the Pearl of Africa. The things that Ugandans and visitors alike enjoy in traveling in and through the countryside.

The Top 10 Things one Must Experience in Uganda – if you like to include some in your safari with us – please let us know.

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Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as Real | Safaris to Uganda

Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as Real

Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as Real ?- But are They?

There are many Things one can find about Uganda on the Internet that are simply Wrong

Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as Real – Uganda – the Pearl of Africa – Uganda often gets a bad wrap on Internet, many things written are simply wrong, outdated by years, have no present reality in Uganda and simply out of touch with the real Uganda, simply Internet Legends written by people who have never set foot inside of the Pearl of Africa – Uganda and yet to many these Myths and Falsities  that are real to many since they write to us about them…

Uganda-that-is-where-Idi-Amin-LivesUganda – Oh, that is where Idi Amin lives:

Idi Amin was in power as President of Uganda from 1972 to 1979 – He came to be president with power of the gun and he was overthrown with the power of the gun.

Most Ugandans were not alive during that time period. He wound up living out his days in Riyadh-Saudi Arabia where he died in 2003 of Kidney Failure and was buried there. He loved the attention of the world and mostly likely he would have enjoyed the movie (based on a novel) “The Last King of Scotland.”

Idi Amin is a name that is synonymous with Uganda – most do not know the name of the current president of Uganda – President Yoweri Museveni who has led Uganda since 1986.

No – Idi Amin does not live in Uganda – however many of his family members still do and sadly some still believe that Idi Amin lives here.

Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as RealThere is War going on in Uganda – it dangerous:

This myth about Uganda is kept alive on websites, blog posts, mainly small town American Newspapers, University and College News sites, Blogs.

Reality – Joseph Kony and the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) are not in Uganda and there is no ongoing war in Uganda. The conflict with Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army ended in 2006 with the signing of (cessation of hostilities agreement by the Government of Uganda and the LRA).

Murchison Falls National Park (Number 1 visited park in Uganda) has seen a dramatic increase of tourists since that time – several new lodges have been built.

Joseph Kony and his now diminished LRA (a few hundred) have been causing havoc in other countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and even Darfur but not in Uganda – there is no war going on in Uganda – only the myth about one belied by many.

gayUganda – that is place where they Kill Gays:

Uganda is a country where the left and right of American Politics have fought a war of ideals – on one hand you have US Government promoting LGBT issues and punishing countries that do not concur with their policies, on the other hand you have the Religious Right of the USA trying to show its values in other countries such as Uganda after having failed to do so in the US.

Uganda reflects the attitude of the majority of Africans – the laws on the books in Uganda today was put into place by the British Colonial Administration.  The anti-gay bill that was first promoted by American Evangelicals and then by David Bahati a US educated Parliamentarian was passed, signed by President Museveni and annulled by the Constitutional Court of Uganda.

Uganda’s bark is bigger than its bite – 97% of Ugandans like most Africans are not pro-gay, yet in Uganda there is no organized persecution against gays.  International Gay Travelers are questioned at the airport regarding their sexual orientation and their safety and well-being is being promoted by the Uganda Tourism Board and others.

A Gay Traveler is safe in Uganda – public affection is considered a cultural mistake in Uganda by both heterosexual or gay couples.

Putting aside the myths and anecdotal legends – Uganda is safe for LBGT Travelers – though most Ugandans are not pro-gay, however most Ugandans are more concerned their daily well-being rather than US issues fought out on the soil of Uganda.

uganda-ebola-freeEbola is in Uganda:

The recent outbreak in West Africa that is now subsiding never reached East Africa, there were more cases of Ebola in the US, Europe than in East or Southern Africa where there were none.

West Africa – is 5000 kilometers from Uganda – if there was an Ebola outbreak in Portland Maine Americans would not cancel travel plans to Portland Oregon.  However in the case of Africa, many did.  In 2016 Uganda as most of Africa is Ebola Free.  At the port of entry all travelers are checked and Uganda is taking every precaution to keep Uganda Ebola Free, however on the Internet you will find wrongful information about Ebola in Uganda.

You-will-get-AidsYou will get Aids if you travel to Uganda:

Simply setting foot into Uganda will not give you Aids – it does not float around in the air, you do not get it by visiting with Ugandans, having a drink with them, conversations, swimming in one of the pristine lakes, going rafting, or going gorilla or chimpanzee tracking.

You can expose yourself  to HIV – AIDS if you engage in high risk behavior with the Ugandan women of the night – the mosquito girls whose sting just might infect you – best not engage in high risk behavior – enjoy the people, the wildlife, the scenery – but follow the ABC rule of Uganda to avoid HIV infection – Abstain-Be Faithful-Condoms.

No, you will not get HIV-AIDS visiting Uganda as long as you act responsibly and do not engage in unsafe sex.

You-will-get-MalariaYou will get Malaria and it will kill you:

Most travelers and visitors to Uganda do not contract malaria – it is a rarity.

Most visitors to Uganda should be on a malaria regiment which protects you. Use the mosquito nets provided by hotels and lodges. Better hotels even spray the room while you are at dinner and you can always buy a spray can of Doom to eliminate those pesky critters. Apply Off, Cutter or RID (RID found in Australia) insect repellent to your skin and clothing, wear long sleeved shirts in the evening and long trousers when going out.
Should you contract malaria while in Uganda – there are good hospitals such as International Hospital in Kampala where they can effectively treat you.

Over the years I have had malaria on several occasion, the latest treatment available here is quite effective and rather quick.
Malaria does kill and unfortunately many Ugandans die daily from it because of wrong treatment or no treatment (that is also changing-the fight against malaria is being won), however visitors coming here are quite safe if the above steps are followed and we have had no clients contract Malaria.

Uganda-friendly-nationUganda is not safe for Travelers – it is violent place:

Ugandans are some of the friendliest people in Africa. I as a Westerner living here feel safer here, on the streets of Kampala than I would in some neighborhoods in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London.

There are several pages on Travel Safety in Uganda – plain advice that will help you to have a safe time in the Pearl of Africa.

No -You will not get robbed in Uganda – in spite of misconceptions you might have – especially on a safari tour of Uganda and as long as you follow some basic advice.

You might get cheated when you buy goods or services and are given a high price – simply bargain down.

Uganda remains one of the safest and secure countries in Africa – and Kampala its capital is relatively safe for visitors if you follow some sound safety and security advice that is found on our site.

wrong-travel-advisoriesEven Foreign Governments such as Australis and New Zealand portray Uganda as an unsafe Place:

Australia and the government of New Zealand have published wrong information in their government travel advisories to their citizens who for the most part have ignored them.

Their information is based on some of Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as Real – however there are simply wrong.  Myths such as Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest being unsafe, telling its citizens to stay away from Uganda’s Number 1 – Visited Park by relying on information that is 10 years or older – Safaris in Uganda are safe – even Kidepo Valley Park has become a safe area to visit.

Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as Real– the reality is different than the Internet Legends, Myths and Fables that you can find in 2016 as you research of what you think is present day Uganda, but often you will find those myths written by armchair travelers, bloggers, even welcome-to-Uganda-Arrivalso-called reporters and then the disparaging, off the cuff remarks such as a recent one by the Africa Expert Ann Coulter…totally uncalled for.

Why do those legends and myths stay in the minds of many potential visitors to Uganda?  One reason is the Ugandan government itself, they take the Ugandan cultural approach of just keeping quiet while the wrongful information about Uganda is seen as truth and reality by many, there have been some refreshing changes, however not enough – those legends and myths will not go away by themselves, the reality of Uganda needs to be put out there by the Ugandan government and others in the Tourism sector.  Bring in Travel Reporters on a monthly basis and show them the Authentic Uganda as we know it and experience it daily.
With us at Kabiza Wilderness Safaris it is not just about selling Safaris, but giving potential Tourists the right information about Uganda beyond anecdotal hearsay, internet myths and legends, but the Face of Uganda rarely seen, that of a Welcoming Uganda.

Those Uganda Travel Myths People Believe as Real – if you have any questions – please ask us.

Gorilla trekking and gorilla tours

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A national bird is a symbol of a nation’s rich biodiversity, history, culture and beliefs. It can attain the national symbol status because of the respect, admiration or value attached. Many countries have birds as national symbols. For example: South Africa-Blue Crane, Nigeria-Black crowned crane, China-Red crowned crane, Kenya-Lilac breasted roller, Zimbabwe-African fish eagle, Zambia-African fish eagle, Sudan-Secretary bird, South Sudan-African fish eagle, Namibia-African fish eagle, Malawi-Bar tailed trogon, India-Indian peacock, DRC-Congo peacock, Botswana-Lilac breasted roller, Jamaica-Red billed streamtail (Doctor bird), USA-Bald eagle, Germany-Golden eagle, Egypt-Golden eagle, UAE-Peregrine Falcon, Thailand-Siamese fireback pheasant, Australia-Barn swallow, France-Gallic rooster (Gallus Gallus), Cape Verde-Grey headed king fisher, Gambia-Hamerkop, Papua New Guinea-Raggiana bird of paradise, New Zealand-Kiwi, and UGANDA:

Grey Crowned Crane.

There is a lot about this bird but in today’s hash tag (#TourGuidingUGANDA), am taking you through some interesting dynamics of this specie and its significance as a national bird of Uganda.

Grey Crowned Crane.
Grey Crowned Crane.

In Uganda, Grey crowned crane (commonly known as crested crane), inhabited the country’s wetlands long before the coming of tribes in the area. This bird has an amazing courtship dance which involves twirl and curtsy to one another, with their wings open and held high above their backs. In this strange position with bills pointed skywards, it gives out a deep booming love-call delivered from a fully inflated throat.

To many different tribes of Uganda, the call of the Grey crowned crane suggests many word variations and sounds are varied and full thus; to a Muganda, the call is Ngaali (wano w’aani), to an Achooli, Oweeli, to a Munyarwanda, Muraaho and the same sound/call is Mwaari to Swahiri. Different tribes and people have learnt through time how to interact with this crane and in some areas people believe cranes help to tell them time of the day. They are also regarded as birds of joy and relaxation in some parts of the country. For instance when people clap and sing a particular song, the cranes dace by nodding their heads, making it a wonderful bird.

The unusual gracefulness of this bird, aptly typifying the country and its people, attracted the once British governor of Uganda-Sir Frederick Jackson who in 1893 chose it to embellish the Union Jack with its exquisite form and heraldic dignity. Sir Frederick Jackson was a famous Ornithologist who surrounded himself with beautiful Grey crowned cranes at the government house in entebe which he could feed from his own hands.

In a dispatch from the secretary of state of the British empire to the government of Uganda protectorate, there appears the sentences; “His Majesty (George v) has approved the golden crested crane being likewise adopted as the badge to be inserted on the flags flown by the governor of Uganda protectorate and all the vessels  belonging to the government of the protectorate”

Another naturalist, Sir Harry Johnston, deputy commissioner in the Uganda protectorate government at the turn of the country, more than likely influenced sir Frederick in his choice of the crowned crane emblem.  As a token of his admiration for the birds of Uganda, Sir Harry left a painting in his collection of a group of “crested crane”. This painting majestically hanged in the governor’s offices. This bird’s multi colored head shows the three coors of the current  Uganda’s national flag (Black, yellow,Red). Standing on one leg-on the flag, signifies that Uganda is a country which keeps moving forward.

The Grey Crowned Crane is an endangered specie, it is divided into two sub species; East African grey crowned crane (Balearica Regulorum Gibbericeps) and South African Grey crowned crane (Balearica Regulorum Regulorum) The difference is that East African has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch, and bigger than the South African. Grey crowned cranes and the black crowned cranes are the only crane species that can roost in trees because of the long hind toes (Passerines) that can grasp branches.

Grey crowned cranes are about 1m (3.3ft) tall and weigh 3.5kgs and a wing span of 2m (6.5ft). They fall under crane (Gruidea) family of which Uganda has 3 species, 4 species In Africa and 15 species globally.

According to International Crane Foundation (ICF), the grey crowned crane is the most primitive specie in the family (Gruidae). Primitive species of grey crowned crane date back in the fossil record to the Eocene period. Archaeologists discovered that at least 11 species of grey crowned cranes once existed in Europe and North America. Because they are not cold hardy, it is believed they died out in those areas as the earth cooled and only survived in warmer Africa.

Grey crowned crane is a precocial bird-meaning; chicks are hatched with down feathers, eyes open, the ability to leave the nest within hours of hatching and rapid learning process. Young ones leave the adults in less than a year. They mature and start breeding at 3 years of age in captivity, or 4-5 years in the wild.


Females lay and incubate 2-3 eggs. A male will also incubate, but his primary task is to maintain the integrity of the territory. Incubating pairs trade places about every two hours during day light hours. This gives each bird a chance to stretch, exercise and feed. At night, the female incubates while the male stands guard.  CCSK3The male is often the first to feed the chicks which are hatched after 21-31 days.

They are omnivorous-meaning, they feed on a variety including; plants seeds, grains, insects etc

They are also monogamous and pair for life, though they may appear in  flocks  at breeding areas. If the mate is lost, the remaining bird will usually find another partner. Their lifespan is 20-30 years in the wild, and more than that in captivity.

In Uganda, their greatest threat is loss of habitat (wetlands) due to human pressure from population, drainage, cultivation, pollution, and other factors. This has resulted into a loss of about 80% of Grey Crowned Crane since 1970s

Reference; International Crane Foundation, Nature Uganda, Buzzle

For God and my country. Loading…..

By Sekiziyivu Ronald.

The writer is a field guide and travel consultant with Kuamka Tours and Travel


Gorilla trekking and gorilla tours

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Gorilla trekking | All you need to know


All you need to Know while organizing Gorilla Trekking in Uganda/Rwanda and the permits.

Only 8 persons can visit a given gorilla family per day. In Uganda, ten families have been habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NP, and so can host 80 persons tacking the mountain gorillas on any day. Rwanda can also take 80 persons per day. All else being equal, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park has a slight edge over the rest because its gorillas are the most wholly habituated, and they are often found in bamboo than the dense forest which makes photographing easy


However, the long drive to Bwindi is quite enchanting with great sceneries all through like the Equator, Lake Mburo National Park ( for some Queen Elizabeth National Park with abundant wildlife), terraced mountains with flowing rivers, and a lot of rural Africa. This is not so really the case for the drive from Kigali to Volcanoes National Park for gorilla trekking . Some tourists have also opted for flying over from Entebbe to towns near (Kihihi and Kisoro) to track the gorillas. A round flight ticket costs $250 with AeroLink Uganda. In that case you will need to arrange your transfer from the airstrip to Bwindi, and back as well for assistance to organise this please). You will certainly need spend more on transport and time to track the mountain gorillas in Uganda than it’s for Rwanda although this cost is compensated for by a cheaper gorilla permit. Besides, some sections of the roads to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are not so comfortable to drive on yet in the case of Rwanda, you drive on smooth tarmac at least up to the Volcanoes National Park head office. Not to mention though, the roads leading from Volcanoes park office to the gorilla trek trail-heads can only be accessed with a raised 4×4 vehicle. It should noted that the major challenge with tracking gorillas in Rwanda is the price of the permits which is USD 750 compared to the price of Uganda’ permits which is USD 600 .

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2014 tourism: The good, the bad and the ugly


2014 has been a mixed bag for the tourism sector. The sector registered a share of highs, such as overtaking all sectors in the country in terms of foreign exchange earnings. This happened, despite the low investment in the sector.

On the international stage, a lot of attention has been drawn to Uganda, after President Museveni threw a spanner in the works when he declared Uganda a better tourist destination than Spain, a country that is ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. Tourism players and Ugandans have given kudos to the head of state for this.

Simon Tebyasa, the managing director Harmony Safaris Limited, observes that on top of individualised and aggressive marketing as a tourism entrepreneur, the Ugandan government has tried to market Uganda globally, which benefits young players in the sector, him inclusive.

The efforts by tourism enthusiasts and Great Lakes Safaris’ Amos Wekesa in promoting Uganda globally cannot go unnoticed. He has made international presentations all geared towards promoting Uganda and positioning it on the international radar. This is besides active social media campaigns which have drawn a lot of attention.
When CNN sought to interview Wekesa for his personal story in November, he used the opportunity to tell about the beauty of the Pearl of Africa and thereby drumming up the need for tourists to visit.

“This has brought a lot of awareness hence pushing Uganda to the ranks of one of the most desired destinations in Africa. Communities around the national parks have been sensitised to appreciate the benefits that come with tourism like schools, health facilities, source of income for the locals and other benefits that come with tourists,” Tebyasa explains.

Tourists who stay with families in the community spend money on feeding and buy items such as handcrafts at community shops, among other related activities.

While launching the Night Game Drives earlier in the year, Bunyoro King Rukirabasaija Agutamba Solomon Gafabusa Iguru I, called on Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to tailor activities that would engage local communities in tourism as a way of finding a source of livelihood.

The Good

In the mainstream tourism sector, 2014 started off good as tour companies intensified efforts to improve their facilities and thus tourist experience. Wildplaces’ & The Uganda Safari Company’s group general manager Gary Segal says his peak was from June to August.

“We have been working hard on growing our marketing efforts and building relationships with key agents, as well as doing some refurbishments to some of our properties like Apoka Safari Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Semliki Safari Lodge and Pineapple Bay,” he explains.

This, he adds, was on addition to structuralising and systemising through constantly training and developing staff within the organisation to be more productive and efficient, whilst keeping the ultimate service experience and guest delight at the forefront of their day-to-day activities.

June also brought with it good news at UTB where for the first time, government increased the institution’s budget, since the 1990s, to about Shs6 billion.

John Ssempebwa, the deputy chief executive officer at Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), says the budget is still peanuts compared to what Kenya spends, which is about $40m (about Shs110 billion), but it is a step in the right direction.

Trek East Africa Safaris’ managing director Geoffrey Baluku points at the launch of the five-year strategic plan as local tourism’s biggest achievement for 2014. The Tourism Development Master Plan recognises Uganda’s exceptional range of natural and cultural tourism assets, and prescribes the measures and resources needed to unlock their unrealised potential and deliver a significant boost to the tourism economy in the next 10 years.

According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), by 2023, the Master Plan forecasts an increase in foreign receipts to more than $1.4 billion (about Shs3.8 trillion) per annum, and the creation of more than 150,000 additional tourism jobs. The projection is based on a careful analysis of both internal and external environments of the country.

Basing on the potential of the tourism sector, the government recognised the importance of tourism to national socioeconomic development and it has identified it as a priority sector in the National Development Plan 2010-15. The Master Plan therefore serves as a guideline for development of tourism, enabling the decision makers to agree on the principles for the direction for the next 10 years.

Simon Tebyasa, the managing director Harmony Safaris Limited, also notes that community policing has been on the rise this year as the police continues to work with tour companies in making sure that tourist are safe. He adds, “One way they have tried to work with tour companies is to provide Emergency numbers to call in case of an emergency.”

The bad
Nature Uganda’s executive director Achilles Byaruhanga says Uganda has suffered some continuous challenges, for example destruction of forests in different places where communities continue to cut down trees without intervention from National Forestry Authority (NFA).

This is in addition to the Ebola outbreak as well as passing of the anti-gays Bill, which players in tourism and hospitality sector have regarded as two big blows. Garry Segal, Wildplaces’ & The Uganda Safari Company’s group general manager, says the impact of the law was real and caused a drawback in the number of bookings at the Wildplaces’ lodges, in spite of the overturning of this Bill.

At Harmony Safaris, many bookings were cancelled because the outbreak of Ebola created a lot of panic and scare hence low numbers as people who had planned to travel to Uganda and other African countries cancelled their travel arrangements.

The world’s misperceptions and concerns about the disease have dented tourism figures in East Africa in spite of Ebola being thousands of miles away. Thankfully, there are still many who understand the distances and lack of threat, and are still travelling.

“We hope for an end to it soon, not least for the people and countries in the midst of it, but also so that we can get down to the business of building tourism up again,” Segal notes.

The ugly

As Great Lakes Safaris’ Amos Wekesa notes, the biggest challenge for tourism has been the conflicts among players and failure to think about the bigger picture. Therefore, minds never met to tackle challenges.
“Every effort was invested in undermining one another and to be honest, this curtailed growth of so many otherwise brilliant individuals, and those that make the most money in the industry decided to keep quiet, which means the young were not able to learn from them,” he explains.

The terrorist attacks in Kenya was another setback, as well as a reported planned attack on Entebbe Airport. To this, Simon Tebyasa, the managing director Harmony Safaris Limited, adds the heavy rainfall that destroyed roads and bridges, especially in western Uganda, which is en-route to most national parks.

Tourism players also point at the slight decline in clientele as a result of the poor global economy because the would-be clients had less to spend.

Efforts to improve the sector

Tourism enthusiast Godfrey Lule Ssemwanga underlines the need to promote domestic and regional tourism. This is something that is in its take-off stages as deputy chief executive officer at Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), John Ssempebwa observes.

He says 2014 has seen an awakening internally, and particularly due to the formation of tourism clusters in places such as Kigezi, Ankole, Buganda, Busoga, Eastern, Northern, West Nile, Toro and Bunyoro. “We have seen increased interest. For the first time, we have got interested in domestic tourism such as Imbalu, Bishop Hannington site in Kyando, among other places,” Ssempebwa explains.

To support clusters, UTB will create cluster-support guidelines. “UTB shall meet each cluster on its own to lay foundations. UTB will provide initial support such as general tourism training and selection of governance committees to ensure adequate private-public sector balance,” Ssempebwa adds.
UTB will then provide technical support towards product development; each cluster will be helped to adequately profile its most unique, most relevant tourism products, publicise them on a website linked to UTB’s website.
Product development support will include research, documentation, profiling, monuments, signage and product launches. Site development may include construction of cultural villages, construction of tourist stop-overs managed by local communities, etc.

This is in addition to efforts that have been dedicated to religious tourism, to places such as Uganda Martyrs Shrines in Namugongo under the guidance of among others, Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga and Fr Joseph Mukasa Muwonge.

2015 Prospects

Despite the hurdles in 2014, Uganda is definitely on the radar for a brighter 2015. John Ssempebwa, the deputy chief executive officer at Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) reveals that UTB is going to contract firms to market and represent Uganda in Europe and the rest of the western world.

“Marketing requires a focus on strategically selected target markets. Neither the current tourism policy nor UTB’s internal marketing strategy clearly prioritises specific market segments or products. Therefore, UTB intends to hire three competent firms to represent Uganda in the UK, US and Germany,” he explains.
By July 2015, he adds, at least 10,000 tourists from the UK, US and Germany should have interacted with the firms representing Uganda and should have visited Uganda, following the persuasive information received from the market representatives.

He adds that UTB wishes to begin its outreach to students with visits to schools in a bid to encourage schools to regularly visit national attractions and to form tourism clubs. UTB will take its message of the importance of tourism to hundreds of students at schools and universities.

Gary Segal, Wildplaces’ & The Uganda Safari Company’s group general manager, says they are focusing on domestic tourism and have fantastic East African resident rates and specials available. “One in particular is that we are going wild in December and January and offering East African residents a pay-two-nights and stay three nights offer at all of our lodges. This is unprecedented in such a peak season. We are doing it in order to promote our properties to a valuable market segment: the very people who live in, work in, and love Uganda,” he discloses.

Way forward
Going forward, tourism enthusiast Godfrey Lule Ssemwanga says there is need for a new museum, or work on the old one to enrich it. He suggests that a political museum be put up, of strong figures such as former president Idi Amin.

We should also look at planting more trees and conserve forests and reserves, as well as manage habitants. There is more need for community empowerment and to develop more attractions beyond wild life, plus more media relations, promotions and education,” he adds. Geoffrey Baluku, Trek East Africa Safaris’ managing director, is looking at the need for training and capacity building as vital areas that need attention in 2015.

Future prospects
He suggests: “And I am hopeful in the coming year, we can have clarity of mandate between UTB and UWA. My gut feeling is that to control some of these problems tourism in Uganda should be run under an authority, that is Uganda Tourism Authority where we shall have UTB, UWA, UWEC, Ngamba, Presto and Export Promotion Board, then we can have a CEO, Director Conservation, Director Marketing, Direction Planning, etc all under the Authority.”
He points at Rwanda Development Board as a good modal for reference.

Kenya is in the final stages of doing the same.
Tour operators are optimistic that they will see some improvement in bookings in the coming year and plan to interest more locals, especially schools where students can be encouraged to take school trips at discounted rates.