Hot, dusty, frantic in places, and with scenery to die for, Uganda is a kind of edited highlights of Africa all in one country. Great beaches along the lakes, river trips on the Nile , vast desert plains with sporadic mountain outcrops, and lush green rain forest, tall mountains, and amazing wildlife.
Uganda is a land of breathtaking contrast. Right from the border with Kenya in the east to that with the giant Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the west, the landscape and vegetation can be described as a kaleidoscope of tantalizing beauty. Winston Churchill, one of the United Kingdom’s great historical figures, summed Uganda in four words: ‘The Pearl of Africa’.
Though it is often easy to look over the country’s shoulder to its not too glamorous past, one thing that Uganda’s hospitality industry has learnt from its troubled history is flexibility. Holidaying in Uganda can be a memorable affair for all categories of regional tourists, be they budget, economy or high spending tourists.
The capital, Kampala, sits in a nest of mountains, on the northern edge of Lake Victoria . It’s busy and litter strewn, with few tarmac roads, and fewer places of interest. Small airlines, used mostly to ferry around the charity and mission workers, will offer you cheap seats to some of the more remote and interesting places, especially those towards the Rwandan and Congolese borders. Its here you’ll find the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, with the mountain gorillas in the ‘Impenetrable Forest’, the impressive Murchison Falls on the Victoria Nile, and the eerie ‘Mountains of the Moon’ at Rwenzori.
Tourism in Uganda is in its infancy, and the northern areas are still best avoided, but it’s a beautiful, friendly country, and shouldn’t be discounted in your travel plans.
Deciding on a holiday destination
A first time traveler to Uganda is most certainly spoilt for choice, particularly if the tourist is from Kenya. Uganda can be accessed through air (Entebbe International Airport), road via Malaba or Busia border entry points or even through Lake Victoria although it’s mostly regular business people who prefer this route. Entry and exit formalities for East African nationals have been simplified. The decision on holidaying in Uganda is usually motivated by a number of factors prominent among them flexibility of budget, refreshing experience and the warmth of the people.
Uganda excels in all the listed factors. The hospitality industry has evolved rapidly over the last decade, catering for all classes of visitors while offering nothing short of value for money. The Uganda experience is truly refreshing, be it in bird-watching, nature walks or cultural tourism. The communities are welcoming, with both urban and rural folks radiating warmth, although just as in any society there are bound to be some green flies in the visitor’s ointment.
Special Interest Tourism
Uganda has a well-established special interest tourism structure that has attracted tourists from not only Western Europe but also Africa and Asia. The special interest tourism areas are nature walks, gorilla trekking, bird-watching, mountain biking, sport fishing and white water rafting.
Eco-tourism has come of age internationally, for guests who prefer nature ‘as it was’ without the distortions of social economic transformation. Uganda offers new nature trails in virtually all protected areas. Tourists can walk with guides to view at close range some of the many endangered species for which the country is famous. These include the mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, the red and white colobus and blue tailed monkeys. The country is filled with birds, butterflies and rare plants that one can sample during nature walks.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority has put in place new bird sanctuaries at strategic sites, including Lake George and Edward. A new survey on Uganda wildlife indicates that there are at least 335 species of birds and more than 144 species of butterflies at Kabale Forest National Park. Among the rare birds are the red-winged francolin, red-chested fluiftail, white-napped pigeon, African pitta, joyful greenbul, grey-winged robin, Abyssinian ground thrush, grey-crested flycatcher and the masked and the black-capped apalises. The Budongo Forest is one of the places where a thriving community eco-tourism takes place.
Several areas are a haven for mountain bikers. These include Rukungiri, and Kabale districts in the west, Mbale and Kapchorwa districts in the east, local mountain bike trails are mapped out to assist tourists, but they have to bring their own bikes.
Sport fishing and white water rafting
Uganda offers a great opportunity for sports anglers. The ferocious tiger fish is common in Lake Albert, in the west Nile region, while catfish and tilapia abound in the all waters of Uganda. However, the most popular fish is the Nile perch with a record catch of over 100 kilogrammes. The fish species is abundant in Lake Victoria and River Nile. Through efforts of tour and travel firms, white water rafting has become a popular sport, with more than 500 tourists participating every month.
It is prudent to choose a camp safari if you decide to visit some of Uganda’s exotic special interest tourism areas. This will enable you to fully enjoy the flora and fauna of the country. Uganda’s waters teem with fish while over 200 bird species thrive in national parks and protected areas. Uganda’s ‘Pearl of Africa’ tag is best appreciated by visiting some of the country’s tourist site.