Destination Uganda: Off The Tourist Trail


Music Uganda: The Destination of the Month Uganda a land of pristine natural beauty
and a tourist haven for visitors from all across the world is a perfect
getaway for travelers from the Middle East. Described as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ by
Winston Churchill, Uganda offers some of Africa’s finest geographical and natural
beauty. Source of the mighty River Nile and home to one of the greatest
concentrations of primates on the planet this magnificent country is a true
African gem waiting to be discovered. Tourists can also witness the abundant
wildlife that roams freely in the country’s many National Parks and Jungle
Reserves. Adventure tourism is also a popular draw for those visiting Uganda.
The country’s gushing rivers provide excellent opportunities for whitewater
rafting. Indeed Uganda is a tourist paradise – world-class hotels hospitable
people good climate and an abundance of wildlife make Uganda one of the most
attractive tourist destinations in East Africa. Just a five-hour flight from Dubai and
other GCC countries, Uganda is fast emerging as a popular destination for
travelers from the Arabian Gulf region. Direct flights from the Middle East
region to Uganda have improved air connectivity which in turn has led to an
increase in the number of tourists traveling to Uganda from Middle East
countries like the United Arab Emirates. The editorial team from the Holiday
Guide magazine traveled across Uganda to experience and explore the various
tourist attractions in Uganda. As soon as we landed in Uganda’s picturesque airport
at Entebbe, we found ourselves surrounded by open vistas lush green countryside
and the hospitality of the local people. After spending a night in Kampala, we
found ourselves driving through Uganda’s lush green
countryside to our destination the Bwendi Impenetrable National Park to
meet the endangered and elusive mountain gorillas. Surprisingly the road network
in Uganda is excellent – not something one would expect in most African countries.
Our drive across Uganda was an enjoyable experience as we passed through small
villages and towns and observed the simple lifestyle of people living in
rural Uganda. Music After our initial briefing, the trek up
to the gorillas took us through the forest and we soon realized why they
call it the impenetrable forest. We had to literally make our way through this
dense forest to reach the home of the endangered mountain gorillas. Our team
was led by a group of experienced guides and Park Rangers who guided our team
through this rough terrain and helped us navigate through the thick forest. Coming face-to-face with these elusive
primates is an experience one cannot forget. Contrary to their false
reputation as the marauding apes, these are in fact very docile and easygoing
animals – often also known as the ‘gentle giants’. You can’t find these endangered
mountain gorillas in any zoo as they cannot survive in captivity. In fact,
these elusive animals can only be found and seen in Africa – that too in just
three countries – Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
There are approximately just 786 mountain gorillas remaining in the world
with approximately half of them living in Uganda’s Bwendi Impenetrable Forest
and the adjoining Mgahinga Gorilla Park. Interestingly, these gorillas share
98% of their genetic composition with us humans. “Very relaxed, not disturbed and
he is in his natural habitat. Since this is dry season food is scarce that’s why
he has to go far and wide in search of food.” Only 80 people are allowed to see the gorillas
in their natural habitat each day. Because their habitat is very fragile
the number of visitors allowed into their habitat is strictly controlled. On our way to Fort Portal we pass
through the internationally acclaimed Ishasha sector of the famous Queen
Elizabeth National Park which is home to over 612 species of birds buffaloes
elephants and hippos as well as the famous tree climbing Lions of Ishasha. It
is somewhat uncommon for lions to climb trees. There are no more than two
populations in the whole world of such lions that climb trees. One of these
populations is found within the Ishasha sector and the other population is found
in Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. Driving through the Ishasha sector of the
Queen Elizabeth National Park is an experience that will surely rejuvenate
your senses. It was certainly a welcome break from the traffic jams on the Dubai-Sharjah Road for our team. The highlight of our team’s visit to
Uganda this time has to be the beautiful views of Lake Bunyonyi located in the
district of Kabale in southwest Uganda. The calm waters of
the lake reflect the verdant hills around it. As you can see behind me, this is the
picturesque Lake Bunyonyi and this is one of famous tourist spots in Uganda and it is a
perfect getaway for Middle East tourists because the weather here is really nice. Much of the shoreline around the lake
and swaths of the larger of the 29 Islands have been converted to
subsistence farming. While this has no doubt robbed the lake of the deep green
beauty of Uganda’s natural vegetation the snaking course of the water’s edge
and the rolling hills that overlook it are still undeniably stunning. Bunyonyi
is one of the safest lakes in Africa. It has no hippos or crocodiles and is a
perfect place for a splash in the water. Aa number of budget and luxury
accommodation options are available around Lake Bunyonyi and in the nearby
Kabale town. Whether you’re on your way to visit the mountain gorillas in the
Bwendi Forest National Park or in Rwanda, Lake Bunyonyi is an ideal choice for a
stopover. Music Located in western Uganda, Fort Portal is
another town the Holiday Guide team visited on their 20-day trip across
Uganda. The quaint little town has an old-world charm and boasts of some
excellent hotels like the Mountain of the Moon where we stayed for the night. We visited the famous waterfall and caves
at Amabeere Ga Nyina Mwiru in Kabarole district. Located 10 kilometers from Fort
Portal the area the waterfalls are located in is a beautiful spot with open
spaces set in typical African rural settings. We had to walk through a jungle
path up to the waterfall the scenic beauty around the cave is food for the
soul. Nature walks to the nearby Crater Lakes
can also be arranged by your guide. However, despite the many tourist
attractions in Uganda, the country has not realized the full benefits from its
tourism industry as compared to its neighboring countries such as Kenya
Tanzania and Rwanda. Uganda’s total tourism receipts for example fell from
56 billion shillings to 42.6 billion shillings three years back – a
loss of almost 25 percent. One of the main reasons for this could be the lack
of effective promotional activities undertaken by government-appointed
bodies like the Uganda Tourism Board. We asked some industry experts about their
views on Uganda’s tourism industry… Jean Uganda’s tourism industry has been going
at a rapid pace in recent times. How do you see the industry growing in the
coming years? Tourism industry is in a very good trajectory. We have as a
country what we call a National Development Plan – that is
supposed to guide us and which sectors are going to lead us to the growth
of the economy in the next couple of years and tourism is one of the three top
sectors so that being agriculture tourism and minerals oil and gas. So the
sector of tourism has been recognized by government as one of the key drivers in
the next few years. Our economy shows that tourism is really growing. I think
Uganda is what I would call, first of all Uganda is the pearl of Africa so we
uniquely stand out like Winston Churchill said we stand out both in
terms of the product that we have to offer I mean we have unrivaled products,
we are the Source of the Nile, we have half of the world’s population of
mountain gorillas, we have the big five in Uganda, friendly people, the great
weather… they are amazing fjord… so I see Uganda as a giant that is right is now
just beginning to find her footing. Uganda’s tourism industry has been
growing steadily. I know you must know the history of Uganda and somewhere the
instability our country went through which led to a slowdown in the tourism
sector because of lack of infrastructure lack of peace but since the NRM
government took over power it’s been quite a growth in the tourism sector. Years
before it was the fastest growing sector and it was bringing in a lot of
foreign exchange but like I said it was taken over by those events but now with
peace it is very prerequisite to this sector and stability and
infrastructure development it’s been a lot of growth and right now as you might
have heard in the previous interviews the tourism sector has been contributing a
lot about 9% of Uganda’s gross GDP and I believe that in years to come it’s
even going to grow even better. Uganda’s tourism is a story of
transformation, a story of growth, a story of discovery. In the last 10 years
alone our numbers have grown from 700,000 to 1.4 million visitors and I think
that is exemplified also by the fact that you Uganda has been known as the ‘Pearl
of Africa’ the reason why towards much grown is because number one we have the
best climate in the world if you like we are right on the equator but we have
snow on the equator much of the country over six hundred feet above sea level so
it gives us a both hot and cool climates we are not humid. Because of our
geographical location on the Equator and the altitude there there is such an
incidence of wildlife and nature so the country is green for most of the year.
We have about four rainfall seasons that country’s lush is green the people are
friendly the temperatures are fantastic business
climate is very very conducive. We are only four hours from South Africa
southern Africa there are five hours from the Middle East
eight hours from Europe four hours from West Africa so we are very very
conveniently placed in terms of connectivity. Travel and tourism
contributes approximately four percent to the total GDP or just two million
dollars while agriculture contributes around 25 percent, industry 20 percent,
and services 54 percent. However all this is about to change as Uganda’s
government plans to implement new policies to promote its tourism industry
in new and emerging markets like the Middle East Iin 2016
the Ministry of Finance almost doubled its budget for tourism promotion to 30
billion shillings. Tthis money was directly given to the Ministry of
Tourism and Uganda Tourism Board to attract investments into Uganda’s
growing tourism industry and to attract tourists from new and emerging tourist
markets across the world. However not much is being done in the name of
advertising and promotions and Uganda’s tourism industry has remained largely
unrepresented in many growing tourist markets like the Middle East. By
promoting itself as a popular tourist destination, Uganda can also attract
substantial foreign direct investments into its growing tourism industry.
Currently, Uganda receives just 1.4 million international tourists compared
to just 600,000 the country received in 2006. The government aims to attract over
4 million tourists by 2020 thereby making the tourism industry one of the
major contributors to Uganda’s GDP. Undoubtedly, Uganda is an emerging
tourist destination for travelers from the Middle East. Given Uganda’s diverse
landscape flora and fauna and its National Parks, the country enjoys large
potential for the development of nature tourism. It has wildlife safaris, gorilla
tracking, adventure tourism, bird-watching and cultural tourism. It has mountains,
the Source of the Nile and the Great Lakes. The country has also won accolades
from various international travel publications. Lonely Planet named Uganda
it’s top destination for 2012 and National Geographic Traveler selected
the Virunga’s as one of the 20 must-see places for 2012. Figures from the UN
World Tourism Organisation showed that Uganda tourism has grown strongly since
the turn of the century with number of visitors growing five-fold between 2001
and 2010. Uganda’s tourism industry offers excellent opportunities for
investments especially in the hotel industry. We asked the experts about
these opportunities… “What are the investment opportunities available for
foreign investors in Uganda’s booming tourism industry?” There’s still a lot of
opportunities especially in Lodges in the National Parks, in hotels, in upcountry…
even hotels in the city. We don’t have enough beds that we can boast of like to
really hold big conferences and I believe the opportunities was in
building new hotels but also in improving and training of people that
are working in these hotel because in hotels what is important is not a
building it’s the services and they give. There is the opportunity even in setting up
like a training school in this country. As demand is growing there is a need for
supply and therefore we’ve seen from the growth projections… the growth
numbers that have we have also seen a corresponding amount of
investments in the last ten years alone we’ve opened over 40 properties in the
country I’m not just more perfect big big force big names we’re seeing a large
number of big brands coming into the country but what is critical here is
that therein lies an opportunity you know where there is demand there is need for
supply. We’ve seen the growth of small budgets, medium to high end, growing. We have also seen a corresponding number of apartments (you know), lodges and equally
the need for services to come through… very good restaurants, international cuisine,
service delivery, managerial engagements from very very good service providers. That
number is critical right now and now we feel very strongly that going forward we
need more more brands…. About 12 National Parks in Uganda and about 10 Game
Reserves and all these accommodation is still lacking that’s why when you go to
a national park accommodation is expensive because we don’t have enough
beds. So this is one of the areas that is available for investment for hotels for
people to come and put hotels in the National Parks. Again Uganda is a
beautiful and well-endowed country. Most of these attraction areas do not have
accommodation which again is an opportunity for all investors looking to
invest in the sector. So as somebody who is on the ground and somebody who visits
this hotels regularly I see the need for more hotels.
I see the opportunities for more hotels and most importantly the need for the
big brand-name hotels. As a country we are now looking at the MICE market so
meetings incentives conferences and events… for this to be a success we need
to have enough hotel rooms to be able to accommodate a large number of delegates
that we are looking at being able to come and tap into the MICE market… so again…
this is a very big opportunity for us to… for a country… to push at the conference
bureau whereby now we can be able to attract these big international
conferences. We already have the tourist attractions… we already have the
infrastructure in place… now if we had the quality of hotels, the four, five-star
hotels that are needed to be able to bring in these these conferences that is an
opportunity for us as Ugandan, as a country and also for investors who are
now looking at Africa as the new frontier. There is a good return on investment…
I think we are one of the countries that once you put your money here you can be
assured of a good return on investment. So I call upon all those people I know…
United Arab Emirates are people with money… to expand their horizons… many
times people don’t know about Africa so they hear both Africa and all they get
in bad publicity bad news disease HIV and all that but that happens everywhere
in the world but they should learn that in Africa they have good people… it’s a
beautiful country and sometimes people take Africa as if it’s just one nation
especially those European countries many times they think Africa one bad thing
happens tonight in Nigeria they think it is in Uganda but Uganda, my country, is
gifted by Nature. You’ll not find any climate… I know… I
fly to United Arab Emirates every day but you can’t find such climate anywhere
so I asked them and I know that we have a lot in common with our brothers and
sisters in United Arab Emirate. As countries that we are developing and I
believe that what I’ve seen in Dubai in Abu Dhabi can be done in this country if
we just make connections… the right connections and the best way to make
connections is to go and see for yourself. As our team headed back to Dubai we
carried back with us memories of this beautiful land and the warm hospitality
of its people a journey we thoroughly enjoyed and would most certainly
recommend to our readers and followers

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