When Amin’s military coup seized control of Uganda government, travelers abandoned their safari vacation holiday plans and tourism declined by about 60% during the 1970’s. Not only a coup led to reduction of tourist arrivals but the country suffered a great loss of wildlife numbers particularly elephants and black rhinos in national parks like Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo Valley.
The impact on wildlife and tourism was big but not huge. By 1986 peace and political stability regained country wide. With the new leadership, efforts to attract adventure travelers back to Uganda begun in 1994 with gorilla tracking safaris in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. At the time Bwindi had 3 habituated gorilla families for visitors to track in Buhoma.
Uganda slowly regained reputation as a top wildlife adventure holiday destination particularly for gorilla tracking safaris. From 1994, tourism became Uganda’s major focus for foreign exchange earnings and development. Uganda is unique in East African region because the country has diverse culture of more than 55 tribes as well as rich wildlife including half of world’s mountain gorillas. The country also has 10 national parks and destinations like River Nile, Lake Victoria Sesse islands. These tourist sites have been improved like never before that you’ll enjoy visiting them for adventure and recreational activities during a safari. Visitor arrivals for the first time in the history of Uganda reached more than 1.2 million tourists in 2017 the country each year according to Uganda tourism Board.
Read the following reasons why you should visit Uganda Right now as well as know what is driving Uganda’s tourism growth.
More gorilla families for tracking and habituation experience in Bwindi forest and Mgahinga
From 3 gorilla families in 1994, Uganda currently has a total of 15 families. Tourists now have easy access to tracking centers of Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga found in Bwindi rainforest and Ntebeko at Mgahinga gorilla national park. Visitors who track gorillas are congratulated with a gorilla tracking certificate.
Due to many gorilla families, the availability of gorilla permits is also high especially during low season. From March to April and October to November, rain is always frequent but good enough; a gorilla permit in this period is discounted to 450 USD which maintains a steady flow of travelers for gorilla tracking that would rather be scared of dump weather conditions.
Strong tourism product development across Uganda
From ecotourism gorilla tracking, Uganda now offers a wide range of things to do on a holiday that suits every traveler.
Besides gorilla tracking, more primate adventures can be undertaken on a safari including golden monkey tracking, and chimpanzee tracking. kibale forest is home to 13 species of primates and is the best place to participate in chimp tracking and full day chimpanzee habituation experience. But chimp treks are also offered in Elizabeth national park at Kyambura forest gorge or the valley of apes and at Kalinzu forest reserve as well as in Budongo forest in Murchison Falls Conservation Area.
There’s no shortage of game viewing safaris in Uganda’s four savannah parks including Kidepo valley, Lake Mburo national park, Queen Elizabeth national park and Murchison Falls National Park. Visitors can do boasts excellent boat cruises on Kazinga channel and the Nile respectively as well as enjoy Hot air ballooning safaris, Bush camping experience at Edward flats, night game drives which are some of the new activities now available for visitors.
There’s also an increasing interest for travelers to participate in experiential wildlife tourism activities such as lion tracking, hippo census, bird counting and mongoose tracking.
Mountain climbing adventures
For a world class mountaineering experience venture into the Rwenzori Mountains national park which protects Mount Rwenzori 5,109 meters above sea level the 3rd tallest mountain in Africa. For more hiking opportunities, visit Mgahinga volcanoes and Mount Elgon national park, the world’s largest caldera. for a serene wilderness experience visit Kidepo valley national park located in north eastern Uganda Karamoja region.
Adrenaline adventures, the best white water rafting on river Nile in Jinja town
Jinja town located in eastern Uganda about 2 hours drive from Kampala city is regarded as the adventure capital of east Africa. For good reasons, it’s where River Nile starts, source of the Nile is a must visit for visitors. in Jinja town, visitors can do white water rafting of all grades, bungee jumping, horseback riding, kayaking, swimming, cycling, quad biking,
Uganda has some of the best destinations for travelers who wish to escape winter especially in United States and Europe. Sesse islands, found in Lake Victoria the largest fresh water lake in Africa are a group of 84 islands. Bugala and kalangala the ones developed for tourism are among the most beautiful tropical islands with white sand beaches, sunny warm weather and romantic hotels, resorts and camping places. With easy accessibility provided by the MV kalangala, the ferry departs daily from Entebbe to the islands. You can do lots of activities to do, whether you’re looking to just relax by the beach, or you can choose for sunset boat cruises, visit fishing villages, cycle through the villages, play valley ball or swim.
Community Cultural village walks
Around most of Uganda’s wildlife national parks, there are cultural walks for visitors who want to experience the cultural sites and local lifestyle of Ugandans. Most projects are generated to create jobs and support wellbeing of the local people selling produce, honey, crafts while others are put up by the wildlife authority like Bwindi community hospital.
For instance the BaTwa trail in Mgahinga gorilla national park, the village walks in Bwind –Nkuringo and Buhoma offer encounters with BaTwa pygmies, local food, and traditional dance. Most village walks are undertaken on foot and can last from 1-3 hours or even full day. Others walks include visiting community projects and schools. For instance the rain water harvesting technology projects fakiga lodge in Bwindi. The craft making projects by women like the Boomu women’s group in Murchison falls, ride for a woman in Buhoma and Bigodi wetland sanctuary in Kibale forest among others.
Availability of more frequent short holiday breaks
Uganda is a destination where travelers can undertake long wildlife safaris of up to 15 days. However recently, short holiday vacations breaks have become more popular for family travelers and local people usually hand out with their kids. This means that you do not have plan in advance for what to do on a weekend escape or excursion knowing you will return back to your home in the evening.
The best places for short holiday breaks are Jinja town, the adventure capital of East Africa. In Jinja you can visit the source of the Nile, enjoy white water rafting for half or full day, bungee jumping, horseback riding, cycling, quad biking, swimming.
Entebbe town lies on the northern shores of Lake Victoria about 1 hour drive from Kampala city. There are many beaches to relax, eat fish or swim.
Entebbe Zoo also known as Uganda wildlife education center is also in also in Entebbe. At the zoo visitors can view mammals like rhinos or participate in chimp close ups, behind the scenes is the experience and includes feeding giraffe, shoebill stork, chimps and touching the python.
Ngamba islands in Lake Victoria are another best place to visit for 1 day break. Its home to 49 chimps and lots of activities are available including helping to feed the chimps, care giving, nature walks. Ngamba islands are accessible by 11 / 2 hours boat cruise from Entebbe which is an experience it’s self and includes crossing the equator.
Rise of Kampala city as a destination for Business travel, meetings, incentives, conferences and shopping.
Kampala, the capital city of Uganda developed from being a swamp town in 1890 to a modern commercial capital. Being ranked among the fastest growing cities sub Saharan Africa, the most recognized of the developments include luxury hotels, shopping malls, food markets, restaurants, wellness and health clubs, vibrant night life.
The MICE and shopping luxuries are complimented by diverse cultural heritage and religious attractions that can be found in Kampala city with the 7 best cultural and art tours around city’s heritage attractions like Kasubi tombs, Kabaka’s palace, Uganda National museum, Gaddafi mosue, Bahai temple.
There are numerous business convention centers which explain why Kampala city hosts a number of exhibitions and trade fairs such as African birding expo. Some of the places to check out include craft shops along Buganda road and National theatre, the 5 start pearl of Africa hotel, Nakasero food market among others.
Increased aviation access in the East African region
Uganda has not revived its national airline but the East African region now has major hubs like Entebbe, Kigali and Nairobi which are served by regional and international airlines including Rwanda Air, Kenya Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, and KML Royal among others. Hence there’s no shortage of aviation access. In addition Uganda has a growing number of private charter airlines and fly in safaris are provided direct to Uganda national parks like Kidepo valley, Murchison falls, Bwindi, Rwenzori Mountains.
Cross border tourist connectivity
Cross border tourism is a major driver of overland travel between Uganda and its neighbors particularly Rwanda and Kenya. Kenya alone generates the largest number of visitors for Uganda. The number of visitors who land at kigali and cross to Bwindi forest southwestern Uganda is increasing too especially for double gorilla tracking safaris. in addition Rwanda has only 4 national parks hence tourists find it easy to fly with Rwanda Air and cross the border to enjoy more wildlife viewing safaris in Uganda.
This is because of the shorter distance about 3-4 hours drive from kigali crossing the border at Cyanika to Bwindi for gorilla tracking hence preferred by time bound travelers. In addition, tourists who apply for the East African Single tourist visa get unlimited entry and exit between Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya. East African citizens can travel across the region without a visa however the only country that is not part of the single visa is Tanzania.
Strong marketing campaigns
In 2016, Uganda Tourism spend millions of dollars to hiring three marketing firms in the major travel source markets for Uganda including North America, Germany and United Kingdom. In a period of one year, Uganda’s tourist attractions collectively got a media publicity of more 4 million USD. Adventure activities like gorilla tracking, rafting, game viewing safaris, primate viewing such as golden monkey and chimpanzee tracking received many tourist bookings than before from the very source markets.
Online tourist visa application
Rwanda has become the first choice destination for tourists because one can get visa upon arrival at kigali. Although Uganda does not have visa upon arrival regime, it has got online visa application system for travelers to apply in advance.
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