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Uganda Bounces Back And Becomes A Desired Tourist Destination

By Chiara Vercellone

Efforts from Uganda Tourism and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) – two of the most active associations focused on protecting Africa's wildlife and lands – came together at the Ugandan Embassy on Sept. 24, where experts from both associations convened to share the latest environmental conservation news.

Located in the heart of Africa, Uganda has been considered the "Pearl of Africa" since Winston Churchill visited in 1908. He described it as such after seeing the unique, natural ecosystem. After that, his words would be used to charm people into visiting the nation for decades, but that stopped when war broke out in the mid-1970s.

During the long, violent reign of Idi Amin – who became self-declared president of Uganda in 1978 and started the turmoil that led to a civil war – Uganda's wildlife suffered a fast decline. A 2014 CNN report showed that one of the main causes of this decline were guerrilla groups who "commonly feasted on wild game."

However, Uganda's natural heritage has made a resurgence. The AWF has observed the number of animals in the country have skyrocketed over the last decade. Some species on the rise include waterbucks, giraffes and zebras, which have shown to double in number since the last census of 1999.



Grace Luwemba Mungereza, third secretary at the Embassy of Uganda, and First Secretary Michael Bulwaka welcome guests to a presentation about the latest conservational news of Uganda. Photo: Embassy of Uganda

As the bedrock of Uganda's economy, tourism and wildlife work hand in hand to help the nation move forward. By designating more resources to protecting the wildlife and help it expand (both inside national parks and in private properties,) Uganda is expecting to see an increased tourist visits who come to see the unique fauna and flora.

Tourism in Uganda currently contributes to 10% of the country's GDP, making it one of the biggest revenue generators of the nation. The income in 2018 was of 4.9 trillion Ugandan shillings (USh) – approximately USD 1.3 million – and it's projected to hit USh 9.4 trillion by 2020 (USD 2.5 million).

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the entry of 1.32 million tourists in 2016 was an increase of 0.2 million from the year before. The largest numbers of visitors came from Africa (79.2%), followed by Europe (8.3%), Asia (5.5%) and America (5.4%).

As the renewed Pearl of Africa, Uganda has many activities to offer. The country is blessed with natural advantages and tourists are welcome to go on bird-watching trips, as Uganda is home to 11% of all birds in the world. They can also visit Queen Elizabeth National Park to see elephants, lions, hippos and other large mammals, or go on safari tours to see the wildlife at its finest.

"Uganda is a special country. We offer adventure and unique experiences, and we ultimately contribute to the healthier and happier life of our tourists," said Santa Mary Laker Kinyera, ambassador and deputy head of mission at the embassy.



More than 50% of the mountain gorillas in the world live in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where daily tours bring tourists to see the endangered species. Photo: Paul Souders/Getty Images
 
One of the most remarkable attractions in Uganda is the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994, the park is known for its exceptional biodiversity – hosting more than 160 species of trees, 350 bird species and its most famous resident, the endangered mountain gorilla.

Gorilla trekking, considered the highlight of most activities in Uganda, is an all-day experience where visitors travel the Bwindi Forest on foot to observe the creatures. Though it is a year-round activity, it is recommended to plan a visit during Uganda's dry season, from May to September. However, during that time visitors should dress in warm layers as this is also one of the coldest times of the year in the park.

As Uganda celebrated its 56th Independence anniversary on October 9, the country remains in the process of recovering from wounds inflicted during the war. Nation-wide organizations have increased their efforts to help Uganda embrace the sponsoring of tourist attractions - like island resorts and sailing regattas on Lake Victoria. In doing so, they commit to protect endangered wildlife by engaging the locals in the process. They also increased accessibility to the country – by expanding the amount of flights with international airlines – to allow more tourists to visit the heart of Africa.

Organizations like the AWF and Uganda Tourism have increased their operations in Uganda with the goal of supporting the further development of the country. Some of these operations include fostering education in small villages, as well as helping to improve systems and businesses that are compatible with the wildlife and society, like tours and hotels.

 


Chiara Vercellone is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.

 
 

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