Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Mountain Gorilla Trekking

Gorillas; the largest of the great Apes are divided into three subspecies that include the western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla graueri). The eastern and western lowland gorillas were identified for science in 1847 and 1877 respectively.

The third sub specie – the Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) was identified for science purposes in the year 1903 and has gone on to become Uganda’s star attraction.

Mountain gorillas are physically distinct from lowland gorillas. They are larger, have much hair, a short trunk, a broad chest / shoulders and also have a longer / slightly different nose shape.

They are born small, covered with black hair and usually weigh about 2.3 kilograms. Gorillas develop about as twice as human babies with the mature female mother also undergoing a gestation period of 9 months. They are unique species; as a gorilla with an infant may not have another baby up to four years – good family planning.

Male and female young gorillas between the ages of three and six are classed as juvenile. During this period, both the male and female gorillas have a black skin and thick black hair and usually weigh about 2.3 kilograms. They increase in size and weight at similar rates for the first six years. On reaching six years; most Mountain gorillas weigh about 68 kilograms and are usually about 4 feet tall.

The female Mountain gorilla stop growing taller as they mature at around six years, this is as opposed to the male Mountain gorillas that continue growing both in size and weight past the age of six till they reach the ages of ten to eleven.

Between the ages of six and ten years, male gorillas have a black hair colour and are thus referred to as the Blackbucks. On reaching maturity which is usually between 10 and 12 years, the male Mountain Gorillas develop silvery grey hairs on their backs thereby being referred to as Silverbacks.

The Silverback usually leave their parental group at the age of 11 and then moves alone or in the company of other males for a few years before managing to attract females from other groups to him hence forming his own family. Silver back is a dominant male in a group of about 12 or more gorillas that usually include females, juveniles and other infants.

On a good day, you will find them chewing leaves, laughing and farting not only continuously but with a lot of contentment. They are diurnal (nomadic), sleeping each night in a fresh nest built from leaves and branches.

Mountain gorillas are primarily vegetarian with their menu comprising bamboo, nettles and gallium being some of their favorite. They occasionally also eat safari ants which are scooped in huge handfuls to stuff into the mouth until the safari ant bites over power them. Gorillas spend most of their time traveling and foraging in search of food since plants and trees change with seasons.

Gorillas communicate through vocalizations. Twenty five distinct vocalizations have so far been recognized with each one having its own particular meaning. As an element of their socialization, they communicate through howls, grunts, barks and hoots. Screams and roars signal alarm or warning and are often produced by silverbacks. They also communicate by beating on their chests or on the ground. This is done to show stature, prevent a fight or even scare off opponents. However, even the infants beat their chests as a kind of displacement activity during play perhaps just to copy their elders.

Mountain gorilla life is peaceful and quite. It is from this that they have come to be called Africa’s Gentle Giants. These gentle giants are found in the areas of Parc des VolcansRwanda and Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) while in Uganda, they are confined to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi “impenetrable” Forest National park.

Bwindi “impenetrable” Forest National park is situated in south western Uganda on the edge of western rift valley (Albertine rift) and is shared by Kanungu, Kabale and Kisoro districts. It is 331 square kilometers in size; on an altitude range of 1,160 metres (Ishasha gorge) to 2607 metres (Rwamanyonyi peak).

The number of mountain gorillas in the Virunga vault that combine the gorillas of Uganda , Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo has increased  according to experts. The number is believed to have reached 900 from 700 usually portrayed by the facts noted since 2006 when the last census was done.

The government through Uganda Wildlife Authority recently launched a census to assess the actual number of Mountain Gorillas.

According to Martha Robbins, the German expert leading the census, the team counts gorilla nests, other than individual gorillas, and collect their feaces. The feaces will be used for generic analysis which, she said, provides the most accurate estimates.

The first census in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in western Uganda was carried out in 1997. It showed that there were 300 gorillas but the number rose to about 320 five years later and 340 in the last census conducted in 2006.

The Gorillas of Mgahinga , Virunga and Volcanoes National parks are believed to have increased from 380 in 2006 t0 480 currently. The census in Bwindi impenetrable forest  launched about a month has been launched  and the numbers are believed to have risen from 340 in 2008 to over 400 now.

Bwindi has 8 habituated groups namely Mubare 5 members, Habinyanja with 19 members, Rushegura with 20, Nkuringo 20, Bitukura 14, Nshongi 26, Mishaya 11, Kyaguriro 16.

Two other groups are under habituation and currently being used for mock tourism namely Kahungye and Oruzogo. All groups are available for tourism except Kyaguriro in Ruhija which is dedicated for Research.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park which is part of the Greater Virunga Massif has one trans-boundary group known as Nyakagezi with 9 members.

Bwindi Forest gazzetted in 1992 as a National park is now a UNESCO world heritage site.

Gorilla trekking provides over 60% of tourism revenue for Uganda thus being a strong reason for their protection.

The threats to the Mountain Gorilla population and its habitat are many. Among these are increasing population and the possibility of disease transmission from humans to Gorillas. To address the issue of potential disease transmission to the gorillas and to reduce behavioral disturbances to the fragile population, Gorilla rules have been put in place.

GORILLA RULES

ON THE WAY TO THE GORILLAS

1)    Always wash your hands before you head out to the gorillas.
2)    A maximum number of eight (8) visitors may visit a group of habituated Mountain gorillas in a day. This minimizes behavioral disturbance to the gorillas and the risk of their exposure to human borne diseases.
3)    You will be taken to where the guides left the gorillas the day before. From there you will follow the mountain gorillas’ trail to find them. Look out for the gorillas’ nesting sites along the way!
4)    When you reach the Mountain Gorillas, the guides will inform you when to get your cameras ready.
5)    Please always keep your voices low. You will also be able to observe the great birdlife and other wildlife in the forest.
6)    Do not leave rubbish in the park. Whatever you bring into the forest should be carried back with you.

WHEN YOU ARE WITH THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS
1)    Keep your voices low at all times. However, it is okay to ask the guide (s) questions.
2)    You must stay in a tight group when you are near the mountain gorillas.
3)    Keep a minimum of 7 metres (21 feet) from the Mountain Gorillas. This is to protect the Mountain Gorillas from human disease transmission.
4)    Do not eat or drink while you are near the mountain gorillas.
5)    Sometimes the Mountain Gorillas charge. Follow the guide’s example crouch down slowly. DO NOT look the Mountain Gorilla in the eye. Wait for the Gorillas to pass and do not attempt to run away as this could increase the risk of attack.
6)    Do not touch the Mountain Gorillas. They are wild animals.
7)    Flash photography is not allowed. When taking pictures, move slowly and carefully.
8)    The maximum time visitors are allowed to spend with the Mountain Gorillas is one hour. This is done to limit their disturbance. If the Mountain Gorillas become agitated or nervous, the guide will end the visit early.
9)    After the visit, keep your voices low until you are 200 metres away from the Mountain Gorillas.

GENERAL HEALTH RULES

Remember Mountain Gorillas are very susceptible to human diseases. The following are ways to minimize the risk your visit might pose to them;

1)    If you are feeling ill, or have a contagious disease when you are already at the park, please volunteer to stay behind. An alternative visit will be arranged for you or you will be refunded your money as per gorilla reservation guidelines.
2)    If you feel the urge to cough or sneeze when you are near the Mountain Gorillas, please turn your head away and cover your nose and mouth in order to minimize the spread of viruses or bacteria.
3)    Always stay 7 metres (21 feet) away from the Mountain Gorillas. The further back you are, the more relaxed the group will be.
4)    Respect the Gorilla limit imposed on the time visitors are allowed with the Mountain Gorillas each day. This minimizes the risk of disease transmission and stress to the group.
5)    If you need to go to the “toilet” while in the forest, please ask the guide to dig you a hole and ensure you cover it when you have finished.
6)    Do not leave any rubbish in the park.

By following the rules above and through purchase of a permit, you are contributing to the conservation of the Mountain Gorilla. A percentage of the funds raised from park entrance fees and the community levy on permits is shared with the local communities living adjacent to the parks so as to help contribute to their development projects and also improve on the natural resource management in the region. Any breach of these rules may lead to termination of tracking without any refund. Book your Gorilla Tour here

Tanzania uses diplomats to promote Tourism

Tanzania has organised a trip for foreign envoys to various regions as a way of promoting the country’s tourism.

The trip has been packaged as part of the activities to mark the East African state’s 50th independence anniversary.

Officials hope that the envoys would help disseminate information about Tanzania’s main tourist attractions.

The diplomats have already visited Butiama village in Mara region, the birth place of the first president, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, as well as Zanzibar and Olduvai Gorge, where they saw Laetoli footprints.

The Laetoli footprints, in the Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley, were excavated by Louis and Mary Leakey in the mid-1950s.

The group of sites, is about 10.5km long and 350 feet deep and has evidence of almost 2 million years of occupation.

Sites at Olduvai are primarily stream and lake-side occupations, where stone working occurred.

Tanzania’s minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe, says the diplomats’ trip was aimed at exposing them to the beauty of Tanzania.

“As we mark our 50 years of independence, we have opted to show diplomats the beauty of our country… they have also visited burial places of our founding father in Butiama and Zanzibar,” Mr Membe said.

Dr.Richard Sezibera is the new EAC Secretary General

The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State have appointed Ambassador Richard Sezibera from Rwanda as the new secretary General of the Community on a five-year term with effect from last week.

A communiqué issued at the end of the Heads of State summit held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week said Dr. Sezibera replaces Ambassador Juma Volter Mwapachu who completed his term of office on April 24, 2011.

Speaking after being sworn in, Dr Sezibera said that his focus will be to strengthen and bring the Community’s programmes to success. He said his main duties will be to push for the complete establishment of the East African common market and put it into practice.

“I expect the partner states to support me in ensuring the implementation of the Community programmes,” said Dr Sezibera.

He added that another duty will be to facilitate integration and make sure all the residents of the EAC area well informed and aware of the EAC programmes and activities.

On what EAC people should expect from him, the new secretary-general said his commitment to work for the Community was among the important issues that would move the Community’s development ahead.
“I am committed to work for the East African people, it makes me very proud and courageous,” said Dr Sezibera.

Until his new appointment, Dr Sezibera, (47), the youngest person to hold the top EAC post since the revival of the regional bloc in 1999 has been Rwanda’s health minister since October 2008. He has served in many capacities in the Rwandan government including Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region, Ambassador to the United States and Senior Adviser to the President where he worked on peace and security, conflict management and resolution, as well as regional integration issues.

He is the author of many university journals, mainly in the field of politics and international affairs, and has published numerous articles and interviews in major national, regional and international media houses including Voice of America, CNN, BBC, The Washington Post and Foreign Affairs magazine.

Dr. Sezibera holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree and practiced medicine for many years in Uganda and Rwanda. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University.

Summit Chairman Pierre Nkurunziza told the new leaders that the mission is to lead the Community in its second decade of integration, with a calendar of great commitments because the peoples of the community have become very demanding, and require concrete results from the integration.

Hailing the choice of Sezibera, officials in the Rwandan Senate said the appointment was a sign that the EAC’s integration would be fast tracked.

“It’s great to have someone who has wide experience in politics; it’s good for Rwanda and the wider Community,” Senator Agnes Mukabaranga said. “Dr Sezibera has vast experience considering the posts he has held before. He is very innovative and industrious.”

Mukabaranga said Dr Sezibera has the spirit of innovation that is needed to fast track the region’s integration process. He becomes the fourth secretary-general of the EAC.

Tanzania Tourist Numbers Decline

By TEA Correpondent

Tanzania is likely to miss out on millions of dollars usually expected from the tourism industry following the decline of international tourists’ arrivals which is due to the global financial crisis. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, Tanzania suffered a 10 percent decline in foreign tourist arrivals in its wildlife-rich national parks in the first ten months of 2009.

The WTO’s 2009 comprehensive report shows that the country had received about 576,643 travelers, down from 641,951 international tourists in 2008. The UN body goes on to note that the negative trends in international tourism surfaced in the second half of 2008 and intensified in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

As a result, Tanzania, East Africa‘s second largest economy after Kenya, is currently struggling to promote domestic tourism in a bid to fill the gap in foreign tourism. Mr. Ibrahim Mussa, Assistant Director Research, Training and Statistics in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism observed that government had opted to concentrate on domestic tourism due to its potential.

“We have decided to increase efforts to woo domestic tourists as a counter to the effects of the global financial crisis because we found that it is paying off,” said Mr. Mussa. He added that findings revealed that an endeavor to pursue local tourists is paying off with a 19.3% increase in activity.

Mr. Donatius Kamamba, Director of Antiquities in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said that a preliminary analysis conducted by his Ministry, shows that the number of visitors coming to the country for leisure had dropped due to the consequences of the financial crisis.

Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel to Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro

By TEA CORRESPONDENT

Singer Justin Timberlake and actress Jessica Biel have signed on to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in January 2010. They will be accompanied by rapper Lupe Fiasco and actress Isabel Lucas who are all going with the “Summit on the Summit” expedition a brain child of Ethiopian born singer Kenna.

“I have been training four times a week to get my VO2 (oxygen consumption) levels up to expand my lungs,” Justin told GQ.

In a statement about her decision to climb the more than 19,000 feet mountain to the peak, Biel said, “This is a basic human necessity that needs to be addressed now”.

For Kenna whose father suffered from water borne diseases in Ethiopia as a child, the effort to bring awareness to a world wide danger is something that hits very close to home. “My dad almost died as a child from water borne diseases in Ethiopia and he had talked to me about digging a well there and I thought, ‘I have too many friends who would be concerned with the subject of clean water. May be I can help out,’ “Kenna told ELLE magazine in a recent interview.

The climb will also help raise funds for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Play Pumps International and the Children’s safe drinking water programme.

Single Tourist Visa for East Africa

By Arthur Baguma

The East African Community plans to start a single tourist visa for the region. The member states are discussing a protocol to create and market the region as a single tourist destination. Member states have started to coordinate their policies in the tourism industry and were establishing a frame work that would ensure equitable distribution of resources. In addition the partner states are establishing a common code of conduct for private and public tour and travel operators, standardized hotel classification and professional standards of agents in the industry.

A collective policy for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wildlife and other tourist sites in the region is also in pipeline.

“They include harmonizing policies for the conservation of wildlife within and outside protected areas, exchanging information and adopting common policies on wildlife management and development, coordinating efforts in controlling and monitoring encroachment and poaching activities,” information at the EAC states. The policy encourages joint use of training and research facilities and developing common management plans for trans-border protected areas.

These developments are good news to East Africa tourism potential. From some of the world’s finest beaches to unique wildlife sanctuaries East Africa is a tourism hub. In Uganda the unique wildlife sanctuaries East Africa is a tourism hub. In Uganda the unique Bwindi National Park home to some 340 mountain gorillas, the Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park are also preferred sites for tourists. In Kenya, the magnificent Maasai Mara reserve, among 48 wildlife parks and reserves, including the amazing Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks attract tourists both local and international. In Tanzania, the world famous Ngorongoro crater, the breath taking spectacular Serengeti plains, wildlife conservation areas and Mt. Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain are just the tip of the ice berg of what Tanzania can offer tourists.

Apart from the scenic attractions, East Africa has a lot more to offer. Hotel and beach tourism is at its peak. The region offers a large number of historical sites spread through the region. It boasts of interesting traditional culture, the Makonde sculptures and Akamba wood crafts as well as the Uganda Kingdoms, cultures and tradition. The Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania is the site of discoveries of the traces of early humanity.

There is, however potential for development, expansion and promotion of East African tourism, taking into account on going development of tourism and other potential of the lake Victoria basin. The world’s second largest fresh water body is shared by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

The number of tourists to the East African region increased significantly between 1995 and 2002.In Tanzania the number increased from 285,000 to 550,000 while in Uganda it increased from 160,000 to 254,000. In Kenya there was a slight decline from 896,000 to 838,000 but the figures rose to one million in 2003.

Currently the three countries attract more than two million tourists. The figures indicate a vibrant trend of the tourist sector in East Africa. With joint promotion of the industry, tourist visits in East Africa are expected to double in the near future. In 2005, the East African Community countries launched the plan for joint tourism and wildlife development including joint marketing and promotion of East Africa as a single tourist destination.

Starting with the Internationale Tourismus Borse (ITB), Berlin 2006, the tourist boards of East African countries participate in international trade fairs under one roof, the East African Village exhibition area. On going activities aim at developing both short and long term measures in the joint promotion and marketing of East Africa as a single tourist destination.

The plan and strategy for joint development and promotion of tourism envisages steady growth due to stable political and peaceful conditions prevailing in the region coupled with modernization of infrastructure, transport and communications facilities and links to all parts of the world by major world air lines and ocean cruises.

Get the Feel, Thrill of Mount Mgahinga

TEA & Agencies

Nestled in the south western tip of Uganda on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Mgahinga has an area of just 34 square kilometres and is the Uganda’s smallest national park.

It encompasses the Uganda side of the three Bufumbira volcanic mountains of Mgahinga at 3400 metres high, Sabinyo at 3645m and Muhavura at 4127m.

Mgahinga can be reached from Kampala either by air or road. From Kampala the park is about 540 kilometres and is punctuated with scenic views while charter flights to Kisoro Airstrip take approximately an hour from Entebbe.

Gazetted as a sanctuary in 1930, this park has 76 mammal species with the most notable being Uganda’s trump card; the mountain gorilla. Nyakagezi, one of the habituated groups or gorilla families, in this park keeps moving back and forth across the boundary of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 1964, the northern boundary of the sanctuary was changed to a lower altitude of 2280m extending into heavily encroached zones and gazetted as a game reserve which made an area of roughly 47.5km² that has gone on reducing to 38.6 square kilometres. This game reserve was later gazetted to its present status of a national park in 1991.

Other key species of primates known to be in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include the golden monkey and the black and white Colobus monkey. Considering that this park is a gem amongst Ugandan parks, other animals to look out for include golden cats, giant forest hogs, Caruthers’s mountain, Boehm’s, side stripped jackal, honey badger, buffaloes, elephants and 12 bird species among which are the cinnamon chested bee eater and the globally threatened Grauer’s rush warbler.

Being an Afro-montane tropical rainforest, it has abundant bamboo that is one of the delicacies for the mountain gorilla. Mgahinga National Park has three extinct volcanoes. Though no special mountain gear is required, it is recommended that one has to be physically fit. The three extinct volcanoes are Mt. Gahinga, Mt. Muhavura and Mt.Sabinyo.

Mount Sabinyo commonly referred to as “Old Man’s Teeth” is the point where you will be in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the same time. The hike takes approximately eight hours for the round trip that covers the 14 -kilometre stretch.

Mt. Gahinga, locally known as a “Small Pile of Stones” is another of the hills that make up the Virunga ranges while Mt. Muhavura meaning “The Guide” is a volcano that acts as a guide since it is seen from all over Kisoro. The hike to Mt. Gahinga takes approximately eight hours for a round trip to cover the 12 km stretch.

Another principal feature in the area are the caves. Most notable is Garama cave where the Batwa are believed to have once lived. This 342-metre long and 14-metre deep cave three kilometres from the park headquarters is now inhabited by bats. Kisoro town offers a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from basic campsites to luxurious hotels.

Recommended hotels and lodges include Traveler’s Rest Hotel and Mount Gahinga Lodge. For the avid hiker, Mt. Mgahinga is the place to go. However, there is need for more shorter and varied walks that can be promoted around or within the park.

Mount Rwenzori: Africa’s highest Mountain Range

TEA & Agencies

Awe-inspiring is perhaps an understatement when describing the beauty of this world-class hiking and mountaineering destination: the Rwenzoris. Described by one enthralled visitor as Heaven’s Garden, it is as though the gods had hidden this profusion of colour up in the clouds so that only those who dare might reach up and share its secrets. No wonder the mountain range is described as the Mountains of the Moon, even by ancient Hindu scriptures.

Mount Rwenzori can be reached from Kampala either by air or road. From Kampala, the park can be approached from the south via Mbarara or the north passing through Fort Portal. By air the park is served by Kasese airfield.

These legendary snow-capped mountains were declared a forest reserve in 1941. The reserve is a catchment area giving rise to numerous streams that supply water to the surrounding communities as well as maintaining the flow of water to lakes Edward, George and Albert. Rwenzori Forest Reserve was gazetted as a national park in 1991 and declared a world heritage site in 1995.

The Rwenzori mountains have a range covering an area of 996 square kilometers, lying 4° north of the Equator. The mountain range has six peaks that stretch from Mt. Stanley with Alexandria and Margherita (Africa’s third highest mountain at 5109 metres above sea level), Mt. Speke - Vittorio Emmanuele (4889m), Mt. Baker (4843m), Mt. Gessi (4797m), Mt. Emin (4791m) and Mt. Luigi de Savoia (4626m).

Mt. Rwenzori is renowned for its non-engineered, steep and slippery trails and frequent rain. High altitude, rain, cold temperatures, mud, bogs and steep terrain make it the most challenging range in Africa. Hiking the mountain commences with the hiring of equipment followed by briefing from the guides. At 1,646m departure from the park headquarters starts with a client walking past Bakonzo homesteads. On reaching the Makoma River, you cross via a very steep climb through open bracken fern slopes and podocarpus forest up to Nyabitaba Hut at 2,652m, which is the arrival point for the day. This walk usually takes five to six hours.

The following day involves heading westwards for half a kilometer then dropping north steeply to Kurf Shafer Bridge. One can choose to overnight at Nyamileju or continue to John Matte Hut. From John Matte you cross the Bujuku River from where you will enter the lower two Bigo Bogs and this is the place where your first real experience of jumping from tussock to tussock in a grassy bog begins.

The trail in this area is usually muddy to the south until the Bigo Hut which is an ideal spot for parties climbing Mt. Speke with overnight usually at Bujuku Hut (3,962m). From Bujuku Hut the circuit is continued on new trails, which rise and fall twice before finally climbing steeply through magical moss-draped Groundsel Gully towards Scott Eliot Pass (4,372m). The trek continues to Elena Hut (4,372m) which is the camp prior to climbing Margherita Peak (5,109m).

It is advisable that descent towards Kitandara should never be delayed. Here you will find massive rock walls and craters at the base of Mt. Baker. You then proceed via Upper Kitandara Lake through bad mud to the lower lake and Kitandara Hut where you can spend the night.

It is from this point that treks to Mount Baker or Mount Luigi di Savoia and Vittorio Sella can be arranged.

To avoid overheating on the steep long climb from the lake to Fresh Field Pass (4,282m), it is advisable that the descent starts early. From here one can descend through Kabamba onto the park headquarters at Nyakalengija.

Generally the trek is an excellent destination for keen hikers and climbers. The best time of the year for hiking is during the dry seasons from July/August and December to February. However, it is still possible to trek in other months. The fauna of this park is a checklist of 70 mammal species and 182 birds. The Rwenzori Colobus Monkey, L’Hoesti’s Monkey, Chimpanzee, Blue Monkey, Rock Hyrax, Red Forest, Black-fronted Duiker, Elephant, Leopard and the three-horned Chameleon are some of the wildlife that can be spotted.

A variety of accommodation caters for all budgets while in Kasese town and these include Rwenzori Base Camp in Ibanda, Hotel Margherita and Rwenzori International Hotel.

Why Uganda?

By Geoffrey Baluku

Uganda is a land locked country located astride the equator. With an area of 236, 580 sq. km, Uganda is bordered by Sudan in the north, Kenya to the east, Tanzania and Rwanda in the South while the Democratic Republic of Congo is toMountain Rwenzori the west. It is a country blessed with varied and spectacular scenery to fill one action packed holiday and still leave scores of other experiences to be enjoyed on a return trip.

From the snow capped Rwenzori Mountains through the virgin rolling hills of the eland to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, from Lake Victoria down the mighty Nile River to Murchison falls National Park, the country Uganda contains immense natural and cultural wealth.

It is in Uganda that over 50% of the worlds endangered Gorillas are still preserved; it is the same place where the mighty Nile starts its long journey to the Mediterranean Sea.

Mountain GorillaUganda is undoubtedly renowned for its Mountain gorillas. However, the country is more than just gorillas! For magnificence, the cheetah and Ostrich in Kidepo National Park, the Giraffes and Crocodiles in Murchison falls, Zebras and Eland in Lake Mburo National Park, are a must see. The launch cruise along Kazinga channel and the Nile River famed for their close view of hippos, birds and crocodiles not forgetting the tree climbing lions of Queen Elizabeth National Park are all true rewards to the discerning traveler.

But the magic of safari isn’t all this great country has to offer. For the more intrepid adventures bungee jumping and a climb to the snow capped legendary mountains of the moon – Mt. Rwenzori are a must for the daring. Other interesting offers include chimpanzee tracking, birding, fishing, Kayaking and the friendly people that complete the true story of Uganda.

Cultural tourism is also a popular choice for many visitors to Uganda. History buffs will find Uganda’s story an interesting one and will delight in exploring the relics of Uganda’s unique Kingdoms.

GiraffeFrom the friendly people, day hikes on the Virunga and Mt. Elgon, rafting on the Nile, discovering the dramatic lakes and launch cruises, Uganda truly is gifted with a wide choice of activities.

Characterized by 23 years of dramatic tourism growth, Uganda’s GDP is now at 6.5% with a budget that is 70% self sufficient. A big portion of the country’s land mass is dedicated to wildlife parks, thereby keeping Uganda on track as it preserves endangered and great wildlife and bird species.

With a diverse mixture of traditional tribes and cosmopolitan professionals Uganda is the place to go.

So welcome to Uganda – experience the warmth of our people and spectacular wildlife.

More Tourists in 2008, though a decline is evident in 2009

TEA Agencies,

Kampala, Uganda

 A total of 844,000 foreigners visited Uganda in 2008, representing a 32% increase over 2007. As a key contributor to Uganda’s GDP tourism accounted for 3.7% of the total. Despite this increase, it is clear that Uganda’s tourism industry is now facing difficult times as a result of the financial melt down.

The tourism industry is especially vulnerable to financial slow downs with consumers spending less on travel products and experiences in the short and medium terms. Expenditure on accommodation and

Gorilla Permits, Uganda’s trump card has decreased drastically as visitors choose more affordable safari options.

There was growing optimism that Uganda would soon achieve the 1 million foreign visitor mark by 2012. However, with the current economic melt down experienced globally and domestically, the effect on Uganda’s tourism industry is likely to be worse.

The unstable fuel costs and fluctuating dollar rate means that long-haul tourism is on the decline, particularly for middle income tourists. This has already had an effect on Uganda’s tourism industry.

As long haul travel becomes increasingly unaffordable, the integration of the East African region is now paramount for the region to achieve its tourism targets. However, reasonable controls such as some degree of protection for the Ugandan tour operators should be taken into consideration as we go into the final stages of the East African re integration.

The drop in visitors from all major source markets including UK and USA is now evident. According to research firm Trip Advisor, 58% of UK consumers are likely to or have already been influenced by the economic down town when it comes to choosing a holiday this year.

Tour operators in Uganda must now guard, at all costs, against pricing itself out of the global market as this destination now competes, on affordability levels, with Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

With the deepening of the global financial crisis and economic slowdown, there is a rise of new challenges ranging from safari cancellations to souring inflation rates now believed to have settled at 14.8%.

These challenges thus call for a cash injection so as to help in facilitating tourism research, marketing and work force issues for the better of Uganda’s Tourism industry.