Posts Tagged ‘Birding’

New Vessels for Kalangala

By TEA Reporter,

KALANGALA district in Uganda made up of several scattered islands is to acquire two new ferries by June 2010, Deo Nsereko, the resident district commissioner, has said.

Currently, there is only one ferry – MV Kalangala, operating the Kampala-Kalangala islands route.

“The two new, ‘modern and reliable’ ferries will work concurrently with MV Kalangala at the Nakiwogo landing site,” Nsereko added.

He said the ferries would help islanders, to ease the hardships over transport.

“Recently, when MV Kalangala was not working, the movement of people and goods was affected,” noted. MV Kalangala had gone for periodic mandatory docking inspection in Mwanza, Tanzania.

The vessel underwent minor repairs and resumed operations last month.

“The Ugandan ministry of Transport & Works is committed to maintaining effective transport services in the country,” Susan Kataike, the works ministry spokesperson, said recently.

TOURISM: RWANDA’S MAJOR FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNER

By George Kalisa

Rwanda’s experience shows that the road to total liberation of the people has neither been straight nor smooth. Faced with the challenge of improving the lives of Rwandans in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, President Paul Kagame has met barriers ranging from political to economic ones, a high ranking government official has said. The international perception of the country was a major hold up to efforts to the liberation of the Rwandans from all forces that denied them human dignity. The world knew Rwanda for the genocide.

However Kagame and his government have triumphed over a sea of problems and Rwandans are already reaping the fruits of Kagame’s vision says Rosette Rugamba, the deputy chief executive officer of Rwanda Development Board in charge of Tourism and conservation.

The enterprising President looked at tourism as a potential sector in reconstructing the economy hence the re launch of the industry in 2003 on two definitive fronts – domestic and international tourism.

Domestic tourism focused on creating a culture of appreciation of the intrinsic value of and benefit of the sector to the economy while international tourism positioned Rwanda as a high end destination that put conservation and the environment first.

Rugamba adds that the security and stability in the country spur growing investment in the sector.

“The journey of the tourism sector in Rwanda started with the vision of our President six years ago. We are now harvesting six years of solid investment in destination tourism positioning, continuous improvements in the product backed by unwavering government support. With out doubt, the peace and security we enjoy in this country have been enabling factors,” Rugamba said.

Rugamba says although they have achieved many successes, Rwanda has not yet realized its dream tourism industry, adding that more innovations are needed.

“While we celebrate where we are today, we all believe that we still have a long way to go. The year on year growth is testimony that we are doing something right as a nation, “Rugamba said in an interview.

In 2003, only 16,000 visitors went to Rwanda compared to 980,577 in 2008. By June 2009, 440,000 visitors had been to the country. The increase in the number of visitors has meant increase in revenue and expansion of tourism infrastructure and tour operator agencies over the years.

Revenue upped from $8m in 2003 to $209m in 2008, while hotel rooms increased from 650 to 4,256.

Currently, Rwanda boasts of 189 hotels compared to just 30 in 2003. Besides being the number one foreign exchange earner for three consecutive years, the sectors competitive performance globally has improved ten fold the country’s image.

For the third time Rwanda was this year voted best African exhibitor at ITB Berlin, the worlds largest tourism trade fair. It was also voted among the “Top 10” tourism destinations in the world by Lonely Planet (2009), a travel guide in the United Kingdom. Early this year, Rwanda mountain gorilla trekking was ranked among the top green travel experiences in the world by the latest Rough Guide’s publication, 500 New Ways to see the World.

Rwanda’s gorilla experience was also listed in the publication Unforgettable journeys you must take before you die by Steve Watkins and Clare Jones as one of the 50 things you must do before you die.

The influx of international celebrities into the country is evident of growing tourism. These include; Jack Hanna (world’s conservation icon), CNN founder, Ted Turner and Catherine Crier.

Gorilla naming ceremony: it is one of the sector’s land mark innovations and one of the most recognized conservation events on the world tourism calendar.

Kwita Izina, as the gorilla naming ceremony is locally referred to, was launched in 2005 by Kagame. A total of 105 baby gorillas have been named since Kwita Izina ceremonies started. The annual ceremony has attracted high profile people locally and internationally, including Hollywood celebrities and world renowned conservationists. Kwita Izina is a celebration of successes in protecting the mountain gorilla and the environment it lives in.

Over $2m has been raised through the event and has been spent on supporting the communities that live outside the mountains of the Virungas.

Rugamba says Rwanda expects tourism revenues to hit $278m by 2012, adding that in the offing is a 10 year master plan, an initiation that will take the sector to greater heights.

New Products
: Central to Rwanda’s tourism strategy has been the development of new diverse products. They include avi tourism, Nyungwe National Park, Akagera Savannah Park and conference tourism.

In 2008, we launched the birding product (avi tourism) at the birding fair in UK, says Rugamba. Rwanda hosts over 700 bird species of which 44 are endemic to Rwanda. It is anticipated that birding will contribute 10% to Rwanda’s tourism receipts by 2010. The Nyungwe forest trails are offering nature hikes and an opportunity to see over 13 primate species, including chimpanzees.

By the end of the year, two lodges will be opened in Nyungwe and the canopy walk will be launched in the heart of the forest, the first of its kind in Eastern Africa.

The government is currently restocking and up grading accommodation facilities in Akagera National Park.

Rugamba discloses that a 20 seat leisure boat will be commissioned on Lake Kivu in October. The boat will enable tourists to visit islands on the lake.

Commenting on conference tourism, Rugamba said; “Our fastest growing product has to be conference tourism. Rwanda has become a much sought after destination for multi sectral, regional, continental and international conferences. In the first half of 2009, 189,857 (43%) of the visitors who came to Rwanda came for business purposes. In 2010, we hope to have set up a convention bureau to manage and coordinate conferences”.

Rugamba added, “With Rwanda becoming part of East Africa, we shall continue to work on promoting East Africa as a single destination and working on fast tracking of the East Africa single visa. The East Africa standards are already in place and Rwanda has started preparing the hotels for classification”.

Semliki National Park -more than just Hot Springs

TEA & Agencies

Formerly a forest reserve, Semliki with an area of 220 square kilometres was given national park status in 1993.

The park got its name from the river that forms the Uganda – Congo border. It is the only park in Uganda that is primarily made up of tropical lowland forest.

The park can be reached from Kampala either by air or road. From Kampala via Fort portal, the park is about 363 kms.

As one of those parks with the most diverse wildlife in East Africa, one would not hesitate to conclude that Winston Churchill must have coined the words “The Pearl of Africa” from here.

With some of Africa’s most spectacular bird species, the novice birder and bird enthusiasts continue to visit the area in big numbers just like you see people visiting shrines and going to Pentecostal churches.

The unique eco system in the area is shared with Ituri forest across the Semliki River in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Enroute to Semliki, a 4 x 4 wheel drive vehicle is recommended as it will also enhance your panoramic views of the park.

There are a number of hot springs in the area among which is the famous Sempaya hot spring with a boiling geyser of about 106°C that spurts up to two metres high from a white iced cake like base.

This is evidence that strong tectonic forces could have and continue to shape sections of the western rift valley.

The bird list is 441 species including some of Africa’s most spectacular and sought after birds such as the long tailed hawk, Lyre tailed honey guide, Nkulengu Rail and the rare Shoe Bill stork.

The park is also home to about 53 mammals and contains 336 tree species plus a good number of primates including the bush baby, potto, baboons, chimpanzees and an exceptional variety of monkeys.

Boat rides and fishing on Lake Albert can be arranged so as to offer you a unique unequaled experience. These activities will enable you appreciate nature at its best.

Other interesting areas are the Mungilo and Ngite falls plus the Semliki River which harbours hippos, crocodiles and vervet monkeys at its shores.

Also look out for the leopard, scaly tailed flying squirrel, elephant, buffalo and the pygmy antelope. Nature walks and a visit to see the pygmies at Ntandi can also be arranged.

For those who like exclusivity, this park is the ideal hideout for a quiet holiday. Semliki Safari Lodge is the only accommodation option in this area. However, one can still visit the park and later drive and overnight at Mountains of the Moon Hotel or Fort Motel in Fort Portal.

The limited number of accommodation facilities in Semliki calls for private investors to think about putting up luxury lodges and campsites in the park and areas of Sempaya and Ntoroko.