Tourism in Uganda is as old as the country is and it focuses on Uganda’s landscape and wildlife. Tourism in Uganda is one of the major drivers of employment, foreign exchange and investment. Tourism boomed in 1960s where Uganda registered over 100,000 international tourists each year making it the fourth largest earner of foreign exchange then. Early 1970s, the story had a drastic twist bringing the tourism industry to end due to political instability but this only lasted awhile and in the late 1980s, the tourism industry got a reinvestment due to the stabilized political climate and conditions.
In 1994 the Uganda Tourist Stature established the Uganda Tourist Board (UTB), a statutory organization whose mandate is to promote and popularize Uganda as a viable holiday destination both locally and internationally in order to: Increase the contribution of tourism earnings and GDP, improve Uganda’s competitiveness as an international tourism destination and increase Uganda’s share of Africa’s and World tourism market.
Uganda boosts of a very diverse culture, flora and fauna as well as landscape that keeps many people flooding the country.
- Game and bird viewing
Game viewing is one of the most popular tourist activity that makes people look forward to Uganda as their utmost tourist destination. Wild animals like buffaloes, lions, giraffes, elephants, antelopes are common in Uganda’s ten national parks and it is one of only three countries where it is possible to visit the endangered mountain gorillas. The other countries include Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mountain gorillas are Uganda’s top most tourist attraction with a vast majority of these are in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and a few others in Mgahinga National Park both in southwestern Uganda.
Did you know that in Bwindi, visitors were not allowed to view the mountain gorillas until April 1993? Queen Elizabeth National Park is the only park in Uganda where you will find tree climbing lions. Lions don’t normally climb trees, except when chased by a wild buffalo or another lion group; however the tree climbing lions found in Queen Elizabeth National Park intentionally climb trees and rest on them in the afternoon, when the sun is high making it a truly unique phenomenon. In East Africa there have only been rare similar sightings of this in Lake Manyara National Park of Tanzania.
- Boating and Water Sports
Uganda is privileged to be located in the African Great Lakes region; Uganda has a variety of water bodies that attract many tourists making them popular spots for tourism. White water rafting and kayaking are the most popular activities on the rapids near the source of the Nile at Jinja.
Boating is another activity commonly done on Lake Victoria, Lake Bunyonyi, Lake Mburo, Kazinga Channel, and River Nile is a perfect way of exploring the buffaloes, crocodiles, hippos and a wide variety of bird species that inhabit the banks of these water bodies. Canoeing can also be done at lake Bunyonyi.
Sport fishing is another one of the favorite tourist activity. Fish like the Nile perch, and tilapia can be caught in designated areas of Lake Mburo and along the banks of the Nile.
- Hiking and Mountain Climbing
With the rich varsity of highlands in Uganda, There are many opportunities for mountain climbing, hiking and nature walks. The Rwenzori Mountains that lie at the border with the DRC, include the snowcapped Margherita Peak (5109 m), which is the highest Mountain Range in Africa and also one of the highest peaks. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also includes three peaks, Mount Muhavura, Mount Sabinyo and Mount Gahinga. In Eastern Uganda we have Mount Elgon; all these can be used for hiking and climbing.
TOP TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN UGANDA
Kidepo Valley National Park, Karamoja region, Uganda
Kidepo Valley National Park is located in North east Uganda opened back in 1958 and is managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority. Moroto is the nearest town to the park at a distance of about two hundred and twenty kilometres and the park also borders the country of South Sudan.; the Kidepo River and the Narus River are the two major rivers that flow through the park. You will enjoy game viewing which is one of the most popular attractions for tourists in this park.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, South western Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and arguably the major tourist destination in Uganda. It is located in south-western Uganda and is one of the richest ecosystems anywhere in the world with many different species of birds and mammals. Over 120 different species of mammals, more than 200 different species of butterflies, around 350 species of birds and many more endangered species call this home. The park also harbours Colobus Monkeys, Chimpanzees, and the most sought endangered Bwindi Gorillas.
Queen Elizabeth National Park, Western Uganda
The Queen Elizabeth National Park is another of Uganda’s most visited National Park spreading over an area of 1,978 square kilometres. The park is located in Western Uganda covering over 3 districts; Kasese, Kamwenge, Bushenyi and Rukungiri. In 1954 the park was opened to tourists by the queen of England after whom the park is named after. It is here that you will find about 95 different species of mammal and more than 500 species of birds and the park is managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority.
Murchison Falls National Park, North western Uganda
Sometimes known as Kabarega National Park, Murchison Falls National Park is located in north-western Uganda. Despite being ravaged by poachers, the park is well known for its amazing wildlife with four of the big five’s; Buffalos, Elephants, Lions and Leopards. The park was also home to Rhinos but they became extinct due to poaching and hunting during the 1960s and 1970s. The good news is rhinos are being reintroduced in the park. Other animals that you find present in the park include Hippopotamus, Giraffes, Uganda Kob, Antelopes, Hartebeest and Oribi.