Uganda is proudly known as the Pearl of Africa as proclaimed by the former British prime minister; Sir Winston Church Hill. It was also voted the number one tourist destination by lonely planet in 2012. The country is matching to reclaim its former glory of the 1950s and 60s that suffered decline due to the political turmoil of the 1970s to early 80s.
It is important to note that Uganda’s tourism was booming in the region having impressed some of the world figures including the British royals in 1952 and Sir Winston Church hill in 1907 without forgetting the former USA president Theodore Roosevelt who spent an equivalent of today’s $1.8m on his hunting safari in Murchison falls area in 1909.
However, with the political unrest of the 1970s-80s, Uganda was soaked in a somber image as the destination became unsafe for tourists. The wildlife in the park was thrown into a dark age as poaching and animal trafficking decimated their numbers greatly. By the time of peace restoration in the country in 1986, infrastructure had massively deteriorated and the wildlife was on the verge of disappearance with some species like the black rhinos totally extinct.
Today, tourism is one of the fastest growing foreign exchange earners with several products on the market. Although it is important to note that, tourism in Uganda largely depends on wildlife; more products are on the market today to complement wildlife. Uganda’s diverse culture is doing well in attracting tourists to the country and so is religion and geography.
This has seen tourists’ arrivals rise tremendously in the recent years.
Uganda received 1,683,918 arrivals in the year 2013 up from 1,633,504 visitor arrivals in the year 2012. Of these188, 000 visitors were recorded as having specifically come for tourism. National Park arrivals decreased from 208,000 in 2011 to 182,000 in 2012 representing a decline of 12.5% which was attributed to the incidences of Marburg and Ebola out breaks in the Western Uganda, the economic meltdown in the source market countries, negative security advisories on Uganda by the source markets and the war in Eastern DRC. In 2013 it rose again to 220,000 visitors showing development in the sector with Murchison Falls taking the highest number (33%), Queen Elizabeth (32%) and Bwindi came third with 10% of the total visitors to the national parks.
Last year’s high number of tourists was also a result of the 7th Hybrid eclipse the world has known whose best viewing point was in Pakwach. This event saw the coming of over 30000 tourists including senior astronomers. This puts Uganda in a strategic position to be one of the key astronomical sites where such rare happenings take place.
The 2013 hybrid eclipse was a land mark in the history of astronomical events and had last happened in 1446 AD while the recently inaugurated AD 1520 eclipse monument at Biharwe hill in Mbarara is a commemoration of the 1520 AD total eclipse that saved Ankole’s cows from being raided by Omukama Olimi of Bunyoro. This happened at the time when the king of Bunyoro by then, had attacked Ankole on his way back from Buganda and attempted to take the Ankole cows only to be stopped by the sudden change of time which he interpreted as the wrath of God and believed the cows were from heaven hence abandoning them as he fled to Bunyoro.
Uganda’s biggest attraction has been the mountain gorilla whose entire population in the world is less than 880 individuals and more than half are in Uganda with the rest in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Cong. The two national parks of Mgahinga and Bwindi have played a significant role in the conservation and sheltering of these great apes.
Other wildlife however has also been a great spectacle in boosting the tourism business in the country. Kidepo national park in the remote Karamoja sub region was voted by CNN in 2013 to be among the 10 best national parks in Africa. The park is home to over 78 mammal species, 5 primate species and over 450 bird varieties. The park’s great endemism of about 28 endemics including the cheetah, ostrich, bat eared fox and aard wolf among others, is un equaled in the region while its wilderness is a great wonder in these modern times.
Queen Elizabeth National Park has been honoured as a Top Performing National Park as Reviewed by Travelers on the World’s Largest Travel Site, Trip Advisor while R. Nile was recognized among the 7 wonders of Africa.
Uganda has a long list of accolades in addition to the above mentioned including the 2012 ranking of being the top tourist destination by Lonely planet. The Pearl of Africa as proclaimed by the former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Church Hill in 1907 has a lot of splendid attractions which no traveler should miss on his / her tour to Africa.
While there, don’t miss the chance to visit and behold its marvelous beauty. The spectacular landscape like the magnificent peaks of Rwenzori, the largest mountain intact caldera on Mt .Elgon, the stunning Murchison falls; regarded as the hardest water falls in the world, oh Uganda is indeed an incredibly endowed nation.
The wildlife in its several national parks is quite enthralling; the national parks are un spoilt while the cultural diversity and the hospitality of its people are exhilarating.
Uganda still has a lot of untapped tourism activities for instance, eco tourism and cultural heritage, adventure along the Nile, hill climbing on the newly developed Kagulu hill, while bird watching is possible in almost every part of the country with over 60% of the total bird species in Africa.
With the improved security in the country and the developed infrastructure, tourism continues to boom and is likely to keep a steady growth. The hotels and lodges are quite spectacular and rated internationally while the road network has improved greatly and is quite impressing. With all these factors in place, given the country’s beauty, the sky is the only limit for tourism growth.