Costs and Benefits of Gorilla Tourism in Uganda

The advent discovery of mountain gorillas in 1902 was followed by studious primatologist research studies of the primates by Sigourney weaver and Dian Fossey which allowed the later to quickly discern mountain gorillas from other subspecies of gorillas inhabiting central African rainforests and Fossey became the icon pioneer of gorilla conservation.
Mountain gorillas faced myriad threats such as poaching, habitat loss, human disease transmission and civil wars which led to decline in their numbers to less than 500 and this was one of the compelling reasons for their strong conservation across Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo. Consequently gorilla population is on the rise as estimates stands at 880 individuals.
However, the international gorilla conservation group called upon the 3 countries if they were to ensure the future of gorillas as a prime tourism economic resource, they must engage in joint trans-boundary management of gorillas and their habitats with regard to human disease threats, costs and benefits of allowing tourists to see gorillas and security issues in the region.
Today there are 880 mountain gorillas in the whole world; half of these live in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable forest national park which mark the southern limit of the Albertine rift valley in southwestern Uganda.
Bwindi impenetrable forest national park covers an area of 331 sq km and is regarded as the most biologically diverse forest in the region with rare afromontane vegetation and high endemism of species was listed among the top 20 critical areas of important global biodiversity by the convention on biological diversity (CBD). The park has 120 species of mammals, 357 birds including 23 Albertine rift endemics, 200 butterflies and over 400 plant species
Because Uganda has half of the world’s last population of mountain gorillas, it makes it the most highly visited park regardless of travel time and distance in comparison to volcanoes national park Rwanda. The number of tourists have increased since 1994 from 1,300 to 20,000 tourists currently.
Tourists who come to see gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park make their way to visit other tourist destinations like Queen Elizabeth national park where the rare tree-climbing lions are seen in Ishasha sector or primates in Kibale national park.
Tourists who come for gorilla tracking in Uganda pay $ 600 USD each for a gorilla tracking permit. There are 14 groups of habituated gorillas. Every group of 8 tourists is allowed to see a group of gorillas for only ONE hour per day.
This implies that gorilla tourism is a big contributor to Uganda’s economy. In addition tourists also visit communities as well as stay in accommodations which add up another chunk of revenues through the demand of other local products and services.
Gorilla trekking officially started in 1994 in Uganda’s Bwindi national park with the view that gorilla tourism, if managed effectively would bring countless benefits such as employment and income opportunities and foreign exchange to communities around and Uganda at large.
Gorilla trekking is based on ecotourism which is a strategy to influence sustainable community development and conservation. Commoditizing Bwindi as an ecotourism destination for foreigners must at all costs alleviate poverty of locals rather than external funding and dependency on international conservation aid.
However, to achieve that it would involve many tradeoffs between environment and the livelihoods of people living near Bwindi impenetrable forest national park. Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks are surrounded by heavy human population meaning that gorilla tourism must fund conservation of gorillas; develop communities with alternative sources of income so that competition over the Bwindi forests is reduced.
With the new conservation policies restricting locals from accessing resources at the expense of gorillas, the park faced upsurge opposition from communities resulting into human wildlife conflicts.
This promoted Uganda Wildlife Authority to recognize the failing conservation polices in protecting gorillas and other wildlife, Uganda wildlife Authority along with other conservation organizations established initiates to make locals own the park through revenue sharing schemes where 20 % of the gorilla permits fees go to communities.
The revenues have improved lives of people though projects like building health care centers, schools, clean water and sustainable agriculture education.
In addition local communities around Bwindi have been encouraged to tap the market for tourists through selling crafts, food stuffs, honey including other tourist related services like transport and accommodation which has partly increased benefits of gorilla conservation and tourism.
While the parks remain completely out of bounds for local communities, on the other hand locals have been employed as guides, porters, community conservation leaders and rangers. Employment benefits coupled with community based projects are a means to change the negative attitude of people have towards gorillas. Hence people can co-exist with gorillas.
Gorilla tourism as an integrated part of ecotourism linking conservation of mountain gorillas and livelihoods of local people generate foreign exchange and increase earnings of local communities.
Mean while putting the benefits of gorilla tourism to local communities aside, Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is highly marketed for mountain gorillas as well as an important area of biodiversity which has attracted thousands of foreign tourists to spend a fortune and see gorillas.
Although tourist numbers have increased with revenues as mentioned above, tourist visits to habituated gorilla families are associated with negative impacts such risk of disease transmission because gorilla are susceptible human respiratory and infectious diseases like colds, diarrhea because gorillas share 95% of their genes with humans.
Gorilla trekking is highly restricted and tourists are encouraged to be environmentally responsible by not exploiting local cultures. While gorillas are increasingly being accustomed to people, it has also increased gorilla escapes to raid people’s crops and farms yet leading loss of food crops. This means that much more needs to be done to compensate local farmers rather than general benefits of gorilla tourism.
Ecotourism in Bwindi must therefore control the rate of creating trails in the forest for tourists to access gorillas and minimize gorilla interaction with tourists as well as regulate pressure exerted by foreign NGO’s on locals through foreign aid and donations.
The economic benefits of gorilla tourism and protected area management must regulate practices that are not compatible with the natural and traditional state of Bwindi forest. For instance modern building, use of chemicals for farming including the actions of non-governmental organizations that do not give back to the communities.
Uganda wildlife authority is diversifying local tourist products besides gorillas such as guided tours, hiking, festivals, Batwa cultural trails, community walks, biking and quality souvenirs which all add to the experience of gorilla trekking. UWA is also building capacity to meet demands of visitors through working together with tour operators in marketing and selling local tourist products and services.
Gorilla trekking permits cost a fee of $ 600 per person, the activity is done all year round but the dry season between July to September and December to February is preferred because of trekking conditions get quite easier while the wet season for the months of April, May and November has its benefits of discounted permits sales at $ 450 per person.

Uganda Introduces e-visa Application System

The Ugandan Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control officially announced the new e-visa online application system for concerned travelers including tourists with effect from 1st July 2016.
Anyone wishing to travel to Uganda can easily apply for the e-visa at https://visas.immigration.go.ug the official online application website. The application should made in two weeks time before you actual date of travel.

Once you enter the website and make a request, an authorization document is sent to you by email which should be printed out and then later presented to any of the Ugandan high commission embassies in foreign countries, at the overland border posts or on arrival at Entebbe International Airport Immigration Offices. The system will be very convenient for travelers; very often the long lines at immigration offices can annoy and take time which you may not be having even as we wait for the complete implementation of the system soon.
Note that the old system of applying for Uganda visas on arrival is still working normally at Entebbe airport and overland borders as we wait for the new one to start working. A single entry visa costs 100 USD per person which is valid for 3 months for tourists; multiple entry visas are valid for 6 months and cost the same amount.

You must be aware of your visa expiry date because overstaying in Uganda after you visa expires leads to a payable fine of 100 USD or where necessary imprisonment because it’s illegal. You are allowed to apply for visa extension through the Ugandan directorate of citizenship and immigration control head offices located in Kampala. The East African single tourist visa cost 100 USD and allows visitors to tour all the East African countries minus extra border entry charges.

To apply for the Uganda visa you are required to download, print and sign the visa application form for those applying online. For manual application upon arrival you must present a valid passport, two passport size photographs, and a trip itinerary, a copy of international yellow fever vaccination card is mandatory. For those visiting friends and relatives in Uganda, you must have a letter of invitation from the person inviting you with personal details such as purpose of the visit, names, gender, duration of the visit as well as details of the inviting party.

Uganda is perceived as a politically stable country and a safe destination for tourists although the country is often rated to be on a high risk of terror threats because Ugandan government established its presence in Somalia for the al-Shabab terrorists. For safety and security reasons tourists are advised to avoid illegally crossing border areas of Uganda such as eastern DRC, northern Karamoja region border with south Sudan. Recently after general elections some minor political demonstrations took place involving violence against law keepers (police) hence tourists are warned to avoid gatherings of that kind. Do not expose off your valuables like cameras, expensive phones or laptops while on the streets not to attract thieves.

Uganda is one of the best tourist destinations in Africa with many tourist attractions that can all be combined on one safari and cannot be seen elsewhere. Particulary, Uganda is a home to half of the world’s remaining gorillas and tourists come from all over the world to come for gorilla safaris in Bwindi or Mgahinga national park. Besides the gorillas, there are chimpanzees, wildlife national parks, mountains, fresh water bodies, waterfalls, source of the mighty Nile, which all offer great opportunity for tourists to enjoy nature.

The new Uganda e-visa online system performs security check for all applicants to avoid online lawbreakers. It’s clear that you will successfully be eligible for the e-visa by application but does not guarantee you of official and confidential approval because you will have to get through a personal interview by the immigration officers show proof of your identity documents such as identity cards or passports to determine originality. Any falsification found in documents or statements is liable to face charges in courts of law and termination of the visa.

Visa exemption does apply to few country nationals who can visit Uganda without one hence you should read about your country’s visa status for Uganda.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda or Rwanda or Congo

When it comes to mountain gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda tend to be more popular destinations than Democratic Republic of Congo based on a number of factors that influence trip planners who select a gorilla expedition depending on a given location of the parks where gorillas can be found.

Travel time distance and what to see on your way to the Gorillas

The advantage of tracking gorillas in Rwanda is that the close proximity of Volcanoes National park to Kigali Rwanda’s capital city enables visitors to reach gorillas within a short period of time but with few en route attractions. For time bound trekkers volcanoes can be quickly accessed and track gorillas within the same day and be able to return back to Kigali. The rain forests of volcanoes are not thick due to the extensive tracks of bamboo forests thus gorillas can be easily found within short hikes than Uganda and DRC.

In contrast to Uganda, the long distance from Kampala to Bwindi forest national park and Mgahinga national park attach additional costs of traveling either by road or flight from Entebbe International Airport which rather gives Rwanda an advantage to be preferred by time bound trekkers. However the longer distance offers an opportunity to enjoy variety of attractions including other big game wildlife encounters. Visitors can make different stopovers at the equator line in Masaka, through Lake Mburo or Queen Elizabeth National parks and the magical Ugandan rural setting of terraced hills of kabale and Kisoro rather reward with breathtaking scenic views that make the long journey pleasurable. Gorillas in Bwindi and Mgahinga tend to difficult to trek due to the impenetrable thick under covers that make hikes more tiring than in Rwanda.

Trekking for gorillas in Congo on the other had requires visitors to cross to Goma via Gisenyi Rwanda then Virunga national park. Its should be noted its quite safe to cross into Congo and back into Rwanda the following day after the trek.

The Cost of Gorilla Permits
Uganda takes advantage of the relatively low priced gorilla permits at US $ 600 per person per permit. In Uganda gorilla trekking permits can be purchased from Uganda Wildlife Authority directly from their offices or indirectly via their email. Alternatively local tour operators also sell permits though you might incur additional costs. During low seasons, permits in bwindi and Mgahinga parks tend to be reduced from 600 to 350 US $ per person.
While in Rwanda a gorilla permit is expensive at US$ 750 per person and it can be purchased through the Rwanda Development Board. In Democratic Republic of Congo Virunga National park permits are cheaper a US$ 450 which is the cheapest alternative.

Trekking experience in Congo – Since many visitors prefer visiting Rwanda and Uganda, for visitors who choose to trek gorillas on the Congo side usually trek few – about 3 – 4 people trekking a single gorilla family hence visitors are less crowded. You have a chance to observe your group closely.

In terms of travel safety, Uganda is more stable and politically safe for tourists traveling within the country and this explains why Uganda has dominated gorilla tracking expeditions. Uganda is also well known for its friendly people who give a blend of traditional cuisines while staying in one of the accommodations near the Bwindi or Mgahinga national parks.

Rwanda has also stabilized since the end of the 1994 genocide, thus volcanoes national park can be visited safely and there is no any threat posed to tourists for the last two decades. This is because of the efficient Rwanda a park management ranger who regularly monitor the gorillas to ensure continuity of gorilla tracking.
Although many people fear Congo could be unstable, the conflicts in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has long stopped and today Goma is a city picking up from the long period of instabilities. Visitors have been traveling into Congo entering via Goma into Virunga to see gorillas in Congo and hike the famous lava mount Nyiragongo Volcano.

Gorilla Trekking tips and Park Regulations

Gorilla tracking is a highly restricted eco-tourism activity where a group of 8 people maximum can be allowed to hike in search for a single gorilla group order to protect mountain gorillas healthy and safe. Gorillas are very vulnerable to human diseases therefore a maximum number of 8 people can only visit gorillas.

Once gorillas have been found, you can only interact with gorillas for only one hour in order to reduce trouble and risk of human diseases that might be transmitted to gorillas.
Before you start off on your gorilla safari, its very important that all participants are healthy and free from cold and other infectious diseases

Human waste must be buried in the ground about 30 cm

When you with the gorillas, a 7 meter distance away from the gorillas must be maintained and incase gorillas come close, you are advised to stay in one place and never touch a gorilla.

Eating and smoking while with gorillas is strictly prohibited and flash photography is not allowed so make sure to switch off flash lights.

Visitors are advised to cover the mouth or turn your face from gorillas whenever you want to sneeze since they are vulnerable to catch colds and coughs from humans.

Gorilla trekking is not easy given the nature of the rain forests and the fact that you are never guaranteed to see them, visitors should be prepared with hiking gears in order to get the most out of tracking;-

Trekkers must have solid walking shoes, long pants, walking sticks, warm clothing that include waterproof jackets, gloves to protect you from stinging nettles. This shall enable to cope with wet and sometimes rainy conditions given the high altitude.

Visitors must carry packed foods or snacks or enough drinking water to keep hydrated and energized along the hikes. Porters are always present at the starting point of trekking that can be hired to carry that backpack and give you a push as you might get tired.

Hikers should be practically fit to walk through steep ridges, wet grounds which are slippery and challenging by the time you get to the gorillas, walking sticks are highly recommended.

Mountain gorilla trekking still remains one of the life changing experiences on earth.

Katonga Game Reserve

The Katonga game reserve is another exciting tourist attraction center in Uganda found in the western part of Uganda in the district / province of Mbarara. This game reserve features unique wild life species with the sitatunga antelopes inclusive. It’s made of the acacia scrubland savannah and woodlands savannah vegetation, swamps as well as riverine and tropical forests. In its neighborhood are the Banyankole tribes who rare the Long horned cattle – Ankole on which their lives depend.
The Katonga forest Reserve is about a 4 hours’ drive from Kampala via the Kampala- Mubende – Fort portal route. Sometimes the Kaso – Mbarara route may be used though it’s quite a further passage than the Kampala – Mubende road. The Kaso – Mbarara road goes through a small town Ibanda of Mbararat the Kabagole junction.

The Katonga forest game reserve, is an exciting tourist center to visit as it is a home to quite another of unique wildlife features like the; Sitatunga antelopes, Reedbuck, Defassa Waterbuck, Warthog and Bushbuck, Black and White Colobus monkeys , elephants and a lot of bird life. Viewing the sitatungas is an overwhelming experience and this is best enjoyed in the early mornings to catch these magnificent sun risers. It’s done in groups of 3 persons to avoid disturbance as the statunga antelopes are very shy animals and you should wear clothes that comflage with the bush.

Wildlife viewing in Katonga game reserve can be enjoyed around any of its trails like Kyeibale and Kisharara- the wetland canals in East Africa trough the papyrus and reed swamps along the Katonga river.
Despite it’s great value in the tourism industry, the Katonga game reserve still faces high risks of destruction due to the increasing demanding needs of the local communities, high poaching rates and human encroachment on the game area.

Mbarara Travel Guide

Mbarara is one of the most developed districts of Uganda found in the western part of the country. It’s a commonly crossed district by many of the Uganda travelers as it’s at the center considering many of the tourist attractions located in the west, south and southwestern parts of the country. This therefore explains why it appears in many of visitor’s journeys. It acts as a stopover for many where people get to the town center, touring its markets and craft shops and even the Ankole Kingdom though some get a chance to visit the Katonaga forest sanctuary the home to the unique and shy sitatunga antelopes. Mbarara town is symbolized by the statue of the long horned Ankole cow. It’s signified by crossroads leading to either Kabale (the Switzerland of Uganda) or Kaseses districts.

Access Routes

There are several ways / routes that can be used when heading to Mbarara; Kamapala – Mbarara high way taking about 3 hours, Mbarara – Masaka highway which is about 2 and a half hours drive, Mbarara – Kabale high way about 2 and a half hours , Mbarara – Lake Mburo National park covering less than an hour, and eventually the Mbarara – Kasese route of 2 and half hours. Whichever route is chosen, the road network is well constructed and established and all brings you safely to the Great land of the Ankole Kingdom.

Getting there and away:

Mbarara can easily be reached by both the public and private means. Where there are several bus and taxi routes / trips that a made to and fro Mbarara on a daily baisis, and even from the various western locations of Kabale, Kasese, Masaka, Lake Mburo, Rwanda and Burundi. There are several bus companies in Kampala operating these trips and you are free to make a booking with any of your choice however, in the festive seasons, the bus prices tend to go high. There are some examples of the operating bus companies which include: Honest Bus Services, Endigyito Bus, Horizon Coaches, Swift Safaris, GASO Bus , whose bus fares range between 8000 and 15000 Ugandan shillings per trip.

Bujagali Falls Jinja

The Bujagali falls are some of the great water falls on the Nile River course. These are situated in Jinja district about 8 kilo meters from the Jinja town. The Bujagali falls consist of a 1km of raging rapids, forested islands on the Nile waters and a wide variety of bird species. The Bujagali falls are among the best East African tourist destinations due to its unique and exclusive tourist activities; white water rafting, bungee jumping, quad biking, among others. This tourist center is a well-developed and established site with several great accommodation and infrastructure facilities, offering all sorts of comfort to its visitors (the services here range from budget to mid-range and luxury according to individual choice).

Getting there:

The Bujagali falls center can be accessed from either the Uganda side when coming from Kampala or the Kenyan side when travelling from Kenya. Once at the Shell Filling Station or Chinese Restaurant roundabout, as you reach Jinja- there stands a big Bujagali Falls sign post and it’s about 8 kilometers drive form the junction to the destination. Sometimes a motor cycle may be used in case of public means and this can be got at the roundabout junction.
The Various Tourist Activities at Bujagali Falls Tourist Center

White Water Rafting:

White water rafting is an incredible tourist activity which most limited to the strong hearted. It’s usually done from the Bujagali falls and includes a whole day and half day rafting adventures with BBQ, light breakfast and drinks. It’s carried out at the grade 3 and 5 rapids.
To be a part of this exciting activity, tourists have to travel to Jinja and arrange a white water rafting activity with; Nile River Explorers, Adrift Rafting, Equator Rafts and Nalubale Rafting. These are the major white water rafting companies in Uganda. Each company provides unique services to its clients so you may choose accordingly. For example;

• Equator Rafts offers fortnight camping at Spekes Camp Bujagali,
• Nile River Explorers (NRE) offer a fortnight at their Explorers Bujagali campsite and Explorers Backpackers in Jinja. NRE’s videographer ‘Against the Current Productions’ produces a video/dvd of the day’s events which is available for US$35-/US$45-. Nile River Explorers also offers free shuttle services n booking that run from Kampala and Jinja in the morning and evening respectively. They usually set off from either Back packers, Lugogo Shopping Mall, / Game Mega Store and Red Chilli in the mornings returning in the evenings.
• Adrift Rafting also provides accommodation at their campsite close to the Nile High Bungee jumping near the Jinja Nile Resort.

Full day white water rafting is usually offered at a cost of 125 USD and half day at 115 USD by all the rafting companies except for the Equator that is yet to look into its pricing. To book rafting tourism activity one can do so by contacting any of the above mentioned rafting companies;

– Adrift in Kampala can be reached via, Tel. 0772 454206, 0712 707668, 041 425 2720,
– Equator Rafting in Jinja on Tel. 0772 960964, 041 425 2106,
– Nile River Explorers in Jinja on Tel. 0772 422373
– Nalubale Rafting on 0782 638938.

Kayaking on the River Nile:

This is a tourist activity which involves training / teaching and learning or acquiring new important white water rafting skills. Kayaking on River Nile , involves the tourists / visitors together with their guides rolling and facing the huge wave chains, crashing white water and power hydraulics while they focus at making it through the water rapids safely, it’s a very exciting and scaring activity at the same time, still worth a try. There’s the Kayak the Nile school which offers great experiences to first time rafters and those who may wish to learn new skills while on the Nile waters. It’s a very safe activity normally done with the help of kayak instructors and it offers varied packages which are;
• The full day introduction to white water where visitors get a whole day on the Nile waters learning all the basic skills of Kayaking- it’s a very exciting and rewarding sport. This Kayak school introductory lesson is usually offered at 115 USD.
• The Introductory lesson trip in which visitors spend 3 (three ) hours on the waters of River Nile mastering the basic whiter water skills of stroking, rolling and even moving the water, it’s a very exclusive encounter one should not afford to miss. It can be enjoyed at a fee of 95 USD.
• Introductory River trip, here tourists are introduced to moving water, provide with the basic river running skills and even provided a chance to learn how to read the white water movements. It’s also offered at 95 USD.
Kayak the Nile aims clientele satisfaction and is therefore known for its unique and exclusive experiences, safety and many other great services like delicious meals, comfortable accommodation, airport transport services, which all create a wonderful environment for those interested in learning or even acquiring new skills on the Nile River.

Soft Power Education:

Soft Power Education is a project or system which was initiated by travelers in Uganda with an aim of giving back to the community. The project provides volunteering opportunities to travelers from around the world. This SPE was initiated in 1998 and aims at enhancing the quality of children’s Education. It is basically a community supporting project promoting education in the country. Through their work, the travellers were able to establish an orphanage pre-school at Buwenda in Jinja in 1999 and officially started work in 2002. Here the children are able to learn English, play games, write, sing and dance with the help of well trained and devoted staff. Following its successful establishment, several other schools were set up to continue helping the children born with AIDS and those coming from desperate poor families such as the Kyabirwa Children’s Centre which was opened in the spring of 2004 and several other government schools within Jinja have been renovated and improved under the same project.
There’s also the Amagezi Education center which was established in 2007 , a technical school whose teaching programs are based on hand practical lessons providing courses in Sustainable Agriculture, ICT, Science, Art, Drama and Library sessions. The year 2007, still saw the development of another important project along River Nile – The Murchison Falls Conservation Area whose focus is at promoting and improving conservation education among the local communities and schools (working closely with the Uganda Wildlife Authority).

It’s no doubt that through this project – Soft Power Education, the tourists and travelers have been able to positively impact on Uganda’s local communities and tourism development. Overland and independent travelers together with sponsors make their contributions to Soft Power Education which then uses the funds in the establishment, development, refurbishing, and improving the schools under the project.

Quad Biking:

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Quad biking is an interesting tourist activity which is usually available at the Bujagali falls and can be enjoyed at a fee of 25 USD ranging from full day riding, half day as well was training services are also provided for this sport.
In addition to Quad biking, tourists can also engage in Mountain bike tours. These take visitors around the river bank villages reaching areas which are inaccessible with a car while taking in the African air l viewing local industries in Jinja, birding ,and vegetation types. Mountain Bike tours can be done on both individual bike ride and a guided ride where the individual bike ride goes for 25 USD and the guided bike ride is offered at 30USD.

Bungy Jumping:

The Nile River in Jinja also offers an exciting tourist activity of bungee jumping. It’s a unique tourist sport in which one leaps over the Nile source from any of the existing bungee jumping sites. This sport involves tandem jumps, water touches and the full moon jumps.

There is the Nile high bungee that offers great sights for bungee jumping. It’s a 44 meter leap above the Nile river source creating a great bungee jumping site along which there’s a technical ‘climbing wall’ (which can be enjoyed at 5000 Ugandan shillings per session). This offers great views of River Nile from above, seeing the various thick inland islands on the Nile River. Some wildlife can still be seen around the tour like the vervet monkeys, and long tailed cormorants. This jump can take about 235 kgs per jump and it can be done with a friend, bicycle, chair , kayak etc, there so many various forms from which it can be enjoyed either with the ankles tied up or with an entire free body but remember, this tourist activity is very exciting but not for the faint hearted. First time bungee jumpers can still feel free to be a part of this sport as there is always the best staff, great training services and equipment that are always readily available for a fun and secure / safe encounter for the jumpers.

It should be noted that the Nile High Bungee Tower offers first class services since it was built on the standards of Australia and New Zealand- the world’s best bungee jumping states. This is so because commercialized bungee jumping was first initiated in New Zealand and therefore great advice was used from this country during the establishment of the Nile High Bungee Tower of Uganda and it keeps up to date since it’s annually innovated and improved.

The Nile High Bungee tower is found in Jinja via the Bujagali falls road and to be a part of this adventure, bookings can be made through The Adventure Centre, Plot 7 Kira Road, Kamwokya (in the Uganda Wildlife Authority compound), next to the Buganda Museum, Kampala Tel: 041 252720 / 0712 707668 or 0772 454206 or Jinja Nile Resort Tel: 043 122190. The bungee jumping sport ranges from 55 USD, 75 USSD, and the 3rd jump at a free cost. Come and discover the source of the Nile from above- such an amazing experience!

Mabira Forest Reserve

Mabira forest is one of Uganda’s thick dense tropical rain forest and the largest tropical rainforest there’s in the country but it’s a greatly endangered ecosystem standing high risks of massive destruction due to the ongoing human activities encroaching its land. Mabira Forest is found on the Kampala – Jinja highway (about 54 kilometers from Kampala and 20 Kilometers from Jinja) in Najjembe Village.

There are several well networked trails that are usually used by visitors on either a guided or an unguided forest walk (summing up to 10 networked trails).There’s a Mabira forest project which was initiated by the European Union in a bid of conserving the environment. A trip to Mabra forest is usually an enroute stop over along the Kampala – Jinja highway, for tourists except for the researchers. Mabira forest is a strategically located natural resource only 2 hour’s drive from the city and can be reached easily by both public and private means from either Jinja Taxi Park or Kampala Taxi Park at a fare of 1500 Ugandan shillings. A visit to Mabira forest, rewards tourists with several tourist centers and activities via its numerous forest rails which include among others;

The Camping Sit;

Amidst Mabira forest you find a wonderful spacious camping site. It area entails a 12 tent place, a camp fire area, picnic side, and room for tables and chairs. This is basically for those carrying their camping supplies. It also provides a well thatched camp shelter with its own latrine and bathing facilities which offers great comfort to visitors.

The Forest Trails

There are several well networked walking trails through the forest that ease the forest nature walk activity. These trails lead to both the primary and secondary parts of the forest and can be used by tourists from all age groups.
Picnic Trail
The picnic trail stretches through the forest up to the Mabira running water. It usually covers about 15 – 20 minutes meandering about this trail. It offers great views of the Mabira forest. It’s an ideal path for all ages.

Grassland Trail

This is the best recommended trail for bird lovers, as it offers great wonderful birding sights to visitors who enjoy various bird species within the forest as they linger around the fruiting trees. It usually connects to the Najjembe stream valley. This Grassland Trail loop gives visitors an insight into the secondary forest of Mabira forest. Trailing Mabira via this trail usually covers an area of over 3km between an extended period of 2 and 3 hours. It can be done on a self-guided walk or on a tour guided walk with the tour guide interpreting the different sights and sounds ha may be obtained from the forest.

The Radio Hill Trial Network

It is one of the best trails of Mabira forest as it offers great sights of varying wildlife species which are usually viewed during the forest walk via this trail. It’s best done with the help of a guide for both fun and safety. During the forest nature walk via the Radio Hill trail, visitors always experience the wilderness of Mabira forest as they climb over the steep slope in the north of the forest, rewarding them with a panoramic view of the forest canopy. Across the main road, lies the primary forest trails that lead visitors to bubbling forest streams, giant tree trunks , twisted stems of strangler figs and the chattering monkeys high above in the forest canopy.
It’s very important that these primary walks are taken in the presence of a guide.

The Market Loop

This trail is well known for hosting some primates like the monkeys and while on a forest walk via this trail, visitors are usually rewarded with wonderful sights of the Red Tailed monkeys, Black/ Grey cheeked monkeys feasting on the fruited trees. It’s about an hour’s walk from the forest center to this station of the monkeys. The monkeys here are very friendly and entertaining that they don’t fear humans, the often rain human gardens for the ripened fruits especially the bananas and maize.

The River Mabugwe Loop

The River Mabugwe forest trail is about 2 hours away from the forest center and it’s a renowned sight for birding and butterfly seeing. River Mabugwe is a permanent river flowing through the forest. The trail stretches along the Mabugwe River with in the forest rewarding visitors with wonderful sights and sounds of the birds through the woods.

Gangu Ridge Trail

The Gangu trail is one of Mabira’s toughest loop as it takes quite a long while hiking up its lane. This loop is located some miles away from the Kampala- Jinja highway and extends through three valleys of the forest with the Gangu valley inclusive. It gives tourists a chance to view some bird species and primates like the bush pigs as well as the various types of beautiful butterflies. It’s an interlinked loop that connects to the Butterfly loop and Radio Hill Circuit.

The Fig Junction Trail

The fig junction trail is featured by an extraordinary fig tree junction in the primary forest. It’s known for offering great birding views where several bird species like the Black Billed Turaco, Yellow Billed Barbet or Dusky Long Tailed Cuckoo can be witnessed. This trail covers between 2 and 3 hours from the center of the forest

Butterfly Viewing Trail

The Butterfly viewing trail is a 2 hours walk away from the forest center. This trail features an open and sunny location, abundant blossoming plants like Latana Camara ( with bright colours of pink and yellow) making the area rich with several butterfly species, several bird species such as the White Throated Bee Eaters and Pied Kingfishers. It’s therefore a haven with in Mabira forest.

Macaranga Loop Trail

The Macaranga loop trail is well known for its unique concentration of the macaranga tree species (these trees are made of thorny stems that they tend to use for protection against intruders). It’s only an hour and a half’s waik from the forest center (the initial starting point) for all trials within the Mabira forest.

Buwoola Pond

The Buwoola pond is a great birding sight for birders. An afternoon guided forest nature walk via this loop introduces visitors to wonderful bird species: White Spotted Flufftail, Sooty Boubou, Shinning Blue Kingfisher, and Jamesons Wattle Eye.

Cycling routes

Mabira forest also offers amazing mountain bike riding experiences to travellers. These r Ides usually follow along the cycling trails of Namusa hill top and Wagala ridge pylon. The Namusa Hill top trail is quite challenging as compared to the Wagala ridge pylon ride. It covers a distance of 8 kilometers from the forest center and both its Namusa and Wagala routes stretch out to Lugazi (which is an exit of tea and sugar plantations) nearing the Mabira forest. For the curious cyclists, they can get the reward of the beautiful Griffin water falls after the Namusa hill top.

Budongo Forest Reserve

Budongo forest is East Africa’s largest mahogany forest found in the North western part of Uganda. It usually takes about 3hours to drive there for Kampala via Masindi. Budongo forest is situated in the southern extension of the great Murchison fall National Park. This forest reserve is in an area of 825 sq kilometers, with 53% forested and 47% grassland vegetation crossed by the Waiga River. Tis forest reserve was established way back in 1932. It’s a rich bio diversified ecosystem with so many tourist attractions that is; 24 species of small mammals; nine being primates; 465 species of trees and shrubs; 359 species of birds; 289 species of butterflies; and 130 species of moths.

These features can be viewed from two established tourist sites of the Kaniyo Pabidi Ecotourism site, Busingiro Ecotourism site. From here great views of Lions, Leopards and Buffaloes can be enjoyed during an early morning game drive. Some beautiful wildlife species black and white colobus monkeys, Olive baboons, blue monkeys and Grey –cheeked Mangabeys can be enjoyed from around the Waiga River as the animals line up for refreshment.

Budongo forest has the largest concentration of chimpanzees in East Africa and therefore offers great chimpanzee tracking expeditions to travellers. Despite all its beauty, the forest reserve stands great chances of destruction due to the ongoing high level of human activities like commercial timber extraction, hunting, and human encroachment. At the Budongo ecosystem, minus chimpanzee tracking, lots of tourist activities can be enjoyed when at this site and these are;

The Kaniyo akabidi and Busingiro sites

These can be tracked from either the Kaniyo Kabidi or the Busingiro site. These two sites were established in 1993 and made available for chimpanzee tracking in 1994, by the National Forestry Authority which later on handed its roles to The Jane Goodall Institute Uganda( currently responsible for the management and accommodation of the area). This has played a big role in the development of the two tourist sites of Budongo forest reserve, at the same time conserving the lives of the chimpanzees within the forest.

Kaniyo Pabidi offers wonderful chimpanzee tracking experiences to visitors and Busingiro site on the other side is known for its great birding and bush camping exclusives. In addition, there is also the Royal Mike site, which offers extraordinary birding sights for the birders and can easily be reached with the help of the tour guide via the Busingiro site.

Due to its grassland vegetation, the forest is an easily accessed area and also a good platform for viewing wildlife and bird species as the vegetation is less thick, so the chimpanzees can be clearly seen when visiting the forest. Tracking Chimpanzees in Budongo forest is very interesting as it has a flat terrain that provides easy movements to the tourists through the forest and the campsite at Budongo, is just within the chimpanzees’ vicinity.

Attractions in the park

Chimpanzee Tracking (Kaniyo Pabidi only): /

Budongo forest is a home to over 6oo chimpanzees and can be tracked in the mornings through a 2- 4 hours forest walk. Like mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee tracking is also done in groups of 6-8 tourist individuals and can be tracked both in the mornings and afternoons. There are always well trained and well informed tour guides on board to provide you with all the necessary details you may need to know about the chimpanzees. While on this forest hike for chimpanzees, tourists should look out for other interesting primates like the black and white colobus, as well as the red tailed monkeys, blue monkeys and the olive baboons. However, for those with limited time, can instead go straight to the southern community where there’s a habituated chimpanzee group of about 50 individuals and here visitors spend an hour with the apes. It’s an amazing experience watching these creatures from their natural locality.

Bird Watching safari – Half Day

Budongo forest reserve offers unique and exclusive experiences to birders and it’s greatly known for its bird biodiversity. It is the home to several bird species including those endemic to the Budongo forest the Puvel’s illadopses. The half day Bird watching in Budongo forest reserve can be done either in the morning or afternoon depending on the visitor’s choice and takes about 3 hours, walking through the flat forest terrain. Forest guides are always available to provide you all the necessary help and information.

Bird Watching safari full day

Alternatively, Budongo forest reserve offers exciting full day birding packages for those with big interest in nature and birding. Tourists going for the full day birding exercise in Budongo forest are advised to carry along drinking water and packed lunch as it will be hard returning to the entrance for a meal. During this exercise, visitors get a chance to spend long hours within the wild and able to view the bird species without any hurries.

Forest Experience Walks

This forest nature walk can be taken during your stop over visits / trip and can last from 30 minutes to 1 hour or even 2 hour depending on the visitor’s interest or arrangement. During this brief forest walk, tourists get a chance to discover some of East Africa’s oldest mahogany trees and scrubs within the Budongo forest reserve. They also get a chance in Bundongo’s wild viewing animals like monkeys, baboons, buffalos among others as well some rare and beautiful butterfly species.

Pabidi Hill

The visit to the Pabidi hill, offers great top sights over the Budongo forest reserve together with the Murchison fall national park. This hike is usually done in mid mornings so visitors should bring along their packed luch.IT IS an exclusive experience as the visitors view the two natural beauties from above , taking in the beautiful scenery while listening to the beautiful singing birds from the woods. Note should be taken, at this point of the forest, are the kings of the jungle- the lions, therefore an armed guide should always be aboard.

Chimpanzee Habituation

Habituating chimpanzees is a process that involves training the apes to live comfortably in the presence of human beings without running away. It is somehow a slow process they can even take up to 10 and 15 years. Since chimpanzees are quite very shy creatures, it’s really a slow process. In Budongo forest reserve, it’s carried out from the southern community where about 50 chimpanzees are being trained. The habituating humans usually go to the forest at 7 am spending an entire day in the vicinity of these creatures and leaving in the evening.
Budongo forest reserve offers 2 individuals a chance to be a part of this habituating team per day. Those with an interest of contributing to this tourism development, bring along packed lunch/ are usually offered lunch within the forest reserve. In addition to lunch, those interested in participating, are advised bring good walking boots, raingear and good backpack. The habituation process therefore takes about 7 hours to 10 hours depending on the time you reach the chimpanzees’ location.

School Group activities

Budongo forest reserve also provides great school group activities to various schools in the country. They are basically taken from Busingiro site. Currently there’s a well-established education center, a canteen, and a wide camping area and a great camping staff / team. The school campers are required to bring their own camping supplies to reduce costs. The camping staff offers well organized programs for the varying age groups and sizes that may turn up. They (staff is aware of the national school curriculum and usually able to provide great field study to the students or campers.

Busingiro Ecotourism Site:

Busingiro Eco tourism site is a great birding spot for birders in Uganda. It offers exclusive birding encounters for tourists especially at the Royal Mile site where several bird species are viewed such as the sought-after African dwarf, blue-breasted and chocolate-backed kingfishers. At Busingiro birding site, tourists can enjoy several African bird species either along the road next to the gate or from deep inside the Budongo forest during a forest nature guided walk, it doesn’t matter which ever spot you choose, the birding experience got is all exciting. The trip to the great Royal Mile birding site is only possible through private transport means. Tourists in for the birding tourist activity, get a chance of enjoying wonderful sites of the other wildlife species with in the forest; monkeys jumping from tree to tree, giant forest squirrels and the bizarre chequered elephant-shrew. This birding exercise is usually conducted in the company of well trained and well informed guides with a pair of binoculars for great clear views and birding experiences.
Note: The birding guides can be got from the Busingiro forest entrance following the payment of a birding fee.
Camping Fees (Busingiro):

This camping tourist activity is basically done at the Busingiro camping site and visitors are expected to come prepared with their own camping supplies that is; food, shelter, firewood and drinks though at times some sodas for sale are available. For great camping experience, it’s always important to come when effectively prepared for the activity and with all the necessary items.

Bird watching

This exclusive activity can be best enjoyed from the Royal Mile birding site. It’s 15 km drive from the Busingiro ecotourism site entrance. The Royal Mile obtained its name from King Kabalega’s frequent visits to the place from Bunyoro kingdom. An early morning trip to the Royal Mile offers tourists with spectacular views of unique forest bird species; the Chocolate Backed Kingfisher and Paradise Flycatcher etc. Still great birding experiences can be enjoyed at the Kanyege lake viewing water birds and large clouds of beautiful butterfly specieswithin the forest.

General Forest Walk

It’s a natural wonder walking through the thick mahogany trees of Budongo forest while listing to the harming or singing birds. There are great forest nature walks that can be enjoyed right from the loop system at the visitor’s center. This forest walk is usually in the company of a well-trained and well informed guide who provides you with all the important information about the forest and you can discover more about places like; elephant pit traps, salt licks, elephant wallows and historic grinding stoners. A lot can be learned during this forest nature walk including the tree that gets elephants drunk. It is very festinating to walk through the ironwood trees making u the forest woods.

Little Kasenene Hill Trail

This grassland and shrub lined trail, takes visitors to the Kasenene Hill top where they are able to enjoy great views over Lake Albert and the Blue mountains of Congo. It’s traditionally known as a grasshopper harvesting spot-that are usually God given in the months of mid-March and November of every year during the wet seasons. It’s known for this, because a taste of grasshoppers is quite very memorable due to its unique taste. The trail usually goes for about 4 hours which are yet very rewarding to visitors.

Mpanga Forest Reserve

Among Uganda’s abundant ecosystems is the Mpanga forest reserve located along the Kampala – Masaka high way just after the Mpigi district. It has existed way back in 1953 as a scientific research center. It’s a great birding site rewarding visitors with wonderful bird views. The Mpanga forest reserve is usually visited by tourists on their way to the west during a stopover. At this reserve, they are treated to the wonderful sights and sounds of the forest, enjoying the beautiful views of the various bird and butter fly species of the forest. Mpanga forest reserve can be easily accessed by both public and private means at any time of the day. It can be visited at a fee of 5000 Ugandan shillings per tourist. Just like any other ecosystem, Mpanga forest too has a lot to offer its visitors among which include;

Drum making

This drum making exercise is witnessed from the Royal Drum making village – Mpambire, a small village away from the forest. These drums are of very crucial importance in the African societies since they are used as means of communication especially in the rural African communities. Drums have always been used by locals to communicate both the good and bad news and for every occasion, a different sound track is produced or used. At times they are used in entertainment especially when playing traditional dances and music which are quite very entertaining. Mpambire is a wide drumming site with a variety of different types of drums. These drums are made from about five different tree species which are all habituated by the Mpanga forest reserve.
There are Several Facilities that can be used by visitors at the Reserve and these are:

Camp site and Picnic area

At the edge of the forest reserve, lies a wide clearing for camping and picnic activities. The forest does provide camping opportunities for campers but they must come with self-supplies like the tents, food, shelter among others. At the camping and picnic site, tourists get a chance of seeing the Red tailed monkeys playing from the site compound and even stealing fruits from the campers’ tables which is such a wonderful encounter. In case of any easing issues, the camp site provides great latrines, camp shelters and fire that were established in the 2006 development project at the forest. Though water and firewood are always provided at the forest premises.

The Forest Trails

Mpanga forest also offers great day and night forest nature walks through its properly outlined forest trails. These trails can last from 30 minutes to 24 hours depending on personal interest. The night forest nature walks allow visitors to see wildlife species that reside in the forest and only around in the nights and on movement during the day. Many of Mpanga forest rails connect to the surrounding local villages and farming grounds giving tourists a clear insight of the way of life of the natives living around the area. On this visit, a local guide can be used for more information about the forest and even access to the remote forest ends.

The Base Line Trail

This is one of Mpanga’s clear forest trails. It offers great sights of the forest canopy and several bird and butterfly species as they fly around the clear blue sky of the forest in the sunny days. This trail is also well recommended for motorcycle biking and usually brings visitors to close views of the local villages living around the Mpanga forest reserve area. This trail cuts through the Mpanga forest to the western side of the forest and when using it, one shouldn’t worry about where to step since it’s a well-marked route.

The Butterfly Loop

The butterfly loop trail is considered the shortest trail through the Mpanga forest reserve but offers visitors great views of the various vegetation types with in the forest, the clear wildlife views of bush babies and leopards among others. This loop stretches for about 1kilometer distance through the forest.

The Hornbill Trail

This trail covers a distance of 5 kilometers and links to the Base Line trail of Mpanga forest. It can be hiked for about 3 hours offering visitors wonderful sights of the forest streams, gentle hills, root structures and buttresses, fungi, butterflies, snakes, monkeys and some bird species.

Hotels in Entebbe

Boma Guest House

Boma Guest House is just a few minutes’ drive from Entebbe International Airport. It entails both modern and ancient architecture in African and European styles. It is a fashionable hotel established with tropical gardens and exclusively decorated rooms. It offers great accommodation services for adults, teenagers and babies accordingly, singles, doubles and family( with full time wireless internet, satellite TV, safes etc.), dinning services , Airport transfers, Tours etc. all at fair rates.

Entebbe Travelers Inn

Entebbe Travellers Inn is found along Entebbe road, and conveniently located from the Entebbe International Airport. It is in easy reach to the fresh water sand beaches of Lake Victoria. It is neighbored by some important business places and hotels of Entebbe like, Entebbe Botanical Gardens, The Ever green Entebbe Golf Course and the Wildlife Zoo in Entebbe. The hotel provides luxurious and efficient services to the tourists and at affordable prices. The visitors here get a chance to taste its unique services while enjoying the wonderful views of Lake Victoria and many other elegant surroundings from the room balcony(s). Its exclusively decorated luxurious rooms offer great comfort to all its clients (both international and local clients). At Entebbe Travellers inn, you can enjoy several facilities like wireless internet, great dinning services, entertainment services with well-connected GTV and DSTV.; and it is no surprise that Entebbe Travellers Inn is the best place for you.

Central Inn Entebbe

Central Inn Entebbe is a conveniently located hotel on Entebbe – Kampala highway and best located for The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee sanctuary visitors and The Uganda Wildlife Education Center. It is presented by a natural calm environment best for relaxing your body and mind. Central Inn Entebbe, is a one place where your “Value for Money” is fully exploited as they offer high class services, delicious meals, luxurious accommodation facilities and above all working with a hospitable professional staff

Imperial Golf View Hotel Entebbe

This is a recent establishment from the Imperial Group of companies with several hotel brands in Kampala and Entebbe. This new facility is strategically located to the ever green Entebbe Golf Course and Lake Victoria and just a few minutes’ drive from the International Airport and a walk able distance to the great Botanical Gardens. It has been established with 86 Guest rooms, 4 Conference halls with a board room designed in comfortable traditional architecture, restaurants and bars, and with 24 hour security provision. Imperial Golf View Hotel Entebbe offers great scenic views of the Golf Course Grounds in Entebbe and the magnificent Lake Victoria. At Imperial Golf View Hotel, expect great dinning services, good conference facilities, business solution centers with efficient internet accessibility, events grounds( receptions for weddings) and parties.

The Lake Victoria Serena Resort

Lake Victoria Serena Resort is part of the Serena Chain hotels of East Africa Like Kampala Serena Hotel, Lake Victoria Serena hotel is a 5 star hotel offering high class services to both international and local guests. It is situated on the white – terraced gardens descending water cascades and fountains into Lake Victoria shores providing its guests with beautiful views of the Victoria shores. This resort offers a vast list of facilities that range from the elegant accommodation services, the citadel, Kigo cocktail bar, business solution centers, gift shops, swimming pool, conference, meetings and events facilities, and many other interesting amenities for the travelers/ visitors.

The Imperial Botanical Beach hotel

The Imperial Botanical Beach is an extraordinary hotel in Uganda just a few minutes’ drive away from Entebbe International Airport, and about 30 minutes’ drive to the city (Kampala). It is found on the adjacent shores of Lake Victoria. It holds the Entebbe Botanical Beach grounds, Entebbe cave among others. It has 229 first class accommodation facilities, it’s a renowned place for technologically advanced conference facilities, the hotel provides leisure and recreation facilities, fitness and sports services, great dinning services. It is a one place that offers the best modern services and great satisfaction to its customers.

Protea Hotel – Entebbe

When you stay at Protea Hotel Entebbe in Entebbe, you’ll be on the waterfront and convenient to Kitubulu Forest and Beach and Entebbe Botanical Garden. This 4-star hotel is within close proximity of Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre and Entebbe Golf Club. The Hotel has 73 air-conditioned guestrooms. Complimentary wireless Internet access keeps you connected, and satellite programming is available for your entertainment. Conveniences include safes and coffee/tea makers.
Take advantage of recreation opportunities such as an outdoor pool or take in the view from a terrace and a garden. Additional amenities include complimentary wireless Internet access and tour/ticket assistance.

Imperial Resort Beach

Entebbe International Airport. It is covered with several sand beaches of the great Lake Victoria- the largest freshwater lake in East Africa that is shared by three East African countries of Uganda, Kanya and Tanzania. It is a high- class hotel with exclusive accommodation facilities of about 191 rooms, restaurants and bars, business and conference facilities, fitness and sports facilities, leisure and recreational amenities, the list is just endless but one visit to Imperial Resort beach Entebbe will always bring you back to this haven.