The fairy-tale of Uganda dazzles anyone who visits the country for the first time. Caught by the terrestrial lustre of this small but mighty African country, young British explorer, Winston Churchill, became quite enthused about what he saw and wrote: “For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.”
Churchill further exclaimed in his narration that “the scenery is different, the climate is different and most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa…what message I bring back….concentrate on Uganda”
Undoubtedly, Churchill’s description of Uganda is not an exaggeration. The country is world’s second most populous landlocked, sitting on a total area of 241,038 km2, that is 93,065 square miles. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda is in the African Great Lakes region, lying within the Nile basin, and has a varied but generally modified equatorial climate.
Little wonder that the Acting High Commissioner of Uganda to Nigeria, Nelson Ocheger, said “the Pearl of Africa is gifted by Nature and a wonder to explore and tour.”
Reeling out Uganda’s pearls at the recently concluded 12th Akwaaba African Travel Market held from 30th October to 1st November in Lagos, Ocheger said the country, though small, has so much to dish out to visitors, ranging from crystal clear lakes, misty forests, snowcapped Rwenzori Mountains, emerald hills, alluring safari parks with large variety of wild life where visitors are treated to uncommon experience of gorilla and chimpanzee trekking.
Though Uganda was one of the debutants at this year’s Akwaaba, the country’s tourism was given prior recognition as Ocheger and is team educated the audience on the theme “Tourism: What Uganda has to offer.” He captured the nation’s spectacular scenery in more specific words that caught the admiration of the audience.
In addition to his captivating presentation, the tourism team showcased pictures, compendia, moving images and magazines, offering compelling and complete documentary evidence of Uganda’s pearls.
If you approached their modestly decorated stand at Akwaaba, you would be warmly welcomed by stunning but humble young ladies who would take you through the nation’s tourist attractions. And on leaving, you would definitely go with a beautiful bag full of magazines and other brochures that promote their brand.
Flip through the compendium and you would see pictorial presentation of the Bwindi National Park as a renowned gorilla sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the Northwestern Uganda, known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as 76 species of mammals, 451 species of birds, Elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hippos, Nile crocodiles among others..
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. It has 400 species of plants, an estimated 356 mountain gorillas, 120 mammals, including several primate species such as baboons and chimpanzees.
You won’t believe that Uganda boasts of the largest number of bird species in Africa and most of them found in Queen Elizabeth national Park. The Lake Mburo National Park has 350 bird species, zebra, impala, eland, buffalo, leopard, hippo, hyena among others. The Semliki National Park has incredible hot springs, home to numerous Central African wildlife species and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park with Mountain gorillas.”
And talk about the people and culture, the chief organizer of Akwaaba, Mr. Ikechi Uko, confirmed that the locals are friendly, hospitable and, at least, a larger percentage speaks good English which has helped to ease communication for most visitors.
Uko further encouraged Ocheger and his team to also think of how to rebrand the Idi Amin brand for tourists. He said although Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa, which is good for her tourism brand, but not enough to draw traffic.
Uganda lost some of its luster during the days of Idi Amin between 1962 and 1986. The war in the Bush Years that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power and the havoc of the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony brought to the north of the country resulting in war and a trail of tears that touched most lives there.
Since 2005, however, the country has been at peace. Reports indicate that Uganda is now one of Africa’s friendliest, safest, most secure and stable countrie. The Pearl of Africa has and is regaining its luster as the one and only Pearl in all of Africa.
a visit, they say, will convince you. Don’t worry about food, it’s not a problem. The country has some the best caterers of international repute in some hotels located in major towns and cities. They serve good western food and a wide range of cuisines. There are also local restaurants that serve Ugandan dishes like Luwombo or cooked bananas eaten with stew. Even vegetarians have variety of choices available for them.
Talk about picnic, honeymoon or holiday of whatever kind, Uganda is the destination, according to Safia Ali, Senior Marketing Officer, Ugandan Tourism Board. She mentioned pristine marine attractions the country has; Lake Victoria, Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert and Lake Edward, noting that Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest fresh-water lake at 68,000 sq. km.
Ali also mentioned that Ssese Islands is a paradise with variety of white sandy beaches, birds and tropical vegetation, while Lake Bunyonyi, second deepest lake in Africa 900m is home to the source of the world’s longest river, the Nile measuring 6695 kilometers (4184 miles).
“Some of the best waterfalls in the world found across the country like Murchison, Karuma, Sipi, Kalagala, Sezibwa, Itanda, 12 wetlands of International Importance designated under the Ramsar Convention (RAMSAR sites). As an adventure country, it has Bungee jumping, white water rafting, Sport fishing, Canoeing, water sport in the lakes, excellent beaches, wind surfing and alpine adventure,” she added.
She added that Virunga volcanoes in south-western Uganda were voted ‘A must see place for 2012’ in one’s life time. According to her, Uganda has the largest mountain gorilla population in the world with 54percent (over 400 of them), adding that less than 700 gorillas survive in the world today.
“There are over 5,000 chimpanzees found in Uganda (Kibale forest alone holds a population of more than 1,000 chimpanzees). The country is home to world’s largest number of monkeys, baboons, apes, rare colobus, nocturnal Bush babies and Pottos found in pristine eco-environment.
If you are a religious person, we may try visiting Uganda and you would discover that the country has faith-based, pilgrim attraction as all faiths are represented in Uganda.
Ali also noted that Uganda was the first African country to host 3 different popes, like Pope Paul VI, visited in 1969, Pope John Paul II in February 1993 and Pope Francis in November 2015.
The “MARTYRES DAY” is one of the biggest holidays in Uganda, according to Ali. “The Ugandan Martyrs were persecuted under Kabaka Mwanga between1885-1887. The feast day of the Uganda Martyrs is June 3 which in Uganda is called the ‘MARTYRS DAY” and it’s a national holiday. There is the Uganda martyrs walk, “walking in the footsteps of the martyrs,” she said.
Accommodation is never a problem, Ali maintained. She said the country boasts of luxurious, eco-friendly, lavish lodges in the national parks ranging between budget to upmarket facilities, coupled with hospitable and well-trained staff to offer unforgettable experience to visitors.
Uganda is visa-friendly to both tourists and business prospects. The nation’s national carrier, RwandAir and other African carriers like Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air and South African Airways are regular operators in and out of the country on daily and weekly frequencies.