Monday, August 15, 2011
Uganda: The Fountain Of Beauty
By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class)–L.D.C.; L.L.B. Student–Mak]
When former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill christened Uganda “the pearl of Africa”, it is no doubt that he had been overwhelmed by the country’s natural beauty. Located in East Africa, Uganda is reputed to be Africa’s friendliest country, stemming from a tradition of hospitality punctuated by remarkably low crime levels. Uganda is a very secure country and her capital city Kampala is among the safest cities in the world. Being in the tropics and crossed by the equator, our climate is conducive and friendly as well.
Uganda is one of the world’s most endowed countries which nature has blessed with abundant and spectacular natural beauty. There are up to 10 national parks and several other protected areas that are rich in biodiversity. The national parks include and offer the following:-
• Murchison Falls National Park that supports huge populations of lions, buffalo, elephants, Uganda kob, rothschild’s giraffe, patas monkeys, hippopotami and birds as well as waterfalls, after which the park is named.
• Rwenzori Mountains National Park that protects the glacial peaks of the 120 kilometre long Rwenzori Mountains, popularly known as Mountains of the Moon’. This 5109 metre high mountain also supports evergreen and bamboo forest. It is an ideal destination for world class hiking and mountaineering.
• Queen Elizabeth National Park; flanking Lakes Edward and George, this park offers prime grazing to buffalo, elephant and various antelopes. It also accommodates the tree-climbing lions, giant forest hog and over 600 bird species.
• Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a forested reserve best known for superb gorilla tracking. However, it also provides refugee to elephants, chimpanzees, monkeys and various small antelopes as well as 23 bird species.
• Mgahinga National Park protects the Ugandan portion of the extinct and active imposing volcanoes known as the Virungas. These run along the border with the Republics of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (D.R.C.).
• Semuliki National Park is an extension of Congo’s Ituri Rainforest and it accommodates about 40 Congolese bird species. Its neighbour and namesake, the Semliki Wildlife Reserve, which borders on Lake Albert offers incredible sightings of the enigmatic, swamp-dwelling shoebill.
• Kibale National Park hosts a population of more than 1000 chimpanzees. Of these, an 80-strong community has been habituated to tourist visits. There are also half-a-dozen readily observable monkey species for example, the acrobatic red colobus, black and white colobus and the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey.
• Lake Mburo National Park is a savannah reserve centred on a series of swamp-fringed lakes known for their rich birdlife especially, the secretive African finfoot. This park is also ripe with green acacia woodland surrounding the lake which harbours dense populations of zebra, warthog, buffalo, impala and several other grazers like the last surviving Ugandan population of eland, the largest of African antelopes.
• Mountain Elgon National Park is located on the Uganda-Kenya border. This park encompasses the 4321 metre high mountain after which it is named and it has the largest base of extinct volcano in the world. It also has a lush mosaic of Afro-montane forest, grassland and moorland habitats which, makes this park a highly rewarding destination for hikers and other natural history enthusiasts.
• Lastly but not least, there is Kidepo Valley National Park that is known for cheetahs, elephants and up to 1000-strong buffalo herds.
Away from the national parks, Uganda is the source of the longest river in the world–the mighty River Nile. The source of the Nile, alluded to hazily in the ancient writings of Ptolemy, stood as one of the great geographical mysteries of the Victorian age. The desire to uncover this geographic Holy Grail inspired the epic journeys of exploration undertaken by Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, Burton and John Hanning Speke. The river which flows over 6000 kilometres downstream past the Egyptian temples of Luxor, offers fantastic white water rafting and game fishing. There are thousands of hippopotami, outsized, gape-mouthed crocodiles as well as a profuse birdlife in the Nile too.
Uganda is home to several lakes including, the world’s second biggest freshwater body––Lake Victoria and the world’s deepest crater lake––Lake Bunyonyi which, hosts small islands dotted with rustic hotels and campsites.
Lake Victoria hosts the Ssese Archipelago whose 84 islands are well watered and lushly forested. They make for an ideal retreat after a long safari and they also offer superb opportunities for bird-watching and for hooking heavyweight fish like the Nile Perch.
If you are kind of person that is excited by bird-watching, then Uganda is no doubt the place for you to be. Transitional to the East African savannah and the western rainforests, Uganda is Africa’s most complete bird-watching destination, with more than 1000 species recorded within an area comparable to that of Great Britain. Uganda is the best place to see what many rate as the most sought after African bird: the Shoebill, a massive prehistoric-looking swamp-dweller notable for its heavy clog-shaped bill.
Uganda is a classic adventure tourism destination. Indeed, Bujagali Falls, which lies downstream of the Source of the Nile, an hour’s drive east of Kampala, is the East African counterpart to more southerly ‘adrenaline capitals’ such as Victoria Falls and Cape Town. Bujagali is the launching point for a commercial white-water rafting route that ranks as one of most thrilling but also one of the safest in the world, passing through three heart-stopping Grade Five rapids in a day. Other Bujagali activities include kayaking, mountain biking, quad-biking and a new 44 metre-high bungee jump from a cliff above the River Nile.
Uganda offers some of Africa’s top hiking and climbing possibilities. Serious mountaineers need look no further than the majestic mountain Rwenzori, whose trio of craggy 5000 plus metre glacial peaks offers a genuine challenge to experienced alpine climbers, while fit hikers will find the six-day loop trail through the Rwenzori’s forest and moorland zones to be as rewarding as it is demanding.
Mountain Elgon, Africa’s eighth highest mountain, offers an excellent and relatively undemanding introduction to Afro-montane climates and vegetation, culminating in the ascent of a 6 kilometre wide volcanic caldera studded with small waterfalls, caves and hot springs.
Getting to Uganda is easy and quite hustle-free. Entebbe International Airport, which lies 40 kilometres from the capital Kampala, is a modern and efficient international airport, serviced by a number of international airlines including, SN Brussels, British Airways, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania, Rwandair Express, Egypt Air and Ethiopian Airlines. Uganda can also be reached overland from Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.
There are affordable park entrance fees levied on all tourists that are determined by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (U.W.A.). These are known as “conservation fees” and the latest fares have been set to run for two years effective 1st July 2011-30th June 2013, but may be reviewed earlier on notice.
Detailed information about all tourist attractions and protected areas in Uganda can be obtained from the following websites and email addresses;-
The Tourism Uganda website, www.visituganda.com or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org; the U.W.A. website, www.ugandawildlife.org or by email via email@example.com and www.friendagorilla.org.
With its unique blend of savannah and forest creatures, its rare wealth of montane and lake habitats, Uganda is dazzling, to say the least. Therefore, it is self evident that Uganda is truly the fountain of beauty. It is only in Uganda that one feels the touch of nature.
Further, while in Uganda, you will meet and interact with highly skilled people like me. For instance, if it pleases you, take a minute or two and read through one of my poems reproduced hereunder, as we conclude our interaction here. I hope it makes interesting reading. Goodbye, ciao or adieu––whichever appeals to you.
This continent has nothing more beautiful to show;
Dull would be the man who takes not of the
Impressions so appealing in their splendour
This country is truly blessed by nature.
The golden evening sun, beautiful wildlife, brilliant people
Mountains, valleys, lakes and flamboyant cities
Clearly visible in the fields and heavens
Everything marvels in the tranquil air.
And now retires the sun to rest
As the magnificent moon wakes from his sleep.
Here the earth comes alive
The Nile glides sweetly
Oh my! Even the valleys seem at rest
Truly, the pearl of Africa.
Bakampa Brian Baryaguma