Celebrations are in order for Uganda, who will be celebrating it’s 50th Golden Anniversary of Independence from Britain, in October 2012. Uganda has been described by the New York Times, as “Africa without the bells and whistles” and is the host of many hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.
Uganda in 2012. What a year 2012 has proved to be for Uganda already! First, Uganda was voted as the Number One Destination to visit in 2012 by Lonely Planet, plus it has been declared a country to visit by the New York Times. Added to that, in June of this year, Rwanda increased the price of Gorilla Permits to 750 USD each, whereas they remain at 500 USD in Uganda, until at least June 2013, meaning more visitors coming in search of the gentle giants of the forest in Uganda.
So why should you come and visit Uganda?
In 1907, pioneering tourist, Winston Churchill, called Uganda the “Pearl of Africa”. The country is small but the physical beauty is striking and the national parks are much quieter than other neighbouring countries. Its landscape varies from the fertile green areas around the northern shores of Lake Victoria, to the snow-covered Ruwenzori Mountains in the west, the highest mountain range in Africa, to the white-water rafting mecca of Jinja, the source of the mighty Nile, and the semi-desertparts of the north.
It also has the highest concentration of primates on earth, including the majestic mountain gorillas, one of the rarest animals on the planet. This is a unique opportunity to encounter these contemplative creatures at close quarters, hidden among the bamboo and dense jungle of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Ecotourism – Tourism in Uganda is built on the concept of ecotourism and the main focus is placed on sustainable use of the natural and cultural attractions which are the foundation of Uganda’s tourism, as well as empowering the local communities to benefit from tourism. For example, they are focused on wildlife conservation and one hundred percent of the gorilla permit cost is used by the park authorities to finance patrols that are instrumental in protecting the gorillas from poachers and their lethal snares, and on promoting these wonderful animals.
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla Gorilla Berengei), of which there are only about 700 remaining, is one of man’s closest living relatives. And due to it’s wildlife conservation initiatives, over 60% of these are found in Uganda. A visit to these gentle giants in their natural environment is a unique and wonderful experience – one never to be forgotten. Expect your adrenaline levels to rocket and, in the warm, thin air, you will realise that cowering in front of an oncoming silverback is not something you could ever get used to.
How many people will be in a tracking group? The group size is always limited to 8 people per group per day. To ensure the gorillas don’t get too used to the presence of humans and because they share many of man’s genes, the maximum time permitted to spend with them is one hour.
Can you guarantee a sighting of a gorilla? The gorillas are free roaming animals, and their sighting cannot be guaranteed, although the park rangers monitor the gorillas on a daily basis and have a fairly good idea of their location at any time. Gorilla tracking is no stroll in the park. It can take anywhere up to 10 hours to find the elusive creatures in the dense undergrowth. But that is what makes it so special, so worthwhile and an experience of a lifetime.
When is the best time for tracking gorillas? Gorillas are available all year through, but tracking is most suitable during the fairly dry seasons of Febraury to March and July to September. Gorilla Tracking and Chimpanzee Tracking is very different from viewing wildlife anywhere else in Africa. Gorilla Tracking means planning and 6 months ahead is generally advised, especially with Uganda being a more visited country these days.
So what do you want to do now? Whether it’s a specific overland trip to Uganda or as part of an Africa overland adventure, or even as part of your Gap Year Africa, let Amanzi Travel help to plan your African experience to Uganda before June 2013, and enjoy the wonders of the Pearl of Africa.