Named “one of the world’s best bird watching destinations” by Lonely Planet, this East African nation is home to over 1,000 native bird species.
>> View the slideshow for photos of Uganda’s birds
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has embraced ecotourism as a way to protect threatened species and strengthen village economies.
The agency has set an ambitious goal: to make Uganda the top ecotourism destination in Africa.
“Nowhere else in the world do you get the combination of Savannah, forest, aquatic species, landscape and climate,” explained UWA executive director Moses Mapesa.
“In Uganda, you can experience permanent snow on the Rwenzoris, the temperate climate on the lower slopes and the pleasant, all year round spring and summer in the rest of the country.”
Popular tourist attractions include gorilla safaris, swamp tours and village walks, which provide ample opportunities to spot exotic birds.
Birders will have no trouble finding species on Uganda’s birding checklist, which is 12 pages long. Native birds include the colorful Great Blue Turaco (pictured) and Giant Kingfisher.
Community tourism gives birders a chance to meet local people and learn more about village life.
Great Lakes Safaris, a Ugandan-owned tour company, offers cultural tours and overnight stays in rural villages.
Spokesperson Miranda Bekkers has identified community tours of special interest to birders. Itineraries are available on the Great Lakes Safaris website.
- “The Bigodi Swamp Walk is an initiative of the community of Bigodi Village and the revenue benefits the local families,” explained Bekkers. “It is a guided walk in the swamp that is famous for different types of birds and primates.” The area is known as the “Home of the Great Blue Turaco.” The same community also offers village walks.
- The Buhoma Community Resort is a community project in Buhoma, on the outskirts of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (famous for its gorilla safaris). Tourists can stay overnight at the budget accommodation, which is managed by the local community. “They also organize the Buhoma Village Walk, including a visit to the local church, school, witch doctor and the Batwa tribe (pygmies),” revealed Bekkers. Tourists can now rent mountain bikes and cycle through Bwindi National Park, with proceeds benefiting local women.
- Another community project of interest to bird watchers is Abanya-Rwenzori Mountaineering Association (AMA), located at the foot of the Rwenzori Mountains. “Tours offered vary from mini trackings in the Rwenzoris to bird watching, community visits, hiking and cultural dances,” said Bekkers. Details are available on the AMA website.
>> Click on the slideshow to view the birds of Uganda: the Long Crested Eagle, Crowned Crane, Ruwenzori-Turaco and more!
Uganda’s wildlife is as diverse as its geography. Gorillas, chimpanzees, hippos, crocodiles, buffalo and elephants are found within the country’s borders.
Gorilla safaris are Uganda’s most popular tourist attraction. They benefit the local economy and gorilla preservation, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
“We work with the local communities quite well, and because of the benefit sharing program the communities are very cooperative and supportive,” said UWA executive director Moses Mapesa.
“That is why there has been no poaching attempt for the last 9 years and no poaching since 1987.”
Americans do not have to worry about safety in Uganda, said UWA executive director Moses Mapesa in an email.
“Uganda is very safe and secure. I can guarantee safety and security in all of the national parks and wildlife areas.”
A recent visitor reported that Uganda is a stable country.
“I was never concerned for my safety in Uganda,” confided Alex Roosenburg, an American woman who has lived in Tanzania for the past three years. She went on a Ugandan gorilla safari in February 2010 and blogged about her experience.
“The Ugandan people were very friendly and open to foreign tourists. They seemed to have a firm grasp on the benefits of tourism in their country, so they were eager to share their culture, customs, and land with us,” said Roosenburg.
“There was an abundance of smiles and welcoming words from the moment we stepped off the plane!”
>> Update: The State Department issued a travel alert for Uganda on 7/16/10. Click here for details.
For more info: Visit the Tourism Uganda website for information on attractions, transportation and tour operators. For information on birdwatching and ecotourism in Uganda, visit the Uganda Wildlife Association website. The Great Lakes Safaris website offers sample itineraries and packages for birders and other travelers.
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