By Aggrey Nshekanabo
There will always some good that comes out of a bad situation. While International tourism and travel took a nose-dive and local tourism, which is 80% foreign based came to a standstill, as the lock-down eased, Ugandans took to discovering their own country.
It also required price revision for the different destination areas. Jobs had been lost at these tourism facilities but again the facilities needed maintenance. And so, any money was still good money. We saw facilities that were priced at 350$ a night cutting it way down to 100$ a night.
The good in all this is that it gave Ugandans an opportunity to explore and appreciate their country more as magnificently beautiful. I have always counted myself lucky that in the course of my work, I have been able to take in that beauty. It has also helped Ugandans appreciate that destination travel requires fore-planning and saving. A trip doesn’t just happen. You make inquiries, make plans and put some money aside. We will possibly see an increase in internal destination travel. That interestingly is what sustains local tourism.
And so, since June, when the lock-down was eased, a number of excursions have happened. At a personal level, I have been to Mabamba, that place famous for the shoe-bill. I have been to Nansubuga hill, South of Kampala. I have been to Nyungu Ya Maawe, North East of Kampala in Kira-Bulindo and lately to Roots Retreat Resort off Kajjansi.
Others have gone to as far as Mabira Rain Forest and pushed it further to Jinja and Kayunga. In all these places, Ugandans are ‘discovering’ and appreciating nature more. For example, at Roots Retreat Resort, nature has close to 90% been left intact. It shows that man has this God-given gift to co-create without being destructive. But it also takes insight, ingenuity and appreciation of nature in its entirety.
When I visited, for the short time I spent there, I think I took in so many great songs by the birds that chirped away. No wonder, there is a recording studio at the resort. So, for those interested in inspirational music journeys, Roots is the place to be.
According to Sam Okello, the inspiration behind Roots Retreat and Camping Resort is to let man know that man can co-exist with nature amicably without destruction. See, all around the resort, there are homes that are coming up. Forests are being depleted, swamps are claimed. This will in the next 10 years be the only place that will provide man with the best breeze.
“We have got to be eco-friendly yet provide retreat, camping, restaurant and social amenities’ services without destroying nature. We are so near the city but it never feels like you are close by the city because of our eco-tourism approach;
We have been approached by property developers who want a piece of our nature facility and they offer colossal sums of money. We have had to resist the temptation because we know there will be destruction. Man still needs nature. We must be good stewards of the birds, the reptiles, the butterflies and everything else found in such an environment. We are following God’s design and simply harnessing it. We are giving our clients an experience of serenity. And if they do so wish, they can hike the hills and eventually return to their nature friendly rooms with modern accessories as the birds sing for them;” Okello says in defense of the eco-tourism vacation spot.
And for this, Roots has attracted the low and mighty of Kampala who spend their weekends and free weekdays on nature walks. In fact, even Hollywood actors like Forest Whittaker have been here and enjoyed the serenity of this magnificent offering.
“It gives me joy that my idea is appreciated. I love it when organisations come here for team building activities or to simply retreat and plan. I have also hosted book-writing and poetry workshops here. I have also seen writers finish their manuscripts here. But also, it is an escape for lovers and family gatherings.
Out of this we have also created jobs for young people but most importantly, preserved nature for future generations. We have a dance group with contemporary music and drama. You got to know that I am a stage performer and so, it is on such moments that I come alive too. I am able to pass on my God-given talent to the young generation for continuity” Sam Okello concludes.
And thus, in this month of October, as we focus on mental health, it is important to look out for places such as Roots Resort, Nyungu Ya Maawe and others to give yourself mental rejuvenation but at the same time, putting a brick on the local tourism structure. There are so many places that are emerging for our serenity and peace of mind.
Aggrey is a travel & destination consultant and works with Kyambura Safaris a boutique travel agency that runs Naalya Motel, www.kyamburasafaris.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
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