“Most of the golf courses are uniquely placed closer to tourists attraction sites,” former Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) CEO Steven Asiimwe told journalists, golfers and tourism enthusiasts early this year.
Then, UTB had just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Uganda Golf Union to kick start the promotion of golf tourism throughout the country.
This partnership is meant to promote Uganda as a golf tourism destination.
For example, Asiimwe said, there is a course in Kihihi close to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which makes it easy for one to play golf and also track the gorillas. Also, the Mbale Golf Course is adjacent to Mt. Elgon and Sipi falls, while Entebbe Golf Course is situated near Lake Victoria and Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.
“We want golfers not to just stay at the golf courses but rather to go beyond and combine their Uganda golf experience with gorilla safaris,” he said.
True to his word, hundreds of golfers have managed to play the game and tour the country at six different courses countrywide.
These include Kigo, Mbale, Namulonge, Arua, Tooro and most recently Jinja between June 15 -17, where golfers visited Mabira Forest for a nature walk before engaging in a round of golf at the lakeside Jinja Golf Club the next day.
During the Friday June 15 afternoon nature walk through Mabira, Muhereza Onesmus, our guide into the 300 square kilometres rainforest located between Lugazi and Jinja in Buikwe District told us how the biggest challenge they face today is illegal tree cutting, industrialization, politics.
“As you can see, we have lost quite a number if trees to chaps who sneak into the forest and cut trees in the dark of the night,” he said.
The forest is home to over 200 different species of trees, 300 of birds, about 218 butterfly species, 97 species of moths, 40 species of small mammals.
In fact along the way, we chanced upon monkeys and squirrels during the two hour therapeutic walk.
“I should have done this long ago,” a golfer from Entebbe Club said. “This is what we needed if we are to win our first leg of the tour.”
During the nature walk, Sandra Natukunda, the UTB senior communications manager said when Golfers play in Jinja, they create a value chain for the tourism stake holders in Jinja.
“They’ll spend on accommodation, restaurants, and go sightseeing. This creates revenue for the businesses in that area and consequently boost the tourism industry,” she said before the golfers hopped back onto the Uganda Wildlife Authority bus to Jinja.
In Jinja, they also had a sunset cruise to the Source of the Nile, before touring Itanda and Sezibwa falls with UTB deputy CEO Bradford Ochieng.
The Jinja leg of the Golf Safaris was won by Entebbe Golf Club who still lie several points behind West Nile which has won three rounds in Mbale, Namulonge and Arua.
“At UTB, we know that in order to sustain tourism, we need sports. Golf brings a niche tourism,” Ochieng said.
The next leg of the Uganda Golf Tours will take place on July 20 at the Mbarara Sports Club.