By Aggrey Nshekanabo
The 2022 Christmas season got the naughty side of me. I found myself hanging on the cliff of the twin lakes of Murambi and Katinda in my village of Bunyaruguru (Rubirizi district). With me were two lady clients who signed up for the #wildwestChristmasTour.
First, I was wholly impressed by the number of Ugandans in Queen Elizabeth National Park. I am waiting for the Uganda Wildlife Authority Report on the numbers into the parks. I have a gut feeling that for the year 2022, Ugandan tourists may beat foreign tourists entering national parks.
For a long time, foreign tourists have been enjoying the exquisite beauty of Uganda at a 70% ratio against Ugandan nationals. If therefore, when the figures are published around March 2023 and they indicate a reversal, that will be a tipping point where tourism in Uganda will have touched the base of sustainability.
I was also impressed by the service points in the sector’s supply chain. Accommodation is greatly increasing and improving. At Katunguru, along the Kazinga Channel, I could count close to 20 lodges, from midrange to budget. Either side of the channel is strewn with beautifully crafted lodges with price ranges of US$50 to US$150 a night.
I had booked clients for Christmas at Kazinga Wilderness Safari Camp. This looks directly into the park and some animals roam around the camp or within arms-length of the camp. The Safari Camp is just separated by the road to Mweya Peninsula, home to Mweya Safari Lodge and the cottages that are managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The northern part of the park, around Kikorongo are also a few choice lodges such as Overland Tracks, Kikorongo Lodge, Simba Safari Camp and Elephant Plains Lodge that overlook the extended arm of Lake George in what is known as Lake Kikorongo. This gives one an opportunity a great view of the Eastern sector of the park and Kahendero or Kasenyi fishing villages and wonderful sunrises over the hills of Ibanda/Kitagwenda.
The Kyambura Escarpments, around Kyambura Gorge and the brim of the Great Rift Valley where the Queen Elizabeth National Park lies at the base is strewn with uncountable lodges including, Warujojo, Baboon, Elephant hub, Kyambura Gorge Lodge (I spent much of my time here because of the memories it holds for me; the main restaurant is converted from a defunct coffee factory, where my dad worked from the time it was opened in 1972 up to around 1984), Kingfisher, Katara and so many others.
I stayed at Albertine Valley Lodge, which overlooks the twin lakes of Nyamusingiri and Kyasanduka, on the southern sector of the park, overlooking Ishasha grasslands and Imaramagambo forest. So much for the lodges. I will independently write about these lodges. Each is special and different and are greatly impacting on the community.
There also several options for boat cruises. Back in the day, if you never took an UWA managed boat/launch to glide along the Kazinga Channel and to the mouth of Lake Edward, then your exploration of the wild side of this park was incomplete. At Katunguru, near the bridge crossing, there are several boats to choose from on either side of the channel. At Mweya pier, there are now three options: the latest addition being MV Kazinga. The boat cruise costs range from US$7 to US$40.
This was also an opportunity for me to touch base with the area that raised me up. So, evenings were spent meeting up with some of the folks I grew up with and meeting different lodge managers introducing them to our safari company; www.kyamburasafaris.com.
Aggrey is a destinations/travel writer and works with Kyambura Safaris & Naalya Motel
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