Importance of gorilla tourism to Uganda
Gorilla tourism in Uganda started in 1993 when the first group of tourists where able to track gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Uganda as one of the only homes of mountain gorillas in the world was facing the issue of poaching, snare setting, gorilla captivity and others which were vices noted by American conservation philanthropist Dian Fossey.
Conservation of the mountain gorillas through gorilla habituation then gorilla trekking were one of the solutions to the survival is the then highly endangered mountain gorillas. The first group to be successfully habituated the opened for trekking by tourist in uganda was Mubare gorilla family. This is located in Buhoma region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Since then, Uganda Wildlife Authority have been able to habituate a number of gorilla families and so far about 19 gorilla families are open for the purpose of promoting gorilla tourism in Uganda. Among these we have Habinyanja gorillas, Rushegura group, Bitukura gorillas, Oruzogo gorilla family, Kyaguriro gorilla group, Nsongi, kahungye, Bweza, Busingye and Nkuringo gorilla families among others.
Uganda gorilla permits are no longer selling according to gorilla family but area. Bwindi Impenetrable National park is divided into for area that is Buhoma area, Ruhija area, Nkuringo area and Rushaga area.
This was done to enable visitors purchase permits for all areas. In the past, tourists used to visit selected gorilla families because of there personal reasons. An example is most tourists visited Buhoma area gorilla families more than others. This created a conservation gap and to the worst some gorilla families had started turning back to wild behavior. It required re-gorilla habituating which is costly and time consuming.
Importance of Gorilla Tourism In Uganda
Source of Revenue for Uganda and supports Uganda Wildlife Authority budget
Gorilla tourism is very important, as it is a revenue-generating venture to Uganda Wildlife authority and Uganda at large. Uganda Wildlife Authority is a body in charge of conserving for generations and all Uganda National Park. Income got from sell of gorilla permits each currently costing USA Dollars 800 is used in the conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas.
A portion of the money is as well used for paying salaries for Uganda wildlife Authority staff working in national Parks such as Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Queen Elizabeth National park, Murchison falls National Park among others. Even medication of ill mountain gorillas is bought using this money to keep them alive.
Construction Of Accommodations Elsewhere in Uganda
The benefits of gorilla tourism do not only impact on the area very close to Bwindi Impenetrable National park or Mgahinga National park. They spread to other areas in Uganda where tourism activities may not be prominate.
Gorilla tourism has led to the construction of accommodation properties in most parts of the country. Tourists who come for gorilla tourism need accommodation at the point of entry which in this case is Entebbe and Kampala. Majority of tourists wish to spend at least a day in Kampala or Entebbe prior to driving to either Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga National Park.
A number of Hotels and guest houses have sprung up and include The Boma Guest House, Protea Hotel, Lake Victoria Serena among others that provide accommodation for tourists.
In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, tourists have to spend a minimum of two nights and because of this, may lodges have been constructed in different regions of Bwindi impenetrable National Park. Some of the Bwindi impenetrable National Park Lodges include and they include, Clouds mountain gorilla lodge, Nkuringo camp in the southern part of bwindi, Gorilla mist camp, Ruhija Gorilla safari lodge, Broadbill gorilla camp in Ruhija side of Bwindi forest, Buhoma Lodge, Gorilla forest camp, mahogany springs, silverback lodge, Buhoma community in the northern part of Bwindi forest in Buhoma, Gorilla safari lodge in rushaga side to mention but a few. All these lodges have helped in providing accommodation to all categories of tourists that come to Uganda.
Gorilla tourism has led to Infrastructural development
Gorilla tourism has led to the development of infrastructure in the area. Many roads leading to Bwindi Impenetrable national Park have been rehabilitated and constantly maintained to ease transportation of tourists to the park. Notable ones include section of the road connecting Buhoma and Ruhija and the Ishasha road that connects Queen Elizabeth National Park to Bwindi Impenetrable National park. In the south part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park the road to Rushaga area is under construction all of which is important in as far as gorilla tourism is concerned as well as transportation of people and goods.
Domestic air transport has developed because of the need of transporting tourists to Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga national park. Airstrips such as Kihihi and Kisoro are very active thanks to the services of Fly Uganda as well as Aerolink. Uganda currently operate daily scheduled flights from Entebbe to Kihihi and Kisoro respectively. Other people have been able to utilize these services from areas which were at one time impassable. This is attributed to the booming gorilla tourism in these regions.
Gorilla Tourism Has Created Employment
Gorilla tourism has created employment to the people of Uganda. Uganda Wildlife Authority employs many Ugandans as rangers, conservationists, doctors and guides. Others are employed by tour operators as guides, safari consultants while others are in the hotel industry. All those employed are able to pay other dues and pay taxes to the government.
Even the local community around the national parks are employed as porters in the park. They help carry tourists’ bags and later paid a wage which they used to pay school fees, medical care, home facilitation and others. This is one way to directly giveback to the local community. It encourages them to continue conserving the mountain gorillas even when they stray into the local community. The locals are able to call for help from the park authorities instead of killing or torturing the mountain gorillas.
Gorilla Tourism Brings Foreign Exchange Into Uganda
Gorilla tourism has led to earning foreign currency from tourists who come from different countries. Most of the components that support gorilla trekking are paid in dollars, pounds and much more. The current cost of a gorilla trekking permit is $800 per tourists per trek, the accommodations at the gorilla trekking parks are paid in dollars and so much more.
Tourists from UK bring pound sterling, those from America bring in US Dollars, all which is used to import other goods and services from such countries. Note that when Uganda is importing goods and services, she requires such currencies. This is because Uganda lacks such, gorilla tourism comes to her rescue. Most of the business community in Uganda use foreign currency to import goods into Uganda. Through the bank, tour operators receive money that supports the tourists that come for gorilla trekking. Its these funds that the Bank lends to the business community and the cash flow continues.
Gorilla Tourism Sells Other Uganda Safari activities
Gorilla tourism is the most preferred Uganda Safari Activity but a combo gorilla trekking with another Uganda Safari activity is its selling point. An example is gorilla trekking with chimpanzee trekking safari. This has also helped in selling activities in other Ugandan national park.
Tourists who come for gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park may also visit other national parks for boat cruises in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park, chimpanzee trekking in Kibale national park all of which contribute to national development.
Gorilla Tourism has Led To Standardization Of Uganda Tourism
In the past, tourism was not a priority in Uganda but the presence of gorilla tourism has led to the quest to regulate the tourism service provider in Uganda. The Uganda Tourism Board has set standards to being followed by anyone in this business, courses like Bachelors of Tourism are being taught in University, Bachelors In conservation Biology, a lot of primate research both internally and externally is being done and others.
Even hotels and Lodges that support tourism are being regulated to give the right service to the tourists. The driver guides under their umbrella USAGA often undergo training and retreats to improve on there approach towards tourists and equip them with new skills. This improvement is partly being engineered by gorilla trekking activities.
Gorilla Tourism Is Creating security In This area
A number of security bodies are in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Mgahinga National Park to protect the tourists and locals from external attacks. In the past, the Interahamwe rebels used to move into Uganda forested area close to Congo. Because of the presence of Uganda security organs, they are no longer a threat to this area.
In collaboration with the vigilant ranger guides, the Uganda security officers are able to offer the best protection to tourists and people living in this area.
Gorilla tourism has put Uganda on the world map since Uganda has had poor image for quite sometime ever since Iddi Amin was president. Due to the fact that those who come to Uganda as tourists and conservationists go back and spread good news about Uganda and its people
Rules Of Gorilla Trekking In Uganda
- The conservation of mountain gorillas in Uganda takes center stage in the all planned gorilla tourism activities. This is because the mountain gorillas are some of the world’s endangered primates totaling to about 1000 gorillas. By 1980s, these gentle giants were at the rim of extinction and by then they numbered 300 mountain gorillas worldwide. To celebrate the current increment, a longtime of conservation devotion has been invested.
- To protect the mountain gorillas, rules were set and these cut across Uganda Rwanda and D.R.Congo to protect the life of the mountain gorillas.
- No one with a communicable infection like cholera, flue, Ebola, Corona Virus, diarrhea is allowed to visit the mountain gorillas whether for gorilla habituation or gorilla trekking. These gentle giant have DNA that is similar to that of humans about 96%. They are highly susceptible to human infections.
- When you meet the mountain gorillas keep a distance of about 8 meters apart from them to reduce on the chances of passing any infection to them.
- Stay in a tight group when you meet the gorillas so that they do not feel ambushed.
- In case the gorillas approach you when you locate them, slowly retreat backwards to still keep the distance between them and you.
- In case you use a camera. Flash photography is prohibited because this scares the mountain gorillas. They are not used to unfamiliar light in there presence.
- Never eat or smoke in a distance of about 300 meters when in front of the gorillas.
- In case you need to sneeze or cough turn away or do it in your elbow from the gorillas so that you do not pass any infection to them.
- Bury all human feaces in a hole atleast 30 centimeters deep and ensure it’s securely filled beyond recognition.
- All the waste must not be dumped in the forest as it alters the nature of the forest. This is where the mountain gorillas get there food.
- Never spit on vegetation to keep the forest clean and protect the food of the mountain gorillas.
- No child below 15 years is allowed to do gorilla trekking. During gorilla trekking, the time of the locating the mountain gorillas is unknown so sometimes may take a long or short time. Even the nature of the topography of this area is mountainous requiring trekker to hike slopes to get to the gorillas. The first glance at the gorillas may stimulate adrenaline yet you need not to show freight. All the above may not go well with a child below 15 years.
- No making unnecessary movements or noise when with the gorillas because you may look suspicious to the mountain gorillas.
- Only one hours is allowed with the mountain gorillas. They have been habituated to be in human presence for just 60 minutes. This is to allow them feed well since they are only vegetarian that must look for own food to support there huge bodies throughout night and day.
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