Saturday, July 11, 2015


Africa’s new frontier
Executive summary by darmansjah

Uganda, once the cornerstone of Africa’s Grand Tour, is today bypassed by most visitors. The nation and its people have been brutalized by dictators, battered by warlords, and negatively portrayed by viral videos. Safarigoers line up in next-door Kenya and Tanzania, with only a few coming to Uganda to see the famed mountain gorillas.

The land mixes savanna, enormous lakes, rain forests, and the glacier-clad Rwenzori Mountains, one of Africa’s tallest ranges. The headwaters of the Nile originate here, then burst through a cleft in the rocks at Murchison Falls. Uganda’s parade of animals is amazingly diverse. Hippos graze along the shores of Lake Edward in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, while lions lounge in the trees of Ishasha, in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The star in Bwindi is the mountain gorilla, a species down to about 720 animals visible in their tiny habitat.

Uganda has tough decisions ahead. Oil lies beneath the Rift Valley, right inside Murchison Falls National Park. Extraction seems inevitable. But tourism dollars could provide an easier coexistence between banana-loving gorillas and banana farmers in Bwindi. —David Swanson

Travel Tips

When to Go: The best times are during the drier seasons, January-March and June-August.

Where to Stay: Embark on guided boat trips, hikes, and safaris from rustic Jacana Safari Lodge on Lake Nyamusingire (Uganda’s largest crater lake) in Queen Elizabeth National Park, or from thatched-roof Mihingo Lodge on the secluded edge of Lake Mburo National Park.

How to Get Around: Public and private transportation options include minibuses, taxis, luxury coaches, rental cars, and inland ferries. Tour operators can arrange travel for day trips, safaris, and complete itineraries.

Where to Eat or Drink: In Kampala, head to Nalongo in suburban Katwe for traditional luwombo: a mixture of meat, vegetables, and (sometimes) peanut butter steamed in banana leaves. Funky Mish Mash in Kololo serves an all-day breakfast in a laid-back art gallery-tree house-café-garden setting.

What to Buy: Local crafts, including mats and baskets handwoven from elephant grass and palm leaves, are sold along roadsides and at outdoor markets.

What to Watch Before You Go: The Last King of Scotland (2007). The fictionalized chronicle of the rise and fall of brutal dictator Idi Amin was the first feature film completely shot on location in Uganda. Forest Whitaker’s chilling portrayal of Amin earned an Academy Award and Golden Globe.

Fun Fact: Small farms employ four out of every five Ugandans. Using mainly traditional, chemical-free methods, an estimated 200,000 organic farmers produce fresh matooke (plantain), pineapple, apple bananas, and ginger for local use and international export.
Helpful Links: Uganda Tourism Board

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