Sustainable Travel in Uganda

The Western Rift Valley is edged by some of the highest mountain ranges in Africa. In the volcanic Virunga Mountains, Uganda and Rwanda share a border and some of the last remaining gorillas on the planet. There are only about 700 gorillas remaining in the wild. To spend even a short time in the presence of a family of mountain gorillas is a rare and moving privilege. In Uganda, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the primary gorilla location. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is at the confluence of Rwanda and the DRC, where one trans-boundary gorilla group sometimes moved between countries. In addition to wildlife, the park also has a cultural significance for the indigenous Batwa pygmies, hunter gatherers called the forest’s first people. Mgahinga forms part of the much larger Virunga Conservation Area. The Virunga Mountains form the spine of the park. Tracking golden monkeys is one of the highlights here. Many of Africa’s iconic species roam the savannas of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s largest park and boasts breathtaking scenery, magnificent falls and good concentrations of wildlife. Uganda sits on a plateau that encompasses several large lakes including Lake Albert, Lake Kyoga and Lake Victoria, the second largest tropical lake in the world. Lake Victoria is also the longest branch of the River Nile and more than 3,000 islands. Uganda offers world-class rafting and kayaking as well as wildlife viewing.

What are they doing right?

Uganda, a member of the Giants Club - an Africa initiative to save endangered wild elephants from extinction and ensure the protection of vital elephant migration corridors in the country - is taking steps to embrace sustainable tourism at the national level, working hard to manage its tourism development in a way that both protects wildlife and provides benefits to local communities bordering its national parks and reserves. Drawing on lessons learned from its East African neighbors, and especially Kenya, Uganda has launched a ten-year National Tourism Master Plan to guide the country’s approach to tourism. While the Mountain Gorillas that inhabit the Ruwenzori Mountains along Uganda’s western border have long been the country’s main attraction and a model for ecotourism success, efforts to encourage visitors to explore Uganda’s other national parks and prolific wildlife, from its diversity of primates to its incredible bird life, are also intended to help distribute the economic benefits of tourism more broadly across the country and ensure that tourism remains a force for conservation and poverty alleviation.

The Elephant Ranking

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Destination stewardship planning is underway at the national level with multiple stakeholders, including government, NGOs, private sector and communities, to increase understanding and awareness of sustainable tourism best practices.

Since 1992 and the first United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Uganda remains committed to sustainable development. The 2014 National Population and Housing Census confirm that this commitment is having positive results. According to a U.N. Sustainability Development review in 2016, between 1991 and 2014, life expectancy rose from 48.1 to 63.3 years while infant and under-five mortality rates dropped from 122 and 203 deaths per 1,000 live births to 53 and 80 respectively. The literacy levels rose from 54.0 to 72.2 percent, and income poverty declined from 56 to 19 per cent. Access to electricity, which impacts the environment heavily in Uganda, increased from 5.6 to 20.4 per cent. There is much left to do but Uganda remains committed to sustainability for the future.

Why the Elephant Ranking?