Ecotourism in Uganda looks at conserving and protecting the country’s natural resources found in its national parks, lakes, rivers, swamps, mountains, and reserves, preserving those resources in their natural form for future generations, as well and improving the life of the surrounding local communities.
It also involves tourists visiting these environments with the aim of supporting and promoting conservation.
The tourism industry is a constantly growing industry, and because of that, a responsible form of travel has to be developed in order to minimise its impacts on the environment and conserve the various tourism attractions and destinations.
There are various tourists who desire original and meaningful experiences and therefore prefer travelling to unique, less crowded destinations – most of which have ecotourism sites.
Some of the major ecotourism destinations in east Africa include:
Bwindi Forest National Park
Located at the extreme southwest of Uganda, Bwindi is home to the highest number of mountain gorillas in the world. Bwindi is also home to 348 species of birds, 120 species of mammals, over 220 species of butterflies, as well as chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, frogs and so much more wildlife species that are protected by the impenetrable forest.
By the mid-90s, the mountain gorilla population was under threat due to a number of factors. It became evident that the only way to save the mountain gorillas was through strict ecotourism, and today, the number of mountain gorillas has bounced back to over 600.
This achievement is mainly due to the Uganda government who has enforced gorilla conservation by encouraging ecotourism in the forest. Today, many tourists come from all over the world to join gorilla safaris in Bwindi, offering visitors a jungle adventure with up-close views of a gorilla family. Revenue generated from the sale of gorilla permits funds the government conservation activities, which includes buying medicine, paying veterinarians, paying park staff, improvement of infrastructure, and improving the livelihood of communities living around Bwindi forest.
Sipi Falls – Mt. Elgon
Sipi Falls is situated in Kapchorwa district at the boundary of Uganda and Kenya. The falls comprise of three waterfalls at the foothills of Mt. Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border. Though not as popular as Bwidi, Sipi Falls is still one of Uganda’s magical spots. It has incredibly beautiful views and is a peaceful place to go to refresh, and relax your body and mind, away from the hustle and bustle of work and the city.
The Sipi Falls area is the starting trail for a number of hikes up Mt. Elgon. Tourists looking at visiting Sipi Falls can do so by contacting the Uganda Wildlife Authority or local private Ugandan tour operators.
Mabira Forest Reserve
Mabira Forest Reserve is one of the country’s largest surviving natural forests covering an area of 306 sq km, located along the Kampala-Jinja highway, about 54km from Kampala.
In 2007, the Mabira forest was saved by the people of Uganda after the government, together with the Sugar Corporation of Uganda Limited, announced plans to clear one-third of the Mabira Central Forest Reserve (around 70 square kms) for sugarcane plantations – these plans were suspended after large demonstrations broke out protecting the forest, and offers of alternative lands were given.
Mabira forest reserve is home for over 312 tree species, over 315 species of birds, 218 butterfly species, 97 moths species, and 23 small mammal species.
Attractions in the forest include game viewing, ziplining, bird watching, nature walks, and camping. Cultural presentations are also a popular tourist activity within the enclaves of the local communities surrounding the forest.