We heard the sound of water hitting the rocks long before we got to the rapids. Upon arrival, the sight was mesmerizing as the water bubbled up and down, forming the popular white rapids.
There was an irresistible urge to get closer for an experience in the middle of the Nile in Jinja, where he swings what looks like his jointless arms, then sinks calmly, picks up momentum and plunges almost forcefully in a linear dive.
We were on a white water rafting expedition and our eyes had only prepared us for what was to come; our boat propelling us through the rapids, flipping over and giving us a shot of adrenaline.
Rafting is a gentle adrenaline rush. It is one of the many adventure tourism options in Uganda. Ziplining in the Mabira Central Forest Reserve above Griffin Falls in Lugazi is well-deserved therapy as you soar through the treetops and float buoyantly through the air from tree to tree supported by a wire solid metal under the guidance of tour guides.
If heights aren’t your thing, a walk through rainforests and woodlands is a pure connection to nature; as birds sing, playful monkeys leap from tree branch to tree, frogs croak in their waterlogged houses, and more.
Mountaineers understand the language of climbing heights over rugged terrain. Adventure junkie Paul Lumala says a ride in your hood, before you can stretch your eyes and legs to overcome hills near and far is a great start.
The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mghahinga National Parks, home to mountain gorillas, provide opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing.
The adventure niche offers options beyond nature. You can dine in the forest under the stars on a Saturday night at the Bush Baby Lodge in Mukono, where guests sit, share a meal and tell stories by moonlight.
As you savor culinary delights, listen for the calls or cries of night owls, baby bushes, birds and nocturnal animals that the guide will identify and track with you. If you love capturing bird pictures, Yellow Haven Lodge, located on the shores of Lake Victoria at Ggaba via Bunga, is the place to be.
The other adventurous option is to camp at a countryside or urban campsite or on the beach at Ssese, Buvuma or Koome Islands, where Lake Victoria is home to several species of birds in addition to watching fishermen continue their search for catch of the day.
Tourism adventure packages range from soft to nature and hard adventure activities, which have the potential to attract more people and reduce pressure on conventional wildlife tourist attractions.
Adventure Tourism Marketing
Tourism and travel stakeholders are aware of the opportunities and at a first edition of the Adventure Tourism Expo held under the auspices of Adventure Tourism Uganda, they discussed the opportunities, how to market them and promote them and what needs to be done to normalize them.
Denis Ntege, director of Raft Uganda, observes that Uganda needs to capitalize on its natural competitive advantages – Africa’s five ecological zones; the landscape, tourist attractions of snowy ranges, lakes and rivers, savannah grasslands, trails and treks of Bwindi, Karamoja plains.
The tour guide, Juma Chebet, gave travelers a 100-meter-long Sipi Falls experience in Kapchowa. “On the falls you can abseil and we can take you hiking up Mount Elgon. You can hike for three to five days. You can also do community tours because adventure tourism connects people to places,” says Chebet.
Karamoja is a good place that tour operator, Theo Modo Vos, recommends for adventure tourism to reduce pressure on human-wildlife conflicts.
“For the first time, tourists are asking us what else Karamoja offers besides wildlife tours. Hiking tours, community tours, rich cultural dances, bird watching, nature walks, bike safaris and more Says Vos. When Thies Timmermans, a renowned cycling enthusiast and founder of Red Dirt, visited Uganda in 2012, he said, “Uganda is the perfect destination for cycling.
Lumala, the chairman of Adventurers, Mountain Slayers Uganda, observes that mountaineering has the potential to attract many tourists. But he says there is a need to improve the safety of tourists on excursions.
“Each of us has unique strengths, knowledge and market niche. Adventure tourism is a growing tourism product that attracts both international and local tourists. We have to create synergies to promote the product,” he says.
Regulation and standardization
Ntege, who is also an adventure tourism entrepreneur, says there is an urgent need to regulate adventure as a tourism product. “We need standards to harmonize, popularize and implement this product,” he says.
Under the Mastercard Foundation’s Covid Economic Relief Resilience and Response program, UTA, an umbrella body that brings together local stakeholders in the tourism sector, has been supported to work with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards to develop a standards framework for adventure tourism, as an ongoing mission. the final stages.
Building tourist confidence
Kawere adds that within the next two years standards for adventure tourism will be in place. Ntege welcomes the idea saying it will build the confidence of tourists to undertake activities in Uganda’s exploratory areas. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) manages 10 national parks, where some adventurers have traveled on thrilling expeditions that brought them into close contact with wild animals.
“I have cycled through national parks and guided by trained UWA rangers. I was hit by boda bodas while cycling in Kampala city and would not advise anyone to ride in town. You drive safely on secondary roads,” Timmermans shares of his experience.
The adventurous cyclist adds that when exploring, safety remains paramount. Adventure tourism attracts certain groups of people who like to discover more for unique experiences.
“We offer walking safaris, rafting in Murchison Falls National Park and mountain treks. Most of them are not fully optimized. We need to do more,” says Dorcus Rukundo, UWA Business Development Manager.
While on a road trip in Kisoro District, Frank Wetaka met Alexander Lex Bongers while roadmaster riding to Kidepo Valley National Park.
“For the first time in my life, I was able to cycle 100 kilometers. It was a new adventure for me. We arrived in a village in eastern Karamoja. I have never seen it on any travel itinerary. There it is, a new place to discover near the Kenyan border,” says Wetaka, a practicing safari guide with 18 years of experience.
Anna Grodzki, director of Matooke Tours, says that to improve services in the tourism sector, it is necessary to continuously train guides.