FEATURE | THE INDEPENDENT | The Pearl of Africa has been one of the underrated safari destinations in Africa partly because it has been living in the shadows of Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania for a long time. Most African safaris often rotate around wildlife, but, what happens when you have more to offer beyond wildlife? The best thing to do is rebrand so that people can have a full picture of what you have to offer.
Uganda has been known in the African safari universe as a gorilla trekking destination. The main inspiration to a Uganda Safari has mainly been gorilla trekking. Unfortunately Rwanda has done a lot of mass marketing in that direction compared to Uganda. Rwanda has also branded itself as the cleanest destination in East Africa further forcing Uganda into its shadows.
Someone might argue about the better price tag difference between Uganda’s gorilla permits and Rwanda’s gorilla permits. But no one will look into the better rates Uganda has to offer when all they know is Rwanda simply because Rwanda has done more mass marketing than Uganda in the line of gorilla trekking.
When it comes to the classic African safaris that often rotate around game drives; Uganda is still lagging behind Kenya and Tanzania. There is still no national park in Uganda that can beat Maasai Mara and Serengeti national park in terms of wildlife population. Besides; these two destinations are well known safari destinations compared to Uganda’s big game parks like Kidepo Valley National Park and Murchison Falls Game Park.
For Uganda to come out of the shadow of the other safari destinations in East Africa there was need for a brand like Explore Uganda that does not merely front the classic African safari experience rather an experience that is unique to Uganda. In case you are new to the safari world of Uganda, that raises a few questions like; what is uniquely Ugandan? Thinking out loud; there are a number of experiences that are unique to Uganda both in the national parks and outside these protected areas.
Things That Are Unique To Uganda Safaris
There are a number of things that might come to mind when we think of things that uniquely Ugandan. Here are a few ideas to reckon with;
Kampala Night Life
Two years into Uganda’s covid-19 lockdown brought to light a lot of things that define the normal life of Ugandans. Among those things was the night life more so in Kampala that the Ugandan community has been wallowing over due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. The capital of Uganda is not a city of architecture but a city of experiences. The drinks and music are some of the main things that define Kampala.
The common Kampala city tour never opens you up to the real Kampala. It only gives you a glimpse into how people earn their money but you rarely get to see how they spend it if you never get the feel of the Kampala night life. The Kampala night life experience is one of those things that a uniquely Ugandan. It is better experienced than explained.
The Street Food
Uganda offers two types of street food; the highway street food and the busy street, street-food. The busy street street-food is the kind that you find on the streets of most of the towns. Very common on their menu is roasted and fried chicken, fries, roasted meat, roasted goat meat, Rolex and roasted bananas.
The same menu applies to the highway street food. The main difference lies is how the food is served. In the towns, you walk to the food stall while on the highway you simply seat in the comfort of your car and wait for the sellers to come to you. Many people who use buses and 14 seater taxis often look ahead to the street food since there is no room for parking anywhere on the road to get proper lunch.
The experience of simply parking along the road and having snacks, or chicken or any Ugandan delicacy delivered to you is one of the things that are being fronted in the uniquely Ugandan experience tagged to the Explore Uganda brand
Things like weddings, fetching water in the villages, subsistence farming, witch craft, herbal medicine among others are some of the things that offer the unique experience beyond the national parks. The opportunity to dig with a garden hoe, split firewood with an axe, making fire without a match, playing football with the villagers in the evening, village music competitions are among the things that are uniquely Uganda.
However much you can find similar things in some other countries, the experience is never the same. The Explore Uganda brand seeks to portray how Uganda is the pearl of Africa in every aspect.
Queen Elizabeth National Park Wildlife Experience
There are several national parks in East Africa but what sets Queen Elizabeth national park apart are not the tree climbing lions. Even though the tree climbing lions are the icon of Queen Elizabeth National park, the experience unique to Queen Elizabeth national park is how people are able to co-exist with wildlife.
The experience of people washing their clothes at the banks without picking a fight with the Buffaloes or other animals drinking the same water is relatively unique to Queen Elizabeth National park. Of course this kind of lifestyle poses a few challenges to the community such as animals destroying their food but seeing these animals walk in people communities freely is a special experience that is uniquely Ugandan.
Mountain Gorilla Trekking
There are only three countries in the whole world where practically Gorilla Safaris are possible, that is that share among themselves the remaining mountain gorilla population on the planet. That is Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Of these three countries, there is something unique to Uganda where it comes to mountain gorilla trekking!
Uganda is the only mountain gorilla destination that has the luxury of presenting two mountain gorilla national parks. Unlike Rwanda that only offers Volcanoes national park and Democratic republic of Congo that only offers Virunga national park; Uganda boldly boasts of Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga gorilla national park.
With these two gorilla trekking locations in Uganda; the country is capable of offering two absolutely different gorilla trekking experiences not just in landscape but even the forest view. This is uniquely Ugandan. It is one of the things that the explore Uganda brand seeks to front alongside other unique things Uganda has to offer.
The Nile Experience
One of the best safaris you can ever consider in Uganda is the Nile experience. Even though to many, the Nile experience rotates around Jinja; it should be noted that the Nile experience takes on a journey from the south to the north of Uganda.
The wild Nile meets its rivals through rafting, canoeing and Kayaking. The tamed Nile offers opportunities such as sport fishing, swimming, tubing, boat cruise among several other activities. But among the major highlights of the Nile besides rafting, is the boat to the bottom of Murchison falls the world’s strongest waterfall.
Other travel enthusiasts through the Nile Trail experience go further to explore the Rwenzori Mountains which is one of the known sources that make the mighty Nile never dry up. Through the Rwenzori hikes, you get to meet the Nemesis for Kilimanjaro Mountains and Mount Kenya. The Rwenzori experience is remarkable and uniquely Ugandan thus the explore Uganda brand.
The Cultural Inspired Architecture
The Kasubi tombs, the Karamajong Manyatas, the reed houses among several other forsaken yet still existing Ugandan architecture offers the Uniquely Ugandan experience that the Explore Uganda brand seeks to further.
Whether you are planning an all-inclusive safari or a Renting a Car in Uganda to do a Self-guided holiday; the explore Uganda brand seeks to offer an experience that is commonly forsaken in the shadows of the classic African safaris. Once the Explore Uganda brand successfully presents the things that are Uniquely Ugandan; Tourism will be possible in almost every region and every community in Uganda unlike the present norm of national park based tourism.