Home to mountain gorillas, Mgahinga National Park is one of the best places to go to gorilla tracking in Africa. Located in Southwestern Uganda, the park has a diverse collection of tourism activities, though gorilla tracking stands out as the most popular adventure. The park also offers incredible opportunities for bird watching and golden monkey tracking yet the nearby 3 volcanoes offer great opportunities for hiking.
With Uganda hosting about 400 mountain gorillas, half the world’s total population, Mgahinga National park is one of the two places where a visitor is guaranteed to have a glance at the endangered species. Though the gorillas of Mgahinga were known to be good nomads, at times moving to the Rwanda side, today the Nyakagezi gorilla group offers opportunities to adventure seekers to visit and watch the endangered giants in the wild. For those looking for unique experiences on an Uganda Safari, a visit to Mgahinga National Park is a rewarding adventure that you should not miss.
The Nyakagezi Gorilla Group
Nyakagezi group size: 10 individuals including 1 silverback
The Nyakagezi Gorilla Group is the only habituated gorilla group in the Mgahinga forest. The group is led by Mark, the dominant Silverback, who likes traveling and keeps on crossing borders between Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – therefore, the Nyakagezi group keeps on rotating from Mgahinga forest to Volcanoes bamboo forest and to Virunga National park. Over the past few years, however, the group has been stable and they are trying to settle on the Ugandan side since November 2012, and are likely to stay for a while. In May 2013 when a newborn baby gorilla arrived, increasing the group to 10 members- the number of gorillas goes on increasing as they go on multiplying. On that note, therefore, Mgahinga forest National park is expected to get more Gorilla groups in near future- we expect splits from the Nyakagezi group.
Despite the unpredictable behavior and movements, permits for this group can now be booked at the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park gives updated information about the availability or absence of the Nyakagezi gorilla group in Uganda.Read More
You all must have heard the news by now if not fell it. The City is on a lockdown of sorts, movement is allowed but staying at home is generally what has been suggested. To ensure this is enabled, public transport has been postponed for at least two weeks whilst private cars are not allowed to carry any more than three people, including the driver.
But this is also a time to be cautious as a video of Uganda looting a fruit truck in downtown surfaces. The truck emerging from a place that looks like the mini-price area is quickly thronged by a gang of youth who each run off with as many pineapples as they can. That said, here is a summary of what the president said, for those who might have missed it.
- ALL to all Public transport for passenger movement has been suspended for 14days and these include taxis, Costa’s, minibusses, buses, passenger trains, boda-boda motorcycles, tuk-tuks (tri-cycles).
- All these are allowed to move but only if they are delivering cargo, food, and essential commodities and not passengers.
- Should you choose to drive your private car, make sure not to carry more than three (3) people that is including the driver?
- District administration has also been advised to mobilize boda-boda riders who can deliver cargo and foodstuff thereby reducing human movement and shared means of transport.
- Any and all non-security government vehicles within districts to be parked at the district headquarters, and also to directly be handled by the District Health Office. This will come in handy should numbers escalate in a particular district.
- Ambulances, Security forces, some government vehicles carrying out essential duties, and garbage trucks will also be allowed to move.
- Within the city, specific companies will be identified to conduct the boda-boda delivery service of goods, also to minimize movement.
- In all parts of the country, trading in non-essential items has been suspended for at least 14days.
- Markets will remain open, on condition that they only sell the much-needed foodstuff, with emphasis on local food.
- Government offices have been advised to work out a list of essential personnel that must remain on duty.
- Supermarkets have been advised to control numbers, but encouraging deliveries, as opposed to the human traffic seeking out, said premises.
During this past weekend’s prayer session, President Yoweri Museveni acknowledged that the tourism and entertainment industries were indeed affected by this. He said that apart from tourism and entertainment industries that would be greatly affected by the threat of the COVID19 pandemic, the economy of Uganda would continue to thrive.
Remember the country has for the next 32 days, starting last Friday, put any gatherings of sorts on hold and demanded that all bars be closed. On top of this, Uganda has now closed its borders allowing only the cargo planes. Though highly welcome in these dire times, the industry will lose over a million tourists that visit Uganda annually. Only last week, tourism enthusiast, Amos Wekesa called attention to this.
“Now for Uganda, the tour operators are actually laying off our employees,” he said. “I know that for sure yesterday three lodges put off 70% of their stuff.” He worried the impact starts from the community but then becomes a national issue. “That means these kids are going to be very desperate in the villages and millions of people are gonna lose opportunities,” he said. “Because tourism is not just lodges and so on and forth.”
But an optimistic Museveni said that while tourism would suffer, this would allow for the country’s business community who have been importing from China to go into manufacturing. “Uganda has been spending US$7bn, importing things from China, but now the businessmen are no longer importing. They should therefore start manufacturing from here. This challenge might in the end become an opportunity for us. It is a wake-up call for Africans to start manufacturing things from here and stop depending on others,” he said.
President Museveni who was accompanied by the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Kataha Museveni was speaking during the intercessory national prayers on the COVID-19 global pandemic held at State House, Entebbe organized by the Inter-Religious Council Union (IRCU). The intercessory prayers sought to seek the protection of God and spare Uganda from the global pandemic that has sieged the entire world. They expressed hope that the COVID19 pandemic would soon come to an end.Read More
The president addressed the nation on the Coronavirus pandemic and announced the drastic measures Uganda was taking. Though it doesn’t have a single confirmed case of the virus yet, Uganda will clearly do everything in its power to keep it that way. At the risk of bringing everything to a screeching halt, the president announced a 32 day of no large gatherings; this will spread to schools, churches, and even weddings. But here are the 13 points as clearly listed by the President’s press team.
- Schools, tertiary institutions to close for one month starting Friday, 20th March.
- Religious gatherings, churches, mosques, open prayers were suspended for a month with immediate effect.
- Political and cultural public meetings, rallies, conferences, elections were suspended for 32 days with immediate effect.
- No outbound travel by Ugandans to or through Category One countries (those severely affected by pandemic) for 32 days. These are; Italy, France, South Korea, China, USA, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Norway Austria, Malaysia, Pakistan and San Marino.
- Foreigners can leave but not return in the 32 days.
- Ugandans coming back from abroad, including category one countries, will be quarantined at their cost.
- Non-agricultural workplaces, factories, hotels, taxi parks, etc will continue operating but with SoPs, put out by the ministry of health, eg compulsory sanitary points, temperature monitors, etc.
- Uganda-style weddings that bring together the pentagon of groups will be postponed for 32 days from today. If couples are in a hurry, do a scientific wedding with core members. Not more than 10 people.
- Burials won’t be banned but recommend should be done by relatives who are nearby. Mourning is done later. If the deceased died of Coronavirus, State will take over burial.
- Crop people, cattle keepers, and fishermen. These should observe proper hygiene practices. Fishermen should be studied closely because they live in concentrated landing sites. Monthly (open-air) markets are suspended for 32 days.
- Public transport. Taxis, bodas, buses, etc. Advice: Don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary. Also, transport operators are given mandatory soap. In event of an outbreak in a given locality, public transport will be suspended.
- Stop merrymaking, discos, bars, music shows, and concerts. Drunkards speak with saliva coming out of their mouths. Suspended for 32 days.
- The virus spreads by sneezing, coughing. Observe hygiene. Close your mouth, etc. Stop touching surfaces, wash your hands, don’t shake hands, hugging; also do online transactions.
Do a balanced diet. Eat vitamin C, oranges, lemons, etc.
Like a treasure, it stays shy away from the buzzing Gulu town. Many know her as the 140-year-old scenic setting where Senegalese-American R&B superstar Akon shot the video for his song Mama Africa in July 2008. The four-minute video attempts to recapture the agonizing crucifixion that the Arab slave traders subjected their captives to between the mid-18th century and the end of the 19th century. This is Fort Patiko.
I can never forget our arrival at her bushy parking lot, which is a block from its gate-less entrance. We were welcomed by Salvatoria Oringa, the calm caretaker of Fort Patiko. He suggested we take a stroll around the two-kilometer-long pits surrounding the fort. The pits, which measure 16ft in depth and 16ft in width, were dug to make it impossible for slaves to escape from the fort — just in case they beat its tough security deployment.
As we advanced, we were swallowed up by towering wild grass and shrubs. By the time we maneuvered our way through, our clothes were covered with blackjack needles whose sharp tips pricked us mercilessly. We were also not spared by the thirsty mosquitoes in the pits.
Oringa said this humiliating walk was purposed to give us (tourists) a pinch of “the walk to oppression”, that the slaves endured as they trudged thousands of miles to Fort Patiko from different parts of central and East Africa.
Following these words, dead silence fell over our group, as odd imaginations going back to the slaves’ days filled our minds. Unlike us, who were fully dressed, the slaves were always stripped of their clothes.
Because there were no defined roads at the time, they were made to walk for miles in such vegetation, not to mention impenetrable forests which were often habitats to deadly animals.
When Oringa noticed we were getting carried away by these emotions, he was quick to re-route our attention to more adventure at the fort. In a hoarse voice, he asked us to follow him to the heart of the fort and there we found three roofless doubled-roomed houses built exclusively with sedimentary rocks and cement.
They were built on a low rocky hill, so the Arab architects saw no need to cement the floor. In fact, they made the most of this location by polishing the rocky floors smoothly, after which they creatively made striking inscriptions on it to give its occupants a feeling of home in this otherwise isolated setting.
“The roof was made out of thatch, so the houses enjoyed a chilled shade whose temperatures compare to that of today’s first-class air-conditioned suites,” Oringa explained.
Adjacent to these houses is two towering rocks at whose base there are dug-out caves that used to house the slaves. However, unlike the slave trader’s houses which were spacious and well ventilated, I hardly found a thing to admire about the caves.
It appears like more emphasis was put on digging them horizontally inwards than vertically, just like coal mines. Their height is about three feet high meaning the occupants (the slaves) could only get inside by crawling on their bellies. The cave was always jammed to capacity because accommodation was not enough for the hundreds of slaves who were held hostage here.
Tales of death
Oringa explained that from time to time, the slaves would be assembled at the fort’s sloppy compound where the beautiful, healthy, and muscular ones would be separated from the ugly, sick, weak and skinny.
The selected lucky ones would be dispatched for the Egypt and Sudan slave markets where they would be sold off to slave markets in the present-day Republic of South Sudan like merchandise. The unfortunate rejects who could not fetch high prices on the market would be executed by firing squad at the open torture chambers. “They were not set free because the traders feared that they would mobilise the local communities to fight off their cold-blooded Arab masters/traders,” Oringa added.
In a move to make the executions more entertaining, trumpeters would climb up the 18ft rock which overlooks the torture chambers. Up there, they would blow aloud trumpets to cheer the executors as they did their job. After these slaves were killed, their corpses were never given a decent burial. Instead, the bodies would be dumped in the pits surrounding the Fort where vultures would move in to finish the job.
All over the compound, one can observe sharp cuts on the rocks and Oringa explained that these impressions were made by the axes which were used to behead the slaves. “The lucky ones who survived the ax, were worked like donkeys yet fed on little food. Men were usually tasked with digging out more caves for accommodation while women did domestic chores like grinding tones of millet — sometimes till their hands bled.”
Locals believe that though slave inhumanity at Patiko happened centuries back, the spirits of those killed still haunt the fort. Simon Olweny, a resident in the neighborhood of Patiko claims that the nights are punctuated with wails of the ghosts of the slaves who are often heard pleading for their lives to be spared.
The sun shines at last
By the 1840s, it was impossible to maintain a deaf ear to cries against slavery. It was around this time that Sir Samuel Baker, an abolitionist adventurer, and representative of the Egyptian Khedive arrived in Acholi land.
With his band of Nubian fighters, he fought off slave traders from the fort around 1870 and took it over as a station base for his campaign. The same fort was later used by Charles Gordon who replaced Baker as Governor of the Equatorial Province and later by Emin Pasha. It was later used as a prison by the colonial government before falling into disuse for many years after independence.
Other tour activities at Patiko
In other news, Fort Patiko is beautiful from end to end, with amazing scenery which offers great photography. It boasts of lots of rocks that slaves were made to curve into models of different creatures such as sharks, the map of Africa, Lake Victoria and human heads among others.
The hilly fort also has antiquities such as the grinding stones that the slaves used for grinding millet. Florence Baker, whom the abolitionist had rescued from a slave market in present-day Bulgaria, left inscriptions of the Holy cross on the rocks at Patiko. Exploring the old fort gives one a feel of a day in the life of a slave.
How to get there
For someone traveling on a shoestring budget, you need about sh150,000 to tour Fort Patiko. One way bus fare to Gulu is sh25,000. Fort Patiko is about 50 minutes’ ride from Gulu on boda boda and costs between sh4,000 and sh15,000. The entrance to the Fort is sh10,000.
Unfortunately, there is no accommodation and there are no restaurants around the fort. Tourists are advised to bring their requirements such as food, airtime, water among others.
Budget accommodation facilities around Gulu town range from sh15,000 to sh70,000 per night, while luxurious facilities range between sh60,000 and sh200,000 per night.Read More
By Our reporter
A recent meeting between the president and key stakeholders in the tourism sector saw pertinent issues raised. Amos Wekesa, a re-known tourism enthusiast and entrepreneur used the chance to speak up about the impact of the coronavirus on the sector. Wekesa asked the President why the tourism sector was still being taxed yet they weren’t working as much. This he later would explain once the President had directed the tourism officials to look into more flexible ways to deal with the issue.
“I think we have had a very good discussion with the president,” he said after the directive. “The president has given a direction that tourism ministry finds a way of saving the tourism industry find a way of saving the industry.” He said that in other countries, governments were doing more than just mitigating the impact on health alone. “You seeing what is happening to countries like the UK, it reduced their interest rates from 0.7% to 0.25%,” he said. “Italy has said no payment of mortgages as long as the virus is continuing.”
In Uganda, though no coronavirus case has been confirmed, Wekesa worries the bite is deep. “Now for Uganda, the tour operators are actually laying off our employees,” he said. “I know that for sure yesterday three lodges put off 70% of their stuff.” He worried the impact starts from the community but then becomes a national issue. “That means these kids are going to be very desperate in the villages and millions of people are gonna lose opportunities,” he said. “Because tourism is not just lodges and so on and forth.”
To explain the impact further, he traces the impact from the airport, all the way to the eateries. “What this means is that airport will not be getting the $50,” he started. “They will not be getting the landing fee, the petrol station will not be getting the fuel that was being bought by tourists.” He added that also while the restaurants won’t get the people to eat, the hotels will miss the room bookings, but generally, the pinch will be felt because tourists mostly spend more.Read More
Yesterday Thursday the 12th day of March, Kenya, a country that borders Uganda to the east got its much-dreaded first coronavirus case. Speaking to the press, Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya’s health minister said the patient had been diagnosed at the government’s national influenza center laboratory after traveling home via London on March 5.
The patient, a 27-year-old Kenyan is now believed to be stable but will not be released into the public until she is well. “She cannot be released … until she gets negative,” the Minister is quoted by Aljazeera. “Kenya has suspended all public gatherings, sporting events, open-air religious meetings, and “all events that are of a huge public nature”. While the school system will go on, the minister said that inter-school events have since been suspended.
In the meantime, Aljazeera reports that the Kenyan government has traced most of the people she has been in contact with, including fellow passengers on the flight home, and a government response team will monitor their temperatures for the next two weeks.Read More
By Our Reporter
Like the rest of the world is, Uganda has gone on full alert of the deadly Coronavirus. A press release by the Uganda Tourism Board in respect to the health ministry’s precautions affirms this. In the statement, the section dubbed, Interventions in Uganda & travel recommendations by the Ministry of Health, showed the plan. Though Uganda was yet to have a single case, UTB noted that this has greatly affected the global tourism and travel industry, and has put a limitation on travel to and from various countries.
“In order to maintain this status, a number of travelers majorly from China and other countries showing signs similar to those of Corona Virus have been put under isolation for follow up and are being monitored by the Ministry of Health Surveillance teams,” the stated. “Furthermore, the Ministry of Health has advised that travelers from affected countries will be required to undergo a 14-day isolation process for daily monitoring by the Ministry of Health.”
The countries listed are; China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. “It is, therefore, the recommendation and encouragement of the Uganda Tourism Board that intended travelers to Uganda from the affected countries maintain their bookings but delay their travel until a later date when the disease is globally contained and no longer considered an outbreak,” UTB emphasizes.
In fact, yesterday the Health Ministry denied entry to up to 22 people who refused to follow the isolation procedures and put them on the next country back to their country. The apologetic Ruth Achieng insisted that they had been told what would happen upon arrival, and those who were coming for the Uganda-Europe business forum were sent packing.
Also, due to the current threat posed by Corona Virus to Uganda’s travel, trade and tourism assets, UTB’s Lilly Ajarova had even more recommendations. “All tour operators, travel agencies, and accommodation facilities provide handwashing facilities with soap at their premises and on-board travel vehicles and vessels,” she said. “To improve preparedness as a sector, tour operators, agencies and accommodation facilities are encouraged to maintain a stock of recommended masks (N95) for their clients.”
It was further emphasized that all tour operators and travel agencies should encourage clients who intend to visit Uganda to carry their own recommended masks (N95). But also all tour operators, travel agencies, and accommodation facilities were tasked with educating their staff and clients on preventive measures for the mitigation of contracting Coronavirus. “These measures include; avoiding handshakes and body-hugging, washing hands with disinfectants, regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces such as door handles.”
It was a boom party to remember. Cinderella Sanyu, aka, the King Herself, or Cindy Baby as she would usually belt out in song, didn’t come to play. Not one bit! It had never been done by a female musician, no Sir! Hell, that venue had disappointed even international stars. It is a venue for the acclaimed, those who fear no one; those with the musical muscle. However, the Lugogo Cricket oval was full to bream last Saturday, Cindy did that.
I should have left home early, but I thought it would be an easy entry, no, it wasn’t! By 7 pm, I could barely pay for the ticket. It was quite clear that the people manning the ticket area hadn’t expected to have such large numbers, and neither did the security team who were now accepting bribes from especially Kampala’s elite. But even when inside, after a battle that it, it was next to impossible to grab a seat, let alone a drink. The show was massive, everyone, all sober and drunk could be heard wondering how she pulled it off.
When Cindy got on stage at about 10 pm, she would confirm the general notion. “Level that, a level that!” she commanded the sound crew into silence. “When I first advertised this concert, no promoter or artiste was willing to stand with me, no one!” she said to a cheering crowd.
Besides the fact that a woman had filled up the much-feared Lugogo cricket oval, it was that she managed to pull off a live performance. However, when Cindy decided to take the audience on her 15-year journey, there was no doubting her prowess. Together with the 10 wildly energetic dancers, she had for the night, the King Herself delved into a dancehall frenzy that sent waves of excitement across the oval.
No one that performed outdid Cindy, she owned the night. Well, except the part where singer Bebe Cool was pelted with bottles of course. He refused to leave the stage showing that he had fast become accustomed to the bottles. Artistes upon artistes thronged the stage and the crowd nodded and danced in approval. The question that remains lingering is how she pulled it off; she didn’t do any TV or Radio ads, no media tours, and just the press conference a breath away from the concert. What did she do right?
According to Daily Monitor’s Andrew Kaggwa, a close friend to both the artiste and management told said Cindy’s sister had been instrumental and that apparently, they had a marketing plan that was intended on tackling the real consumer. “The team promoted the shows to the real people they wanted to show up, in markets like Wandegeya and Owino,” he quoted said source.
When it was all said don, the King had words for her ‘subjects’, “Thank you, Lord, thank you Uganda, I am speechless!” she captioned her picture. “This is not even half the audience at my Boom party concert. I am so grateful to God and to y’all.”Read More
He is not new to it, Gerima Mustafa, has in fact walked top Arua before. His passion for the pertinent cause that is saving the shea butter tree remains unmatched. An article by Kenya’s The Star upon his arrival in Kenya caught the eye. A write-up into what transpired, dubbed, Ugandan activist for shea tree finishes walk to Nairobi, told of these strides. The environmental walker’s encounter the writer insists ended thusly:
Striding the last kilometres of his 644 km walk from northwest Uganda, Gerima Mustafa emerged out of the rain like a dream. The ex-teacher now campaigning to save the shea tree was greeted by ululations at the gates of World Agroforestry and Karura Forest in Gigiri. Senior staff of the UN Environment Programme also joined in.
He was greeted by Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre, and Dr Musonda Mumba, head of the Global Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Gerima describes himself as an environmental walker, using walking to raise awareness. The shea tree is a vital source of cooking, skin cream, medicine and fruit in northern Uganda. Despite many attempts including bye-laws to protect it, the indigenous tree is dense, burns slowly, and so is being aggressively cut for charcoal.
Gerima Mustafa, right, was welcomed by Tony Simons, centre, Director-General of the World Agroforestry Centre, and Dr Musonda Mumba, left, head of the Global Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
In Kenya, shea is best known under its Sudanese name ‘lulu’ and is sold in supermarkets. Its butter is used for traditional cooking, can be blended into a mosquito repellent, or made into a sunscreen for albinos. It has become popular in beauty products across the world over the last ten years.
The shea tree, vitellaria paradox, starts bearing fruit after it is 10 years old and then produces nuts for up to 200 years. It grows in the dry belt across Africa from Somalia to Senegal.
Women tend to harvest the shea nuts but it is young men who burn it for charcoal. Gerima wants to raise US$650,000 for a massive shea tree planting campaign in Uganda and Sudan.
“Shea is very important. I am worried about its extinction,” said Gerima as he greeted the crowd. “We had white rhino in our place. But people did not pay attention to it and now white rhinos are not there anymore. We do not need to lose these things.”
Gerima relied on the kindness of strangers in his epic march. He was never mugged. While in Nairobi, he attended Wangari Maathai Day and will meet teams at the UN.
“I am just a message,” said the environmental activist as he called for action on the tree. “It will be an ecological disaster if it goes extinct.”Read More