Uganda tour firms fights Hotel VAT down to make Uganda Safaris affordable

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The Uganda safari Operators within Uganda’s tourism industry have asked the government to totally abolish the 18% VAT on up country hotels and lodges since the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) will soon implement a tourism levy in 2014.The operators Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association (UHOA) and the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) also want the government to allocate more funds to marketing Uganda as a tourism destination like other countries in the region. This will increase the number of tourists coming for wild Uganda safaris and gorilla tours.

“We’re grateful to the government for having considered our appeal to review charging of VAT on accommodation for upcountry lodges and hotels for at least a year.“But what we’re saying is that the government should abolish the multiple taxation on hotel/lodging facilities and services and instead implement the tourism levy which directly support development in this sector,” Samuel Balagadde the Executive Director of the Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association said in Kampala last week.

Balagadde said the government should continue recognizing the efforts of the private sector in promoting Uganda tourism and maintain the exemption of VAT on accommodation for upcountry lodges.
This he says will protect Uganda’s tourism market and stimulate further development in the sector.

In the reading of the 2013/14 national budget, finance minister Maria Kiwanuka instituted an 18% VAT tax on all hotel and lodge accommodations in upcountry Uganda. However, the parliament budget committee refused to confirm this tax following tough agitation from the tourism private sector.

The tax waiver was later confirmed by the Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Keith Muhakanizi in a letter he wrote to AUTO and UHOA.“I wish to inform you that exemption of VAT on accommodation for hotels and lodges outside Kampala District was reinstated during the passing of the VAT (Amendment Bill 2013/14),” Muhakanizi’s letter read in part.

Bulaimu Kibirige, the Chairman UHOA said it should be noted that tour operators normally sign contracts with foreign tour companies for two to three years based on agreed rates.“Similarly, providers of accommodation like hotels set their prices in brochures and Websites.The abrupt change in prices as a result of the VAT addition on accommodation had resulted into legal actions by clients who had made bookings in advance,” Kibirige said.

Barbra Adoso the Vice President of the Association of Uganda tour Operators said foreign tour operators make expensive brochures and undertake very expensive marketing strategies to market their packages.

“We too spend a lot of money traveling all over the world marketing Uganda as a prime destination at our own expense,” she said.Kibirige said Uganda is still largely an unknown destination and the tourist numbers are still minimal to other East African states.

“We’re committed to partner with the government in strategic marketing of the country’s diverse products to attract leisure travelers,” Balagadde said.

Balagadde said the private sector can work with the government to shape the country image abroad that has been spoilt due to public protests.

Clare’s Update on Saving Gorillas in 2013

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Saving gorillas from extinction is an incredibly enormous and complex task, and it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the responsibility we have undertaken, as started by our founder Dr. Dian Fossey in 1967. Yet, as I look back at the year just ending, I am so proud to be able to say that our core monitoring and protection efforts now successfully span some 46 years. We continue to adapt to changing (and challenging) circumstances, and to find new ways to address the many threats to the gorillas’ survival. The gorillas are enduring and so are we.

Luckily, we have never been in this alone. First, we have you – our loyal and generous supporters – always at our backs. In addition, our efforts are strengthened by our partnerships with other important organizations, from universities to zoos to major corporations. And then we have local people on the ground where we work in Africa, scientists around the world, and our strong, courageous staff, each working every day toward our mission of saving gorillas.

With all of this support, we are able to take a “holistic” approach to saving gorillas, focusing on all the potential threats to their survivial, even as they change from year to year. For example, in recent years the gorilla groups we monitor have been changing, in terms of their numbers, their ranges and their behaviors. This has led to the need for more trackers to cover new groups and wider ranges, as well as for more study on the gorillas and their surroundings. In fact, in 2013 we monitored and documented a dramatic increase in the number of interactions among gorilla groups.

Our steadily growing scientific studies are addressing the details in all of these areas, and as they are published in scientific journals around the world, are also available to all those who face critical conservation management decisions. We continue to adapt new technologies to our work, such as moving toward collecting data electronically and using remote camera setups to record events in the forest. In addition to our long-term work in Rwanda, we are now collecting exciting new data on the little-studied Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yet, even with all this progress, 2013 was not an easy year. We were recovering from sad events in 2012 (when one of our antipoaching camps was attacked and one of our rangers killed) and faced significant budgetary challenges. And here is where you make all the difference: your gifts directly determine whether we can do more than our core mission of protecting gorillas, whether we can continue looking for the best ways to save them, through our holistic approaches, our best scientific endeavors and whatever else it takes to succeed.

We want to thank you for your commitment as we all carry on with this crucial mission. The enduring nature of our supporters, many of whom have been with us for more than 25 years, is matched only by the longevity and commitment of our key African staff. We hope you will continue keeping up with us, through our monthly enews, our Facebook page and our website.

Wishing you all the best, happy holidays and a good New Year,

Clare Richardson

President and Chief Executive Officer
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
800 Cherokee Avenue, S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30315-1440 USA
Phone: (800) 851-0203
Facebook: SavingGorillas
Twitter: @SavingGorillas

Brazzaville Trade Show to boost tourism for Rwanda

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Rwanda is to gain more development in the trade and tourism industry due to her participation in the forthcoming regional trade fair that will take place in Congo Brazzaville come March this year 2014. According to a press release by MINICOM, this is not going to be the only fair Rwandan business people will attend since there are many others organized in West Africa for them to attend.

Flights to Brazzaville will be sponsored by the country’s airline Rwandair which will not only be flying to Brazzaville, Lagos and Accra on its added on destination list but also to Doula by March 2014. With the cargo aircraft Rwandair has, goods have been exported to West Africa and will continue being exported.

With such trade fairs, Rwanda will be showcasing investment opportunities and tourism hence helping bring in more investors and tourists into the country. These two sectors will again be supported by the new system of easy Visa processes current in African Union member states that allows citizens to get a Visa on arrival at a certain destination.

According to the press release, this is a great opportunity to Rwandair since the airline can now go to more distant places in Africa. When people participate in such tourism fairs, this helps promote investment and trade in the country hence helping to build it up.

Rwandans, since the genocide, have tried to rebuild the country and so far they have received good results. According to President Paul Kagame success has been achieved because of the sound national vision, discipline and a resilient mindset and theprotection of tourism resources like the mountain gorillas in the volcanoes.

Today, Rwanda safari holidays are very popular, selling like hot cake! Thousands of tourists fly into Rwanda for mountain gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tours, wild game viewing, community and cultural tours, canopy walk, not forgetting genocide memorial tours among tours.

Marriott to take over Protea hotels

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Delicious: Protea Hotels is the largest hotel group in Africa with the most extensive footprint; more than 116 hotels throughout South Africa and six other African countries including Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Marriott International, Inc.  And South Africa’s Protea Hospitality Holdings last week announced a tentative deal in which the US-based chain is to buy Protea’s three brands and management company. 

proteaThe deal is expected to be closed by April 1, 2014.   According to a statement availed to customers signed by Marriot International, Inc. Account Manager, Kirsty Kirsten, under terms of the agreements Marriott will pay approximately about $186 million at current exchange rates, subject to normal closing adjustments.

Protea Hotels is the largest hotel group in Africa with the most extensive footprint; more than 116 hotels throughout South Africa and six other African countries, including Zambia, Nigeria, Namibia, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania. Protea do serve all luxury international travelers that comes to Africa on their safaris and conferences.

The transaction is subject to receipt of certain third party and governmental consents, including exchange control approval from the South African Reserve Bank and competition approval from the South African Competition Commission and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and satisfaction of other customary conditions for transactions of this kind.

According to the statement, Marriott does not expect the transaction will have a material impact on its 2014 results.

Protea has 116 hotels with 10,148 rooms in seven African countries including South Africa.

After April, Marriott will become the largest hotel company in the Middle East and Africa region, nearly doubling its distribution there to more than 23,000 rooms.

The statement said as part of the transaction, Protea Hospitality Holdings will create a property ownership company to retain ownership of the hotels it currently owns, entering into long-term management and lease agreements with Marriott for such hotels.

The property ownership company will also retain a number of minority interests in other Protea-managed hotels.

At closing Marriott will manage approximately 45% of the rooms, franchise approximately 39% of the rooms, and lease approximately 16% of the rooms.

Marriott and Protea announced on November 7, 2013 their intent to enter into this transaction.

Marriott International, Inc. is a leading lodging company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, with nearly 3,900 properties in 72 countries and territories and reported revenues of nearly $12 billion in fiscal year 2012.

The company operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts under 18 brands. Protea Hotels is the winner of two World Travel Awards for Best Hotel Group in Africa.

About the Author: Mathias, the writer is a senior tour consultant of Gorilla Expeditions Limited, a tour and travel company specialized in organizing Rwanda gorilla trips to Volcanoes national park. They also offer wild game safaris, chimpanzee tours and community walks, visit us on for details.

Uganda Wildlife Authority impounds 25 parrots at Uganda-Congo border

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Some of the African grey parrots which were rescued from a smuggler at the Uganda-DR Congo border.

The 21 grey parrots and four brown-necked ones, which were reportedly being smuggled to DR Congo, were impounded at Mpondwe border post.

Officials from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in conjunction with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) have impounded 25 young parrots that were being smuggled out of the country.

According to the UWA, the birds, that include 21 grey parrots and four brown-necked ones, were being smuggled to the DR Congo.

The parrots were reportedly captured from Queen Elizabeth National Park. They were impounded last week at Mpondwe border post on the Uganda-DR Congo border.

The rescue

“Immigrations and security people suspected a box to be contraband. They opened it and found smuggled parrots but the owner had since fled and abandoned his/her loot,” Mr. John Makombo, the UWA conservation director told the Daily Monitor yesterday.

Mr. Makombo said the parrots were taken to Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre (UWEC) for rehabilitation before being released back to the wild. UWEC spokesperson Belinda Atim said the parrots reached the centre in a very poor condition and one of them had died. “They squeeze them in small boxes and were being fed them on fermented stuff,” she said.

Ms Atim added that they were still closely monitoring the impounded parrots in a quarantine enclosure for 30 days before releasing them back into the wild.

Trade in African grey parrots is a lucrative business as it fetches between $1500 to $4000 (about Shs 3.9 million to Shs10 million) on the international market. A total of 150 African grey parrots were recently impounded in Kasese District on the Uganda-Congo border.

Uganda is regarded as Africa’s best birding destination for birders and other nature enthusiasts. With over 1,000 species of birds mainly in large well protected wilderness areas, a birding trip to Uganda is the most leisurely in the east and central tropical birding destinations. Uganda has more bird species per square kilometer than any other country in Africa. Roughly the same size as the UK, Uganda can boast a national list of more than 1008 species (Uganda Bird Atlas by Cars well et al, 2005). This figure represents more than half the bird species that can be found in the whole of Africa. The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats, which include arid, semi-dessert, savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. These are all interesting habitats in terms of structure and content. So it would be interesting to know how many species out of the total country list could be recorded on a 1day list if there was to be birding in all these habitat types on that particular day.


Birds are an important part of our ecosystems. They are universal, penetrating the remotest deserts, oceans and mountains on earth. They are numerous, widely distributed, easily observed and form a vital part of our natural heritage. In Uganda there are over 1,000 species of birds which is almost the same number as the whole of Europe supports. Uganda has more species than any other country in Africa and compares very well with the top countries in South America. However, very few Ugandans are aware of this rich diversity of birds present in this country. For this reason, African Jungle Adventure would like to improve this awareness through the Uganda birding expeditions and also to promote avi-conservation and avi-tourism.         

Infant Susuruka Freed from Rope Snare in Volcanoes National Park

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Late on Saturday afternoon, September 7, Gorilla Doctors “received a report that 2.5-year-old infant Susuruka, of Bwenge group, was caught in a snare. The [Fossey Fund] Bwenge group trackers managed to cut the rope from the bamboo, but the snare remnant remained on the gorilla’s limb, with a large part of rope trailing behind” said Gorilla Doctors Rwanda Field Vet Dr. Noel. An intervention was planned, amongst staff of Gorilla Doctors, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and the Rwanda Development Board, for the following morning.

Here is Dr. Noel’s report:

Early Sunday morning, Dr. Dawn and I, along with Volcanoes National Park Veterinary Warden Elisabeth Nyirakaragire, and several Fossey Fund trackers trekked to Bwenge group, prepared for a veterinary intervention. It took a while to locate the group as the trail was confused with Kuryama and Titus groups’ trails. We finally found Bwenge group at 11:15am. Susuruka was with the group, close to her mother Faida. The snare was wrapped around her left wrist and approximately 1 meter of rope was trailing behind her. She was crying frequently as she traveled behind her mother. Fortunately, the infant was bright, alert, and responsive and appeared to be in good health.

Susuruka holds the trailing rope in her mouth before the intervention.

Once darted, the Fossey Fund trackers (who regularly monitor Bwenge group) seemed to think that the infant would run either to her mother, Faida or to dominant silverback Bwenge. Dr. Dawn and I prepared to anesthetize both Faida and/or Bwenge if they prevented access to the infant.

Drs. Noel and Dawn prepare the anesthesia darts.RDB Vet Warden Elisabeth and Drs. Noel and Dawn, prepping for the intervention.

Susuruka was successfully darted at 1:06pm, and as expected, she ran directly to her mother screaming.  Mother Faida promptly grabbed her infant and took off running down a steep slope. I quickly followed her and was able to successfully dart Faida with 280 mg of Ketamine and Medatomidine 7 minutes later.

Once mother and infant were under anesthesia, a full physical examination was conducted by Gorilla Doctors on both individuals. The rope snare had not created a wound on Susuruka’s left wrist and simply needed to be cut off. Blood, oropharyngeal, and nasal swabs were collected for testing and future research and no abnormalities were found during the physical exams.

Susuruka had a small cut on her finger, but no injury to the wrist from the snare. In Susuruka’s blood work, Gorilla Doctors found evidence of a slight lymphocytosis and elevated bilirubin. The high bilirubin is likely attributed to the hemolysis since her other blood values and physical examination didn’t reveal any abnormality. Bilirubin is excreted in bile and urine and elevated levels may indicate certain diseases, such as liver disease. It is responsible for the yellow color of bruises and urine, the brown color of feces and the yellow discoloration of jaundice. Gorilla Doctors will continue to monitor Susuruka, looking for any signs of jaundice in the near future.

Samples were also collected from Faida during her exam and she appeared to be in good health. Faida was only lightly sedated during the exams and began to wake up on her own after 14 minutes.

Drs. Noel and Dawn collect samples and examine Faida while she is under anesthesia.

After Faida awoke from the anesthesia, she sat by a tree as Dr. Dawn, Elisabeth and I examined and collected samples from Susuruka. She watched us work on Susuruka and was slightly anxious. Wobbly from the anesthesia, she tried to approach her infant twice, but the trackers were able to contain her. We administered the anesthetic reversal to Susuruka to alleviate her mother’s stress, but didn’t relinquish the baby until she was fully awake. Susuruka began to move towards her mother, but Faida had moved further towards the group. The infant began crying and silverback Bwenge and her mother both returned to retrieve her and rejoin their group members. This marks the fifth snare intervention conducted by Gorilla Doctors since the beginning of 2013 in the three countries where we work: Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dr. Dawn trekked to mountain gorilla group Ntambara in Volcanoes National Park for two purposes: to conduct a “routine health check” of the group and assess the new infant born to first-time mother Kunga.

The group was found in the Myase area of Volcanoes National Park, at an elevation of 2993 meters. It was a cold and rainy morning in the park and many of the group members remained obscured by the dense vegetation, making Dr. Dawn’s observation difficult.

Dr. Dawn reported that “Eleven of the sixteen gorillas were observed and appeared in good visual health, including Kunga’s 4-day old newborn infant from the little we could see.  The infant was active though not observed nursing during an approximate 25 minute observation.  Kunga held the baby close to her breast so it was impossible to assess her mammary development.”

About the Author: Moses is a tour consultant in Gorilla Expeditions Ltd, No. 1 Uganda gorilla safari company, with head offices in Kampala, and  sales office in Kigali (Rwanda), you can book a memorable gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda or Uganda through this company.

Uganda Tightens her Security

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Following the al-shabab attack to the neighboring Kenya in which more than 60 people lost their lives, Uganda was alerted to lay more strategies of controlling such attackes to happen in Uganda.  The attacks not only led to loss of human lives in Kenya, but also threatened the tourists who had booked trips in Kenya and the neighboring nations like Uganda and Tanzania.

“Kenya is not far away from us and we are a target to the al-shabab militants” said the inspector General of Uganda police (IGG), Major General Kale Kayihura in press conference. He vowed to work hand in hand with the Uganda People Defense force (UPDF) to over come any attack from any Islamic groups and other related groups of militants. In Kenya, the suspected al-shabab stormed wastgate mall, gun shooting innocent people which was a sign of cowardness, according to Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta. Wastgate mall is one of the leading shopping centers in Kenya where high class persons go for shopping and a meeting point for many people.

Uganda police has confirmed that this is a collective responsibility where every body is supposed to take part in securing the country by alerting security organs in case of any suspicion.  Security in public places like churches, parks, Hotels, Arcades/shopping malls, hospitals, clubs and theaters among others are strictly supposed to have walk through detective machines together with professional security personnel.

Security personals have been deployed at all boarders to ensure permanent security of the country. The threat is due to the fact that, Uganda and Kenya are among the countries who obeyed the request of African Union by  sending  troops in Somalia to revive peace there however, their actions  back fire when al-shabab terrorists promised to attack whichever country took troops in Somalia. The Islamic terrorists’ claim that sending troops in their territories is unfair and this has triggered the revenges.  According to al-shabab leaders, the terrorists have been warning any country with troops in Somalia to withdraw but all in vain.

The al-shabab confirms that they will punish whoever tries to hinder them from fulfilling their ambitions in Somalia and on the other hand, Uganda security forces also promise to over power and control them from entering the country. It is known that Uganda is among the top tourism destinations in Africa and globally at large therefor, she is fighting day and night to ensure total security in order to create favorable environment for tourism activities to prevail. This is assurance for the all tourists planning to visit the country that Uganda is totally stable and all wildlife available in good condition. All Hotels and lodges are also in good condition and roads also in good condition.

Uganda is endowed with a variety of wild life stocked in national parks like Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley, Lake Mburo national park, Kibale forest national park, Semliki, Queen Elizabeth, Mount Elgon National park, not forgetting Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable National parks famous for gorilla trekking adventures in Africa. It is confirmed that the security in all tourist destinations is secured.

African Mountain Gorillas are under threat from oil survey

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Controversial aerial studies focused at finding oil under Africa’s eldest national park have been begun by a British company betwixt fears that drilling in the region could genuinely threaten the world’s last asylum for mountain gorillas.

The moves towards possible oil drilling in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, have been denounced by the United Kingdom government and by the World Wildlife Fund.

This week World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is starting a campaign, Draw the Line, against the exploitation of Virunga National Park, which was gazzated in 1925 and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.

SOCO International, whose head offices are found in London, has defended its aerial study, saying it was being governed and monitored under the terms of the Environmental Acceptability Certificate issued by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ministry of environment, nature protection and tourism.

At the same time prior in this year the UNESCO world heritage committee called for the retraction of all such Virunga oil licenses and appealed to two concession holders, Total and SOCO International, not to embrace exploration in world heritage sites. Total has since consented to respect Virunga National park’s current borders, leaving SOCO as the main oil and Gas Company planning to explore inside the national park’s 7,800 sq km. It claims its region of interest is not near the gorillas’ habitat. Rangers and wildlife experts oppose this idea.

Virunga national park is as of now in a delicate state, because of poachers. Also, it sits close to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s boundaries with Uganda and Rwanda and has been influenced by refugees and militias throughout both the Congo civil war and the Rwandan genocide, and in addition continuous conflicts with rebel groups. It is home to 200 of the endangered mountain gorillas, a quarter of the world population. Despite the fact that recent years have been a success story for the national park, thanks to the efforts of protectionists and local park rangers and the number of mountain gorillas has more than multiplied in the previous years, numerous park staff have been killed by poachers and militias. Virunga National Park is temporarily closed to tourist as a result of the rebel activities.

A year ago the United Kingdom government expressed its opposition to oil drilling inside the Virunga National Park. A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK opposes oil exploration inside Virunga National Park, a world heritage site recorded by UNESCO as being ‘in threat’. We urge any company included, and the government of Democratic Republic of Congo, to respect the global conventions to which it is a signatory.”

Drew McVey is the provincial manager for East Africa at World Wildlife Fund in the UK and has recently come back from the region. He said: “Virunga has been a phenomenal success in the previous few years. We’ve seen the population of mountain gorillas in the park jump and tourists are beginning to come to visit them. As far as the local people, they comprehend the imperativeness of the mountain gorillas to their prospective flourishing, and we have even had reports of rebel groups in the national park no longer poaching, but making money pretending to be approved tour operators. Unexpectedly that is an indication of how significant these big mammals are.

“Virunga National park has the most biodiversity in all of Africa … it is vigorously populated around the national park, so there’s a big demand on the park and its resources. The conflict that has gone ahead in the region includes another dimension of fragility.

“Anyhow now to have this awful threat hanging over it of oil exploration is just so disturbing.”