The Top Interesting Tourist Attractions and Activities in Uganda

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Uganda is a landlocked nation found in the Eastern part of Africa bordered by different countries in all directions like; Kenya in the east, South Sudan in the North, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the west, Rwanda in the southwest and Tanzania in the southern direction. Additionally, Uganda is well known for its rich wildlife life which attracts more thousands of international tourists every year. Before starting your Uganda safaris, you need to pass through the several wildlife parks and a vast land of different types of animals.

National Parks
On your safari in Uganda, you will unquestionably pass through different national parks. These national parks host different tourist attractions and activities like; gorilla trekking, chimps tracking, wildlife viewing, and many others. Uganda has 10 national parks and 13 wildlife reserves. Anyhow all national parks have no any similarity to each other too. So during your Uganda safari, you will enjoy with the most extreme clarity, since you know that Uganda is a landlocked with Kenya border. Therefore most of the wildlife relocates from the Kenya doorway because it is unavoidable for the tourists from seeing the sight of the Kenyan wildlife in Uganda floor. Since, the national parks in Uganda are well organized, so you can enjoy it to a full amount.

Among all national parks, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular one in Uganda and other national parks include; Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is famous for gorilla safaris, Kibale Forest National Park which is also well known for its 13 species of primate including the rare Chimpanzees, there is also Kidepo Valley National Park, Murchison Falls National, Semuliki National Park, Mount Elgon National Park and many others.

Game Viewing
When you are on the Uganda gorilla safaris, you will presumably realize it is the most interesting safari since it involves entering deep in the forest in search for rare and endangered mountain gorillas in their nature habitat. Gorilla watching activity in Uganda is done in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. In game watching, you will able to see and interact with different animals in Uganda national parks like; leopards, buffalos, antelopes, kobs, bushbabys, warthogs, elephants and many others animals. If you’re lucky enough, you will be able to see the tree climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Water Sports
As Uganda is strategically located in the African Great Lakes Region, so you can expect a lot of the water bodies there. So, you will find a plenty of water sports opportunities in Uganda. In these water bodies, you will choose type of water sports according to your interest. You can also enjoy white water rafting on River Nile, you can also do boat cruise on any lake in Uganda. Since, it is a life time experience; you can also explore the other water animals like crocodiles and hippos in the Great Lake Region.

Hiking
There are several mountains in Uganda where you can enjoy the hiking experience like Mount Elgon, Mountain Rwenzori, Mount Mgahinga, among others. Therefore, on your Uganda safari, do not forget to include mountain hiking experience; it is also an amazing experience.

The Volcanic Lakes Attracting more Tourists in Rwanda

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twin-lakes-rwandaRwanda has numerous vacation destinations which have increased the number of local and international tourists going for Rwanda safaris. Among the attractions that Rwanda has incorporate the volcanic lakes which have attracted many tourists to come and see them. The volcanic lakes are five and they incorporate Akagera, Kivu, Bulera, Gisenyi and the twin lakes which are Bulera and Ruhondo.

Each of the volcanic lakes has several attractive futures that visitors enjoy in on their Rwanda safaris. The Bulera and Ruhondo twin lakes give visitors a golden chance to watch the excellence of Rwanda and additionally unwind from that there after their gorilla trekking experience in Volcanoes National Park. At Lake Kivu visitors have a chance to watch different towns and some places of history therefore having a nice safari in Rwanda.

Akagera Lake gives visitors a chance to see the wetlands and the papyrus swamps therefore tourists learning a lot of things on Rwanda safaris. Finally Kibuye and Gisenyi are used for activities like kayaking, swimming, game angling among other tourist activities therefore attracting more visitors to come for safaris to Rwanda consequently boosting the tourism industry in Rwanda.

Besides the Volcanic Lakes, Rwanda has got other tourist attractions which also attract many tourists to the country, for example; the rare and endangered mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park which attraction 70% of the tourists visiting Rwanda every year and the main activity done in the park is mountain gorilla trekking tours, the chimpanzee and other 13 species of primates in Nyungwe Forest national park is also another tourist attraction in the country and the main tourist attraction carried out in this national park is chimpanzee tracking, there is also Akagera National Park which is also known for its variety of wildlife and the main tourist activity in the park is wildlife viewing.

There are also historical sites in Rwanda which also attract many tourists like the old king’s palace of Nyanza and the many genocide memorial museums.

Awesome experiential tour in Africa

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A must do trip when in Rwanda. I have been to see the gorillas twice while on our gorilla tour in Rwanda last year. As you can see from all the reviews, each trip is completely different. I had one easy trip and one more difficult one, but managed to see a lot of gorillas both trips.

kanama-mountain-gorillaThe first trip was about a 1.5 hour hike up. We were told that it was going to be about that long. The family was huge (30+) with 4 Silverbacks (the patriarch passed away after our trip and two of the full grown Silverbacks fought it out for the group. The third was the son). We also saw some babies. One of the Silverbacks went around bumping members of our group. We made it back in 45 minutes.

The second trip was a little longer than planned… We had requested a close group as my mom; her friend and my brother’s pregnant wife were with us. It turned out to be a 4.5 hour hike to find the gorillas. A group of buffalo (we had to sneak past them) had scared the gorillas off. The terrain was also difficult and my mom’s friend was helped by two porters. When we finally found the gorillas, it was all worth it. The kids wrestling us each other and the Silverback keeping a look over the family. Even though the hike was difficult, it was definitely one of the main parts of the visit as the terrain was beautiful. We also really got to see the real “Gorillas in the Mist”.

Having done some research prior to the trips, we were ready for anything. Lots of water are recommended and bring snacks especially those that can give you energy kicks. Prepare for rain, mud and tough terrain. I suggest wearing gloves. At the end of the day, the hike can be very easy, but best to be prepared. If you have any doubts about the trek take a porter.

I and my fellow travelers I was travelling with were lucky enough to be selected to track the Susa group. Another tourist with us had information about this group and she said the group has the big number in that area and was normally the hardest to get to, so we were both excited and a little nervous about the trek ahead! I am not going to lie, the trekking is hard work! It took us nearly two hours simply to reach the tree line and the altitude really takes your breath away if it’s not something you are used to.

In the forest itself you have to be very careful where you tread as the undergrowth is dense and slippery, even a couple of our porters took a tumble every now and then to carry our big bags equipped with our perfect cameras ready to take unforgettable shoots and videos while with the mountain gorillas in the mist!

In general, an experience of a lifetime with the mammals those are the most similar to humans. The interaction is very close with small groups. It is well organized (best to buy your passes directly from the Rwanda Development Board) One of the best activities in Rwanda. Visit our website for more information about gorilla tracking in Rwanda or Uganda.

Rippin through the Nile for adventurous tourism in Uganda

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The source of the Nile is one of the most spectacular white-water rafting destinations in the world attracts many tourists in Uganda! The source of River Nile is one of the major component in many Uganda safari packages.

White water rafting on the Nile is one adventure that needs the bravery of a lion, I was happy to be among the daredevils who have ticked white-water rafting off my bucket list.

An early morning drive from Kampala to Jinja, arranged by Adrift, took us to the camp base by River Nile. Close to 30 tourists, mainly from Australia, Turkey and India joined us.

white_water_raftingAs we happily took in the enchanting view of the scenic river, we had a healthy breakfast which aroused our appetite for the adventure.

Greg, an administrator with Adrift, said though no one has ever lost their life while rafting on the Nile, the risk could not be eliminated from the adventure. He implored us to abide by the safety precautions.

However, he was quick to drown our worries, assuring us that a team of over 10 professional rescuers would be on hand throughout the ride.

My team of five was led by Sadulu Khadir, a rafting coach. We were strapped with life jackets and kayak helmets. We had to leave our shoes, watches, phones and cameras behind to avoid damage or loss during the adventure. Armed with kayak paddles, we jumped into an inflatable raft, ready to beat the hell out of the rapids — or so we thought.

First, Khadir coached us on rowing techniques and sitting postures needed to contain both the polite and the ugly that would come our way. Then he ordered us to dive into the river to hone our survival skills.

For those of us who knew nothing about swimming, it was like Khadir was commanding us to commit suicide. I looked him in the eye, hoping he was joking. But he returned the hard stare, and showed no signs of relenting or engaging in any small talk.

Stuck between tough choices, I jumped into the river. Shockingly, it turned out to be the sweetest surprise of the morning, for the life jackets did what they do best.

Floating on my back in the blissfully cool water was great. It was the closest I had coming to swimming all my life. He then ‘rescued’ us and took us back into the raft. It was time to paddle towards the fun-filled hell that awaited us. We rowed, along with tones of support around us, including safety kayakers and a rescue boat nearby.

After a lot of paddling over a flat stretch of the river, we reached the mouth of the first rapid, dubbed grade three, the third most aggressive rapid. Its nerve wrecking roars left my chest thudding with terror and when the foaming waves came into view, the terror came alive.

Fortunately, Khadir was such a fantastic coach. He kept calm, making us feel that he was in control. Alas! No sooner had we struck the edge of the two feet deep rapid than the boat got hooked onto a flat rock. The gushing water flogged us angrily as it forced its way downstream.

To crash through the explosive rapid, towards the calmer stretch downstream, it took team work to bounce the raft back and forth before it was dislodged. It was too soon to celebrate, for a few meters ahead was a much more terrifying challenge — a grade five rapid. The closer we got, the more it looked like a starving lion ready to rip us apart.

It exploded powerfully, flipping our raft upside down. Only three of us escaped being buried under the raft, in the choppy waters. I was vertically flashed onto the rocky edge, where I hit my head. But thanks to the helmet, my skull was protected.

Nonetheless, I could not whine because I knew my suffering was nothing compared to what the folks under the boat were going through. After seconds of waiting for them to swim out in vain, a wave of panic ran through me.

It was a relief when Khadir jumped onto one of the corners of the boat and grabbed a rope to flip it back into position. It was then that the buried folks popped out their heads, struggling to catch their breaths.

Flustered, we finally hauled ourselves back into the boat, with the help of the day’s hero — Khadir.

Once inside, the fright changed to incredulous happiness. “That was close!” Excitement bubbled inside everyone. The water was calm for a while, giving a chance for the fright to ebb slowly while we enjoyed the view of floating plants, the small forested islands and the various birds.

In between them were small rapids which were a piece of cake to manoeuvre, the type of cake you can stuff in your mouth and swallow without chewing. With the sun becoming hotter by the hour and our earlier fears long extinguished, we felt free to dive into the water for leisurely cooling dips.

Mother of rapids

But there was one more giant to overcome. We still had to face the most inviting but deadliest rapid — the grade six rapid. But we had to dodge the worst part of it, so we paddled to the left bank and got off.

We then walked for five minutes on land as Khadir tactfully steered the empty boat on a calmer side to the nearest safe point, where we jumped aboard. We then dared the safer part of this rapid with towering waves, but thankfully, did not flip.

We paddled to the finish point at the foot of Adrift’s second camp base. I could not help but wish I had gone for the full-day rafting as it entails thundering through eight rapids, unlike the half-day which has only four rapids. I also wished I had some champagne to toast to the sweet victory we claimed. These activities can be conducted either before or after your wildlife safari or mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park in Uganda.

African Wildlife Conservation

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Researchers discover 10,000 community of chimpanzees in war-torn Africa have been eating Leopards

wild-chimpsResearchers in Africa have discovered a huge population of ‘unusually large’ chimps who feast on leopards and giant snails in what is being described as the continent’s ‘last untouched wildernesses.

Scientists have discovered a huge mega-culture of chimps in Congo that feast on big cats and giant snails. Regular chimps, pictured, mainly eat fruit

Scientists have discovered a huge mega-culture of chimps in Congo that feast on big cats and giant snails. Regular chimps, pictured, mainly eat fruit

The previously unknown ‘mega-culture’ was found in the heart of the Bili-Uele forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo by researchers, who trekked thousands of miles dodging armed police and militia to get there.

And they were stunned to see the chimps eating leopard and huge African snails, whose shells they pound open on rocks.

Cleve Hicks, a primatologist based at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, said in The Guardian: ‘This is one of the few places left on Earth with a huge continuous population of chimps.

‘We estimate many thousands of individuals, perhaps tens of thousands.’Unique customs and behaviour across a vast area of 19,000sq miles were recorded by a series of motion-activated cameras.

Gangs of males were seen patrolling their territory and mothers showed their young how to use tools to eat swarming insects.

The camera traps also revealed an extraordinary range of other forest dwellers, including forest elephants, olive baboons, spotted hyena as well as red river and giant forest hogs, crested guinea fowl and aardvark.

‘We saw incredible amounts of wildlife on our camera traps, but we did not catch a single film of a human,’ said Hicks. ‘It remains one of the last untouched wildernesses in Africa.’

One camera even recorded its own destruction as it came under attack from a leopard, but all two dozen cameras were nearly lost when poachers invaded the area and burned the researchers’ camp.

Only a swift two-day rescue mission retrieved the footage.Hicks’s team first identified the existence of the Bili-Uele chimps in 2007 but their new survey, published this week in the journal Biological Conservation, reveals a vast, thriving mega-culture.

Elsewhere in Africa, human damage has fragmented the continent’s chimp population from many millions to just a few hundred thousand over the last century.

However, while the chimp numbers have apparently remained stable, the numbers of forest elephants have crashed by half due to poaching.

The slaughter, to feed the highly lucrative illegal ivory trade, mirrors the bloody picture across central Africa, where two-thirds of all forest elephants have been killed in the last decade.

The researchers fear increasing incursions into the virgin forest will draw in more hunters seeking to feed the bush meat trade in the Congo basin that targets chimps and other animals.

Hicks said the Bili-Uele forest is in need of urgent help: ‘It is one of the last great expanses of pristine African wilderness,’ he said.‘This is one of the few places on Earth with a huge, continuous population of chimps

Solitary mountain gorilla forms new group

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silverback-mafunzo
Silverback Mafunzo – Volcanoes National Park

While tracking one of the regularly followed mountain gorilla groups on Jan. 27, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund trackers encountered a new group consisting of two females and one silverback gorilla, in the Bikereri area. They immediately recognized one of the gorillas as 14-year-old female Taraja, who was last seen with silverback Giraneza in late September. The silverback turned out to be Mafunzo, who was last seen on Sept. 4, 2013, when he interacted with Giraneza’s group and tried to obtain Taraja. He failed in this attempt and she was still with Giraneza when last seen.

As for the other female, field staff surmised it could be one of three females not seen in some time: Umusatsi, who was not seen since May 2013; Kanama, who was last seen in December; or even Shangaza, who was last seen in late January.

The right answer turned out to be Umusatsi, who was thought to be traveling alone for a long time, so this is good news. She appeared to be a bit more relaxed around human observers this time, but still vocalized with loud pig grunts.

Other groups seen after absences

On Feb. 10, Fossey Fund trackers finally saw all the gorillas of Isabukuru’s group, which had not been amenable to human observation since December, when one of its young members (Icyororo) was injured during a group interaction and a medical intervention in conjunction with Gorilla Doctors was undertaken to address significant injuries to his foot. After these stressful events, the group’s silverback, Isabukuru, began showing aggression toward the trackers and this prevented close follow-up for some time. Trackers reported that now Icyoro’s foot seems healed and that he was moving normally and seems to have recovered. However, more observation is needed and silverback Isabukuru is still showing aggression toward the trackers.

On Feb. 12, trackers reunited with Gushimira’s group, which had not been seen since Dec. 26. The group was encountered by chance, while Fossey Fund trackers were following traces from a big interaction site involving Kuryama’s group. One female, Ukuri, joined Gushimira as a result of the interaction. The other Gushimira female, Kanama, appeared to be fine, along with her infant.

However, Kuryama’s group had split into two, with four gorillas following “beta” male Vuba. The group was on top of Mt. Visoke, which makes searching very difficult. Fossey Fund trackers were joined by anti-poaching teams and local defense workers to create two extra teams – one for Vuba’s group and one for Gushimira’s group, since there were now 11 groups to follow, but by the next day, Kuryama’s group had reunited. This group and many of the others were traveling in very distant locations but generally doing fine.

Truly experience the gorilla trekking in Africa

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We recently had a wonderful and memorable luxury gorilla tour in Africa with Gorilla Expeditions Limited! No matter how far, slippery, strenuous, the ‘path’ is, it well worth it when you encounter a magnificent gorilla troupe at the end. I did find it is bit disappointing (and embarrassing) that there were very few that took advantage of the young men who availed themselves to trek with you, carrying gear, helping with some more difficult terrain, – the small gratuity for this help was well worth it and I highly recommend that one takes advantage of the offer.

It is life-changing to first encounter the mountain gorillas. They truly seem to be as interested in studying the human troupe as we are in studying the gorilla troupe – it is almost unsettling to have the silverback maintain his gaze as if to study you! The full hour in the presence of the troupe passed by too quickly but was full of memories and pictures, both actual and mental, to last a lifetime.

It costs quite of lot of money but the money is used to conserve the gorilla families in their natural habitat. Even the inhabitants of the villages close to the park are being involved in this conservation program which, to me, seems the key to success.

We had requested a close group as my mom and her friend and my brother’s pregnant wife were with us. It turned out to be a 5-6 hour hike to find the mountain gorillas. A group of buffalo (we had to sneak past them) had scared the gorillas off. The terrain was also difficult and my mom’s friend was helped by two porters. When we finally found the mountain gorillas in the mist, it was all worth it. The kids wrestling us each other and the Silverback keeping a look over the family. Even though the hike was difficult, it was definitely one of the main parts of the visit as the terrain was beautiful. We also really got to see the real “Gorillas in the Mist”.

Having done some research prior to the trips, we were ready for anything. Lots of water are recommended and bring snacks especially those that can give you energy kicks. Prepare for rain, mud and tough terrain. I suggest wearing gloves, hut, insect repellent. At the end of the day, the hike can be very easy, but best to be prepared. If you have any doubts about the trek contact Gorilla Expeditions Limited to arrange for this unforgettable experience and at the park before you enter the forest for the trekking hire a porter for a simple fee like $ 10-$ 20 dollars, and your support to hire a porter you are promoting community based tourism hence reducing locals from spoiling the environment and killing the mountain gorillas in the forest.

SOCO International prepares to survey for oil in gorilla park

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London based oil exploration company SOCO International have released details for their exploration of Block V in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Block V takes in parts of the important Virunga National Park; home of the mountain gorillas and famous for gorilla trekking adventures, and location of Lake Edward and its hippo population. The company has released details about an aero-survey that they will be conducting in the next few months. Depending on the results of this survey more detailed investigation will take place later this year and may include compressed air seismic surveying at Lake Edward.

We will not undertake any direct activity within the Park until we have the results of this aero-survey and we have consulted fully with all primary stakeholders. Our current plans have met with the approvals of all the local authorities. Compressed air seismic surveying has been chosen as a way to get detailed rock structure surveys with minimal impact on the lake environment.

SOCO International have stated that no further activities will be taken in the exploration of oil until further discussion with local stakeholders and approval given by the DRC government.  They state that they do not expect any direct exploration within the boundaries of Virunga National Park – a World Heritage Site – for at least 6 months.

Roger Cagle, Deputy Chief Executive of SOCO, commented, “Our activities within the Virunga National Park continue to be very preliminary and confined to an aerial study.  We will not undertake any direct activity within the Park until we have the results of this aero-survey and we have consulted fully with all primary stakeholders. Our current plans have met with the approvals of all the local authorities. We are very aware of the need to protect the interests of all stakeholders within the Park and are working hard to ensure that we do so.”

Exploration for oil within the Virunga National Park would be very difficult to do legally as the park is protected by both national and international treaties. The park itself is a World Heritage Site and Lake Edward is a designated RAMSAR wetland.

This protection leads some conservationists to become concerned that the wildlife park boundaries may be redrawn to allow oil drilling – both exploration and exploitation to take place. Last March 41 DRC MP’s proposed redrawing the park boundaries to allow the oil companies in.

The latest proposals by SOCO International are the first since a ban on oil exploration in Virunga was put in place last year. The ban on the ground exploration is aimed to remain in place until a full environmental impact assessment has been produced. Conservation groups are disheartened by the latest move and by SOCO International continued intention to drill in the Virunga National Park.

Global Witness advocate Colin Robertson remarked, ”SOCO’s plans are a real threat to the protection of Virunga’s wildlife and to people who depend on Lake Edward. The region is also marked by ethnic tensions and the presence of armed militia groups is still a threat to stability. These factors could be exacerbated if oil exploration is carried out without consulting local people. “

Marc Languy, WWF’s Conservation Director for Central Africa, stated “Having survived years of armed conflict, it is devastating to see an oil company jeopardize the park’s people and wildlife in its pursuit of profit. It’s not only because of the drilling and pollution that oil exploration will damage the park – the associated influx of people brings a risk of further conflict which can have a devastating impact on the lives of local communities, and on the park’s endangered species.“

Prices for gorilla tourism as park fees hiked

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Gorilla tourism operators in Rwanda and Uganda have raised concerns that the latest surge in parks admission prices could damage the important ecotourism industry in the country. The news park fees have been increased by 50% for foreign tourists, foreign residents and the East African travelers.

The new fees for gorilla trekking Rwanda announced by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) will see the admission price for overseas tourists rise from $500 to $750 and $ 600 from $ 500 for Uganda Gorilla Trekking safaris but those who have already paid for their gorilla tour should see no surcharges as pre-booked places are being honored at the old admission charge.

This increase comes at a time when there is significant growth of the gorilla population as well as an increasing demand for gorilla tourism.

gorilla-trekking-rwandaAll 3 categories of Rwanda and Uganda wildlife parks fees increase by 50%. Other park admission fees are also going up with foreigners who are resident in Rwanda seeing their fees increase from $250 to $325 and Rwanda national’s prices increasing from $33 to $50. With Uganda parks increased from $ 35 to $ 40 dollars

The gorilla tour operators are concerned that the latest steep price increases could make them uncompetitive in the marketplace. If the gorilla tours do become too expensive in the current economic climate this could have a devastating impact on the country’s tourism industry as a whole.

Gorilla tours in Rwanda and Uganda set to increase substantially in price.Gorillas are Rwanda’s and Uganda’s top tourist draw. People visiting mountain gorillas are the source for 90% of the country’s wildlife parks admission fees. The gorilla industry made a major contribution to the tourism income which has seen a steady growth over recent years.

In 2011 it has been estimated that tourism was worth $251 million to the country up from $200 million in 2010 which in turn was 14% higher than 2009.

The parks department has defended the increase in the fees by confirming their commitment to protecting the biodiversity of the country’s national parks and the protection of the gorillas.

Gorilla tourism and populations are increasing.Officials point to the growing demand for gorilla tours and an increasing population of the endangered great apes. Since 2005 populations of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda have increased by over 25%.

“This increase comes at a time when there is significant growth of the gorilla population as well as an increasing demand for gorilla tourism. We are very committed to sustain our efforts in conservation in order to protect their environment as well as the rich biodiversity that exist in our national parks.”

The head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB Rica Rwigamba explained, “We have seen a sustained increase in interest for gorilla trek as well as recognition that good conservation can truly contribute to growth of these species. Mountain Gorillas are the only increasing gorilla species population, which is evidence that responsible tourism and conservation go hand in hand.”

Whether the other two countries with mountain gorillas will follow the lead of Rwanda and increase prices is not yet known. But the new prices do make Rwanda substantially more expensive than Uganda fees of $500 and DR Congo at $400.

After winning the gorilla war, Rwanda eyes source of the Nile

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Officially Jinja in Uganda is known to have the source of the Nile but Levison Wood claims the source is in Rwanda

If there is anything that Levison Wood’s River Nile expedition has achieved so far, it is reigniting the debate about the true source of the Nile.

ranoLevison, a British adventurer, is attempting to become the first man to walk the length of the Nile River from its source to the Mediterranean Sea. He wants to outdo the “Ascend the Nile” team, which accomplished the feat by using cars and boats in 2005 and 2006.

The team, which included one woman and five men, one of whom was Cam McLeay, the founder of Adrift Adventure Company, were the first to attempt to outdo John Hanning Speke’s work by claiming to have found a “true source of the Nile in Rwanda.”

Led by locals, the team that started their journey in Egypt followed Kagera River to its longest point up in the Nyungwe forest. It is this point they declared to be “the longest source of the river Nile,” setting the stage for debate about the location of the source of the Nile.

With the help of a GPS, they were able to ascertain the distance between the Mediterranean Sea (near Rashid) to the upper reaches of the Rukarara River deep in the Nyungwe forest.

They reported that the Nile is actually 6718km long or 107km longer than it is generally believed to be. No one had attempted to measure the Nile using modern technology like the GPS.  Most measurements in the past had consisted of laying a piece of string on a map to find the results.

Now, Levison has stirred the debate further. Accompanied by his friend and guide Boston Bwira Ndoole, who lives in Kampala, Levison, on December 3, 2013, embarked on an ambitious year-long expedition to walk the River Nile from its source to the delta. And his choice of Rwanda as his starting point has once again pitted Uganda against Rwanda as who has the true source of the Nile.

The source of the Nile is an important feature for Uganda’s economy. Not only is it an important tourist spot, fetching the country billions of shillings annually. The location of its source will not change the dynamics of the region, but it will at least lead to bragging rights on who owns some of the most important tourist features in the region.

The source of the Nile has held mysteries for thousands of years. The Egyptians sent whole armies to discover its source. But it was not until 1858 when Scottish explorer, John Hanning Speke, settled this debate after encountering a magnificent lake in the heart of East Africa where Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania meet. Naming it Victoria, he proclaimed it to be the fabled source of the Nile at a point he named Rippon falls in Jinja town.

Speke’s choice of Rippon falls was convincing. This is because all upstream tributaries pour into Lake Victoria, which has only one outlet at Rippon falls. Also, given the River Nile’s volume, only a water source the size of Lake Victoria would qualify as its source. Lake Victoria has a surface area of 68,800 square kilometres and holds 2,700 km3 of water.

However, New Age explorers say Speke was wrong. They claim Rwanda’s River Akagera is the largest feeder river to Lake Victoria. That it literally flows through Lake Victoria as the White Nile, contributing about 40% of the outflow from Lake Victoria. But as George W. Magaba, a cartographer with Makerere University explains, a river can’t be the source of another river.

“A river is never a primary source of water; water just flows through it,” Magaba says.

According to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) website, the major supplier of river Akagera water is Ruvyironza River in Burundi. It, therefore, becomes intriguing that it is Rwanda, instead of Burundi, that is being considered to have the true source of the Nile. Rwanda, which is about the size of Karamoja sub-region, has aggressively marketed itself as a tourist destination, investing $5m annually into marketing its country compared to Uganda’s $300,000.

Today, the country with just three national parks has sandwiched Uganda, selling itself to the world as the home of mountain gorillas when in fact more than half of them are found in Uganda. Rwanda’s naming of gorillas (Kwita Izina) brings in thousands of tourists, while Uganda’s Friend a Gorilla campaign didn’t live to see its first birthday.

Could Rwanda be seizing another opportunity to upstage Uganda on another front?

“Rwanda is simply seizing a marketing opportunity and Uganda tourism is sleeping,” says renowned journalist Charles Odoobo Bichachi. “Kenyan companies market Kilimanjaro as being in Kenya because true you can see it while across the border in Kenya.”

The source of the Nile in Jinja, which was recently ranked among the seven natural wonders of Africa, remains largely unattended to –with dilapidated structures.Many Ugandans are suspicious of Levison’s motives.

“I wonder if he [Levison] got clearance from government and if those at the Tourism ministry who are concerned with the image of our country reviewed and understood the objectives of his exploration,” says Abiaz Rwamwiri, the communication officer of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Uganda, pointing out that Levison went to Mama Fiina (a traditional healer) to be bathed with milk. “The fact that he had a following of an international media; he should not have been treated as a tourist but due diligence should have been done to avoid any negative portrayal.”

Rwamwiri says the ministry should have been able to crosscheck if Levison had sinister motives by choosing Rwanda as his starting point. Levison’s journey is being filmed for a four-part Channel 4 series to start broadcasting this year, and he has attracted international attention.

Professor Oweyegha-Afunaduula, who once served as the chairman of the Nile Basin Discourse (the umbrella civil society organization for all the NGOs in the 11 countries that form the Nile basin), says the Nile is a product of the entire Nile basin region.

 

“The Nile gets water from various sources; that is why we are referred to by three names: Nile basin countries, Great lakes region and watershed area,” he explained.

Oweyegha-Afunaduula said the debate about the source of the Nile has neither novelty nor substance. It is a point echoed by Bichachi: “This is a matter of conjecture, not fact. It is largely to nourish the adventure spirit of today’s explorers who want live experience of walking in African jungles.”