Uganda lies in the Nile Basin and the East African plateau between latitudes 4°N and 2°S , and longitudes 29° and 35°E; with terrain averaging about 1,100 metres (3,609 ft) above sea level, and descending very steadily downwards to the Sudanese Plain to the north. Much of the south is characterized by poor drainage with the central region dominated by Lake Kyoga surrounded by extensive marshy areas. The Victoria Nile enters Lake Kyoga and thence into Lake Albert on the Congolese border. It then flows northwards into South Sudan
Lake Kyoga and the Victoria Nile form a rough boundary between Nilotic and Sudanic language speakers in the north and the Bantu speakers in the south. However, many Ugandans have undergone an assimilation process in many parts of the country thus enabling most people to ably speak more than one language. The most commonly spoken language is luganda. The Baganda who happened to be the most civilized and economically empowered tribe occupy the Central part of Uganda. Thus the name “Uganda” was derived from Buganda – the area inhabited by the Baganda people.
Uganda’s climate varies in different areas owing to the diverse altitude. The Southern part of the country receives more rainfall than the rest of the country. This is responsible for the different economic activities in the country. The country has diverse vegetation cover including savannah woodland in central Uganda, tropical rainforest in southwest; and plain grassland and thickets in Northern Uganda.
Tourism in Uganda is based on geographical features and wildlife. Tourism industry employs more people and is the second largest foreign exchange earner, contributing 4.9 trillion Ugandan shillings to Uganda’s GDP in the financial year 2012-13. Uganda’s tourism potential is still virgin in comparison to the rest of other East African countries. For Uganda Safaris, many visitors prefer visiting gorillas inBwindi National Park.
Tourism industry was well developed in 1960’s, being the fourth foreign exchange earner, with over 100,000 tourists visiting the country each year. However, in 1970’s, there was a setback in the industry with political instabilities and civil strife due to bad political regime at the time which threaten tourists away from the country.
The instability also affected the major wildlife national parks, notably Queen Elizabeth National part and Murchison falls National Park, where game as Elephant, Rhinos, Buffalos among others were affected. By 1980’s, there was some political stability and tourism started recuperating. Due to the loss of wildlife in major parts, there was unfavorable competition from the neighboring countries especially Kenya where there was stability. Emphasis was now put on conserving tropical forest which was harboring primates, notably Kibale Forest and Bwindi National park which harbor chimpanzees and gorillas respectively.
Since 1987, there has been steady increase in tourists visiting the country, with the political stability in the most wildlife protected areas and government’s effort in investing in infrastructure and improved investment in the sector.
Statistics have shown that Uganda gets more tourists coming in from neighboring countries, Kenya leading other neighboring countries. This is as a result of developed infrastructure with more tourist all over the world arriving through Nairobi before connecting to Kampala.
Below is a table showing the number of tourists that have visited Uganda’s national parks between 2006-2010
Uganda is rich in diversity with different culture, flora and fauna as well as geographic features. Game viewing is the most popular tourist activity in Uganda with wild animals like lions, buffaloes, giraffes, antelopes, elephants common in Uganda’s ten national parks. In addition to the game viewing, Uganda boats of being a home to half of the remaining mountain gorillas, harbored in Bwindi National Park.
Other gorillas are harbored in Rwanda and Congo, as well as Mgahinga National park in Uganda. All these are located in the Virunga Mountain Ranges. Gorilla tracking and habituation started in 1993 and has seen steady increase in the number of people tracking and also number of habituated gorilla family’s increase.
In addition to Bwindi National park, Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to the tree climbing lions. Lions do not normally climb trees, except when chased by another lion group or wild buffalo. However the tree climbing lions found in QE-NP intentionally climb trees and rest on them in the afternoon, when the sun is high. This is a truly unique phenomenon. Other activities that take place in the parks include nature walk, boat cruise, among others, sport fishing, among others. Uganda has various water bodies and swamps which also harbor wildlife as birds, game and flora.
Mountaineering and hiking is another tourist activity in Uganda. The Rwenzori Mountains, which are found at the border with the DRC, boast the snowcapped Margherita Peak (5109 m), the highest Mountain Range in Africa and also one of the highest peaks. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also boasts three peaks, Mount Gahinga, Mount Sabyinyo, and Mount Muhavura, the highest peak in the national park. Mount Elgon, located in Eastern Uganda, offers tourists another great opportunity for hiking, climbing, and also has one of the largest calderas in the world.
Bird watching is another tourist activity that brings in tourist all over the world. There are various bird species in Uganda with over 1000 bird species. Among the rare species is the shoebill which can be found in Mabamba swamp and Delta on Nile river-Murchison falls NP. Uganda was named the leading birding destination area in Africa by birding journal.
Cultural tour is another tourist attraction in Uganda. There is diverse cultural set up in Uganda with over 52 tribes. Notably, there is Baganda culture, Batwa cultural trails, Karamajong culture among others, all of which bring tourists all over the world.
The Batwa, found in south-western Uganda and one of the minority ethnic groups dance on a jolly afternoon.