The sun is just starting to rise over the electric green tea fields that surround Uganda’s Bwindi National Park, home to more than half of the world’s endangered mountain gorillas. Gordon, my driver, has grown up on the outskirts of the park – and he’s passionate about not just mountain gorillas, but Uganda tourism in general. He leads tours across the country, but Gordon is much more than a guide. He also owns a gift shop, where he sells crafts made by local artisans. He, too, is a carver, and prides himself on his own ape carvings. On a nearby hillside, he is also building Gorilla Hill Resort Guest Lodge, where he envisions guests coming to stay with him from all over the world.
Uganda is a country of Gordons: people eager to share their country’s riches with the world and passionate about a better life. To many countries, tourism is a staple. To Uganda – and not just its people, but its highly threatened ecosystems and wildlife – tourism is everything. The return of the once critically endangered mountain gorilla is due entirely to tourism, and that tale is one that extends across the nation. Our desire to see some of the world’s most tremendous wildlife is, in many ways, the only thing keeping it thriving.
Uganda, a landlocked country located in eastern Africa, is perhaps the continent’s most biologically diverse. The mountain gorilla treks are the primary draw, but Uganda boasts 10 national parks, which range from vast savannahs teeming with lions and elephants to forests that are home to primates and other wildlife. Queen Elizabeth National Park is a rare combination of elephant-covered rolling hills, avian-rich gorges and chimpanzee forests. If close contact with gorillas and lions aren’t enough to get the heart pounding, spending a day or two whitewater rafting the Nile River offers a high-octane reprieve from wildlife immersion. Or, if you’re seeking an experience on the Nile but don’t want to deal with rapids, Murchison Falls National Park, home of the country’s largest waterfall, is the best place to do a safari by riverboat.
We hope these images inspire you to visit Uganda and the people dedicated to keeping it alive.
WHERE TO GO
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Where to stay: Mahogany Springs Lodge
What you’ll see: mountain gorillas, other primates
Murchison Falls National Park
Where to stay: Chobe Safari Lodge
What you’ll see: Murchison Falls on a Nile River safari with elephants, hippos and crocodiles. On a game drive in the park, you’ll see lions and leopards.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Where to stay: Kyambura Gorge Lodge
What you’ll see: chimpanzees, tree-climbing lions, elephants
Where to stay: Lemala Wildwaters Lodge
What you’ll see: the sunset over the roaring Nile from your balcony