*By Charlotte Beauvoisin
How do you sum up Uganda, the Pearl of Africa to would-be visitors? And what makes Uganda unique? Some thoughts on Independence Day 9th October, 2017.
I received an interesting email recently: “I have been following your adventures and love what you do. Uganda is a country with incredible soul and you manage to capture it in the most beautiful and charming ways. We are currently working on a campaign that aims to inspire unity amongst Africans and promote Africa as the ultimate travel destination.”
I was therefore asked to “shoot a short video of yourself explaining what makes Uganda such a wonderful country.”
If you’ve read my “50 reasons why I love Uganda” you’ll know that creating a one-minute video to encapsulate all of that would be impossible! I wrote 50 reasons to honour 50 years of Uganda’s independence – that list gets longer day by day.
I was touring Uganda at the time, researching the country’s best lodges for Fodor’s “Complete Guide to the African Safari” guidebook. As the video deadline approached, I was in Buhoma, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
I happened to be traveling with former Urban TV producer Arthur Katabalwa – and what followed was an impromptu piece to camera during a rollex-making demo!r, a Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust project
(Fast forward the video to 1 minute 30 seconds to meet bloggers from Uganda!)
The rolex “rolled eggs” (omelette) wrapped in a chapati is becoming infamous now. This simple street food sums up some quintessential Ugandaness:
- – Rolex is Uglish (a unique take on the English language which frequently has us all rolling around the floor in stitches!)
- – Entrepreneurship: setting up a roadside rolex stall is a popular small business in Uganda.
- – The rolex stall is where we stand around chatting as we wait to be served. It’s where we may start our day.
- – It’s where many people end a late night – grabbing a cheap bite to eat after a night on the town. If you’re lucky, your boda boda guy will drive right up to the rolex guy’s stall and you won’t even need to get off your boda!
I was honored to appear alongside well-known Ugandan bloggers Rosebell Kagumire, Ernest Bazanye and Sophie from a Kitchen in Uganda in this video. Incidentally, it was Sophie who helped the rolex go global when it featured on CNN in the article “Delicious African foods you should try.”
If African travel floats your boat, check out Travelstart’s fun quiz: “Which African country do you actually secretly want to explore?” Answer a few questions to be presented with your ideal African country. (If it’s not Uganda…) where will it be?
*Charlotte is an award winning travel blogger who is passionate about promoting Uganda’s beauty and uniqueness. Check out her blog www.muzungubloguganda.com!
This Dutch-Ugandan is Positively Changing the Image of Karamoja
2016 was not the first time that Theo vos had traveled to Karamoja. It was the first time that he felt brave enough to travel around and sleep with warriors in the bush, and explore the mountains freely by feet, motor bikes and cars without security.
“Ever since I started exploring the region and getting to know the natural beauty as well as the cultural wealth of my people, it has become an addiction to learn and document what I find.” Theo says.
After nine months, Theo flew back to The Netherlands and it was after he entered the plane, that he came to the realisation what kind of journey he had embarked on. Thousands of photos, hours of video and hundreds of stories to tell. He felt that he had started to build a relationship with Karamoja, something that – without realising – he had been longing for.
“Not only emotionally had I found myself a true home, but also in a professional way, I was able to start a new venture that combines my profession, my social entrepreneurial ambitions and learning about my culture.”
In March 2016, Kara-Tunga Arts & Tours was born and started the first tour operator that specialised in the combination of outdoor adventures and community tourism throughout the Karamoja region.
Soon after it started, Theo bumped into the the fact that various influential foreign countries didn’t allow it’s citizens to travel through the Karamoja region due to insecurities that occurred in the past like The Commonwealth Countries, United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“I started lobbying with Ugandan ambassadors and Tourism Associations, but their feedback was not pleasing. They have ever been putting efforts in positively impacting the image of the country and it’s a process that takes time they shared. So as the top-down solution was not as effective as I hoped, I decided to change the strategy and start from the grassroots.” He said.
Theo realised that travellers had an incredibly large reach and traveling in it’s essence is a popular topic on social media. Soon after their guests spread their travel stories, Theo and his team saw an instant positive impact on the image of Karamoja. From simple reactions to excited inquiries.
“This was the spark that ignited the Discover Karamoja project to positively impact the image of Karamoja through photography on social media (with hashtag #DiscoverKaramoja) and offline (with the Discover Karamoja book).
Theo believes Karamoja is Uganda’s best kept secret because its secrets are intangible like the preserved cultural heritage with unique dressing, craftsmanship as iron melting, genius governing system, food preservation methods, pastoral culture and ancestral knowledge of herbal medicines and cultural ceremonies. On the other hand, Karamoja also has tangible secrets as wildlife and bird species that are endemic to Karamoja, lush mountain ranges, minerals (gold, limestone, marble) and oil.
“Only recently, Karamoja has been able to reveal its secrets. From colonial times up to only five years ago, Karamoja has been isolated. Under colonial rule, the region was a closed district and mobility restricted making it only accessible with a permit. During Amin’s reign the Karimojong people were suppressed and humiliated. In the eighties the Karimojong obtained guns that caused a tribal war for thirty years.” Theo explains.
For the last 12 months since Kara- Tunga Tours has been in existence, its first focus has been developing community tourism and empowering the community to start village saving and loan groups and making arts and crafts. As a result, this community has been able to take all their children to school. Extra donations from tourists have been spend on buying school materials.
The initiative has established partnerships through Cross Cultural Foundation Uganda (CCFU) where it voluntarily has initiated Cultural Heritage Clubs at 7 Secondary Schools aimed at Preserving Cultural Heritage through Education and competition among each other, started a partnership with the Uganda Red Cross Society, aimed at equipping our staff with the skills to provide more safety during its activities.
It has also embarked on the Karamoja Tourism project aimed at developing and marketing the Karamoja region as an attractive tourist destination and Tour of Karamoja a new project in partnership with Bicycles for Humanity Karamoja, iEmpowerment founding father Pat Montani and English former professional racing cyclist and present day Tour de France commentary Paul Sherwen which in October this year will test-drive the route with the organising team and announce the dates for the first Tour of Karamoja taking place next year.
Furthermore, the initiative were regional partners of Miss Tourism Karamoja that won Miss Tourism Uganda this year.
“Last week we Kickstarted a regional community tourism development project with international NGO Restless Development” Theo says. Restless Development chose for Kara-Tunga Arts & Tours due to its regional experience in developing and marketing sustainable cultural tourism. The team is looking forward to encourage their youth groups in Karamoja to respect, preserve and embrace their traditions whilst also enhancing their opportunities in life through tourism and arts.
On October 28th, The 1st Tour of Karamoja by Kara-Tunga Arts & Tours took place. It was flagged off by district officials and hosted by former Tour de France cyclist and present day commentary.
Discover Karamoja Book
Discover Karamoja book is a crowd sourced photo book aimed at positively impacting the image or Karamoja and raise funds to preserve one of East Africa’s last living Indigenous cultures.
“We are gathering the stories and photographs of exceptional friends of Karamoja that are going to make a difference by telling the true story; whether you’ve traveled through Karamoja and made stunning photos or have lived among the Karimojong people and have an experience you want to share with the world.” Theo explains.
He further says that by contributing to the Discover Karamoja Print Project, you will positively impact the image of the region and development as tourist destination to improve the livelihoods of the community.
The Discover Karamoja project is in two folds. One is the online project: #DiscoverKaramoja whereby photos and stories are collected with hashtag #DiscoverKaramoja and presented on the Discover Karamoja website and social media channels.
The second fold is the offline project- Discover Karamoja Photo Book which besides the production of the coffee-table book, the print project also has an continuous element in the form of limited printed postcards. Content creators are able to donate a photograph that if selected will be printed and sold as postcard.
Theo’s biggest challenge from the start was none of his team members having any experience in the business of tour operating so they have been doing everything with from our gut feeling.
The biggest impact Theo believes he has made so far, is that he has been able to create jobs, employ the youth and motivate our youth staff to study in tourism as we believe it will be a job for the future of the region.
Furthermore, the communities they have involved in tourism activities have been able to save money and thereby build resilience through tourism and crafts.
“We have been able several globetrotters, international and local journalists that wrote feature stories about the region and our culture. And we have been able to enter travel guides where Karamoja has not been featured ever before.” Theo explains.
Recently, Karamoja was officially declared as a Save To Travel Zone by the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). “This clearance is a big thing for us as ‘Positively impacting the image of the Karamoja region’ was one of the main reasons we started Kara-Tunga and related projects”. Theo notes.
In 5 years time, Theo hopes that the Discover Karamoja project will not be necessary anymore in it’s present form. “I sincerely hope that in 5 years time, Karamoja will be known as a safe region with friendly people and rich in culture and and natural resources.” Theo says.
Traveling to Ssese Islands for World Tourism Day? Here are 5 things you should know
On Wednesday September 27th, 2017, Uganda will join the rest of the world to commemorate this year’s World Tourism Day.
The day that was adopted in 1980 by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), is a day meant to raise awareness on the contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sector decision-makers and the international community, while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change.
This year’s celebrations will be held in Ssese Islands (Kalangala District) on Lake Victoria. Want to take part or want to know key things about the beautiful islands? We have compiled key things you should know and here they are;
- About Ssese Islands
Ssese is a group of islands found in the western part of the large Lake Victoria, within Kalangala district. It has 84 tiny islands which vary in size from the less than 10,000 sq km to more 40 kilometers in length. Bugala is the largest and most popular island with the best lodges/hotels. Other islands include Bulago Island which is a small island closer to the lake-shore that is run by a resort, Bukasa Island a small island containing Father Christopher‘s guest house, Banda Island another small island, more remote, that also has a guest house, Bubeke and Bufumira islands among others.
- How to get there
There are two ways to get to Bugala Island from the mainland. The first way is to use the ferry that departs daily from Nakiwogo (in Entebbe) to Kalangala Bay – Lutoboka. It departs at 2:00pm taking about 3.5 hours to Kalangala. It then returns from Kalangala daily back to Nakiwogo at 8:00 am. The charges are UGX 15,000 per individual for 1st class and UGX 10,000 for 2nd class.
The second way is through another ferry which departs from Bukakata site (in Masaka) and lands at Bugoma on the other end of Bugala Island. Its departure times are 8:00 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm and then 4:00 pm from Bukakata and returns from Bugoma at 9:00 am, 12:30 pm, as 2:30 pm and then 5:00 pm, as well.
3. Where to stay on the Ssese Islands
Not sure where to stay on the beautiful islands? Kalangala’s superb natural assets are on display in an array of accommodations from wilderness lodges and boutique sandstone hotels to stunning steel and glass edifices that skirt the glorious lake shores.
Accommodation choices on the Islands are numerous. Eco-friendly hostels in prime positions suit the young and budget-conscious, while luxury retreats and island resorts cater to the well-heeled and those who like their adventure mixed with comfort.
Jumia Travel compiled a list of 13 lodges/hotels where you can stay including their price ranges. Here is the complete list.
- Top things to do (and see) on the Islands
The Islands come with an opportunity to do a wide range of fun filled activities. The first natural thing you can do is to relax and chill on the islands. Depending on your travel arrangement or with the lodge, you can engage in other activities like mountain biking, fishing, sunset cruises, nature walks, camp and beach fires, bird watching and the list is really, really endless.
The islands are also home to the famous damula tree used to make spears and can only be found on this island in Uganda.
- Join the World Tourism Day Celebrations
On Wednesday 27th, a lot of activities will take place and these include the Wild Run- Kalangala, launch of the Kalangala Zoo, Boat Regatta, Wresting ( Ekigwo Gumbya), Tag of War and Cooking competition by Miss Tourism contestants and so much more. Why don’t you just head to the official Visit Uganda website for more information on what you can participate in? Click here to head there right now!
11 Reasons why you should NEVER, ever visit Lake Bunyonyi
1. First of all Lake Bunyonyi is not beautiful
2. There is literally nothing breathtaking to see. Just move along
3. There are even too many islands to navigate
4. The locals have wedding rides on boats.
5. Not a good place to go for honeymoon. Don’t you agree?
6. Look at the birds at Lake Bunyonyi. They are not cute.
7. Even the animals too.
9. The sunset at Lake Bunyonyi? Not spectacular at all. Don’t you think so?
10. Look at the sunrise even. Always misty.
11. Whatever you do, just stay away from Lake Bunyonyi
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