Ecotourism is the preservation and careful management of the environment and of natural resources while at the same time promoting sustainable tourism development. On top of wildlife conservation, ecotourism also encourages the interaction between tourists and the local communities where the tourist attractions are located. Uganda is a significant ecotourism destination with the following sites worth touring:
Mabira Forest is located along the Kampala – Jinja Highway, about 54 kilometres from the capital city, Kampala and approximately 26 kilometres from Jinja town. This forest is a natural equatorial forest covering about 316 kilometres Squares, with over 312 tree species among several other plants and is home to various primate species especially monkeys, and over 300 bird species including King fishers, hawk eagles, red headed blue bills among others. There are also several snake species and insects like butterflies. Mabira Forest has designated trails clear enough to be followed by tourists on forest expeditions.
River Ssezibwa is Lake Kyoga’s distributary with extensive wetlands that are home and breeding grounds to several fish, bird and reptile species. This river also has a waterfall that is about seven (7) meters high and it has also encouraged the growth of a forest around it that is supporting primate life including the black and white colobus monkey as well as a number of bird species.
When one tours Ssezibwa Falls, they should expect to listen to incredible sounds of nature mostly from the birds and the large volumes of water at the waterfalls especially during the peak rainy seasons.
This area also offers a village walk as another tourist activity whereby tourists get to know about the locals’ ways of life. This creates strong relations between tourists and the local people as well as opportunities for helping the poor and needy within the local communities. Generally, a visit to Ssezibwa Falls assures one of spectacular sights and sounds, birding, forest walks, biking as well as village walks among other activities.
THE SSESE ISLANDS
The Ssese Islands are eighty four (84) in number and located in Lake Victoria, the third largest fresh water lake in the world. From the mainland, the said islands can be accessed through Nakiwoogo in Entebbe or through Bukakata in Masaka. These islands, which are presently underutilised, have vast numbers of tropical rainforests which are habitats to several bird species, chimpanzees and monkeys among other primatespecies.
On top of the serene environment ideal for solitude experiences for nature lovers, the Ssese islands also boast of sand beaches for relaxation, sun bathing and clear views of the lake and its environs.
MPANGA FOREST RESERVE
Mpanga Forest Reserve is located along the Kampala – Masaka Highway, approximately thirty seven (37) Kilometres from the Capital city, Kampala and boasts of several bird species like owls, hornbills, parrots, weaverbirds and cuckoos. This forest is also a habitat to various insect species and primates like red-tailed monkeys.
Mpanga Forest Reserve offers great views of the several wildlife species in the forest through its well networked trails like the butterfly trail, the family trail, the baseline trail and the hornbill trail.
KASHOYA KITOMI FOREST RESERVE
Kashoya Kitomi Forest Reserve, located in the Western part of the country, has a land area coverage of about Four Hundred Thirty Three (433) Kilometres Squares and is home to vast numbers of wildlife including several monkey species, Chimpanzees and Baboons. During the dry season, animals like Bush Pigs, Uganda Kobs and antelopes move from the neighbouring Queen Elizabeth National Park in search of water points in the Forest Reserve. All in all, the main attractions in this tourism destination include primate tracking, birding, Boat rides and Community walks.
Bigodi wetland which is attached toKibale Forest National Park in the western part of the country, covers about eight (8) Kilometres with a third (1/3) of a Kilometre in width. This wetland is home to several bird species and is also a source of raw materials for some locally– made handcrafts.
Several eco camps have been established around the said wetland in an effort to promote ecotourism activities like primate watching, birding, community visits and nature walks.
NGAMBA ISLAND CHIMPANZEE SANCTUARY
The Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary was established in 1998 and is located in Lake Victoria, with an access point through Entebbe. This sanctuary is home to several orphan Chimpanzees, monitor lizards and a variety of bird species. In conclusion, for the country to fully utilize the aforementioned ecosystems while conserving them for future generations, relationships between tourists and the local communities have been encouraged on top of other specifically tailored initiatives.