Ahead of the festive season, Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in partnership with Fernando Tours and Voyager Adventures have announced a domestic tourism excursion dubbed ‘Christmas in the Wilderness’.
The excursion is an initiative of Fernando Tours, a local tourism agency by a group of young Ugandans, and will be destined for Queen Elizabeth National Park, West of Uganda.
Organizers say it is a special package for Christmas where Ugandans will enjoy special discounts to enjoy the festive season in Uganda’s most scenic and diverse national park.
Isaiah Jobs Rwanyekiro who is part of the organizers told a news conference on Tuesday that the team will depart from Kampala at the National Theatre on Sunday December 23 and make stop overs at the Equator (Kayabwe), Igongo Cultural Centre in Mbarara, Mburara Lodge, Bunyaruguru crater lakes before checking in at Equator Voyager Lodge in Queen Elizabeth national park.
The group will be flagged off by the State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi.
On the eve of Christmas day, the excursionists will embark on a game drive in the national park to explore the diverse wildlife that Queen Elizabeth is famous for.
The cruise will be followed by a fruit salad in the wilderness as a starter for lunch. The afternoon will be characterized by a boat cruise on Kazinga Channel.
“We chose Queen Elizabeth because it is one of the richest parks in terms of wildlife. You can enjoy a boat cruise on Kazinga Channel which has the highest concentration of hippos and crocodiles, you get to see herds of elephants and bufaloes as well as a variety of bird species,” Rwanyekiro told the press.
He also said that Queen Elizabeth is easily accessible owing to the road infrastructure which has recently been improved by government. The group will wind up the day (December 24) retiring to Equator Voyager lodge for dinner and later a pool party at Elephant Plains Lodge.
The itenerary for Christmas day includes breakfast, a visit to Lake Later where a Church service will be held, lunch, visiting the medicinal hotspring in Kasese and later a tour of the Kilembe mines.
Christmas Day will be climaxed with dinner at Equator Voyager lodge and a sundowner cocktail at Twin Lakes.
The team will then head back to Kampala on December 26 (Boxing Day) at around 11am.
Rwankeyiro said that “Every evening, you will have pool parties at Elephant Plains Lodge, breakfast in the wilderness. You will experience something no Ugandan has experienced before”.
Individuals interested in joining the excursion are required to part with Shs 650,000 while couples will pay Shs 1.3m. The fees cater for accommodation, three course meals, transport in an air conditioned and surround sound music bus, as well as all other activities. But bills for alcoholic beverages will be footed separately by excursionists.
There is also a special package to cater for children including play spaces and Santa Clause. Tickets for kids go Shs 540,000.
High cost has always been an issue impending efforts by government and the private sector to get Ugandans to tour around the country. Many ordinary people find the cost of spending a night at the various lodging facilities in the national parks unaffordable.
But Rwanyekiro said that the price tag attached to the upcoming ‘Christmas in the Wilderness’ tour is an unbeaten discount.
“Paying Shs 650,000 for four days? I don’t think there’s a better package one can get during Christmas which is a peak season for tourism,” he said.
He said that in order to make domestic tourism more attractive, Fernando Tours has partnered with private tour angencies like Great Lakes Safaris and Equator Voyager which own accommodation facilities in the countryside, to offer special rates.
John Ssempebwa, the Deputy chief executive at UTB ecouraged young people in Uganda to leverage the opportunities that exist in the tourism sector.
“The benefits from tourist arrivals has to trickle down to the Ugandans for tourism to make sense. It must not end with airlines, operators and hotels. As you know, Uganda has the biggest youthful population but there is high unemployment,” Ssempebwa said.
“There are many opportunities for youths in tourism,” he added.
He has appealed to the youths to inquire on the sites in their areas that are considered to be of cultural significance or landmarks in Uganda history but which are undeveloped, and notify UTB.
“We can train you, link you to the tourism value chain, develop these places,” Ssempebwa said.