Uganda Travel News

First time in Bwindi National Park

The year is 2004 and as an undergraduate student of Tourism at Makerere University, I was required to conduct a research leading to an ward of a degree in Tourism Management. The for choosing Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park was not all about gorilla tracking but to evaluate the effects of Uganda Wildlife Authority activities towards the development of the local communities in Buhoma area. Due to the fact that Uganda Wildlife Authority controls all activities in the park, they do earn some money and my focus was on how the local community benefit does then.

Of course I had to submit by topic to the head of department for approval and thereafter, I was assigned a supervisor who then instructed me to start writing my research proposal. I had to spend about two weeks of pre research searching the available literature to make sure that I gather what others had done and what was lacking to necessitate or justify my research. I made several visits to Makerere Universit main library as well as Uganda Wildlife Authority library. Having compiled my research proposal, I submitted it to my supervisor who then approved it together with my questionnaires which I was to use to collect data in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

The next step, was to request for permission from Uganda Wildlife Authority to conduct research in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. They requested me to submit a copy of my proposal before research and also my dissertation after research. I was given a letter which I had to take to Chief warden in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. I was given three weeks to carry out research and UWA sponsored my accommodation as well as transport while in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

My journey to Bwindi started from Kampala where I had to board a bus to Kabale, from Kabale, I jumped on a pickup up to butogota trading center from where I then stayed for a night since there were no cars going to Buhoma. In the morning there was an UWA Land cruiser that had come to Butogota and when I asked them for a lift to Buhoma, they did not hesitate. I then reached in Buhoma for the first time and I reported to the chief warden who then directed one of his staff to organize for me accommodation at Buhoma community rest Camp.

This was an experience of a lifetime. I was alone in my Banda overlooking the forested hills and listening to cries of birds and primates just brought a new life in me. I started dreaming and dreaming of how important was for me to develop a carrier in tourism. I felt as if I was a tourist but I was not. I had my dinner at Buhoma Community and because I had a banda all on my own, the manager proposed on how I could make money by sub renting some beds to the driver guides who could bring tourists to track mountain gorillas. I welcomed the idea and all the nights I spent there, I stayed with different driver guides who shared experiences with me.

My first night was fantastic and in the morning, I had to talk to the warden in charge of community. He assigned me a ranger who was supposed to transport me to all areas of my research. I then discussed with him what I wanted to achieve and this guy was very special. He scheduled meetings with several communities in different villages which made my work of data collection easy. I spent two weeks collecting data and one week resting in by Banda.

Because I was staying at Buhoma Community, I had a chance to go for the Buhoma villages walk to see how the trail looked like. This was my first experience with tourists. I remember very well, we went with Volcanoes Safari clients who kept asking me what I was doing. I explained to them that I was a university student on research and they were much interested in what I was doing. Every time they wanted to know anything, they would ask me. One interesting question was when we reached on a coffee plant, they asked me what it was. I then told them that this was coffee and they wondered by asking that was Uganda growing coffee and if so, why had they not found it in any international market? I explained to them that by then Uganda was the four largest exporter of coffee in the whole world and that because we exported raw coffee, other countries would process it and then label it accordingly. They were surprised and when we returned, they gave me my first tip of USD10.00 which was my first dollar note.

While in Bwindi, I experienced a lot. I came to know that most UWA staff by then were not all that much educated and they never wanted to associate with me because they thought that I had come to take their jobs but after realizing that I was a mere student on research then they were okay with me. I also realized that because of tourists and driver guides, many young girls had flocked buhoma to work as prostitutes in order to make quick money and this was very dangerous. I also noted that because of the booming tourism in the area, craft markets and shops were springing up and good for business. It was a different area, very cold and on a high altitude. It could rain and shine anytime of the day and when I returned back to Kampala, I was full of memories and I promised to return in a different way.

My conclusion was that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of the best places to visit while in Uganda as it is very different and unique in whichever way you look at it. Since then my research findings were adopted by Uganda Wildlife Authority and am glad that they are now contributing to the development of communities in the area.

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