News / Africa

Uganda’s Little-Known Gem to Become Accessible

Uganda's Kidepo National Park was inaccessible to tourists for decades, Dec. 28, 2012. (Hilary Heuler for VOA)
Uganda's Kidepo National Park was inaccessible to tourists for decades, Dec. 28, 2012. (Hilary Heuler for VOA)
— For decades, conflict and insecurity made Uganda's Kidepo National Park all but inaccessible to tourists.  Even today, expensive flights and terrible roads put off all but the most adventurous visitors.  But Ugandan authorities have now mounted a plan to open up the park to the wider world.  
 
This year CNN ranked Kidepo National Park - a remote stretch of savannah in northeastern Uganda - as the third best park in Africa.  On its website, the American network raved about the park’s wildlife and picturesque setting.  

But another draw is Kidepo’s exclusivity, it said, as only a handful of visitors have ever been there.
 
Until about five years ago, Kidepo was a virtual no-go area.  But now the Ugandan government is determined to open it up to the world.
 
The park lies just north of Karamoja, a region that has long had a reputation for lawlessness and violence.  To the west lies the land terrorized for decades by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army.
 
Its location means that Kidepo has been essentially cut off from the capital for decades, although longtime tour guide Amos Wekesa, who now runs his own tour company, said he used to take visitors there all the same.
 
“These were extreme risk-takers.  I used to take people there under such circumstances, but we always had to make sure we were in a convoy.  We had security with us.  We could gather in Kotido and have 20 cars following each other.  It was a very volatile environment at that time," said Wekesa.
 
Stephen Masaba of the Uganda Wildlife Authority reviews plans to upgrade Kidepo National Park, Sept. 5, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA)Stephen Masaba of the Uganda Wildlife Authority reviews plans to upgrade Kidepo National Park, Sept. 5, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA)
x
Stephen Masaba of the Uganda Wildlife Authority reviews plans to upgrade Kidepo National Park, Sept. 5, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA)
Stephen Masaba of the Uganda Wildlife Authority reviews plans to upgrade Kidepo National Park, Sept. 5, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA)
In the past five years the people of Karamoja have been largely disarmed, and the LRA has moved into neighboring countries.  Stephen Masaba of the Uganda Wildlife Authority said millions of dollars are about to be poured into marketing Kidepo and improving its infrastructure.
 
“Security has tremendously improved, and that’s why we’re able to do a lot of these things.  We are getting out of the long historical bad days, and we are slowly but surely getting there - putting in place systems that give you access, putting in place gate systems, putting in place systems that can enable you to enjoy.  We hope this will turn around the fortunes of Kidepo," said Masaba.
 
Wekesa said this represents a shift on the part of a government that has, until now, focused more on agriculture than tourism development.
 
“They realize that we are earning a lot of money, and we have a treasure.  This is one of the greatest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity.  But we have not been able to tap into it, and they realize we should tap into it," he said.

But there are still challenges.  Even with improved security Kidepo is difficult to reach.  Flights from the capital are expensive, and according to tour guide Noel Bayo, bad roads mean it can take two days just to reach the gate.
 
“When they get to Kidepo they love the place.  But of course, you can understand their frustrations when you get stuck on the road and they have to push, and it’s muddy.  This is where the frustration creeps in," said Bayo.
 
The government says it has plans to upgrade the roads around the park.  Already, says Wekasa, tourism numbers have been rising, even if fewer than two percent of Uganda’s visitors make it to Kidepo every year.
 
“The thing is, it was starting from nowhere.  So the percentages have been so high - 100 percent, 200 percent.  Everyone that goes to Kidepo thinks it’s the most beautiful national park they have been to.  I’m sure in the next five years it will grow by 1000 percent," he said.
 
By then the park might lose some of its prized exclusivity.  But that is exactly what the Ugandan government is hoping for.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid