Opening up of the National Parks in Uganda

The great novel of COVID-19 brought in a depression in the tourism sector. Due to this deadly virus, many tourist destinations couldn’t be reached or accessed because of the limitation in the transport networks, border closures and fear to infect the beloved wildlife species with the corona virus.

In order to protect and the conserve the wildlife in their destinations, a number of rules and guidelines had to be developed. The management of Uganda wildlife authority on March 25th 2020 issued a document concerning the closure of the protected areas.  With the following covid-19 guidelines;

  • Primate tourism and research in all the protected areas was suspended until April 30, 2020
  • Filming of the primates was suspended until April 30, 2020
  • Trackers would be provided with necessary PPE to avoid passing on any possible infection to the primates
  • Commercial motorcycles (boda bodas) and bicycles were prohibited in the protected areas.
  • An internal COVID-19 task force was formed to work closely with the national task force and update and guide management on the day –to- day developments in the containment of the spread off COVID-19 and its implications to wildlife conservation and tourism in the protected areas.
  • They relaxed the rescheduling of gorilla and chimpanzee tracking. Tour operators were allowed to reschedule tracking permits for a maximum of two times up to March 31, 2020. The offer was valid even for those who booked with 30% down payment. This measure was intended to give tour operators and visitors more flexibility to avoid cancellation of trips already booked.
  • All the stuffs were directed to be vigilant, wash their hands thoroughly with soap or alcohol based solutions, keep social distance to avoid contracting the virus.

It was mentioned that the above measures greatly impacted the tourism sector but they were necessary to protect and the conserve the wildlife in the protected areas.

Later on as society was adapting to live with the virus in society, the management of Uganda wildlife authority issued a public statement on 5th, 2020 informing the public about the reopening of the savannah parks in Uganda, while the primate parks where still under closure.  A number of guidelines still were issued to be followed while accessing the savannah parks and they were as follows,

  • Mandatory temperature screening using non-contact infra –red thermometers at the key tourism gates of the different protected areas.
  • Mandatory hand showing /sanitizing at the entrances of all UWA premises and protected areas.
  • Government guide lines of carrying half capacity In order to observe social distance shall apply to the use of vehicles and boats in the parks. These include concessionaire delivery vehicles.
  • Saloon cars vehicles were not permitted  in the parks  at the same time for the activities
  • Events such as destination weddings were not permitted in the interim
  • Visitors going to the park were encouraged to carry their own hand sanitizer and face-masks.

All the above guidelines were to be followed in case anyone accessed the opened protected areas. It is of recent on 3rd September when the great news kicked in, as the protected areas including of the primate park were now open for tourism activities. Another document was issued by the Uganda wildlife authority informing the public about the reopening of all the protected areas in Uganda.

This comes in with the new joys of the primate’s parks, as birth the Mgahinga and Bwindi sector kicked off. Not to forget the rhino birth in Ziwa rhino sanctuary and a baby giraffe birth in Lake Mburo national park. Giving a whole new feel and experiences to the tourists that will visit the protected areas.

During the uncertain travel and tour times, there has been an encouragement for domestic tourism around the pearl of Africa. There has been an increase in the sensitization about the available tour destinations that the nationals can explore and enjoy.

Also a number of guidelines where issued to be followed by the different stakeholders in the tourism industry as they enjoy and provide products and services from the tourists destinations.

The reopening up of the national parks in Uganda is great hope as this continues to encourage domestic tourism and far not international tourism in the country.