KAMPALA, UGANDA – To say they are just birds is an understatement. The texture and color of their plumage is mesmerizing.
It is done with such perfection. When they open their tender lips to sing, out comes a mix of daunting and soothing melodies that effortlessly rejuvenate our six senses.
At the realization that we are having a long day, they never hesitate to tease us with their free falling flying styles that light up our world. Simply put, they are majestic and the best part is that Uganda has over 1060 of their species. It is no wonder that over 200,000 Avi-tourists flock her parks every year to catch up with them. While this isn’t the worst in tourist numbers, it is painful considering countries with far less number of species like the US attract more birdwatchers (over 1Million). To this effect, Uganda is organizing the first ever African Birding Expo this year at Botanical Gardens Entebbe.
Set for the 18th-20 of November, the expo which is jointly organized by the Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Safari Guides Association and World Bank will be attended by a whole spectrum of the bird-watching community within and outside Africa.
According to Herman Olimi of Uganda Tourism Board, there will be stands selling products related to bird-watching and nature conservation during the event.
“These will include, scopes, binoculars, guide books, tours, foods, clothes, and any other related equipment. There will be tour operators, hoteliers, conservation organizations, travel agents, airlines.” Says Olimi
The event is a climax of an ongoing drive—tailored to catapult Uganda into a premium birding destination to both domestic and International Tourists.
On one part, a group of 18 globally celebrated Travel Writers and Birding enthusiasts set foot in the country last Sunday. They are here to source content that will be used in promoting these attractions to the international travel market. Accordingly, they are exploring big birding gems around the country till 18th November. Such include National Parks like Semuliki, Bwindi and Queen Elizabeth. Most of these tourists are from Uganda’s key travel markets especially UK and US.
One of the biggest delights of the team according to Laura Kammermeier (US), their leader is the ease with which they have been able to see the birds–thanks to the all-season road network.
Kammermeier Creator and Managing editor of Nature Travel Network. She is a typical of most participants present; she is a writer, website producer, traveler, birder and a connector of people with place.
According to Herbert Byaruhanga, Chairperson Uganda Safari Guides Association, the one thing most of them share in common is that they are followed by thousands of birding enthusiasts who rely on their recommendations to decide where to go birding.
This isn’t the first time such a farm trip is being organized. In 2014, a team of renowned international birders were also taken on a familiarization trip. These included Dominic Mitchell, the managing editor of Bird Watch – Europe’s leading monthly birders magazine; Tim Appleton – co-founder and organizer of the British Birding Fair, and Bill Thompson – editor of the Bird Watcher’s Digest and director of the Ohio Ornithologist Society.
Lyazi Vivian, Principal Tourism Officer, Ministry of Tourism is hopeful that through such endeavors, Uganda could become Africa’s number one choice birding destination by 2020. On the domestic side of things, all is set for the forthcoming Big Birding day (BBD) as set for 12th November (this Saturday).
Championed by Nature Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Birders Club: BBD is a day when bird watching enthusiasts, tourism promoters and conservationists come together to enjoy Uganda’s diverse bird species. It takes place at known and unknown birding sites with an intention of promoting and appreciating bird (avian) tourism and avian conservation.
What makes the event a must attend is that it is planned for a time of the year when all factors in favour of the excursion. Such includes the cool weather which attracts lots of migrant species inclusive of Gull-billed terns which come from as far as the Gulf coasts of the United States.
Even more exciting, entrance to all wildlife Parks owned by Government on this day is free for indigenous Ugandans. All they have to do is identify themselves as people who have come for bird-watching.
Source: Solomon Oleny, The New Vision