Fort Portal eyes tourism city status

What you need to know:

  • Vision. Fort Portal Town is slated to become a tourism city, according to the National Vision 2040. The district receives many tourists from different parts of the world to see its many different attractions, write Alex Ashaba and Felix Basiime.

Government institutions and private stakeholders in Kabarole district have dedicated themselves to developing the various tourist attractions and activities in an effort to achieve the district’s goal of becoming a tourist city by 2040.
The attractions include the crater lakes, Mt Rwenzori ranges, Amabere ga Nyinamwiru sites (stalagmites and stalactites), river Mpanga among others.
Proposed sites
More than 52 crater lakes are spread around Kabarole and Bunyangabu districts, the highest number in a single district in the world.
Due to the increasing number of tourists, many people have started developing sites and others have turned their residential houses into guest houses in order to tap more money.
Sites such as Amabere ga Nyinamwiru is a top tourist site in the region as many tourists, mainly students come here to study the formation of stalagmites and stalactites.
Demand backed development
As the number of visitors coming to Kabarole district to see different sites has increased steadily so has the development of the sites and accommodation facilities.
Wilson Isingoma, a tour guide at Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru caves, says in the past years they used to receive schools from Rwenzori sub region but currently they receive schools from the rest of the country and abroad.
“For the last 15 years, I have worked here, the turn up of tourists increases every year. Last year, we got two schools from Tanzania and other schools came from Gulu, Arua, Mbale and I have no doubt very soon we will be a global attraction,” Isingoma says.
Isingoma says the growth in tourists has forced them to start making bookings to control the crowds.
“People now have to book especially those coming in the months of April to August which schools tour the area,” he explains.
Entrance fee to the Amabere ga Nyinamwiru is Shs 2,500 for Ugandan students, Shs7,500 for adults, Shs18,500 for East Africans and Shs41,500 for non-East Africans. All fees include VAT.
From 2008 to 2012 the number doubled to 15 tourists per day at this site and in 2012 to 2017 over 25 were received.
In 2016, over 4800 tourists were received and in a month over 460 tourists are registered at campsite cave.
Crater lakes
Kabarole and Bunyangabu districts are the home of crater lakes in the world. They both share about 56 crater lakes. Kabarole has a total area of 1, 814 square kilometres of which, 1,569 square kilometres is covered by arable land and 198 km2 is covered by open water and wetlands. Most valleys in Kabarole have many flowing rivers and streams, something that makes farming easy since animals and people have several options on water points and there is almost no dry season throughout the year.
The many craters simply means that there was a lot of volcanic activity in this area, leading to formation of the several crater lakes. This also explains why pozzolana, the mineral used in manufacturing cement, has high deposits in Fort Portal.
These crater lakes are spread in the villages and promote local tourism. To tap into the money many locals have set up craft shops to sell their items and culture to visitors. On the lake shores, hotels and camp sites have been developed to attract both local and foreign tourists for visits.
Spectacular accomodation
Lake Kyaninga Lodge built at the highest edge of Lake Kyaninga, one of the beautiful and deeper crater lakes in Kabarole, just eight kilometers, north of Fort Portal town is one of the popular hotels. The same as Kyaninga Royal Cottage.
Other crater lakes that have attracted hoteliers include Nyinabulitwa which has the Nyinabulitwa Country Resort and Safari Camp, about 20 km from the main town on Fort Portal-Kamwenge road.
Crater Valley Kibale Resort Beach Lodge, (CVK) is located on Lake Nyabikere, 21 kms on Fort Portal-Kamwenge road.
Others are lakes Nkuruba, Lyantonde, Nyinambuga where Ndali Lodge is perched on the ridges, and Lake Kasenda where Kasenda Beach Resort is perched.
Crater lakes such as Ssaka and Mwitampungu attracts investors interested in carrying out cage fishing.
How crater lakes are formed
Craters are flat floor depressions, formed when explosions and eruptions of gases blow off the rocks at the surface, leaving a shallow circular depression. These depressions are at times filled with water to form crater lakes with typical examples found in Kasese, Kabarole, Bushenyi, Kisoro and Rubirizi districts.
All these aspects make the district a one-stop centre in drawing in tourists with its unique attractions such as the mountain gorillas. This natural endowment has attracted investors to set up hotels, beaches and camp sites on some of the ridges of these crater lakes, to boost tourism.
Kabarole is also endowed with several rivers which include; Kayagi, Kaija, Kahomba, Sogohi, Muzizi, Rwimi, Kakoko, Kakule, Kabago, Kizikibi and Mpanga among others. Commercial fishing also takes place on about 30 of the 52 crater lakes, scattered in Kabarole District.
Other attractive features
Other attractive features in the district include tea plantations that are located in different sub counties of the district.
The district has about four tea factories and six in the neighbouring Kyenjojo district. The tea plantations make very attractive scenery that amazes the tourists.
In the north it is bordered by Ntoroko district which has Semuliki national park and hot springs, Kyenjojo District to the east with part of kibale national park, Kamwenge District to the southeast where Kibale national park is located, Democratic Republic of the Congo to the southwest with Mt Rwenzori national park while in the west there is Kasese with Queen Elizabeth national park.
Fort Portal town itself is well known in Uganda as a very hospitable and clean town with very affordable accommodation and meals.
Historical sites
Perched on the highest hill in town is the magnificent Karuzika palace, the Tooro kingdom palace, built in the 1960’s for Omukama Kasagama’s son and successor Rukidi III, then vandalized after the abolition of kingdoms in Uganda under the reign of Dr. Apollo Milton Obote.
Road network in town has been improved like Rukiidi III Street, Mugunu Lorry Park, Nyakana-Kagote road and also upgrading of all-weather roads going to different tourist sites.
In 2016, the urban authority launched a campaign of planting trees with an aim of creating a Forest city by 2025 aiming at one million trees. Last year, government launched the 66 kms Fort Portal-Kamwenge road that connects to different tourist attractions like Kibale National Park.
Government also completed the construction of Fort Portal-Bundibugyo road in 2014 that connects Semliki national park in Ntoroko district and the ongoing rehabilitation of Fort Portal- Kyenjojo and Kagadi-Kabwoya-Hoima-Masindi-Kigumba roads. Fort Portal municipal mayor Rev Kintu Willy Muhanga, says the municipality is now running under the vision.
“Transformed Fort Portal town into a modern, vibrant tourist boom with well-educated people and economically population by 2040” and the mission of “delivering high quality service in well planned urban settlement of Fort Portal tourist hub”.
Private companies have been set up to offer tour guides and tour safari services to different tourist sites in and around the region.