Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hiking Mt Visoke, Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Mount Visoke (also Bisoke) is an extinct volcano in the Virunga Mountains of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift. It straddles the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the summit is located in Rwanda. It is located approximately 35 km northeast of the town of Goma and adjacent Lake Kivu.

The mountain is located within Rwandan Volcanoes National Park and Congolese Virunga National Park. The steep slopes of the peak are densely covered with equatorial rainforest and alpine meadows. The summit does not gather snow, but is often shrouded in fog. Bisoke is one of the mountains considered a habitat for the Endangered mountain gorilla, and the Karisoke Research Center founded by Dian Fossey is located in the valley to the west.

Mt Visoke stands at 3700m, it has the typical conic shape of a “perfect” volcano and in its crater lies a deep crater lake. For those interested in climbing Mt Visoke the volcano does not present an exceptionally demanding climb but it is nevertheless still a tough hike. The high elevation demands extra strength of climbers and the whole excursion can take between 5 hours and the whole day depending on the speed of the walk and the frequency of stops. The ascent typically takes around 3 hours.

An eruption in 1957 formed two small cones on the north flank, 11 km from the summit. The walk around the crater rim is highly recommended. Allow seven hours for the entire trip. Lake Ngezi (9,843 ft./3,000 m), a small, shallow crater lake, is the easiest hike in the park; it takes only three to four hours round-trip from the Visoke departure point.Mount-Visoke-bisoke-rwanda-hike

During the climb, you will cross a series of different vegetation habitats starting with bamboo forests, then moving into Hagenia - Hypericum forest and finally moving through Senecio - Lobelia bush near the summit.

Current park fees for the climb are USD$ 75 per person, this includes the park’s guide and can be purchased on the day of the trek from the parks headquarters, no advance booking is necessary. The trek starts at 07:00am from the Park’s headquarters in Kinigi from where visitors will drive / be driven to the start point of the trek. Porters can also be hired from the park headquarters.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

New Tax (Value Added Tax) on Tourism Lodges Gives Uganda Tour Operators Headache

Up on reading the 2013/14 annual Uganda government budget, new taxes were introduced on all accommodation facilities (18% Value Added Tax) with effect from July 2013.

 And we have been receiving numerous emails from the lodges with credit notes and revised invoices for all the bookings. Of course this puts us in a very awkward position with our already confirmed clients' bookings but the government won't just give up to relent on their decision. We have been trying all ways to absorb the increase but it's just to big for us.

Future safaris booked  will have the new 18% Value Added Tax included in the price quote to our clients – since the present increase was a surprise move and caught the hospitality industry and tourism sector off-guard and since there was no preparing for it we will have to add a surcharge covering the amount of the 18% Value Added Tax. Sadly there is no extra value for the Tourist – however there is for the cash-strapped Ugandan government.

This will mean significant higher costs to visitors of up-country park lodges – and certainly there is not going to be a free lunch for anyone – not only will tourists pay more, convention, conference attendees will also incur the new charges.

Taxes exist in every country including Uganda – some countries allow mechanisms for a refund of taxes paid as visitors leave the country – sorry, your taxes are going to stay in Uganda and hopefully will be put to good use improving the infrastructure and other needed areas of the Pearl of Africa.

Leading stakeholders have in recent days gone on rare record in the media over these actions, accusing government of not just mere lipservice towards the sector but of creating a work environment radically opposed to the often talked about an "enabling environment," a phrase often used to self glorify economic advances even if glaringly absent.

"What they have done is create a disabling environment for the tourism industry. The tourist board which is supposed to promote the country, got a paltry 250 million Uganda shillings. What the hell are they thinking that can do other than pay rent and utilities and maybe staff?" ranted another regular source, for obvious reasons wishing to remain anonymous.

"This will lead to job losses in the sector and will only make an already tough situation more difficult. Others of our neighbors treat tourism as a priority sector, and here it is almost as if we are punished. Maybe they want to reduce tourism so that oil exploration can go ahead without us raising issues like in Murchison, where they want to pump oil in a wildlife park. We are completely at a loss to understand how a sector with the biggest potential for immediate job creation, FDI and forex earnings can be treated so badly. This is unacceptable, completely unacceptable," said yet a third source met on Friday, all expressing their utter frustration with the turn of events.

Leading lodge operator in the country claimed, also on condition of anonymity, that their occupancies will suffer as a result of the tariff increases. It could not be immediately ascertained how the new VAT addition will affect conference participants now heading to Uganda for the Routes Africa meeting and other conferences, as their accommodation cost is also bound to increase by 18 percent.

For any inquires please consult your sales consultant.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What should I pack on Visit, tour or safari to Uganda?

What should I bring with me on my visit /tour/safari/holiday to Uganda, what essentials should I pack as I plan to visit Uganda?
·         Daypack
·         High SPF sunscreen (Uganda is located on the equator!)
·         Flashlight
·         Insect  repellent.
·         Spare or rechargeable batteries (these are difficult to find once you are in the Parks).
·         Waterproof bags to protect equipment
·         Electric plug adaptors for 240 volts AC 50 HZ. UK style square-pin plugs are used.
·         Some people find contact lens uncomfortable in Uganda because of the dust – you may find it more comfortable to were glasses while on the road.
·         Antiseptic handwash.
·         An International Driving License if you are thinking of hiring a vehicle.
·         Good walking boots/ shoes
·         Sandals or other light shoes
·         Waterproof jacket or rain poncho
·         Lighter clothing for Kampala and the savannah, with layers for cooler evenings,
·         Warm clothing for mountainous regions, including thermal layers and a fleece.
·         Sun hat/cap
·         Uganda is a conservative country, and visitors should dress respectfully. Avoid the very short skirts and very short shorts.
Should I Bring any Specialist Equipment?
This depends on your interest – for photography, birding and wildlife enthusiasts we recommend the following:
Binoculars: The better ones start at about $250: you get what you pay for! Waterproof binoculars are great in Uganda as they are also dustproof.
For most travelers stick with 8-10 magnification and 32 objectives which are heavy to carry all day.
Cameras: Choose something you know can handle  - a heavy camera with many settings will be off-putting for some people to use. For good wildlife shots, 8et at least 8x optical zoom. Six to eight megapixel is fine unless you want poster-size photos. Bring a lens cloth to remove dust, several changes of batteries (even if you use rechargeable – not all sites have power points) and take several 1GB memory cards instead of one large one to avoid losing all your photos in case something goes wrong.