Uganda Wildlife Authority opens all parks for tourism

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) announced the opening of all National Parks and Protected areas including  Apes and Primate National Parks  Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mt.Mgahinga Gorilla, and Kibale National Parks which had remained closed to tourism when the rest of the savannah parks were reopened in July.

According to UWA, the parks were opened after consultations with various stakeholders and putting in place standard operating procedures for the containment of the possible spread of COVID-19 in protected areas.

The statement reads in part:‘ All tourism activities within the protected areas shall be undertaken in a manner that ensures that all guidelines set by the Ministry of Health and the directives by His Excellency The President are adhered to. These include but not limited to:  ‘

i.)Mandatory temperature screening using non-contact infrared thermometers at the key tourism gates of the different protected areas

ii.)Mandatory hand washing /sanitizing at the entrances of all UWA premises and protected areas.

iii.) Wearing a face mask while inside the protected area

iv.) Observing social distance.

v.) All tourists going for primate tracking activities should carry at least two N95 masks, surgical masks, or double-layered cloth masks with filters.

vi.)Government guidelines of carrying half capacity in order to observe social distance shall apply to the use of vehicles and boats within the park. These include concessionaire and delivery vehicles

vii.) Saloon car vehicles shall not be permitted to carry out game drive activities in the protected areas.

viii.) Visitors going to the parks are encouraged to carry their own hand sanitizer

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UWA has assured tourists that it has trained its staff and provided them with appropriate wear to protect themselves and visitors from any possible infection.

“Staff on duty shall sensitize the visitors on the general government-approved COVID-19 operational guidelines including the ones developed and approved by UWA management.All visitors into the protected areas have been advised to take personal precaution to prevent the spread of the Corona-virus “ends the statement signed off by Bashir Hangi , Communication Manager

Full details are contained in a 14 paged document accessed by ETN titled  ‘Standard Operational Procedures ( SOP’s )  for tourism services and research activities in UWA estates and the reopening of the protected areas to the general public during the Covid-19 Pandemic’.

The scope covers SOP’s for:  Tourism information Centers and reservations office, for research activities in the protected areas, for park access and exit, tourist vehicles and boats within the protected areas, for specific tourism activities, Briefing of tourists, Gorilla and Chimpanzee Tracking, Game Drives, Boat Cruises, large groups and events, accommodation, restaurants and curio shops, guidelines while using surgical face masks and other activities

The reopening comes at a time when the gorilla parks are experiencing a baby boom with both Bwindi and Mt. Mgahinga registering a total of six baby gorilla births in the space of seven weeks, the latest being on 2nd September with the birth at Mgahinga Park in the Nyakagezi family by mother Nshuti meaning “ the friendly one “.

They have really taken advantage of the lockdown’ so said a colleague on hearing the news.