Situated in the heart of Africa, Uganda has long been a cultural melting pot, as evidenced by the 30-plus different indigenous languages belonging to five distinct linguistic groups, and an equally diverse cultural mosaic of music, art and handicrafts. The country’s most ancient inhabitants, confined to the hilly southwest, are the Batwa and Bambuti Pygmies, relics of the hunter-gatherer cultures that once occupied much of East Africa.
At the cultural core of modern-day Uganda lie the Bantu-speaking kingdoms of Buganda, Bunyoro, Ankole and Toro, whose traditional monarchs – reinstated in the 1990s after having been abolished by President Milton Obote in 1967 – still serve as important cultural figureheads. According to oral tradition, these centuries-old kingdoms are offshoots of the mediaeval kingdoms of Batembuzi and Bacwezi, that are found around Mubende and Ntusi, where archaeological evidence suggests that a strongly centralised society had emerged by the 11th century. Three former kings of Buganda are buried in an impressive traditional thatched building at the Kasubi Tombs in Kampala. Elsewhere, Uganda’s cultural diversity is boosted in the northeast by the presence of the Karamojong, traditional pastoralists whose lifestyle and culture is reminiscent of the renowned Maasai, and in the northwest by a patchwork of agricultural peoples whose Nilotic languages and cultures are rooted in what is now Sudan. The Rwenzori foothills are home to the hardy Bakonjo, whose hunting shrines are dedicated to a one-legged, one-armed, one-eyed pipe-smoking spirit known as Kalisa, while the Bagisu of the Mount Elgon region are known for their colourful Imbalu ceremony, an individual initiation of young boys to manhood that peaks in activity in and around August of every even numbered year. Situated astride the Equator, Uganda covers 236,580 square kilometers, of which 194,000 is dry land, 33,926 is open water, and 7,674 is permanent swamp. Blessed with abundant rainfall and a fabulous climate, Uganda has extraordinary natural beauty; it is rich in flora and fauna, many of which are unique. The annual temperature over most of the country ranges from 18 to 30 degrees centigrade.
Today much of Uganda’s Travel & Tourism Industry revolves around the national parks. Her national parks account for approximately 13% of Uganda’s total surface area. Attractions include the River Nile, with its official source located at Jinja. Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains (Mountains of the moon) are home to some of the highest peaks in Africa are cited by some as the location of King Solomon’s famous gold mines. The Albertine Rift Valley runs along the western border of the country and contains species found no where else in the world.
Uganda is a land of exceptional biodiversity. The country combines the characteristics of east African savannahs with Afromontane forests. Blessed with a multitude of habitats, Uganda is ranked among the top ten countries in the world in terms of its bio-diversity. Uganda’s claims to biodiversity include more than 12 forests with large populations of primates. There are 67 species of primates living in sub-Saharan Africa, and it is possible to see 18 of these species in Uganda alone. Birdlife in Uganda is prolific. There are some 1,056 different species identified in Uganda. 600 of these are found in Queen Elizabeth National Park alone. Uganda is also known for its fishing. Various magazines have ranked Uganda as the sixth (6) best place in the world for fresh water fishing. Along the River Nile at the base of Murchison Falls, the sports fisherman has the opportunity to use fighting tiger fish as bait to catch Nile perch that can weigh as much as 80 kilograms.