Last week I woke up to horrifying news. 11 lions had been killed in Queen Elizabeth National Park in a suspected poison attack. 11 lions  ̶  3 mothers and 8 cubs from 1 pride. I was terribly saddened. Lions are more than just a magnet for tourists; they play an important role in the park’s ecosystem, losing such a big number is bound to impact all animals in the park.

The grief over this loss cannot be measured. As a wildlife guide in Uganda, I have led numerous trips to Queen Elizabeth National Park because its big lion population made it attractive to my clients. Whenever I visit ‘Queen’, as we guides normally call it, I usually engage the park wardens in discussions on the condition of the animals so I know something of what it means to preserve a lion population — the long hours tracking them to monitor their health, the late night operations patrolling for poachers, the millions of dollars invested in tracking equipment, medical supplies, experts… not to mention the tourists who visit the park mainly to see lions in their natural habitat.

We should all be concerned. Lion deaths are increasing at an alarming rate.

National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative estimates that Africa’s lion population has declined by 90% in the last 75 years. Conservationists blame it on human development: when people in villages near the park learn that lions have eaten their livestock, they poison or shoot them. Other times, it is poachers and trophy hunters.

We should all be concerned. Lions play a vital role in regulating the population of animals in the park; they account for 85% of predation on big herbivores life buffalo, elephants, and hippos. This helps to maintain a balance in the Eco-system. There is a compelling scientific evidence to support this claim: Yellowstone National Park in the US re-introduced wolves in 1995 after 69 years and soon experienced a reduction in the elk population (herbivores), tree species that had gone extinct returned, existing species doubled in number, and coyote numbers reduced, causing the populations of small foxes and other small predators to increase. One small change at the top of the food chain resulted in greater diversity of plant, bird, and animal species.

We should all be concerned because Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited park. With over 95 species of wildlife, over 600 species of birds, vast species of vegetation, dazzling crater lakes, hot springs, and spectacular views of the Rwenzori ranges, ‘Queen’ boasts of the highest biodiversity in Uganda.

We should all be concerned because disruptions to its Eco-system reduces its biodiversity and this will have an impact on both national income and the livelihood of the park staff, guides, operators, and service providers who depend on tourism for income.

Whereas global climate change contributes to the pressures facing wildlife tourism in Uganda, pressure from human population remains the biggest threat. Organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wildlife Conservation Society (WSC), Uganda Wildlife Authority, and a number of NGOs I can’t list exhaustively, are doing a commendable job of sensitizing communities around national parks and improving animal welfare, more support is needed from the government.

There are many ways to manage human-animal conflicts in national parks. Government of Uganda can, for example, fence off conservation areas as has been done in Rwanda (Akagera Park) and South Africa (Kruger Park).

There is no shortage of ideas that Government could implement to address the challenges human pressure poses to wildlife. I therefore call upon Government of Uganda to take conservation matters more seriously and allocate more funding to wildlife protection. Uganda’s tourist industry brings in $1.4 billion annually, according to Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities, however, it has been allocated only $32 million in the recent budget proposal. I think we can do better.

#trekwithtim #stopthelionkilling

 

The Buganda Royal Mile, locally known as the “Kabaka’njagala Road” meaning “the King-loves-me” is a straight path connecting the Buganda royal palace and her parliament (administrative seat). The name Kabaka’njagala came into existence because the road was aligned with huge candlenut trees (kabaka’njagala in Luganda) that Kabaka Mutesa II distributed to his subjects to plant. Fifty two (52) candlenut trees were planted, each representing a clan in Buganda Kingdom.

The candlenut tree (Aleuritesmoluccanus) is a native plant in Asia, especially China where it is used for varnish, food, and in other places, as a property-line manager — because their silvery under-leaf made the trees visible and easy to distinguish from a distance. Here in Uganda, candlenut tree seeds are used as an improvised toy to play a marbles game locally known as “Dool”.

Twekobe, Buganda’s Royal Palace

Along the Royal Mile, you will see the Buganda court house. It is a custom in Buganda that the king’s palace and the court house face the same direction because the Baganda believe that the King’s spirits walk in a straight line so there should be no obstacle in the King’s way.

The Buganda parliament was initially confined within the palace premises and its seating was carried out under a big tree, later upgraded to a small room. While in exile in Scotland in the 1950s, Kabaka Mutesa II admired the architectural design of the Scottish parliament. He promptly obtained a copy of its plans and used them to build the current Buganda parliament on return. He also picked up the idea of the Royal Mile, which is a long historical road that connects the Holyrood Palace to the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, brought it to Buganda and created a Royal Mile that is exactly one mile to connect the Buganda Royal palace to the parliament.

Bulange, Buganda’s Parliament

Just halfway between the royal palace and the parliament is an interesting round-about where only the Kabaka is allowed to drive through. This round-about is not a mere ordinary place but a place highly respected with significant symbols of different meanings in the Buganda kingdom. The Kabaka’s round-about has a special cleaner to keep it clean, a gate that is always kept locked with a guard on a stand-by to open when the Kabaka is nearing to go through it and close after.  With this arrangement of the Kabaka passing straight through the round-about, he attained a name “Lukoma Nantawetwa” meaning “the king does not go around the round-about”.  

Hi, my name is Tim, a.k.a Trekking Timmy. I work as a travel guide with G-Adventures and I want to show you how beautiful Uganda is.

4 years ago I left a good job in the bank to follow my passion for travel. Everyone I know thought I had lost it but I assured them there was gold in travel — Uganda is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and I believe it will soon be the world’s top travel destination.

We have the highest number of Mountain Gorillas in the world (did you know that some scenes in Wakanda were shot near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest?). We have the best river-and-lake network in the world; we have snow-capped mountains, abundant wildlife, welcoming people, and diverse cultures.

One of the things I love most about travel is meeting new people and learning about their cultures and lifestyles back at home. In just 4 years of guiding, I have helped 358 travelers find magical moments in the most remote locations in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania. Do you know what bothers me most? Not more than 40 of them have been Ugandan!

It is said that you can never know the gold you have at home unless you have traveled. I see this everyday I’m out there in the wild with a group of Americans, Europeans, or Australians who have seen more of Uganda than most Ugandans. For most of us, life starts and ends in Kampala, or in whatever town you find yourself posted to.

So much has been written about the benefits of travel, but did you know how important travel is to your health?

Did you know that lifestyle diseases are today’s number 1 killer? You are more likely to die from cancer or diabetes than from malaria or an accident.

Doctors say it’s because people are eating more junk and exercising less. Our life has become work-party-home, day in, day out — the only changes in this routine are visits to church or the mosque, and occasional trips to the village.

When I was in primary school my teacher used to make us sing “prevention is better than cure”. It took me growing old enough to travel all over East Africa to understand how true this statement is. In the global fight against lifestyle diseases, small changes in your lifestyle can have huge impact, and regular travel is one of the best antidotes.

I always ask the travelers I guide how often they travel: 8 out of 10 foreign trekkers tell me they travel at least 2-3 times in a year. When I ask my Ugandan friends the same question, they tell me, “ebyo bya bazungu” (trans. “that’s something for white people”).

According to scientists, travel lowers stress levels, decreases risk of heart disease, enhances creativity, improves bone health, aids with weight control, boosts your immunity, strengthens personal relationships, and makes you happy.

It makes sense.

Since I quit a well-paying bank job to become a travel guide and live my passion for travel, I have never been happier. I feel healthier, more creative, more energetic, and more balanced than ever before. 

As a guide who has been to every corner of this beautiful region and seen how immensely gifted it is, I have made it my life mission to share my passion for travel with the world, and convince my fellow East Africans to put at least one trip on their annual budget.

On April 2nd, I took my first step. I rallied a small band of 24 residents of Kampala City to join me on the first of a monthly series of treks. Here’s more about the first trek.

I wish to invite you to join me on my personal campaign to promote travel in Uganda: #trekwithtim is a simple campaign that anyone can join. I am organizing monthly treks under this campaign, and taking road trips to different destinations in the country as a way of showing Ugandans how amazing their country is.

All you have to do is sign up for a trek, or a road trip, take great pictures of all the fun you’re having, and share it on facebook with the hashtags:

#trekwithtim #tulambuleuganda

We are having our next hike on 6th May 2018. Follow Trekking Timmy on facebook, twitter, linkedin, or instagram to keep yourself posted on updates of the campaign.

Timothy Kintu (#TrekWithTim) the guide aka Trekking Timmy, launched trekking as a monthly activity with the first one done on Easter Monday  April, 2nd 2018. Follow us on our social media handles for updates on the forth coming challenges.

I have to start with a big Thank You to all the 24 walkers who turned up for the Uganda Colony Trek. You brought good vibes and fun energy. You made the trek fun.

In last week’s blog I gave you some background on the Uganda Colony Trek. But if you haven’t read it yet, here’s a snap recap.

This trek goes round the territory where the British first established their presence in Uganda. We call it Uganda Colony Trek (Uganda was actually a protectorate) because this particular ring was in all respects a British colony. It was a settlement managed in the apartheid style, with its own laws and governing system that did not apply to the native (local) communities surrounding it.

The British built rings like these everywhere they settled during the colonial era. Black people were not allowed into this ring unless they were laborers or clerks working in the offices and homes of British administrators.

As bulwark against possible attacks (they were surrounded by African settlements on all sides) they built a ring around the hills of Kololo and Nakasero (which form the central business district) and fortified with a ring of Indian settlements along the road we were walking.

First Leg

Remember how we said the trek is 12km. It turns out ‘those guys’ at Google are not as good at calculating distances as they think they are. The trek is actually 14km. All the better for us; everyone who initially thought 12km would be a tough stretch found themselves wishing the trail had been longer. Walking is so much more fun than running.

Here we are at Lugogo By-pass, where the trek started. This road is the line between Kololo and Naguru. Kololo is where top officials in the colonial administration lived. It was the most coveted real estate during colonial times. Still is today.

We had our first water stop at a Chinese supermarket in the middle of this stretch. As many trekkers would later come to learn, most of the businesses along this ring are owned by foreigners so in some respects the ring has not yet changed its character.

Below left, Josh, a volunteer guide, keeps the engines revving at the backline; while right,  a volunteer guide explains the history of Kololo hill and its significance in today’s social structure.

Here we are at Lugogo By-pass, where the trek started. This road is the line between Kololo and Naguru. Kololo is where top officials in the colonial administration lived. It was the most coveted real estate during colonial times. Still is today.

At the junction where Lugogo-Bypass drops into Kira Road is Kira Road police station, we turned into the stretch heading to Kamwokya-Mulago, and onwards into Kampala’s central business district.

The houses left of this photo are surviving structures of the Indian Quarters which served as a bulwark between the colony and the native settlements in the hills across. In this photo, Trekking Timmy (far right) is captured describing it to some guests on the trek.

The walk was going smoothly up to this point. The walkways newly built by KCCA ended here and we had to walk single file. I hope the authority sends a representative to walk with us next time.

Second Leg

Rain trapped us at the Uganda Museum, pushing the time count forward by an hour . Luckily for us, there was an intriguing storytelling session to capture our attention. The trekkers are treated to rare accounts of Uganda’s history, and a tour of the museum.

It isn’t a trek without good photos; the trekkers pause for a selfie with PR guru, Simon Kaheru. We are on Jinja Rd round about at this point, just outside what used to be railway yard. There is just a kilometre, or two, left on the trek but the trekkers feel fresh and ready for more.

And to wrap up the trek, after stretching the legs and learning something new about Kampala’s history, we sat down enjoy this delicious goat, graciously donated by one of the trekkers.Travel Massive was represented too. We had some talks about hiking and travel as we settled down to a variety of beverages and hot plates of Uganda’s breakfast staple, “Katogo”.

Special thanks to Simon Kaheru for contributing Rwenzori Water to the trek. Simon is also the guy who published the article that inspired this trail. Keep supporting the cause Simon.

Special thanks to Tom and the Red i crew for supporting the trek. Tom is the guy who contributed the goat we enjoyed after the trek.

This is all the fun you missed. Be sure to follow us on facebook, twitter, or better still, drop us an email on trekwithtim@trekkingtimmy.com

 

#trekwithtim