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Reasons Why Fort Portal Is A Top Tourist Destination In Uganda, Pearl Of Africa
Reasons why Fort Portal is a top tourist destination in Uganda. The city is endowed with 52 crater lakes, rivers, nationals parks, and other tourist sites that make Fort Portal a top tourist destination.
After hearing stories about Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru, a popular cultural tourist site in Fort Portal in western Uganda, in 2009, I decided to tour the place during my Senior Six vacation.
I traveled to Fort Portal in a commuter taxi, which made stopovers at Ishaka and Kyambura as occupants requested to buy drinks and snacks.
At Kyambura, I got a clear view of the escarpment of the Western Rift Valley and viewed part of Kasese District and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
When I arrived in Kasese, I was welcomed by the sights of wild animals such as elephants and zebras. I also marveled at the popular Hima Cement Factory and Kasese airstrip. My next stopover was at River Rwimi that lies at the border of Kasese District and Bunyangabu. Here, I saw children swimming in the river.
When I reached Kibiito Town, the weather suddenly changed and I started feeling cold. Before I arrived in Fort Portal city, I saw a magnificent Virika Diocese Roman Catholic Church and a beautiful house on top of the hill. I was told by another passenger that the magnificent structure was King Oyo’s palace, Karuzika.
Upon arrival, the taxi stopped at Kobil petrol station and I started to hear people speaking Rutooro, a local dialect in Fort Portal City.
Although the journey from Mbarara to Fort Portal Town was long, I felt a sense of relief when I saw a clean town, especially Balya Road which had a green belt.
Since hunger pangs had already set in, the next place I wanted to go to was a restaurant. In Kisenyi, I was served a local delicacy –Firinda and millet bread. Firinda in Tooro is made by removing the shell from beans.
At 3pm, I used a boda boda to go to Nyakasura, to see Amabere ga Nyinamwiru. Here, I was asked to pay Sh5,000 to access the tourist site. The guides gave me instructions before I entered the caves. I passed through thick vegetation while bending. It had rained and the pathway was slippery. The moment was finally here. I was treated to the sights of rocks, which looked like a cow udder, with a whitish liquid coming out of them. The tour guides took some time explaining to me the science behind these rocks and their formation.
I was escorted by the guides on top of a nearby hill, where I saw lakes Ssaka and Kigyere. I enjoyed the scenery and later returned to Fort Portal town. Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru is a top tourist site in Fort Portal that attracts many tourists, especially students who come to study about stalagmites and stalactites and the history of Batembuzi dynasty.
Fort Portal becomes a city
On July 1, the government operationalized the cities of Mbarara, Fort Portal, Masaka, Mbale, Arua, Jinja, and Gulu. Fort Portal was earmarked as a strategic city for tourism.
Fort Portal, now a city, attracts both local and international tourists all year long. It has unique weather, 52 crater lakes, a rich culture, and several natural resources in the neighborhood.
While other parts of the country are as warm as 25°C, Fort Portal’s average is always at18°C at most. It is known for its all-time cool weather and the booming hotel industry.
Other tourist attractions that are worth looking out for in Fort Portal are Mt Rwenzori ranges and River Mpanga. The 52 crater lakes spread around Kabarole and Bunyangabu districts offer magnificent sites.
Most valleys in Kabarole have many flowing rivers and streams, which support farming activities throughout the year. These crater lakes were formed as the result of volcanicity, which explains why pozzolana, a type of volcanic ash used in manufacturing cement, has many deposits in Fort Portal.
Around the shores of crater lakes, investors have set up hotels and campsites. They include Kyaninga Lodge, one of the magnificent destinations in Kabarole, about eight kilometers north of Fort Portal.
Other crater lakes that have attracted hoteliers include Nyinabulitwa, which has the Nyinabulitwa Country Resort and Safari Camp, about 20 km from Fort Portal on Fort Portal-Kamwenge road.
Lodges have also been established on Lake Nyabikere, Nkuruba, Nyinambuga, which host Ndali Lodge and Kasenda Beach. Ssaka and Mwitampungu have also attracted investors interested in fishing. A tour guide explains to tourists the history behind Amabere ga Nyinamwiru located in Fort Portal City.
Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Moutain, Tooro-Semliki game reserve, Semuliki, and Katonga game reserve in Kyegegwa are some of the features that make Fort Portal a tourist destination. These natural endowments have attracted investors to set up hotels, beaches, and campsites on some of the ridges of these crater lakes to boost tourism. Other attractive features include River Mpanga and its tributary of Mugunu, which originates from Mount Rwenzori.
Rivers and trees
In the hinterland are several other rivers such as Kayagi, Kaija, Kahomba, Sogohi, Muzizi, Rwimi, Kakoko, Kakule, Kabago, and Kizikibi.
The Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) recently launched a map of Fort Portal’s historical buildings and sites in a move to preserve the country’s history.
The historical sites include Kabarole Hospital that was built in 1903 by the Church Missionary Society on Fort Portal-Kasese Road, arguably one of the oldest medical facilities in the country after Mengo hospital.
Fort Portal boasts eucalyptus trees as old as 120 years, which were planted by Queen Elizabeth at Tooro Botanical gardens in Fort Portal.
Emily Drani, the executive director of Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda, says Queen Elizabeth of England first visited Uganda in 1952. During her visit, 40 eucalyptus trees were planted in remembrance of the Duke and Duches’s visit to the forest reserve.
Other historical sites include the magnificent Karuzika palace, the Tooro kingdom palace, built in the 1960s for Omukama Kasagama’s son and successor Rukidi III.
The Muchwa building, the Tooro Kingdom administrative building, the royal tombs located in Karambi, among others.
In 2016, the urban authority launched a campaign of planting one million trees with an aim of creating a forest city by 2025 as part of its beautification project.
Private companies have been set up to offer tour guides and tour safari services to different tourist sites in and around the region.
Status of Fort Portal tourism city
Fort Portal tourism city comprises two divisions: Central and North. The two divisions have 22 wards, 206 villages and by 2018, the population for the two divisions was projected at 146,148 and 120 square kilometers. The Central division comprises the Ibaale parish of Busoro Sub-county, South, West, and East divisions. The North division comprises Karambi, Bukuuku sub-counties, and Karago town council that were annexed to Fort Portal City. Local investors have set up craft shops to sell their items and culture to tourists.
About Fort Portal
Fort Portal was founded in 1893 and is named after Sir Gerald Portal, a British colonial official. His statue graces the entrance into the town on Kyebambe Road.
Fort Portal hosts most regional offices in the western region and the headquarters of Tooro Kingdom.
It is 290 kms from Kampala and a major regional town for Kabarole, Kamwenge, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kyegegwa, Kyenjojo, and Ntoroko districts. Fort Portal City lies at the foot of Rwenzori Mountain, 5,050 feet above sea level. It is dotted with more than 10 small hills where one gets a lovely view of Rwenzori Mountain.
The area has fertile volcanic soils that support the growing of crops. Other activities carried out in the city include tree planting, dairy farming, mining pozzolana (main component for cement at Hima factory in Kasese).
The people in town love their town and want to keep it clean. The natives here are so friendly and hospitable.
There is a town beautification program every year, where the urban authority paints the streets, roundabouts, and plants trees within the district.
Fort Portal is also the hometown of Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru and his palace is a tourist site. The magnificent circular palace is perched on the highest hill in a town called Kabarole hill.
Nyaika, Mountains of the Moon Hotel (2000) Ltd, Rujuna Hilltop Guesthouse, Palace Motel, Rwenzori Travelers Inn, Tooro Resort, Ataco Country Resort, Kluge’s Farm Hotel and campsite, Sunrise International Apartments, Raja Excelsior, Lesuiex Centre, Riviera, Hotel Cornerstone, Lake Kyaninga Lodge, Fort Motel, Hilton and Jerusalem Paradise are some of the hotels that tourists flock while in Fort Portal.
There are campsites where one can spend a night in a treehouse experiencing the sounds of monkeys, chimpanzees, forest elephants, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, and much more.
If I were to visit Fort Portal, I would definitely go to Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru
For the cultural enthusiasts, there is a rich cultural history attached to these rocks which form scenic caves with streams of water above them causing refreshing waterfalls.
Lake Kyaninga Lodge
Set against the stunning backdrop of Lake Kyaninga and the Rwenzori Mountains beyond, Kyaninga Lodge, you will
experience the beauty and romance of this unexplored region while staying at the height of luxury and elegance. Exclusive cottages made from hand-carved logs, superb dining, and a wealth of adventures await you.
This is a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak. For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighbouring Bakonzo villages offer nature walks, homestead visits, cultural performances and accommodation, including home-cooked local cuisine.
How to get to Fort Portal town?
Fort Portal can be accessed through routes from Kampala city and that is the quickest is Kampala-Mityana-Kyenjojo to Fort Portal covering a distance of 299km taking 4-5hours drive. Another option can be from Kampala via Masaka, then Mbarara and Kasese to Fort Portal taking 330km taking around 6-7 hours drive.
Fort Portal has got several accommodation options in the town among others to include; Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Nyaika hotel, Sunrise Hotel & Apartment, Rwenzori Travelers Rest Inn, Fort Motel, Ataco Country Resort, Reins’ tourist hotel, and Hilton tourist hotel
Accommodation outside town among others includes Chimpanzee forest guesthouse and campsite, Isunga lodge, Kluge’s guest farm, Kyaninga lodge, and Ndali lodge, Rweteera Safari park, Papaya lodge among others.