By Rafsanjan Abbey Tatya
Faces of malnourished children and pictures of people with jigger-infested feet have been a familiar episode in the life of a Musoga and yet in the background lies a range of potentially money-spinning tourist attractions.
Busoga is an area with a big history and a huge tourism future – and if well managed it has the ability to create jobs and wealth for all Ugandans.
The source of the mighty River Nile at Jinja that not long ago won Uganda another international recognition as one of the seven wonders of Africa, is in short a piece of the legendary garden of Eden. It’s Paradise.
But Busoga tourism goes beyond just the source of the Nile. There is a proper tourism circuit which takes as many as five days to cover; offering some of the best adventure and cultural tourism activities in Africa.
Some of the notable attractions include Bishop Hannington Shrine at Kyando in Mayuge District, Nnyende Hill in Iganga District, Zibondo Palace and St. Gonzaga Martyr’s Shrine at Bugonza in Kaliro District, Mpumwiire Hill in Jinja, Iyingo Landing Site, Iyingo cultural site, Budhumbula Palace and Namasagali Port in Kamuli, Kyabazinga Palace at Igenge in Bugembe, Bugembe Cathedral and the indomitable Kagulu Hill in Buyende.
The circuit typically starts in Jinja, at the Source of the River Nile. Here you will stand at the very spot where the famous Rippon falls used to roar although the falls disappeared with the construction of a hydro dam up stream. But still the view of Lake Victoria, the second biggest fresh-water lake in the world, converging with the Nile, the world’s longest river, is simply mind-blowing. Erected at the source is also the Mahtma Ghandi monument which symbolizes where his ashes were sprinkled in L. Victoria.
All this is just a very short distance from the town centre where food and culture take centre stage. However, another short distance in the opposite direction is Bujjagali and Itanda Falls where the Nile gets wilder and roars louder.
This place has already been christened the “adventure capital of East Africa” by National Geographic who have also noted that Jinja has the best white-water rafting in the whole world, overtaking the Victoria Falls of Zimbabwe/Zambia.
You can also go kayaking or choose to jump onto a jet ski, although for the extreme daredevils bungee jumping is the ultimate challenge here.
Some people choose to do quad biking, horse-riding or simply camping and Jinja offers the best. You will, actually, find no other place in East Africa that matches up to the Jinja adventure activities.
Still within Jinja about four kilometers along Kamuli Road you can reach Mpumwiire Hill where Kabalega, the Omukama of Bunyoro, died on April 6, 1923 on his way back from exile in the Seychelles.
This hill is significant to Basoga as a tourist attraction but it’s even more important to the Banyoro and Uganda at large as Omukama is a big piece of Uganda’s history book thanks to his relentless fight against the colonialists between 1894 and 1899.
While people have encroached on most of the hill perimeter, the top of the hill is still full of references to its history.
The ideal next stop is the Kyabazinga Palace at Igenge in Bugembe which is near another interesting site, Bugembe Cathedral both located just over eight kilometres northeast of Jinja along Iganga highway.
The palace is beautiful and humongous and it gives you a chance to view Jinja like it is under your nose.
Normally the next stop from here is Mayuge to see the place where Anglican missionary/ saint/ martyr James Hannington was killed. There is his shrine at a place called Kyando and – rather interestingly – it is guided by the great-grandchildren of Chief Luba, who approved the killing of Bishop Hannington.
From Mayuge you will proceed to Kagulu Hill – the place where culture meets adventure in all senses.
It is a peaceful place dominated by fields of crops and the road that leads there gives the impression that you’re entering a farmstead until the leaves open for a more intimidating view, the hill.
The 6,000ft-hill is of historical and cultural significance as the place where Mukama Nyamutukura, the descendant of all royals, camped before his ancestors spread out to form the 11 hereditary chiefdoms.
Although the cultural value of Kagulu extends to cover a wide area, the remaining and visible landmark is the Kagulu rock which gives you breathtaking scenery of a clear view of almost the entire Busoga.
It is the only hill in Uganda that has been adapted for tourist climbing, with constructed steps to make it easy for visitors to access the top. The government is planning to introduce cable cars on Kagulu.
Usually, reaching the hill’s top would be the last bit of an action-packed and educative expedition but there is one more stop to make in Kamuli before you consider calling it a day.
Located two kilomoetres from Kamuli town along the Kamuli-Jinja highway is the shrine and residence of the former Kyabazinga of Busoga, Sir William Wilberforce Nadiope, who died in 1976. The shrine is covered with beautiful marbles consisting of graves of other various members of the royal family, such his father and mother, Yosia and Nasikombi Nadiope.
The other graves found within the shrine are of his son, a former Uganda government Minister, Prince Professor Wilson Nadiope who died in 1991 and his mother Yuliya Babirye Nadiope who died in 2004. The palace’s main residence is a legacy of the British colonial government, having been donated by the protectorate government in 1914.
There are several other places you can go and explore in Busoga and they are screaming for development but for now the Jinja – Mayuge – Kamuli circuit is just fine.
The tourism fraternity has discovered the potential and now it’s up to the people of Busoga to discover their own heritage, exploit its potential and use it for economic transformation.
Many activities in tourism are particularly suited to women and young people while many tourism jobs are potentially quite accessible to the poor as they require relatively few skills and little investment. Some may also be part time and used to supplement income from other activities.
Come on, Busoga.