The Kazinga Channel in Uganda is a wide, 32-kilometre long natural channel that links Lake Edward and Lake George, and a dominant feature of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The channel attracts a large variety of wild animals and birds, with one of the world's largest concentrations of hippos and numerous Nile crocodiles.
|Young Hippo that swam up to the boat at Kazinga in Uganda - Corne Schalkwyk|
|Crocodile on the Kazinga channel by Corne Schalkwyk|
Unlike the crocodiles that Murchison in Uganda is known for, we were told that these crocodiles only eat fish.
A boat trip down the channel is one of the best ways to explore this oasis that plays host to the fascinating species within the park, and a must for keen birders that visit Uganda. Nestled on the banks of the Kazinga Channel you will find a small fishing village that has become an integral part not only of Queen Elizabeth national park but also of life on the channel itself.
|African Skimmers landing along the Kazinga channel - Photo by Corne Schalkwyk|
The village known as Katunguru, fishing village is also one of the best examples of sustainable tourism in Uganda.
Jacob our guide waves as we steer the boat closer to shore. A myriad of young children make their way down the banks to great us. You can’t but be reminded of the candelabra trees within the park on seeing a grouping of kids all of a similar age grouped together as they rush down to the water’s edge to great Jacob.
|Jacob from Premier Safaris teaching us how to work the fishing boats in Kazinga|
Jacob himself is one of the success stories of the village, having grown up along the channel he now works for Premier Safaris known for their innovation, and providing intimate experiential experiences in Uganda. And you can’t get more intimate then being guided home by Jacob. He is taking us to meet the family, friends and fisherman that live in his village as part of our Uganda meander tour of Uganda.
|Premier Safaris guide sharing some knowledge on how they approach fishing in the channel|
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we feel as if we are returning one of their own. Smiling faces and loud greetings are exchanged as we disembark to explore the village and its people.
|Smiling faces of the children of the fishing village by Corne Schalkwyk|
Marasa Africa who owns the luxury Mweya Safari lodge nestled on the peninsula with views that stretch over the lazing channel, has a keen interest in the village. It’s their sustainable tourism partner and part of their $1 for the future project. The lodge includes $1 for every guest staying at the lodge and these funds goes towards community projects, such as the fishing village school project.
|Mweya Safari lodge overlooking the Lakes as well as the channel|
Having seen the updates on their school project, I was keen to see the completed school at the village. And we were amazed at what they were able to achieve. What was initially a renovation project, became a rescue project as the school resembled a crumbling ruin. It now resembled a newly built school with gleaming boards and newly painted walls the school looked almost out of place in Uganda.
|One of the Children running along the waters edge to great us - Photo by Corne Schalkwyk|
Having travelled through Uganda on our way to Queen Elizabeth, one can only be proud to have played a small part in this upgrade. We passed many a community that would be envious of this new school at the village. Proudly the inhabitants ask us what we think… its nice…. You like it? Are some of the questions falling around us as I try and pin out where the questions are coming from, as by now we have managed to gather a big crowd of people.
|The School before they started the project|
|The school after the renovations.|
We meet Jacob’s mother as she shows us her humble home, and it fills us with a sense of pride to know that Jacob our guide has come a long way, and now directly impacts on his village.
He is able to bring tourism and tourism dollars to his isolated village. Marasa “Mweya” also buys their fish from the village creating a great partnership with the locals.
Not only do the guest have locally sought fish on their plates but it provides and income from tourism for the village that helps not only sustain them but impacts indirectly on conservation, as they don’t need to poach the wildlife in the park to feed themselves.
The lodge also trains and provide employment opportunities to the local people, this helps strengthen the link between tourism and conservation in the park.
Premier as in the case of Jacob, looks for guides with years of experience and local knowledge working within the national parks in Uganda and it provides a goal for field guides in Uganda, as even our boat guide and birding expert explains that he wants to work for Premier one day.
The nature of humanity is that it actually thrives on community, starting with our families, our villages, our country and then our engagement with wider communities all structured in the same way, from grass roots upwards.
|Wildlife and the community share the same space in Queen Elizabeth national park in Uganda - Photo: Corne Schalkwyk|
We often disregard the significant individual contribution we can bring to our own communities and the support that we can provide with our tourism dollars. Enhancing and supporting local schools and businesses, volunteering at football clubs or scouts, being mindful of our neighbours, helping improve local amenities, celebrating local customs and local cuisine.
All these help protect and improve our cultural heritage and the place we call home, making them better places to live in and better places to visit.Tourism has an incredible ability to touch the daily lives of people all around the world as we learn from one another and support sustainable practices.
Tourism is simply an extension of this community philosophy, reducing distances between people but at the same time enhancing cultural understanding across borders.
And yes they were right when they said they believe that unique encounters always begin off the beaten track...
|With around 600 bird species the channel is a drawing card for International birders - Reed or long tailed cormorant by Corne Schalkwyk|
For more information on Premier Safaris and the Uganda meander visit www.premiersafaris.com or use the links below.
Premier: www.premiersafaris.com (They offer some of the best Safaris in Uganda)
Uganda Meander program: http://www.premiersafaris.com/itineraries/uganda-meander-11-days-best-uganda
|As if to say goodbye a fish-eagle flew over us as we returned to the lodge|