The global COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown measures led to the closure of all protected areas in Uganda. At the end of June, savannah parks were reopened for domestic tourism, but primate parks remained closed. While it’s still not clear if wild animals can contract COVID-19, mountain gorillas and chimpanzees are known to be susceptible to infection with human respiratory pathogens.
In preparation for the reopening of all tourism activities, the Uganda government has come up with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for visiting primate parks in the future. They are designed to guide activities during the phased re-opening of tourism and research activities to ensure safe, consistent and effective resumption in Uganda’s protected areas. They are intended to complement other SOPs approved for the tourism sector.
Over 90% of safari trips in Uganda include gorillas or chimpanzees. Below are the guidelines that must be followed once primate tourism gets back on track. There are likely to be some minor changes, so please keep in touch with for regular and more updated info by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gorilla and Chimpanzee Tracking SOPs
- At the briefing points, visitors and staff shall wash hands, sanitize and have their temperature taken.
- Briefing and debriefing will be done in small groups of 8 tourists after they have been assigned gorilla families for tracking.
- Tourists, staff, and porters who are observed to be sick during the briefing will not be allowed to track. This includes symptoms of flu as well as diarrhoea, stomach upsets and malaria among others.
- All the visitors, staff and trackers must wear masks.
- Eight (8) tourists shall be allowed to track a gorilla group per day.
- Six (6) tourists shall be allowed to track a chimpanzee group per day.
- Tourists must keep of 10 meters away from the gorillas and chimpanzees during this period.
- The assigned UWA guides shall ensure there is social distancing of 2 meters among the tourists while tracking, where practical.
- After the trek, before the gorilla and chimpanzee viewing commences, all people in the group shall sanitise their hands again.
- Tourists will be encouraged to carry light equipment to minimize the need for porters while tracking. This will be communicated to tourists through the tour operators and other means.
- Tourists will also be encouraged to travel with leather or latex gloves, since some of the trails may be through areas where many people have previously passed.
- Due to reported side effects of putting on masks for long periods and in high altitudes, the number of breaks during the tracking shall be doubled to give tourists time to breathe fresh air.
- During these breaks, social distancing will be mandatory.
- In case a tourist or accompanying members of the team encounter a problem, the current UWA provisions on evacuation and first aid guidelines will apply.
In addition to the above, there are other guidelines for accommodation, restaurants, curio shops, game drives, boat cruises, vehicles and all other related fields in Uganda.
When is Uganda opening for international tourism?
Adventure Consults says they are not yet certain, but hopefully that Uganda’s airports will open to international travelers again in the next one month or thereabout. However, they will share a timely update once a decision on reopening airports has been taken. In a recent speech, President Museveni declared that the government is till monitoring the situation and — depending on how the rest of the world continues to respond to the pandemic and reopening — his government will make a decision and advise at a later date.
Good news, however, is that Uganda has managed the pandemic well. There have been no recorded Covid-19 related deaths and most of those who contracted the virus have already been healed.