Category: Tourism Development

Earlier this week, Ashley discussed our efforts in Uganda to boost conservation through tourism in national parks. One place where we have worked to accomplish this goal is in Rwenzori. Here we developed new tourism products to boost visitation and revenue, which is vital to conservation. Increased tourism has also helped provide new sources of income for the local community.

The Rwenzori Mountains, the fabled “Mountains of the Moon,” lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The Rwenzori Mountains National Park was established in 1991 and was recognized as aUNESCO World Heritage site in 1994 and as an international Ramsar Wetland site in 2008. The national park hosts a variety of species of wildlife that include 70 mammals and 217 birds, including 19 species that are endemic to the region, as well as some of the world’s rarest plants.

The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination that offer multi-day treks around and up to the mountains peaks, which are among the highest in Africa, and one of only three locations that hosts glaciers on the equator. For those who prefer something a little less strenuous, neighboring communities also offer nature walks, cultural performances and accommodation. Despite this, the number of visitors to the region is limited, due in part to limited tourism activities and facilities offered in the area.

To address this gap, Solimar’s USAID-funded projectSustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift with support from US Forest Service, and in partnership with ECOTRUST, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Geolodges, worked to improve the tourism products being offered in and around the mountain to promote greater visitation to this incredible destination.

The New Rwenzori Mountains Visitor Information Center is a multi-function facility next to the National Park, providing information and services for visitors to the region. The Center offers information about the history and ecology of the mountains and their people; it also has space for UWA briefings and registration before entering the park, a restaurant and a craft shop. The Visitor Information Center will allow people traveling to the region to learn more about the National Park and the mountain, its people and their culture.

Solimar and our partners supported the Visitor Center through funding and technical assistance in the development of the building and the interpretive information within it. The Visitor Center is also paired with a private lodge concession that offers accommodations and a restaurant in partnership with the local community for travelers to the park.

The New Mahooma Nature Trail is a 28 km loop-trail starting and ending at the main entrance to the park. Solimar, with support from the US Forest Service and in partnership with UWA, developed the trail as a way to diversify the options available to visitors to the region, which before hand only offered long treks into the park. The trail traverses the lower slopes of the mountains culminating at Lake Mahooma where the trail joins the existing ‘Central Circuit’ trail to return to the park gate. The entire circuit could be completed in 1-2 nights, or parts of it as a day hike.

We hope that the addition of these new tourism products will help increase tourism to the mountains. And even more importantly, help increase revenues for the people of the region as well as support the park in their ongoing conservation efforts.

In February, Solimar began working in Bocas del Toro, a Panamanian archipelago located in the Caribbean near the Costa Rican border. It is one of the main tourism destinations in Panama, but also a biological hotspot for flora and fauna.

Close to the main island, Isla Colón, is Dolphin Bay, where large populations of dolphins live year round. They prefer the calm water of the Bay for mating and raising their offspring, which makes Dolphin Bay an attractive destination for dolphin spotting. Bluff Beach is located in Isla Colon boasts a large population of Leatherback and Hawksbill Turtles. The turtles come to nest every year between February and July – always returning to nest on the beach where they were born.

Bocas del Toro is also home to the Pygmy Sloth and the Escudo Hummingbird, named after the Escudo de Veraguas Island. Another interesting endemic species is the Red Frog, a very bright amphibian that lives in the archipelago. There are approximately 60 sub-species of frogs that live on the islands – all identified by vivid colors. From Isla Colon, you can take a five-minute boat ride to Isla Bastimentos where you can find a different colored frog!

The culture in the islands is also as unique as the wildlife. The local population speaks Spanish, but also Guari Guari, which is very similar to English including variations on the accents of certain words. The territory called Comarca of Ngäbe- Bugle is home to two of the largest indigenous ethnic groups in Panama. They have a very rich culture and extensive knowledge about the local forest. These groups also host several community-based tourism projects.

Solimar, together with National Geographic and the Management of Aquatic Resources and Alternative Development Program, hopes to highlight the rich biodiversity and culture of these islands by developing a Geotourism Website that properly tells the story of this magical place. The information for the Website will be provided entirely by the local people. With support from a Geotourism Council, which will be formed by community members involved with the tourism industry, this Website will strive to unite people from the entire region in proudly showcasing Bocas del Toro to the world!

Beginning June 1st, residents of Bocas del Toro will be able to start contributing information about their destination to the Website. We look forward to sharing the finished Website with you in the coming months. Hopefully it will prove to be a great travel planning resource for visitors.

  • 1
  • 7
  • 8
“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

Contact us

  • Address

    641 S Street NW, Third Floor
    Washington, DC 20001
  • Phone

    (202) 518-6192