New attractions for tourists heading to the Ugandan gorilla parks


(Posted 21st May 2017)

Along the main highway from Kampala to the South Western town of Kabale has a museum opened its doors near the trading post of Muhanga. The Great Lake Museum is part of the Satellite Holiday Resort, where travelers also find a small restaurant, restrooms – clean for that matter – and accommodation, simple but quite adequate and very affordable too. Standard rooms go for as little as US Dollars 20 though meals are charged extra over and above that rate. The receptionist did mention that for longer stays a special rate can be negotiated.
The facility is open since late 2015 but in some areas still a work in progress as the owners are adding more rooms to the resort which presently has 30 rooms and suites.
But my focus, when stopping, was entirely on the museum and its many exhibits and explanations about the Ankole clans and culture.

Curator Abias Kangume was at hand to welcome me and keen to share his extensive knowledge about this part of Uganda, explaining in detail the various exhibits and their meanings and uses among the local population.

(Sculptures found at the Great Lakes Museum)

Abias took me through the exhibits and displays, pointed out the clan information on the walls and the origins of the Ankole people before then elaborating on his other ‘job’, being a tour guide.

Abias does take tourists on hikes into the surrounding hills of the area but is also available as a guide using bikes for cross country drives to see villages and small scale farms to better understand how the people in this part of Uganda live and from what they make a living.

These bikes, ten in total, are available for hire from the museum for just 10.000 Uganda Shillings a half day and, as seen, are in excellent shape. Especially for visitors staying at the Satellite Resort which is part of the set up at Muhanga, are both activities giving options to spice up a vacation, by hiking and biking into the wider area before returning to the resort where a wholesome lunch or supper awaits them, made predominantly of local dishes.

(The view from the dining room at the museum complex)

Also along the route between Mbarara and Kabale can one find a similar venture, called Igongo Cultural Centre but I opted for the Great Lakes Museum in Muhanga, having heard about the collection of artifacts and the competence of the curator.

What it goes to show though is that local entrepreneurs have found a market niche, combining a more regular rest stop with accommodation and the added attraction of a well stocked museum, where visitors, both local and foreign, can learn about the local customs, traditions and heritage in this part of Uganda. ‘Traffic’ was significant while there with many people stopping and taking in the open air sculptures while, admittedly, fewer made their way into the museum, something which needs to be remedied.

(The great ‘Tree of Life’ which dominates the outdoors of the Great Lakes Museum)

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