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Uganda’s hidden tourism secrets unveiled on World Tourism Day

Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Correspondent, Uganda  Sep 27, 2013

There are rare occasions when one comes across a truly exceptional idea, initiative or voluntary undertaking, and when it touches on the very core of my professional interest, tourism, it can be sure to be showcased and given exposure, in local, regional and global fora. This I found of all days today, on World Tourism Day, and it gives me great pleasure to share my find with my readers, more so as I am shortly embarking on an extensive hiking trip to the very areas this book describes, the highlands around Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi – Africa’s deepest lake – and the route via Muko and Ruhija to Kisoro and Nkuringo. Those adventures I will be sure to share here too but for now a bit of a teaser, a bit of an insight into a part of Uganda so far known to few others then ‘Uganda specialists’. Enjoy!

Gorilla Highlands Interactive eBook: Among World's Best

A unique interactive book from a village in southwestern Uganda has recently received a World Summit Award (http://www.wsis-award.org/winner/gorilla-highlands-109520130906). Produced by a volunteer team of top notch experts on Lake Bunyonyi and around the world, Gorilla Highlands (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/gorilla-highlands/id562572902) has been declared one of the best five global electronic products in the field of culture and tourism.

In addition to being incredibly multimedia-rich, with astonishing photography, helpful videos, an extensive audio phrasebook and more, the book distinguishes itself from the mainstream travel guides in three key areas:

AN UNPARALLELED RESOURCE

Initially imagined as a tool for promoting cultural tourism in southwestern Uganda, the book has grown in scope and ambition. Its Travel Guide chapter provides frequently updated tourist information and is full of suggestions and ideas aimed at helping visitors enjoy a more rewarding experience. The regional focus gives a more detailed picture, unavailable in other more general travel guides. Additionally, Gorilla Highlands includes a unique In-Depth Companion that in itself represents the most comprehensive book about the region ever published. For those travelers aiming for a more meaningful experience than simply following the conventional trails, Gorilla Highlands therefore represents a significant step forward.

A CULTURAL PROJECT

The Gorilla Highlands Interactive eBook is part of a wider initiative by Studio Edirisa, the multimedia social enterprise behind the project, to invigorate southwestern Uganda through active promotion of its cultural and historical heritage. Within this, there is special emphasis on the importance of developing cultural self-respect as a means of empowering Ugandans.

By purchasing Gorilla Highlands ($14.99 on Apple's iBookstore, available in 50 countries), you are acquiring a stake in a wider enterprise whose aims extend beyond the production of this book. Studio Edirisa has gathered together a team of professionals passionate about the region, who have links to its communities and offer expertise in various disciplines, so an archive of the region's political and cultural history is being collected. With time, this project will go ever deeper and be expanded to other parts of Uganda and East Africa, to reflect the fact that the complex blend of cultural and historical identities in the region runs across national borders.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF TOURISM

Underpinning this project is a desire to remold the tourist experience to have more cultural resonance. Gorilla Highlands sees the people---not the world-famous mountain gorillas that it still devotes over 30 pages to---as the biggest attraction of southwestern Uganda. It guides a visitor towards an experience that is both respectful of local cultures and more profound because of that. A system of guided cultural trips called the Gorilla Highlands Trails (www.gorillahighlands.com/trails) has grown from the book project, and the vulnerable Batwa "Pygmies" communities (www.gorillahighlands.com/batwa) have been given special attention.

If you're planning on visiting the region, why not contribute to this effort? You can help expand this network and create new links between Uganda and the wider world, thus giving more than just cash to the local communities. It's also a great way of forging stronger connections with local people that will last long after you have returned home. If you are inspired by Gorilla Highlands to get involved, the project website (www.gorillahighlands.com) and the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/gorillahighlands) provide a platform from which you can jump in. Feel free to get in touch and say hello.

Gorilla Highlands is available on Apple's iBookstore and readable on iPads and soon Macs too. An extension to other platforms is planned for 2014.

Uganda’s hidden tourism secrets unveiled on World Tourism Day



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