Kalangala, Uganda | URN | The over 80 Islands of Ssesse Islands have been overwhelmed by the high number of tourists flocking the Island district this festive season. Kalangala has been receiving high numbers of tourists since December 20.
The huge number of tourists and travellers prompted the marine vessels plying the Kalangala route to increase the number of trips and also carry excess passengers on board.
The passenger manifest of MV Kalangala shows that the vessel has been carrying on average 500 people daily since December 20 compared 300 last year.
MV Vanessa, which commenced operations this year also took an average of 162 passengers daily to Kalangala. MV Ssese and MV Pearl that ply the Masaka–Kalangala route also increased the number of trips from 32 to 38 fully loaded with passengers.
“We actually take more than the mandated 200 passengers and an average of 20 cars each time we cross from Bukakata, Masaka to Bugoma in Kalangala. Some of the vehicles are usually left behind after the last trip since we are always too full to take them on the vessel,” said Alex Tashobya, the captain on one of the vessels.
On Christmas Eve, several tourists and travellers made their way to the island district using private boats. Many of them failed to get where to sleep since all resorts and lodging places were fully booked. The tourists resorted to hiring private houses for the festive season.
Kassim Kasasa, one of the travellers who traveled to Kalangala with his family, said he was forced to hire the home of Hassan Musiige, one of the islanders to spend time with his family.
“We looked for space and didn’t get anywhere to stay. We didn’t book. Boda boda cyclists suggested that we hire houses and stay there. It is cost-effective actually,” Kasasa said.
It costs a minimum of Shs 60,000 to hire a hotel room in Kalangala and a maximum of Shs 800,000 for a deluxe room in the district. Kalangala has 600 guest rooms from both small lodge owners and advanced resorts. Robert Ssebalamu, the head of the Ssese Islands Tourism Development Association, says the district is overwhelmed by the high number of tourists this festive season.
He says tour operators and district authorities didn’t plan for such numbers of tourists. The Tourism Development Association estimates that about 10,000 tourists have entered Kalangala for the festivities since December 20. Each tourist pays up to Shs 1000 hotel tax to the district. Kalangala district senior finance officer John Ekudel estimates that the district will bag more than Shs 60 million from the tourism fraternity.
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Ambrose Rathi, one of the tourists in Kalangala for the festivities, says the district needs to open up tourist attraction sites on Kalangala’s outlying islands to allow them to engage in different activities. Currently, tourists visit a handful of sites that include cultural and historical sites and go for nature and forest walks.
They also engage in different games like football and volleyball and also do island hoping and boat cruises on the main Bugala island.