As the number of tourists to the national parks and the demand for services increase, private launch cruises and motorboats will soon be introduced in Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) and Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP)n with operations expected to begin by June 2008. However, UWA will continue to operate its launch cruises within the parks alongside the private operators.
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has successfully completed negotiations with two private companies and will this month sign concession contracts with them for the operation of launch cruises within both national parks. The contract for private launch cruises in Queen Elizabeth National Park will be signed with Adrift Adventure Ltd while the one for Murchison Falls National Park will be signed with G &C Tours.
Two other companies, MARASA Holdings Ltd and Lake Kitandara Tours and Travels were also awarded concessions to operate private cruises within Queen Elizabeth National Park but have not completed negotiations with UWA on details of the contract. MARASA was also awarded a concession for operating private launch cruises in Murchison Falls National Park but is yet to finalise negotiations with UWA. It is expected that if all the firms that were awarded contracts accept the offer, there will be two private operators in MFNP and three in QENP.
The introduction of private launch cruises is expected to boost the experience of tourists in the two national parks, as it will provide more options for deciding the time and duration they can undertake this activity. Currently, the only launch cruises available to tourists are those managed by Uganda Wildlife Authority and they are run on a tight schedule. Tourists are sometimes unable to enjoy this tourist activity due to shortages of space on the UWA boats.
Each concessionaire will at the start operate one 30-40 capacity launch and two 10-15 capacity boats on Lake Edward and the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park and on the Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls National Park.
UWA may introduce other private providers of launch cruise services in future or authorise the existing concessionaires to operate additional boats should the demand for the services warrant such increase in boat numbers.