Results of a 12-month research project saw Uganda jump to number-one spot on Acacia Africa’s top-ten list of most popular destinations to visit in southern and East Africa.

The list was compiled from expert sources and Instagram hashtags, which saw Uganda take the top spot from South Africa, and also saw Mozambique jump from tenth position to third place.

Sales and Marketing Manager at Acacia Africa, Arno Delport, commented: “With Instagram racking up one million users in June 2018, its growth outperforming Facebook and Snapchat, the photo-sharing app is clearly well on its way to becoming the most authentic travel brochure in the world.  Its power for inspiring our wanderlust has been proven time and again, making Instagram a reliable source of information on destinations that are trending.”

Acacia says the cost of trekking the endangered mountain gorilla in Uganda is half that of neighbouring Rwanda, and while the price differential might well have drawn more people to visit the country over 2018, Acacia believes part of Uganda’s ‘rise to fame’ is due to a growing concern with over-tourism and eagerness to see places that are less visited, or where tourist numbers are more strictly monitored to protect the environment – in this case the gorillas’ habitat.

“Mountain gorillas in East and Central Africa were taken off the ‘critically endangered’ species list after last year’s census, with the total number of mountain gorillas (living in the Virunga Mountains and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park) now believed to be above 1 000 individuals,” says Delport. “In 2018 there was an exciting baby boom at Bwindi and later in the year, Uganda Tourism announced the successful habituation of three new gorilla families and the addition of more permits: 19 gorilla families now available for trekking and the total number of trekking permits standing at 152 per day.”

As part of an eco-overhaul in 2017, African Parks (which manages more than a dozen protected areas in eight other countries on the continent), signed an agreement to take over the management of the Bazaruto National Park for 25 years, with an emphasis on creating a conservation-led economy where eco-initiatives benefit local communities. The government set aside the 1 430sqkm reserve in 1971, with Bazaruto being a critical sanctuary for numerous species of marine megafauna including dolphins, sharks, whales, whale sharks, manta rays and turtles.