In the middle of the roundabout in a certain district in western Uganda is a monument of a man described as a Major and Explorer carrying a gun and is what shows that you are in Fortportal Town. Sir Gerald Portal was a Diplomat who held no army post but his weapon was a pen hence making him a significant figure in the history of this district.
He was the British Consulate General of Zanzibar who reached Uganda at the end of 1892 and later died of malaria soon after reaching London in 1894. He originally wanted Sudanese troops to be withdrawn from Toro Kingdom due to fear of conflicts. It is said that De Wonton (a British administrator) passed away in 1892 and a year later, Sir Gerald sent a young and vibrant British Officer called Major Roderick Owen to discuss plans with King (Omukama) Kasagama.
On his return to Kampala City, Roderick Owen was able to convince Sir Gerald that instead of leaving and abandoning Tooro Kingdom entirely, only some of the Sudanese Troops be withdrawn and the new Fort at the area (known as Fort Gerry) be constructed. This looked so disrespectful to Gerald and in 1990 the name was changed to Fortportal after Sir Gerald Portal.
If there are places to consider a must-visit on Uganda safaris, then it is Fort Portal Town/City. From the breathtaking view of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges, beautiful sceneries to humble people, Fort Portal Town is a unique tourism destination and business centre of its own. Officially recognized as Tourism City in Uganda, Fort Portal is without doubt a complete Uganda safari destination boasting of its wide spread hotels, restaurants and unique attractions.
Fort Portal is a major town in western Uganda, It has a refreshingly cool climate and offers the traveler many exciting, interesting, and relaxing options. These include access to three national parks and two wildlife reserves.
The areas that surround Fort Portal contain an amazing amount of biological diversity, even for a country with as much diversity as Uganda (which, despite its small size, has one of the highest for any African country). Thus, the town provides access to afro-montane habitat, high tropical forest, savannas, woodlands, papyrus marshes, lakes both large and small, and the only true lowland tropical rain forest in all of East Africa.
Because of this many different types of mammals can be found and the number and variety of bird species is incredible.
On the human side of things, Fort Portal is still the capital of the Toro Kingdom, one of the four major kingdoms in Uganda. Besides the Batoro, the other main tribes in the area include the Bakonzo of the Rwenzoris, the Bwamba of Bundibugyo District, and the Mbuti of the Semuliki Forest. Each tribe has its own language, culture and traditions, making a rich if sometimes confusing human tapestry.
Despite the overblown accounts in the world media of insecurity affecting western Uganda, the problems are highly localized and easily avoided. In fact, most of the people are surprisingly friendly, laid-back, and helpful to the extreme, which makes casual strolls and short walks of exploration a popular pastime with residents and tourists. So the Fort Portal area offers safe options for several travel styles including adventuring, bird/mammal watching, and complete relaxation.
Fort Portal Town is a tourism city in Kabarole district, Western Uganda. From Kampala capital city to Fort Portal Town, it is about 290kms, from Kasese 50kms and Mbarara 180kms. It is strategically located in Western Uganda and surrounded by Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kamwenge and Kyenjojo districts.
Fort Portal Town/City is a heart of Toro Kingdom and Karuzika Palace where a King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV calls a home. The palace is set right on Kabarole hill just in the heart of Fort Portal Town.
Fortportal is situated about 300 kilometers west of Kampala City and only 80 kilometers North of Kasese Town. This clean Town lies in the foothills of the magnificent Rwenzori Mountains. Interestingly, the road leading to this Town climbs out of the dry plains and slowly enters the hilly verdant vegetation that surrounds the Town of Fortportal. It is also a district headquarters for Kabarole district and the Heart of Tororo Kingdom ruled by the youngest King in the whole country.
Attractions in and around Fort Portal Town/City
Fort Portal is recognized as a Tourism City for a good reason. Fort Portal is amazingly a main gateway to different tourism destinations or attractions in Western Uganda including Kibale National Park a home to 13 primate species- 1500 chimpanzees and a major chimpanzee trekking safari destination.
Interestingly, this Town is the get-way to the famous Kibale Forest National Park where you will encounter the Chimpanzees as well as over 13 species of primates. Near this Park is the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary that offers tourists with the sights of over 8 species of primates and about 200 bird species among others.
Fortportal Town takes pride in the breathtaking medley of sights and sounds worth exploring Uganda and these include the Kabarole and Fortportal Hills. The former is where the original Palace of Toro Kingdom sits. Established in the 1960s for the former King-Omukama Rukirabasaija Sir George David Matthew Kamurasi Rukidi III but was eventually raided during the reign of Idi Amin Dada in 1979. Close to the remains is the home of the present King-Omukama Rukirabasaija Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV. He was crowned in 1995 at the age of three years after the unexpected death of his father.
Just 5 kilometers from Fortportal Town on Kasese road is Karambi Royal Tombs, the burial place for most members of the Royal family including the former Kings, Princesses and Princes hence is also where Omukama Rukirabasaija Daudi Kasagama Kyebambe III who was the King from 1891 to 1928, Omukama Rukirabasaija Sir George David Matthew Kamurasi Rukidi III, who ruled from 1928 to 1965 and Patrick David Matthew Rwamuhokya Olimi III Kaboyo II who reigned from 1965 till his death in 1995 were buried. Some of the objects on display at the site are the Royal regalia and artifacts such as Spears, Drums and Calabashes used by the former Kings.
Still within this western district, you will be able to enjoy the breathtaking views of the snow capped Mountains of the Moon (Rwenzori Mountains). Not only that, the surrounding areas of this Town are popular for verdant tea plantations. In the colonial times, most of these plantations were managed by the Europeans on land leased by the Government but currently they are managed by large companies although small scale farms are encouraged hence promoting Agro-tourism.
In the western part of Fortportal off Bundibugyo road are the magnificent Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru Caves and Nyakasura waterfalls that are surrounded by three spectacular Explosion Crater Lakes. These attractions are one of the key attractions in western Uganda, thus worth exploring during Uganda safaris. Much as there are legends that surround these features, they are scientifically stalactites and stalagmites formed by chemical weathering hence forming the breast-like features that you see when you visit the site. After exploring the Caves and waterfalls, you can hike the Nyakasura Hills and explore the three Lakes known as Saka, Kigere and Nyabikere.
It is a major stopover point for tourists on Uganda safari to Kibale 26kms away and while setting off from Kampala via Mubende-Fort Portal Town or Murchison Falls National Park via Hoima to Fort Portal or from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Kibale Forest National Park. The other main areas of interest include Semuliki National Park/Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve a home to one of the world’s hot springs- The Sempaya Hot Springs.
Over 52 beautiful Crater Lakes are also found in Kabarole and Bunyangabu districts, and they are accessible while at Fort Portal Town or city. In surrounding, Fort Portal comes with scenic view of extensive tea plantations, Amabere Caves with scenic waterfalls etc. Its strategic location to Toro Kingdom also makes it the best cultural safari spot to explore in-depth about the history, cultures unique traditions, practices of the Batooro people, the warm welcoming people, etc.
The Batooro are interesting people to interact with and what is amazing about them is that they love pet names. Pet names (also famous as Empaako names) are often given to children and while at Fort Portal Town, you will often hear names such as Akiiki, Araali, Acaali, Abwooli, Abbala, Atwooki, Ateenyi, Adyeeri, Apuli, Amooti and Okaali (this is reserved only for the Omukama/King.
Okaali name is a special name of its own in Toro Kingdom and often not used to greet the King but it is normally used on some occasions for instance when tradition elevates the King to the rank. Besides the Batooro, Fort Portal is also a home to Bakiga people.
For enthusiastic hikers, it is easier to connect up to the Rwenzori Mountain ranges to enjoy the exhilarating mountaineering adventures or experiences. Mount Rwenzori is located in Rwenzori Mountains National Park and a trek to its summits is a great opportunity to conquer the snow-capped Margherita peak 5109m.
Fort Portal is famous as the only town Uganda with an English name. It was established in the 1960s taking its name after Sir Gerald Portal- The British Consul General of Zanzibar who visited Uganda in the 1890s to establish if it can be formalized as a British Protectorate.
Markets- for freshly harvested fruits, a Fort Portal Town/City has you covered. This town boasts of its 2 markets- Mpanga Market which is found in the central division and Kabundaire Food Market.
Accommodation in and around Fort Portal Town/City
Fort Portal Town or Tourism City has a range of budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation facilities for Uganda safari travelers to consider for overnight stay. They include Nyaika Hotel, Fort Fun City Hotel, Fort Motel, Koi Koi Cultural Village Hotel, Sunrise Apartments Hotel, Relief Motel, Tooro Fairway Hotel, Mountains of the Moon Hotel, Ataco Country Resort, Reinah Tourist Hotel (Moderate or mid-range).
Budget hotels in and around Fort Portal include Ruwenzori View Guesthouse, New Fortview Hotel, Dika Apartments, Fort Heights Homestay, Fort Breeze Hotel, Raja Excelsior Hotel, Cityview Hotel, etc.