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“Cruise Liners for Honeymoons”

Charlton Doki
South Sudan’s former Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Minister Gabriel Changson Chang talks about why visitors and investors should come to South Sudan, despite external perceptions that his country is unsafe.
27.03.2021  |  Juba, South Sudan
Gabriel Changson Chang
Gabriel Changson Chang

Q: Assuming I’m a potential tourist who knows nothing about South Sudan, can you give me three reasons why I should visit the country?

A: I want you to come to South Sudan because of the abundant wildlife. South Sudan has the largest white eared kob migration in the world.

I want you to come because of the abundant wildlife.”Secondly, you need to come to South Sudan to see the natural scenery, including the Nile River and the Fula Rapids, which are very beautiful. As a tourist you also have the opportunity to raft down the Nile River.

Thirdly, I would like you to come and see the rich, diverse cultures in this country. All of these cultures have wide ranging traditional practices and dances interesting to tourists.

Q: Do tourists come to your country at the moment? And if they do, what attracts them?

Five top tips for visitors to South Sudan

1/Mount Kinyeti
Located in Eastern Equatoria State, this impressive mountain is the highest in the country and offers tourists a magnificent view.

2/Kagelu teak forest in Yei County
This beautiful forest in Central Equatoria State is the perfect backdrop for hikers and nature fans.

3/Bandingilo National Park
Not far from the capital Juba, the Bandingilo National Park offers attractive scenery – and it is safe.

Not far from Juba, Terekeka is rumored to serve the best fish in South Sudan. Alternatively, you could try crocodile which is served as a delicacy.

5/Kajo Keji
Reputedly here you can sample the best local bush rat in South Sudan.A: A limited number of tourists, especially backpackers, are currently visiting the country. The area most visited is Nimule because of the Nile rafting. Tourists also come to see the country, its people and cultures. We get these kinds of tourists here in Juba and in other towns, but this is on a very limited scale. I believe as soon as we have developed infrastructure, like accommodation facilities in the wildlife parks, there will be an influx of tourists.

Q: What wildlife do you have in South Sudan?

A: South Sudan has elephants, giraffes, buffalos, white-eared kobs, lions and more. The list is long.

Q: Do you have national parks in South Sudan?

A: We have six national game parks. One is the Southern National Park, which is about 23,000 square kilometres and covers four states including Lakes State, a small part of Warrap State, a small part of Western Bahr el-Ghazal State and a sizeable part of Western Equatoria State. We have Boma National Park in Jonglei State. We have Shambe National Park in Lakes State and then we have Lentoto National Park which covers parts of Central and Western Equatoria states. We have Bandingilo National Park, which covers parts of the three states of Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria and Jonglei. There is also Nimule National Park in Eastern Equatoria State.

Q: What are the challenges facing South Sudan’s fledgling tourism sector?

A: The first challenge is the perception of South Sudan’s insecurity. This scares away potential investors in the tourism sector as well as tourists.

If things are not clear legally, potential investors in the tourism sector fear to provide capital.”Secondly, there is a lack of infrastructure in terms of access roads to tourist attractions as well as roads inside the parks. There are elephants in Nimule National Park for example, but a tourist cannot see them because there are no internal roads allowing safari vehicles to enter into the park.

The third challenge is financing. The government does not have the resources to build lodges inside the parks to accommodate tourists. Also, the lack of a legal framework is a deterrent. If things are not clear legally, potential investors in the tourism sector fear to provide capital.

The other challenge is how to promote South Sudan as a tourist destination when we don’t have financial resources. The government needs to promote the tourism sector and project our abundant wildlife, beautiful natural scenery and huge animal migrations.

We have to inform the world that the biggest animal migrations are not in the Serengeti (a National Park in Tanzania) but in South Sudan.

Q: Insecurity and tourism cannot go hand in hand. How do you hope to address this challenge?

Invest in Gemeza and Nimule - all the diplomats and ministers will be there every weekend.”A: The government has tried to address the issue of insecurity. In Jonglei State, where we have the biggest potential for wildlife and tourism, there was an investor from the Middle East who built a nice resort in Boma in recent years, but it could not be launched due to insecurity. The government is doing its best and we hope that peace will return. Then business, including tourism, will resume.

Q: What scope for growth do you see in South Sudan’s tourism sector?

A: There is a lot of potential if the perception about South Sudan’s insecurity is addressed. We tell business people to invest in Gemeza and Nimule - all the diplomats and ministers will be there every weekend.

I have also been telling foreign investors to consider the Nile. You could have a floating restaurant and cruise liners for honeymoons. As you float down the Nile you will be watching a lot of birds, hippos and crocodiles. That’s how to spend leisure time.