Uganda is a historically tribal and economically under-invested country but that has failed to stifle its environmental richness and cultural growth. People in Uganda are ever welcoming and hospitable when it comes to visitors and you’re like to experience their whole-hardheartedness when you choose to visit. With mountains on the western edge of the country acting like a barrier to this green and wildlife-abundant land, you’re likely to experience a different world; a culturally and personally fulfilling reality as soon as you spread your arms and place your feet on Uganda’s damp and fertile soil.
Such an embracing welcome by the beautiful country and its people, as it currently stands, welcomes many tourists year-round which come to experience some of its prized attractions which include more than half the world’s preserved population of mountain gorillas, other wildlife like chimpanzees, culturally rich tribes and various delicacies. When encountered with such a host of wonderful hosts, it’s also your duty to ensure that the identity and legacy of the places you visit are well preserved and this is what this short introduction to responsible tourism in Uganda aims to brief you about.
What kind of tourist are you?
Before we even begin approaching the core principles of your role in developing Uganda’s economy and fostering its cultural identity, it’s critical to identify your position as a visitor to these lands. Once you decide the purpose of your visit, it becomes that much easier to come up with ways to supplement not only your own but the experiences of the people whose lives you’ll be interacting with and taking a very small snapshot of.
Uganda is a breeding ground for cultural diversity given its varied and turbulent history and current status as a tribal state. There are over 40 languages which are recognized in Uganda and the isolated nature of various geographical communities means that you’ll have an opportunity to breathe in a new way of dress, behavior, and food across every 40 to 60 kilometers you travel.
Whether it’s to experience Indian and Arab influences on food near the Eastern border or the variety of indigenous ways of life across Uganda or any other priority that you may have during the course of your visit, Africa travels offer tailor-made tours to cater to all of such amazing alternatives. A local community experience would also allow you to buy handicrafts and other locally produced and supplied products in order to provide for the domestic economy, benefitting the lives of the people.
Various resorts and luxury accommodation are attractive for a large number of visitors every year coming to Uganda. These come to experience and enjoy, in this relishing equatorial environment, activities like bird-watching, cruising and mountaineering or hiking. Boating is another favorite for such tourists, often in the company of local tour operators, across fluent and crispy channels like the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
This name can be quite vague and include different varieties of people wishing to engage in volunteering while here in Uganda in an effort to improve the lives of local people. However, not all of it may be beneficial to the local economy or society.
For instance, trained nurses and childcare specialists who wish to stay and help for prolonged durations ranging from a year to a couple can be a highly contributory influence to the systems of local health care and also a large number of operational orphanages in the country.
However, people who merely possess the intent to do good and fail to understand the complex consequences of what responsible tourism terms â hug-and-kiss volunteerism’ can be highly detrimental to the lives of local children as emotional burden of detachment and reattachment with various temporal foreigners adds up. Hence, it’s advised that you do not engage in such a gift-giving culture and randomly hold young children and coddle them as it can give rise to begging and severe abandonment issues within these kids.
If you do wish to donate, talk to your local tour operator or a local school teacher who’d have the knowledge and ability to direct and distribute your resources in a sustainably beneficial manner.
Remember always that your short term ability to provide a smile may disadvantage local families or incentivize their tendency to give up – permanently or temporarily – their children to orphanages in exchange for money which in turn use these to attract further donations.
Tips to be a responsible tourist while in Uganda
While in the warmer national parks which may require you to be mobile, you can choose to wear tank tops and shorts, in general, you should dress conservatively in Uganda. Preferably, you should cover your knees and shoulders and longer items of clothing (skirts over shorts for instance) are recommended. These rules may be broken, however, within Kampala’s wild nightclubs where anything goes.
If young children come up to you asking for sweets, gifts or money, do not give out such gifts as this encourages begging and encourages the perception of tourists as walking gift dispensers. If you do wish to donate then talk directly to places of need like clinics, schools and local community shops or tour operators. Always aim to purchase items made locally where the generated income contributes to the Ugandan economy
It’d be recommended to travel to Uganda with a suitcase which is only half-full as there is an absolute abundance of variety when it comes to the amazing local crafts. Do keep in mind that a lot of what may initially appear to be local handicrafts is, in fact, imported and hence you should always – where possible – make sure that you’re buying and hence providing for local communities and cultures while simultaneously fostering their identity. If you’re ever in doubt, local Kampala outlets like Ndere Centre and Banana Boat are initiatives which aim to provide handicrafts and wonderful experiences from across the country and buying from them will definitely help the local Ugandan economy.
Before taking anyone’s photograph, ask for their permission. Yes, it’s tempting to click pictures of young Ugandan kids playing with their make-do toys but it’s purely polite to ask them whether they’d like a picture clicked. Do try and share the pictures with the people and enlist the help of your local tour operator if needed but do not make any commitments unless you’re certain that you’d be able to live up to them.
Tracking Gorillas in Uganda is a worthwhile experience and a huge attraction for tourists from across the globe, but the expenses and regulation which exist to disincentive and filter its consumption are critical to maintaining the healthy population of mountain gorillas which exists in the flourishing jungles of Uganda. Hence, it’s advised that you always adhere to any rules which are explained to you prior to the activity like staying at least 7 meters away from the animal and not being allowed to track gorillas if you’re sick due to the danger that your disease might pose.
If you get lost and wish to ask for directions, you’d be expected to make a little friendly small talk before asking your question. General questions like asking the person their well-being and saying a polite hello are conventions in Uganda prior to any transactional conversation and not following them would be considered rude.