Situated at the geographic heart of the African continent, Uganda has long been a cultural melting pot. Its many indigenous languages, more than 50 distinct ethnic groups, and an equally diverse mosaic of music, art, and handicrafts provide a captivating opportunity for visitors to get to know the country and its people first-hand.
Many of Uganda’s tight knit rural communities surround its national parks. Organizations like the Uganda Wildlife Authority and many lodges have symbiotic relationships with the communities, providing them economic and social support in exchange for services that greatly enhance visitors’ experiences. The Uganda Wildlife Authority offers youth near Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park the opportunity to serve as porters, earning money for assisting gorilla trekkers with their bags and cameras as they hike the sometimes treacherous terrain. In doing so, the young people are educated on the importance of conservation and often become advocates for the gorillas, sharing the messages with their communities and helping limit human/wildlife conflict in the forest.
Lodges work with communities in a variety of different ways. Some supply their kitchens with produce planted in on-property organic gardens staffed by community members, while others host performances where guests become immersed in Ugandan culture through traditional song and dance. Others commit a portion of their income from bookings directly to support government sponsored community development programs.
The Uganda Community Tourism Association is an umbrella organization that spearheads sustainable community based tourism programs, marketing community experiences to the travel trade and ensuring that they benefit the local communities where they take place.
The Uganda Tourism Board encourages those planning a trip to the country to ask their travel agent or tour operator about the types of community-based cultural experiences that will be available on their itinerary. Some popular activities include the following: The Batwa Experience in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was created by members of the Batwa tribe who once resided in Uganda’s forests. Visitors can step back in time on a rainforest hike with Batwa guides, learning how they lived, hunted, and foraged, while watching for animals, birds, and other small game. Through a translator, the Batwa tell ancient legends and sing traditional songs, while performing traditional dances and reenacting a hunting party.
Bunyangabu Beekeeping Cooperative is a community organization that promotes sustainable beekeeping as a means of encouraging economic development. The organization has an apiary stocked with beehives at its training headquarters in Rubona between Fort Portal and Kasese town, approximately a five and a half hour drive from Kampala. Travelers visiting March through May or August through November can plan a tour of the facility to learn about the beekeeping process and its impact on the local community. They can also participate in a candle making workshop and honey tasting session.
Rubona Basket Weavers Association is a group of 200 women trained and dedicated to weaving masterfully crafted baskets from locally sourced, naturally dyed raffia. Weaving is a fully self-sustainable project, as baskets are sold to international markets and proceeds from their sale go directly back to the women who created them, their families, and their community. The organization offers grass-dying workshops where visitors learn about the process of basket making from start to finish. Its headquarters is located in Rubona between Fort Portal and Kasese town.
Known as the “Pearl of Africa,” Uganda is located in East Africa and offers some of the continent’s most diverse wildlife viewing, dramatic landscapes, and immersive cultural experiences. Uganda is home to more than half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas, and trekking to observe these gentle giants in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the world’s top “bucket list” travel activities. Safari opportunities abound in savanna, forest, and wetland settings throughout 10 national parks, where visitors can come face to face with “The Big Five” – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo – as well as giraffe, zebra, chimpanzee, hippopotamus, crocodile, and more than half of all bird species found in Africa. Among Uganda’s extraordinary natural attractions are the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains; expansive Lake Victoria, which forms the source of the Nile River; and Murchison Falls National Park.