With its lush, patterned landscape, friendly locals, and stellar wildlife watching opportunities, Uganda is a gem of a tourist destination. This East-African country is home to the continent’s tallest mountain range (the Rwenzoris), as well as the rare mountain gorilla. These factors, among countless others, serve as an indisputable reason to join a volunteer program in Uganda!
Despite a somewhat troubled past, Uganda has begun to thrive in recent years, with thousands of tourists opting to make this nation their holiday destination of choice. Sprawling jungles and rugged landscapes make the nation incredibly attractive to visitors, but those seeking volunteer opportunities in Uganda will have access to a side of the country that is completely unparalleled.
By joining a volunteer project in Uganda, you will have the opportunity to venture deep into the heart of the iconic Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in search of one of the country’s most famous residents: the critically-endangered mountain gorilla. Uganda is the only place on earth where you can witness this phenomenal species in the wild, so pay a visit to the ‘Pearl of Africa’ and experience an adventure unlike any other!
To many, Uganda is considered to be ‘quintessential Africa’, and this is apparent when you take a look at the phenomenal number of animals laying claim to the land. With no less than 10 National Parks to its name, it is clear that wildlife conservation is incredibly important to Uganda. Some of the country’s most famous species include:
…or, in other words, the ‘Big 5’! In addition to this iconic quintet, Uganda is home to species such as zebra, aardwolf, and the giant pangolin, though the nation’s most famous resident is arguably the mountain gorilla. By choosing to volunteer abroad in Uganda, you can help to protect this elusive species.
Finally, did you know that Uganda is home to 6.8% of the world’s butterfly species? In addition to this fascinating fact, the nation also holds 11% of the world’s bird population – proving once more that Uganda is the perfect destination for fans of wildlife, and a great place to get involved in volunteer work!
Uganda’s culture is a melting-pot of diversity, with a vast range of ethnic groups contributing to the country’s overall population. Ugandans speak in 30 different languages between them, with English and Swahili being the two official languages – but did you know that Luganda is the most widely-spoken language of all? This is because the largest ethnic group in Uganda is the Baganda, their numbers contributing to a fifth of the population overall.
Such a mix of ethnicities means that Uganda is brimming with varying celebrations, dishes and beliefs, some of which you can learn about below:
• Dance – as is the case throughout the continent, dance is an incredibly important part of Ugandan culture and is consistently used in ceremonies and special occasions. Perhaps the most recognisable method of dance is the Kiganda: dancers move their lower bodies to a syncopated beat, which takes more skill than you might think!
• Food – most Ugandan tribes have their own special delicacies, but a majority of dishes tend to be both meaty and starchy. One of the more unusual dishes is the Matooke: green bananas are boiled or steamed before being mashed and served alongside a sauce of peanuts, beans, fresh fish, or meat. It’s much more delicious than you might think!
• Religion – there are no less than 10 religions practised throughout Uganda, with the most popular being Christianity or Islam. These religions are practised by 84% and 14% of the population respectively, but Buddhism, Hinduism and atheism are also apparent.
Choosing a volunteer experience in Uganda does not mean having to miss out on the many sights and sounds of this brilliant nation. Take a look at just a few of the places you could go in your spare time:
• Murchison Falls – visit the site of the iconic River Nile by paying a visit to Murchison Falls, Uganda’s largest national park and home to a plethora of wildlife species. Elephants, giraffes, and hippos each roam the land here, and the raging falls themselves are, too, something to admire.
• Lake Bunyonyi – otherwise known as ‘place of many little birds’, Lake Bunyonyi is a divine and tranquil place to spend your time. Unlike many of Uganda’s lakes, Bunyonyi is free of animals such as crocodiles and hippos, meaning you’re safe to take a dip in its crystal-clear waters. Relax as a feeling of serenity washes over you in this gorgeously remote part of the country.
• Queen Elizabeth National Park – if you choose to take part on The Great Gorilla Project, you will have an excursion to the renowned Queen Elizabeth National Park included in your itinerary as standard. This is an opportunity not to be missed: track wild chimpanzees, join an unforgettable boat trip to on the Kazinga Channel, and venture out on game drives in search of elephants, lions and more!