Uganda safaris are exciting and adventurous, and everyone should experience one at least once in their lifetime. But the experience can be made even richer and more meaningful if you practice responsible tourism. In other words plan to have your fun responsibly and make a difference.
How can you be responsible on a Uganda safari, and still have fun?
Here are a few tips on how to practice responsible tourism on Safari.Planning: Make it a point to actively take part in planning for your safari trip. Participate by choosing eco friendly lodges to stay at. Most of these lodges employ locals so they support the community around by offering jobs to help people earn salaries and take care of their families. Eco friendly lodges also help build communities by doing some community work and also make it possible for the locals to also enjoy the benefits of tourism.
Pack a few extra things too.
Wondering what few extra things you could pack?
As you pack you pack your safari gear, the safari clothes, the hiking shoes, guide book, camera, binoculars, and everything you will need, pack a few gifts to bless the people you will meet in Uganda. It can be a soccer ball that you could give to a group of little boys in a village near Bwindi impenetrable forest, or a few books to give to some children at a school you might stop and visit or a few toys for kids at an orphanage. It is always good to add meaning to your holiday by blessing someone while you have fun. Pack for a more meaningful safari.
What should you do when you visit local communities and encounter different cultures and traditions?
This pretty simple respect them. Human being often tend to think that the differences between their way of life and that of another group of people makes them better people or superior to those that are different from them…that is just wrong.
The magic of travel and safaris is in the differences in culture and lifestyle that you encounter. Respect the differences and learn a few new things. Words or greetings in a foreign language, new skills, taste some foreign food, and enjoy the differences that make us who we are. Safari companies in Uganda offer village stays as part of some of their packages. Take part in a village stay and make your safari an educational experience. You will learn a few new things, and perhaps teach someone something new.
About photographs: as a measure of respect for others always ask for permission to take pictures. Ugandans are very nice people and could help you take pictures or even let you take pictures of them, but there have been instances where people have taken pictures under false pretences and the Ugandans are now wary of foreigners taking photos of them. Ask, you’ll get a much better response than if you assume that it is okay.
Dress code: Dress culture in Uganda varies from place to place and region to region. But the simple principle id dress respectfully. Foreigners especially westerners are often given a free pass, but how you dress often determines how you will be received in a certain place or community, so keep it decent and respectful
If you receive a service say a ride in a taxi, or service in a hotel, please do leave a tip. Uganda does not have such a big tipping culture, but it will be a good thing to do, and you just might make a difference in someone’s life with that tip.
There are arts and crafts markets almost everywhere you go. Try to buy something for yourself or the people back home. Every good trip needs a souvenir to keep the memories alive. Buying some of these beautiful works of art and African crafts is a way of investing into the community. You will be contributing to the economic growth of the community. However avoid illegal things such as ivory, those will just get you into trouble and it is a good thing they are rarely if ever in the Ugandan markets.
Now, bargaining is pretty much a culture in African markets across the continent, indulge in the bargaining game, it can be fun, but be sure to offer a fair price to the seller. Do not exploit them that wouldn’t be nice. Bargaining is part of life in Africa when buying things as crafts or art – respect the African and pay a fair price and you are investing into their lives and the local community.
Do tourist exploits affect the environment in anyway?
Yes, tourism can affect the environment if it is not doesn’t responsibly both by the visitor and the safari company.
Environment friendly tourism tips are quite simple; tread lightly, take only pictures, leave only footprints and do not kill anything except time.
Leave only footprints: Littering is an absolute no in the African wild. Some safari operators provide garbage bags, dispose of trash in those bags in the vehicles. Do not litter anywhere in the park, or on the gorilla trails, or in the forest or the water. Leave the environment as clean as you found it, except perhaps for your footprints.
Remember the welfare of the wildlife comes first. Stay on the track. Do not venture off the track to see anything, and neither should your guide. Wildlife is quite delicate; in venturing of the track you might trample on a young animal hiding in the grass and kill it, or separate a family. If you are on a game drive, the driver should maintain a certain distance from the animals.
Take only pictures: if you are on a walking safari, do not pick up seeds, rocks, or fossils, or even little animals. Unless you are in a place like Kabwoyo wildlife reserve where you are allowed to dig for things such as arrow heads.
Park Rules: All parks have rules that you would do well to obey. The rules are pretty simple and reasonable, parks in Uganda have rules such as driving at a maximum speed of 40km/hr but it should be much slower on a game drive, turn off the engine when the car stops and keep the noise at a minimum, and always stay on the designated trail. Do not veer off the trail/track for any reason.
Resource conservation: Make it a point to conserve resources such as water and electricity by turning off light when they are not in use, do your best to keep the showers short, and off the taps when you are not using water.
There is a lot more you could do to conserve the environment when on safari such as recycling, and not buying crafts made out skins from protected animals.
How else can I make my safari trip more meaningful?
Volunteering is another way to add meaning to your fun Uganda safari trip.
There are many opportunities volunteer in Uganda. You can volunteer in an orphanage, a babies’ home, and a school or with one of the many Non-government organization trying to improve welfare of the people in Uganda especially in the villages.
You could also make a donation to a school or to support a development and well fare project. That would be money well spent.
Uganda safaris are generally fun and exciting experiences, but they can educational and enriching as well.