Oh Uganda! It’s beautiful, welcoming, peaceful, fun and so totally random. If you are referred to this place by a travel agent or international organization, you may miss some of the more obscure and fantastically fun things to do during your stay. All my recommendations are based on personal (and former volunteer) experience! All are easy to put together on the ground at short notice. All are affordable. All are guaranteed to give you a new view of Uganda and a lasting memory of a great country.
1. Zip lining in Griffin Falls: They call it the “Super Skyway” and it’s so rad. You’re initially hoisted up over 20m by your local Sky Captains and then get to soar through the air on a network of 5 zip lines, above the Mabira Forest canopy. It’s very safe, certified by the Uganda Engineers Registration Board and insured by the National Insurance Corporation. What I love most about this is that it’s new, it’s original, it’s affordable (just $50 for the afternoon!) and it’s so fun. Also, your funds go toward helping the surrounding communities in Mabira Forest. All employees are from the area as well. Money well spent in an obscure location, just outside Lugazi Town.
2. Go party in a small town: If you’re out traveling, say, to see the gorillas or chimps or do some hiking, make sure you don’t spend all your time in tourist lodges and resorts, however elegant and comfortable they may be. Spend at least one night in an upcountry town. Fort Portal, Mbale and Kabale are a couple of my favourites. Same thing if you’re volunteering with us. Mukono and Lugazi are rad places to experience a little small town night life. The beer is cheap (but not necessarily cold), the music is loud, the dancing is fabulous, and the pickpockets are rare. You’ll be welcomed with open arms – foreigners tend not to go local very often outside of Kampala. Shake your shit til 4am and never forget your night out in small town Uganda.
3. Tour Kampala by bodaboda: Want to cruise around Kampala on the back of a motorcycle? Experience no traffic delays, loads of adrenaline, and get an intimate tour of Kampala’s cultural and marketing places. These guys are not your regular bodaboda riders. They’re safe, wear helmets, provide you with a helmet, and actually know where they’re going! See Kasubi Tombs, the Baha’i Temple, Gaddafi National Mosque, Lake Victoria, and all 7 hills of Kampala. Gorgeous views, cool breezes, fresh fish, and great craft shopping. There’s just no better way to see this rapidly developing, crazy, colourful, dusty, chaotic, capital city. Again, super affordable ($40 for the day), easy to book, and supports a group of young Ugandan entrepreneurs.
4. Go get some roadside meat and a rolex, and drink a beer in a duuka. All towns and trading centres have night markets. Get out and sample the local treats. There’s roast chicken, beef, bananas, and maize. Don’t forget our Ugandan original, the rolex. Not something you wear, but something you eat – a delicious, fresh, omelet rolled up in a chapatti!
People are out meeting their friends, making a little money, finishing off the day’s errands. The streets are lit by passing cars and paraffin candles. The food is delicious, steaming hot, and often sold by struggling students and single mums. After a hot day in the Ugandan sun, nothing tastes nicer than a cold beer. Once you’ve got your food, the local barkeep will give you a stool. Enjoy the evening roadside bustle.
5. If you’re volunteering with The Real Uganda, go spend a day or weekend at a fellow volunteer’s project: Every volunteer thinks their program is the best and wants to show off a bit. Go ahead, go see, go meet some new people, go see a new way of doing things. The more you get away from your placement, the more you learn about Uganda, development, locally led initiatives, and yourself. Even if you’re not volunteering with us, we routinely visit our partner farms, schools, or women’s groups, and bring guests out for the day. It’s a great way to get some education about the reality on the ground and have a little fun. It is not, however, a chance for you to give away a bunch of free stuff to (vulnerable) strangers. The Real Uganda doesn’t get behind that. Rather, just ask and we’ll help you responsibly support a locally led initiative.
Now don’t take this as a bashing of traditional travel to Uganda. Definitely go see the mountain gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, visit Murchison Falls National Park, and go white water rafting on the River Nile. All I’m saying is that Uganda has so much more to offer than most media will tell you about. Please, come and experience it and tell the world!
Want to know more about the above recommendations?
Griffin Falls Camp: http://www.mabiraforestcamp.com/
Walter’s Bodaboda Tours: http://www.walterstours.com/
The Real Uganda: https://www.volunteertherealuganda.com/volunteering/
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