Uganda, often referred to as the “Pearl of Africa,” is known for its diverse landscapes, rich wildlife, and vibrant cultures. Home to the source of the Nile River and numerous lakes, Uganda boasts lush greenery, fertile plains, and dense forests, including the iconic Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Kibale Forest National Park. Beyond its natural beauty, Uganda’s warm and welcoming people contribute to its charm. A trip here to chimp or gorilla trek is a must, but exploring the various activities that tantalize the senses is also something not to be missed.
TINKA’S TRADITIONAL LUNCH
Located off the main village road near the entrance to Kibale Forest National Park, you’ll find the homestead of Tinka. With help from his son, Deus, Tinka hosts visitors for an introduction of a traditional Ugandan meal. These meals often incorporate staples like rice, sweet potatoes, and cassava, accompanied by a variety of sauces and a protein like beef or chicken. The cuisine showcases the country’s agricultural abundance, with most of the meal being completely organic/farm-to-table, with diverse flavors, offering a taste of Uganda’s cultural richness on the plate.
HIKING THE IVY RIVER TRAIL
The Ivy River Trail is an exciting 5.6-mile hike in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, that can start from the Buhoma or Nkuringo Sector. You will be hosted by a local guide and specialist Batwa guide, making this hike a must-do for those looking to be active while in Uganda. Taking around 4- to 5-hours depending on your pace, the hike offers an up-close experience to the variety of flora, fauna, and insect species that call the rainforest home. From butterflies to monkeys, there is something to see around every curve of the trail. The Batwa guide enriches the hike, by pointing out various medicinal plants and shares the previously traditional way the Batwa lived and survived in the forest. The hike is fairly easy, with the hardest portion coming at the end, where there is a steep assent.
VISIT A UGANDAN COFFEE FARM
Visiting a coffee farm is an enriching experience that provides insight into the country’s thriving coffee industry. Known for its high-quality Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, you can witness the entire coffee production process, from cultivation to processing and then tasting the finished product, produced by a local farmer. In my case, I was invited on to the homestead and farm of a man named, Henry. Engaging with Henry and hearing his story of farming coffee for over 35 years, provided a cultural dimension to the visit I wasn’t expecting. I learned about the significance of coffee in Ugandan communities, heard stories about the challenges and joys of coffee farming, and witnessed the positive impact of sustainable and fair-trade practices by being able to purchase the coffee directly from Henry.
LOCAL BATWA COMMUNITY VISIT
A visit to the Batwa offers a unique cultural experience, providing insight into the history, traditions, and daily lives of this indigenous community. The Batwa are one of the oldest surviving tribes in the region, and their cultural heritage is deeply intertwined with the forests they historically inhabited. During the visit, you can engage and learn about various activities that showcase their traditional way of life – from a cultural performance, to craft demonstrations, storytelling, and cultural explanations. This visit not only fosters a cultural exchange but also contributes to the cultural preservation of the Batwa’s unique identity in the face of modern challenges.
I couldn’t talk about activities without also mentioning chimpanzee or gorilla treks. Primate trekking in Uganda is a thrilling and immersive experience, offering the chance to observe some of the country’s most fascinating primates in their natural habitats. Whether it’s chimpanzees in Kibale Forest National Park or Kyambura Gorge, in Queen Elizabeth National Park, watching these primates forage, play and display their unwavering intelligence, is something special to witness. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are home to roughly half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, and you can explore the dense forest and spend a magical hour with one of the habituated gorilla families. Nothing can prepare you for how special sitting with chimps or gorillas can be, it’s a core memory that I’ll have for the rest of my life!