Top 5 'must-do's' while Volunteering in Uganda!
Volunteering in Uganda is an amazing opportunity! Uganda as a country has been through some difficult times but is coming through those and emerging as a beautiful, lush, green country with a diverse mix of wonderful people. Volunteering gives you the chance to get amongst the real Uganda, to meet the people who live in the small villages, to see their struggle while also witnessing their welcoming and nurturing spirit...
Depending on your choice of volunteer program you could be spending your days at local hospitals delivering babies, assisting in theatres or running medical awareness talks. You could be at a local children’s home enriching the lives of children who have lived through unimaginable hardships, or teaching at local schools with very poor resources. Uganda offers such an exciting range of Volunteering choices that there is sure to be something for everyone.
Uganda also offers a great amount of activities to enjoy in your free time, when you are not volunteering. On weekends, before or even after your volunteering placement there will be plenty of opportunities to explore the rich and diverse culture of Uganda. My top 5 'must do’s' while Volunteering in Uganda are..
1. Rafting the Nile
Rafting the Nile is definitely not something everyone will get to experience in their lives. But luckily in Uganda you can experience grade 5 rapids on the Nile. Your hosts in Uganda will be able to help you book a rafting trip out of Jinja. The grade 5 rapids can be pretty intense but with experienced guides running the trips it’s an exhilarating and safe experience.
2. Safari at Murchinson Falls
Murchison National Park is located 5 hours from Kampala but it’s well worth the trip. Again your host family can help to arrange a safari with a reputable tour company. The company will arrange everything - food accommodation etc. and you can relax and enjoy your time off from volunteering.
Murchison Falls is absolutely beautiful and a highlight of the safari is a boat trip down the Nile to view the falls and the river side wildlife. While on safari you will have to keep an eye out for hippo’s, crocodiles, elephants, lions, leopard, giraffes and lots of other wild life species.
3. Visit Ngora
Ngora is a small rural village in Uganda, where you may be lucky enough to be placed during your volunteering. If not you can always plan a visit. Ngora was set up by missionaries and as such is home to a large number of schools and hospitals. Beautiful old buildings in various states of disrepair and needing a lot of TLC. The village community is extremely safe and you can spend time wandering around the tracks meeting people and learning about their lives in the village. It’s very different to life in Uganda’s big cities.
Ngora’s main tourist attraction is the rock paintings. These rock painting have been there since the Iron Age and are still visible today. You can climb up into the rocks and see where people lived and get a glimpse at their way of life from the paintings. It’s quite a quick tourist attraction but definitely worth seeing.
Another great part of a visit to Ngora is Margaret’s guest house. Here you become part of Margaret’s extended family and are treated to traditional Ugandan cuisine and hospitality. Although Ngora is only small there are often other volunteers or travelers at the guest house so you can meet other foreigners.
4. Cultural evening in Kampala
While many of the volunteering option in Uganda are outside of Kampala it is well worth a visit to the biggest city in Uganda.
You can easily fill a day wandering the streets of Kampala, visiting the markets and enjoying lunch at one of the many restaurants offering tasters of the local cuisine. You can then end your day with an evening at the Ndere Centre. Here you can enjoy a buffet dinner or snacks while watching the amazing performers telling the stories of Africa through dance. And if you’re brave enough to try can get involved in the dancing during the night.
5. Boda Boda rides around the villages
After volunteering in Uganda for a while these will be just part of daily life but it really is an amazing way to travel. Slightly more expensive than the group taxi option but a lot more fun.
Boda boda (motorcycle) drivers wait at most of the big intersections and will push to get you to agree to a ride. Make sure you agree on a price before you leave and that they know where you want to go. Navigating the narrow lanes through the villages of Uganda by Boda Boda is a great, quick way to see the lifestyle people lead. Whizz along the streets seeing donkey carts heading off to markets, barefoot children heading to and from school, women carrying enormous piles of food, hay or buckets of water on their heads.
Bonus # 6. Pineapples!
Uganda has some of the best pineapples I have ever eaten. Sold on the side of the road and at local markets the stall owners will happily chop them up for you so you can head off with a delicious treat.
Uganda has so much to offer to those that are volunteering. The opportunities to join in with the daily life and culture that tourists don’t usually get. Grab on to that opportunity and discover all there is to love about Uganda and create your own top 5 must do’s while Volunteering in Uganda!