At the beginning of July, I was lucky enough to spend two weeks exploring the South of Uganda, the country that Winston Churchill named ‘the Pearl of Africa’. Although I was unsure of what to expect, it has now become my favourite country and I have already confirmed to a friend who lives there that I will be returning as soon as I can! With my family, we spent our days searching for lions on safari, trekking through mountains and rainforest, exploring the local communities and their beautiful people and, of course, tracking gorillas in their natural habitat.
In recent years, it would seem that the preferred destinations for exotic student travelling and gap years are South America and Southeast Asia. But hopefully I can convince you that Africa, Uganda in particular, should not be disregarded…
If you’re a budding geographer you will be amazed by Uganda’s amazing variety of landscape, from expansive grassland and savanna to thick rainforest covering the mountains. If that isn’t impressive enough, as well as having over 100 beautiful lakes, Uganda is also the home of the source of the River Nile. Visit the area around Jinja to see the beginning of the Nile in all its glory. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, I 100% recommend white water rafting on its Grade 5 & 6 rapids!
If it’s wildlife that you’re after, Uganda is the place to go. The Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Kidepo Valley National Parks, as well as many others, offer elephants, tree climbing lions, leopards, hippos, monkeys and even chimpanzees. One evening we drove past a herd of over 100 elephants!
Of course, the animal that Uganda is most famous for, asides from chimpanzees, is its gorillas. We did two days of gorilla tracking and after a few hours of walking through rainforest, I cannot begin to describe the incredible feeling of coming face to face with a group of gorillas. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but I’m desperately hoping that I will be able to do it again!
Although there is so much to explore as I have described, there are also lots of working and volunteering opportunities for students. Having visited some of the schools and hospitals, the people are kind and welcoming and are always eager for volunteers to come over and help. It can be a real source of inspiration and happiness for the locals and an incredible and rewarding experience for yourself. Medical students, conservationists, veterinary students, teachers - there are opportunities for you to do some amazing work all over the country!
The world is your oyster but, like Churchill said, Uganda is the pearl ;)