East Africa is known for its incredible wildlife tourism, from trekking with mountain gorillas to sundowner safaris and photographing the Big Five. With a growing focus on responsible tourism in this unforgettable region, we look at some ways for visitors to support local communities and the environment through their travel in Uganda and Tanzania.
Cover Photo Credit: G Adventures
The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust has purchased a three-kilometer buffer area along the northern part of the Kyambura Gorge to protect this region neighboring Queen Elizabeth National Park. Approximately 3,000 indigenous trees have been planted in the buffer area, and Kyambura Lodge guests can plant their own seedling in the tree nursery. A three-hour guided walking tour through the buffer zone offers stunning views, world-class birdwatching, and the chance to spot elephants across the gorge.
Small groups of visitors can join Uganda Wildlife Authority researchers as they track lions fitted with radio collars in the Kasyeni plains as part of the Uganda Carnivore Project. Learning how the lions breed, feed and move across the region helps researchers understand important health factors, like why lion viruses from Tanzania have not made it into the park. Their work also prevents community-wildlife conflict by alerting farmers when lions are close to their livestock.
Founded by the non-profit organization Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) as a gorilla research clinic, this site is now open to visitors. Travelers who want a truly hands-on experience can help examine gorilla stool samples collected from Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, while the more squeamish can simply learn about CTPH’s gorilla health monitoring program and initiatives to improve public health in the community through sanitation and family planning resources and education.
Ride 4 A Woman initially started as a bike rental shop with proceeds going to job-training programs for local women. It has evolved into a cultural center where visitors can learn local skills like basket weaving, pedal sewing, cooking or dancing, or buy locally made products in the shop. More than 300 women from local villages now work at the center or are involved in skill development programs there.
This friendly cafe exclusively serves Arabica coffee harvested from farms on the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and processed in Kampala. The farmers collective in Bwindi employs former subsistence poachers, minimizing gorilla-community conflict. For every kilo of Gorilla Conservation Coffee beans sold, $1.50 supports Conservation Through Public Health programs. Visitors who don’t have a chance to make it to the café can pick up the coffee beans at the Entebbe Airport Duty Free.
The Planeterra Foundation works with the Maasai Stoves & Solar Project to generate tourism revenue to install clean cookstoves at local homesteads. Led by an all-woman engineer team, travelers visit a Maasai village to help build a stove and see how it improves air quality by removing 90 percent of indoor smoke pollution, which is linked to nearly half of pneumonia deaths among children under five. The revenue generated also pays for women’s training in stove and solar panel installation.
The women who work at this shop near Mount Kilimanjaro are graduates of the Give a Heart to Africa business school, which offers free training to local women studying business management, accounting, and English. Proceeds from the local handicrafts sold at the shop, including beautiful fabrics and beadwork, in turn help fund the school, which trains 30 women every year.
KopeLion, short for the Korongoro People’s Lion Initiative, works to resolve human-wildlife conflict in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti regions. Guests of &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge can spend half a day with KopeLion conservationists to help check their camera traps and learn about their work to prevent lion hunting and create a “corridor of tolerance” that reconnects divided lion sub-populations.
Shanga is a for-profit social enterprise that offers supportive employment for local people with disabilities while diverting waste from landfills. In 2019, Shanga diverted nearly 150 tonnes of glass waste into their glass-blowing furnace, upcycling it into handmade jewelry and glassware. Located at Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge, Shanga offers tours, workshops, and sign language lessons, as well as a shop.
This small island off the coast of Zanzibar is the first privately managed marine protected area in the world. Completely funded through ecotourism, the island almost exclusively employs Tanzanians, most of them from nearby communities. The island’s research board facilitates scientific projects including monitoring sea grass and the coral reef, and logging sea surface temperature. Visitors stay in thatched-roof bungalows next to the beach and can explore the reefs, forests and mangroves with a ranger.
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