How to holiday ethically in Uganda

Tribe Travel Experience takes 50 people twice a year to Uganda for a 10-day once-in-a-lifetime trip (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)

“We are focusing on boosting tourism in Uganda, which most people have not thought of visiting before. It’s a beautiful, undiscovered country,” says former TV producer Emily Chapman.

Now 47, Emily and her business partner Kai Kant run Tribe Travel Experience, a company that takes 50 people twice a year to Uganda for a 10-day, once-in-a-lifetime trip, integrating charitable volunteer work in local communities as part of each getaway.

As well as gorilla trekking, Nile rafting and hiking, the jam-packed two-year itinerary also includes community volunteering, which includes building and renovating a school and orphanage for more than 150 children at The One Love Project – which the team built from scratch.

At a total of £2,500 for 10 days, the cost of the trip is arguably far lower than other long-distance safaris and adventure holidays.

“We promote the right tourism by bringing people to this brilliant country to take advantage of these brilliant experiences” (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)
Attendees can go rafting on the Nile (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)

The idea came about following the success of Emily and Kai’s VIP concierge service in Ibiza, Tribe Travel Company, which involved crafting bespoke itineraries for guests using their contacts in the music and TV industry.

But when Covid hits, the pair predict that when the world eventually reopens, people will crave more “meaningful travel experiences”.

And they were right.

As Kai is heavily involved in a non-profit organization in Kabale, Uganda (one of Africa’s poorest and most deprived areas), the business partners felt that this would be the perfect place to help and develop the local communities – not just by volunteering , but also through tourism.

“We had already been working in the country from a charity perspective for about three or four years – so we had really good grounds,” explains Emily.

Thus was born the charity part of their business, The Tribe Experience.

Or on a safari with local guides (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)
Emily with the team (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)

Over the past few years, the team has been working to expand the school from a small building with two classrooms to a comprehensive school with around 150 students.

Emily adds: “We are now one of the best schools in the area. We have an amazing team of teachers and headteacher and over time we have increased the salaries of our teachers to ensure we can deliver the right standard of education.

“Our school has been able to grow at such a pace in such a way over the past few years. And that’s because twice a year, every year, we take 50 people there for a couple of days, who work absolutely full-on for two or three days – building additional classrooms, arranging the ones that exist – and just developing the project .

“We started this school from scratch and we had a lot of stagnation because understandably a lot of white people have a bad reputation for showing up, building things, doing a little bit and then disappearing. We were adamant that it would never be us.

Participants get stuck into community service (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)
Kai Kant, pictured, and Emily run the experience (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)

However, the two are particularly passionate about showing ride participants where their money is really going first-hand – especially since the majority bring fundraising efforts with them.

“We’re really, really passionate and committed to proving where everyone’s money is going at every stage of the process,” says Emily.

“People always do their little bit of fundraising, even though there’s no requirement to do it so far, we’ve been very lucky and lucky.

“It’s also really important for us not to encourage what’s known as ‘poverty tourism.’ We drive the right tourism by bringing people to this brilliant country to take advantage of these brilliant experiences.

“Diplomacy and sensitivity are two essential skills for dealing with communities and authorities in Uganda. This has been a slow process and attention to the local cultural context is key. You can’t just jump into a country and start a business there. We had to spend years navigating cultural nuances and building local connections, learning about different ways of working, liaising with the local government and thoroughly researching laws and regulations.

“It’s important to fully immerse yourself in the local culture and try to understand it before you try to make changes.”

“The feedback from attendees is always ‘this trip changed my life'” (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)
“We are led by guides and local communities” (Photo: Tribe Travel Experience)

Emily emphasizes that the team works with local guides to ensure the experience is as authentic as possible.

She adds: “It’s really important for us to work with local tour guides and to work in partnership with these people. We have two teams, from two different countries, from two different cultures coming together, and the impact it has had on so many people is absolutely phenomenal.

“We want to make sure that whatever we do is in partnership with the local guides, the local communities, and we’re guided by them the whole time.”

And Emily and Kai have certainly accomplished their mission of “meaningful travel.”

“The feedback from attendees is always ‘this trip changed my life,'” she adds.

“Everyone comes back and says, yes, the school project and volunteering with the kids had an absolute impact, but the actual experience, the destination and the people in Uganda – plus 50 different tour participants from all backgrounds coming together for this meaningful trip – is what changed their lives.

More information about Tribe Experience tours and trips and bookings can be found on Instagram or through their website.

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