The research area has dirt, gravel, and corrugated roads, which can be bumpy and either dusty, or muddy and slippery depending on weather conditions. Deep ruts in the road can cause the vehicle to lurch. The road from Entebbe to Masindi is paved and in fairly good condition, but road hazards still include fast and reckless drivers, livestock and wildlife in the road, and poor or no lighting on roads. We will not drive at night except in case of emergency. All project vehicles will carry means of communication, first-aid kits, and water.
Participants may not drive. Wear seat belts at all times when available and remain seated in your own seats when vehicles are in motion. Many people ride motorbikes in Uganda; Earthwatch participants are not insured to travel by motorbike and must not do so. Public transport hazards include poor vehicle maintenance and reckless driving. We recommend that you use special hire vehicles or taxis—make sure they have seatbelts—and do not use public transport. Do not hesitate to ask drivers to slow down, or to get out and travel with another driver if you feel uncomfortable at all.
Hiking/Working in the Forest
You’ll encounter fallen trees; do not jump over large logs, walk around them. Terrain may be uneven and slippery when wet. Newly cut sections of trail sometimes have sharp roots sticking up from the ground. Wear sturdy boots with good tread at all times, and never run.
You can easily get lost—always enter the forest with a staff field assistant and carry a whistle. The field assistant will carry a compass, and we will train you to understand the forest grid system.
Baboons, monkeys, and sometimes chimps may enter camp. Baboons try to scavenge food, so you must keep your windows closed at all times. Also ensure that all doors in camp are shut and bolted behind you. If you see an animal in camp, be calm and do not approach it. You’ll receive a full briefing on appropriate behavior around wild animals when you arrive—follow staff instructions at all times.
Chimpanzees occasionally carry out dominance displays around researchers—should this occur, stay calm and follow staff instructions. Do not run.
Do not eat any wild plants—some are toxic. Some also cause irritation when you come in contact with them; wear long sleeves and pants to avoid this.
Malaria is common. Bring and take a malaria prophylaxis, and wear long sleeves and pants as protection from mosquito bites (and other biting insects). The project accommodations provide mosquito nets—use them. Also use insect repellent at all times, particularly at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes and other insects are more prevalent. You may also encounter other biting and stinging insects. If you have allergies to stings or bites, clearly indicate them on your medical form and bring any appropriate medication. Inform field staff where you keep them when you arrive.
Other insects you might encounter include ants—there are many in camp, some of which bite. You’ll soon learn which areas to avoid. Be especially careful when wearing flip-flops. Jigger flies are generally found in villages, and you best avoid them by wearing closed-toe shoes.
Mango flies, which burrow under human skin to lay larvae, are present in Uganda. You can best avoid by having camp staff iron all clothing, after washing and before wear, and by hanging your laundry to dry indoors. NOTE: Undergarments will not be washed by camp staff as this is considered private. Volunteers should wash their own underwear if necessary and dry these items in their rooms.
We will brief you on how to avoid the venomous snakes that live in the area. Never enter the forest alone and immediately alert a staff member if you see a snake.
Generally, the interior of the forest comfortably cool, but it can get extremely hot outside the forest (up to 35°C), which may cause sunburn and dehydration. Avoid long sun exposure, wear protective clothing and a hat, and drink lots of fluids.
We may occasionally get rained on in the field. Always carry rain gear in your backpack and wear sturdy, waterproof boots with good tread. Poor weather may cause branches to fall. We will stop forest research activities if severe weather conditions persist.
You will stay and work in wooden buildings, and therefore must follow strict fire prevention protocol. Smoking is prohibited at the accommodations and field sites.
You may wish to help with cooking at the camp, which is optional. There is a risk of burns from the gas or wood cookers, and a risk of food poisoning. Ask for help if you’re using the wood cooker, and always wash your hands before preparing food.
Political demonstrations sometimes take place throughout Uganda. Such demonstrations have on occasion turned violent. Avoid any protests, demonstrations and large public gatherings; do not stop to photograph them. Terrorism is also an ongoing and indiscriminate threat in Uganda; several bomb attacks have occurred in the last few years. Exercise caution and always be vigilant. In the unlikely event of banditry, do not try to defend property—personal safety should come first. All of this activity all tends to happen in major cities and border regions, and are not likely at the project site. However, always stay alert and aware, particularly when traveling through Entebbe and Kampala to the project site, and follow advice from local authorities and hotel personnel. When in public areas, particularly tourist destinations, do not flaunt money or valuables and be aware of your surroundings and belongings at all times. Leave unnecessary valuables at home. Petty crime rates are high in the larger cities. We strongly advise you not to walk alone, especially at night and in urban areas.
This project location is fairly secure, and we often leave doors unlocked. But it’s always best practice to keep valuables hidden.
Swimming in or Near Water
The forest has some streams and small rivers, over which logs may have been put to enable crossing. These logs can be slippery, so cross with care and test the log’s strength before crossing. We will not cross streams deeper than ankle height via the riverbed.
Follow normal swimming pool rules if visiting the Kinyara Sugar Works pool on the recreational day. We advise you against taking any boats or ferries on Lake Albert or Lake Victoria due to their poor safety records and the likelihood of overcrowding.
Distance from Medical Care
The nearest clinic is at minimum a 25-minute drive from the project site, and the nearest fully equipped hospital is in Kampala, at least four hours away. Transportation times may vary due to road conditions, traffic, weather, etc. If you have a chronic condition which could require immediate medical care (e.g. heart conditions, kidney problems, severe asthma, etc.), or if you are pregnant, please discuss your participation on this expedition with your physician.
Zoonotic diseases (those transmissible between humans and animals; the flu is most virulent) are of major concern. We’ve not had any cases in the past, but we know that, since we’re working with habituated chimpanzees, the risk of disease transmission is high. We have strict research protocols to temper this risk.
Uganda has had recent outbreaks of Ebola and Marburg virus. These did not affect the project area, but we take any sign of these diseases seriously and will consider evacuation if necessary.
Lastly, malaria is highly endemic in most parts of Uganda and there is a risk of contracting the disease. Traveler’s diarrhea affects many international travelers.
Other diseases found in Uganda include malaria, dengue fever, filariasis, leishmaniasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and trypanosomiasis (carried by insects), schistosomiasis (a parasitic infection), chikungunya, West Nile virus, tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B and C, STIs, meningococcal meningitis, plague, and polio. Please see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) or the World Health Organization (who.int) websites for more information on these conditions and how to avoid them.
You can decrease your risk of many diseases above by avoiding mosquito bites, practicing good hygiene, and drinking only bottled or filtered water. Tap water in Uganda is not safe to drink.
If you feel ill once you return from your trip, make sure you inform your doctor that you have recently returned from a tropical region.
A few notes on vaccinations and treatment:
Malaria: Uganda is a malarial area and researchers have contracted the disease. Local Plasmodium strains are thought to be resistant to Paludrine and Chloroquine. You should speak to a physician before arriving in Uganda and bring an anti-malarial that is best for you. Both Doxycycline and Mefloquine (Lariam) are available in Uganda. Malarone is not available.
Rabies: Vaccinations are generally recommended for this expedition given the potential contact with wildlife and the prevalence of loose and stray dogs. The rabies pre-exposure vaccination consists of three doses over a 28-day period. Please be sure to consult your physician or travel health clinic well before your expedition to ensure that you have time for the full vaccination series. If you have previously been vaccinated, a booster shot may be required.
Whether you have been vaccinated or not, always avoid loose and stray dogs. The pre-exposure vaccination does not eliminate the need for post-exposure medical attention and treatment, but it does provide additional protection against the disease in event of a delay in treatment. In addition, bites or scratches should be immediately and thoroughly washed with soap, clean water, and a topical povidone-iodine solution or ethanol.
Note: Globally there is currently a shortage of the standard rabies immune globulin, which is used to treat bite victims who have NOT had the pre-exposure vaccine against rabies. In 2013 some key hospitals in Uganda had no availability of this immune globulin. Please consider this when discussing the vaccination with your doctor.
Tuberculosis: Volunteers returning from developing countries may wish to have a (PPD)-tuberculin skin test to screen for potential infection.
Yellow Fever: A vaccine protecting against yellow fever is available, although pregnant women and immune-compromised individuals cannot be vaccinated.
Your home country may require a certificate of vaccination for re-entry if you travel to an area where yellow fever is endemic.
Note: In recent years there has been a shortage of the yellow fever vaccine across the US. It is recommended that you discus the vaccination and availability in your area with your doctor as soon as possible.
TRANSFER OF DISEASE TO HABITUATED PRIMATES
We take the health and safety of the fauna of Budongo Forest very seriously. A simple cough or cold could have a devastating effect on the wildlife, and potentially on BCFS operations. It is your responsibility to arrive in good health and have your routine vaccinations up to date. BCFS may require you to provide proof of vaccinations. If you suffer from a medical condition or allergies you must ensure that these are listed on the Health section of your Earthwatch Participation Form to ensure proper arrangements can be made. There is a 5-day quarantine period between the day you enter Uganda and the day you are allowed into the forest for primate work, to ensure that you have not picked up any illnesses, which could then be transmitted, to the forest fauna. We will schedule tasks accordingly; you will begin with phenology and pollinator work and only move onto the primate monitoring once project staff are satisfied that there is no possibility that you are carrying any flu-like virus. Should you become ill during the project, you cannot continue with primate monitoring work; however, you can work on other research tasks if you are sufficiently well.