The focus of this field course is to examine the challenges facing conservation of the megafauna of Uganda, with a special focus on members of the Order Primates. Participants will learn basic skills in animal behavior and wildlife ecology in several settings.
Our base camp will be at the Budongo Forest, where we will practice skills in primate tracking and observation focusing on chimpanzees, baboons, colobus monkeys, red-tailed guenons, and blue monkeys. Uganda is a birder’s paradise, and Budongo is considered one of the top birding locations (see the Royal Birding Mile). Thus, participants will have ample opportunities to add to their bird species life list throughout their stay.
From our base in Budongo, we will take several field trips within the area to explore the effects of habitat fragmentation, human-wildlife conflicts, and ecotourism. For example, we will visit nearby Kasokwa, a small forest fragment that is home to a small community of chimpanzees and other primate species. In this setting, we’ll see first-hand the effects of habitat destruction and the potential conflicts, such as crop-raiding, that may arise when wildlife species are forced to live in close proximity to humans. To supplement this, we will visit the local sugar plantation and learn more about the challenges faced when agribusiness expands into natural habitats.
On safari drives through Murchison Falls, we will see a range of wildlife including elephants, giraffes, warthogs, baboons, and various antelopes. If we’re lucky, we’ll also see lions and leopards. A boat cruise along the Nile River will provide more opportunities to see these species, in addition to hippopotami and crocodiles. A visit to nearby Kaniyo Pabido will provide another opportunity to see chimpanzees, this time at a tourist site, giving us the opportunity to compare research-based and tourism-based settings.
We will visit two animal sanctuaries to learn more about their work in conservation and protecting the future of Uganda’s wildlife. The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is working to breed rhinoceros to reintroduce this species to the wild; the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary takes in confiscated chimpanzees, rescued from the pet trade or orphaned by the bushmeat trade, and gives them a safe island home for the rest of their lives.
In addition to exploring these topics critical to conservation, this course will provide participants with a sound introduction to Uganda, as well as a set of fundamental field skills. You will learn basic GIS/GPS mapping skills, behavioral observation data collection techniques, tips on wildlife photography, and guidance on maintaining a field journal with accurate wildlife sightings lists. Finally, we will give back to the community by visiting students in local primary schools and the forestry college.
- Food & Lodging
- Program Costs & Student Aid
Track chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest Reserve, Kasokwa Forest, and Kaniyo Pabidi Forest.
Go on safari drives through the Murchison Falls National Park
Take a cruise along the Nile River.
Visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Visit the Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Lake Victoria
Stay in a range of sites, from a field station at Budongo to high-end tented camps at Murchison Falls
Observe African wildlife, including hippopotami, crocodiles, antelopes, elephants, baboons, and birds
Study the primates of the region, including baboons, colobus monkeys, red-tailed guenons, and blue monkeys, in addition to chimpanzees
Witness first-hand critical factors affecting human-wildlife conflicts like crop-raiding and habitat destruction
Learn from an experienced scientist who has a long history of studying African wildlife and teaching field courses.
This course will provide you with basic field skills and provide in-depth exposure to the conservation and ecology of the diverse wildlife and habitats of Uganda.
Skills will include:
- Forest navigation and orienteering, mapping and GPS use
- Maintenance of a detailed field journal
- Identification of common wildlife species, upkeep of sightings lists
- Data collection – animal behavior and ecology
Lecture topics will include:
- Animal behavior and ecology
- Wildlife management
- Community conservation
- Habitat fragmentation
- Human-wildlife conflict
Janette Wallis is a primatologist by training who has a long history of working with primates across Africa. She directs the Kasokwa Forest Project – a forest fragment home to chimpanzees, baboons, and other wildlife. Her research focuses on behavioral ecology, reproduction, human-wildlife interactions, and conservation. She is the VP for Conservation of the International Primatological Society and Editor-in-Chief of the journal African Primates.
Read her full bio here
There are a few simple requirements to determine eligibility for this course:
- You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of the course.
- You must have medical insurance, and provide proof of such insurance to us to complete your reservation.
- We have no citizenship requirements. Anyone is welcome to apply. You must obtain visas to Uganda independently if necessary.
- You do not need any training in biology; our course is structured to accommodate people from a variety of backgrounds.
- Courses have a maximum capacity of 12 participants. If you are concerned that you will lose your spot, please contact us to confirm how many spots we have left.
- Course readings: The full list TBA January 2018. These are to be read before the course to serve as a basis for discussion and debate during the course. Files will be mailed to course attendees one month before the course start date.
- Download the Syllabus: TBA January 2018
- Download our Sexual and Gender-Based Policy: HERE
- Download our Student Policy Manual: HERE
Traditional Ugandan meals will be available throughout the course, obtained at a range of eating establishments since the course will be on the road moving between sites. At each field site, food is provided by the cook on staff and the exact menu will vary by site.
Meals: handmade tortillas (or chapatis), rice, ugali (a stiff maize porridge) or matoke (a cooked plantain/banana mash) are the available starches. Chicken or meat stews are served with these, with a strong Indian influence to meals. seasonal mixed vegetables, fried eggs and/or chicken curry. At Budongo, food is mostly vegetarian and consists of beans/peas and rice/potatoes. Western food options are also available in hotels and restaurants across the country, so being vegetarian will not be difficult on this course.
Lodging for the field course will be at several sites.
- Hotel in Entebbe: comfortable lodging, two to a room, for the three nights spent in Entebbe (2 at the start, 1 at the end).
- Rooms in Budongo will be at the Budongo Conservation Field Station, with shared rooms with bedding and mosquito nets provided, and hot showers.
- We will stay at a high-end tented ecotourism camp at Murchison Falls for two nights, to see both ends of the spectrum of research and ecotourism in Uganda.
Air travel: Getting to Uganda from a different country is accomplished primarily by air. We recommend using Kayak, Orbitz or Expedia to book your flights online. Please do not book flights until April 1 for this course.
The course will be held from May 20th to June 2nd, 2018. This means that you should plan to arrive in Entebbe, Uganda, by May 20th, on any flight that day.
Your return flight should depart from Entebbe any time on or after June 3rd, 2018.
Visas are required for entry into Uganda for citizens of most countries. Please see here for specific instructions. Although visas may be available upon arrival in Entebbe for some people, we strongly recommend applying for and acquiring a visa before travel. The tourist visa you obtain online will be emailed to you upon granting and is valid for 1 month’s stay in Uganda. However, it must be used within 3 months of obtaining it, so DO NOT apply for a visa online until May 1st. We recommend that you apply between April 1 and 15, 2018. The visa will cost $50 + a 3% surcharge for applying online. To apply you must present a copy of the bio-data page of your passport (showing validity at least for 6 months), a recent passport-size photograph and a vaccination certificate showing yellow fever vaccines completed.
If you want to stay longer or obtain a multiple-entry visa, this can also be done online or in person, but check with your local consulate about the best way to proceed.
Vaccines: Hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever vaccinations are required. Malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended, as is rabies since you will be hiking in forested areas. Other vaccinations your healthcare provider might recommend include cholera, hepatitis B, and meningococcal disease. Zika is a risk in Uganda, so if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant or have a baby in the near future, we do not recommend travel to Uganda. Please see these CDC recommendations for further details.
As with all of our courses, a comprehensive travel packet that contains information on when and how to book your travel, visas, vaccinations, and packing tips, will be made available to all students upon registration.
The fee for this course is $3500 and is due in full 6 weeks after online registration or by April 15, whichever comes first. The fee includes the following:
- Food and lodging for the entire course.
- Round-trip travel from Entebbe to Masindi, Budongo, and Murchison Falls
- Experienced instructors and field equipment.
This course fee does NOT include:
- International travel to and from Entebbe, Uganda.
- Travel or health insurance (proof of health insurance is required for course attendance).
- Rubber boots, binoculars, flashlight and insect repellent (all of which are required to take this course).
There are two ways to obtain financial assistance for attending this field course. You may participate in both of these programs simultaneously as follows:
- Scholarships: This year, we are offering one scholarship to attend this course for a student from Uganda. For the application details please visit our scholarships page.
- Fundraising: FPI can now provide a peer-to-peer crowdfunding platform for all field course students. You will be able to make your own fundraising page to share with your contacts and social networks. At the end of the fundraising period, FPI will issue a discount code to you for 100% of the funds that you have raised. You would then enter this code as you make your final course payment. If you raise enough to cover all (or part) of your initial reservation fee, you would be refunded that portion as well. Please note that funds raised in excess of your program fees will be rolled into our scholarship fund. Also, if you withdraw from the course at any time, your donors cannot get a refund. In this case, all of those funds would also roll over into our scholarship fund for other students. To set up this option, please register for a course, first, and then contact us at email@example.com to set up your fundraising page.
Please read our cancellation policy carefully before applying to a field course:
- $100 of your deposit made during registration is a processing fee that is nonrefundable under any circumstances.
- If you cancel on or before April 1 you will be refunded 40% of the course fee, minus the registration processing fee of $100.
- Refunds will not be possible after April 1.
- If FPI has to cancel this course due to mitigating reasons, a full refund of all fees paid, including the registration fee, will be made available to all participants.
- Early departures from the field course are not entitled to a refund for any reason.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t find the answers you are looking for below, please contact us with your questions!
Course Benefits and Credit
Participants can acquire credit for this course directly from their own universities. You would provide your university with the course syllabus, and the school will decide to accept the instructor’s grade and issue credit for the course. This course is the equivalence of 3 credits. Note, you might be required to pay fees for the credits directly to your university, as you would for any other course you took. FPI is happy to discuss this with your advisor or professor and to provide an official transcript at the end of the course. For more details on obtaining credit or deciding if credit is for you, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The United States university system runs on credits – typically 2 to 4 per class. A student needs a certain number of credits to eventually graduate with a bachelors’ degree. However, this system has little to no meaning outside the US itself, and thus, when we talk about course credits, we are primarily targeting those students within the US to whom this is relevant. Course credit is therefore only available to students in the US, or possibly countries like Canada, who can transfer credits from US Universities to their own institutions to apply towards their degrees.
For all other students — and there have been plenty who have attended our courses — you receive many other benefits to taking the course, such as:
- A certificate from FPI showing that you attended and completed the course
- A detailed report of your performance and your final grade, which you can share with future employers or anyone else in any manner you wish to.
To be perfectly clear: You are not required to sign up for credits in the US university system if you come from a country in which this system is itself not recognized. Furthermore, there is no requirement for US students to take this course for credit either. Course credit is an optional item and will incur credit fees from the university in question.
Questions to ask yourself before signing up for credit:
1. Will my university accept transfer credits from another university? Please consult your advisor and confirm this before signing up, because this is not the responsibility of either the university or Field Projects International
2. Can I afford to take the course for credit? The credit costs are paid directly to the university while the course fee is paid to FPI. Both will be necessary before you can take the course for credit.
Apart from the valuable skills, knowledge, and experience, you will acquire, FPI encourages alumni to network, support, and collaborate with each other after the course is done. In addition, our staff remains available for academic and career advice. Many of our alumni have returned as research assistants, and later even joined us as research collaborators, field team leaders, and instructors.
Apart from specific training that will benefit those going into many fields, our courses also entail pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and being challenging both mentally and physically. Furthermore, this is a chance to visit a remote research station in one of the most bio-diverse regions of the planet, and to learn about the incredible flora and fauna you will see at every turn.
Preparing to travel to Uganda
Download a packing list here. If you have questions, please let us know at email@example.com.
The currency in Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling. Roughly 3,624 UGX = 1 US$.You should have some cash on you during the course (~$200 or 724,844 UGX) for snacks and emergencies. This should cover all your expenses on the course, and not really necessitate that you use an ATM at all. If you want to spend more on souvenirs, etc., then please look at the ATM details below.
Changing US dollars in Uganda is possible in a bank in most towns, but you will need to bring brand new, high-denomination bills, without any blemishes on them, for a bank to exchange them for you. You can find currency exchanges easily in the airport in Entebbe as well as in Kampala or Entebbe. But, the easiest way to get money is to use an ATM via a credit or debit card.
Things to consider: Bring two cards, in case one doesn’t work. Test that your pins work on both of your cards before you travel. You can use an ATM in Uganda very easily, and less easily in Masindi or Budongo. ATM charges can apply, including conversion fees, so check with your bank about that. Withdrawing from an ATM is convenient, and prevents you from carrying around a lot of cash, which is always a much safer way to travel.
Traveler’s checks are entirely a thing of the past – just don’t buy them!
Gumboots (aka wellingtons or muck boots), which are knee-high rubber boots are mandatory for this course; although you will not use them everywhere. Good hiking boots are an excellent second pair to bring, and you will want to bring a pair of sneakers or Keens to wear during travel. You will wear this footwear every single day, so break them in before travel. If you have sensitive feet with arch trouble, please bring insoles for your boots.
Pack your gear in something you can carry on your shoulders. Suitcases are not very practical (though people have managed with them). We recommend bringing a big duffel bag, or a backpack with most of your things in it. Try to make it waterproof, or buy some kind of waterproof cover. In the worst case scenario, though, you can put your whole bag in a giant plastic bag to keep it dry once you get to Entebbe. You’ll also need a small daypack/backpack for the course to carry smaller items on hikes.
The most important things you need in the forest that we will NOT be providing are your daypack/backpack, a water bottle, insect repellent, rain jacket or poncho, and a pair of binoculars. Additionally, a laptop (not a Chromebook) will be extremely helpful, as will be a digital watch with a repeat timer. Check your packing list for more details. In addition, some things to consider bringing include a penknife (check it in, don’t hand carry – it will get caught), a bandana or hat, and some kind of energy bar as an extra snack.
You will need to use a battery-operated headlamp with LEDs during the course. This headlamp will be your best friend and is useful since it is hands-free. If you’re interested in seeing wildlife at night, bring one that is bright and that has a red light option, as the red light scares nocturnal animals a lot less. Headlamps will need batteries and we strongly suggest that you bring rechargeable batteries with you. This means that you must also obtain a small battery charger, but bring a couple of regular batteries as a backup in case of an emergency. If you can’t bring any rechargeables and have to bring regular batteries, please buy energy efficient ones so you use as few as possible, since you will have to take all batteries back with you and recycle them (you cannot leave them at the field sites you will visit).
In order to be sure you can charge all of these, please consider bringing a longer power strip so that you can charge multiple devices at once. Do not expect these to be provided at all the field sites.
Yes. Make sure that you have something extremely reliable as an alarm clock – whether you use your phone or watch is up to you.
Passports are valuable items that you want to protect from mold in the rainforest. The best way to do this is to put them in small ziplock bags and then leave them entirely alone. Do the same with any cash you bring with you also. Paper gets moldy very quickly.
June temperatures range from between 16C (61F) and 27C (81F) in Masindi. Bring clothing that will keep you comfortable in these conditions. A light jacket is always recommended on safari drives.
The course does not provide any medications to students. As such, they must bring a small medical kit for minor issues:
- A course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin is a common and effective one)
- A course of antibiotics for digestive trouble, and a small number of pills of immodium (to be used in emergencies only)
- Electrolyte/rehydration packs (hint: the juice flavoured ones are much nicer than the medical ones)
- Anti-fungal cream/powder (effective on yeast), particularly if you are prone to these infections
- Anti-itch medication: over-the counter lotions are ok
- Antacids to comfort your stomach
- Band aids, tweezers
- An Epi pen if you are allergic to anything at all
- Antihistamines to be taken in case of mild allergies (something like Claritin/ Zyrtec)
- Any medications you are taking regularly. Please make sure to pack these in your hand baggage and NOT your checked in baggage.
Before being accepted to the program, applicants must submit a brief medical history evaluation. This is not meant to discriminate against people, but instead to protect them from being in a situation where they are at a serious or life-threatening disadvantage.
All participants must sign a participation contract, without which applicants cannot participate in our courses or research programs. We make special references to an alcohol policy in our participation contract – we have a zero tolerance policy at all field stations. You will also sign a sexual and gender-based misconduct contract (and so will your supervisors). This is not to suggest that this issue is a problem on this field course in particular. However, there has been a large amount of reporting on these matters in the press of late, and we want to assure you that we take any such violations extremely seriously. We want our participants to be as safe and comfortable as possible.
For specific information on emergency protocols please contact our staff at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please bring a towel, but there’s no need to bring any linens at all.
We strongly encourage you to bring your laptops to the field course, as well as your cell phones. They will come in handy for data entry, entertainment, assignments and for checking email. Due to the intermittent/slow nature of the internet, Chromebooks are not recommended.
Electronics have to be treated differently in the rainforest than you would anywhere else. Do not bother to bring a soft sleeve for the laptop with you, because it will suck up moisture from the air and will envelop your laptop in it, which is bad news. We find that simple plastic ziplock bags work better than sports dry bags. We recommend that you purchase at least two ziplock bags that are large enough to fit your computer. You can also purchase silicon gel packages online (Amazon Smile or Jake’s Silica Gel are good places to try, along with local stores like REI). Put a couple of 5-gram packets inside the ziplock with your computer and bring at least 2 more packets with you.
Uganda uses a different set of plugs than the U.S, and electricity runs at 240V instead of 120 V. Please check here to see which converters you need to bring. Please CHECK your electronics to make sure they are compatible before plugging them in while on your trip. If they don’t work at both 110V and 220V, you will need to bring a step up converter such as this one. Also, note that you will not find three-pronged sockets in most places, so definitely at least bring a three-to-two prong modifier for your electronics.
Do not bring a hair dryer, electric razor, or electric toothbrush because those are very much considered an unnecessary luxury on these trips.
Entebbe and Murchison Falls will have good internet in the hotel. Budongo Camp has Internet access through an aerial, and although the connection is relatively stable, it is not fast and internet access is regulated to some extent. To use the internet extensively, you would have to visit an internet cafe in Masindi.
There will be cellphone availability at all sites you stay at on this course. Celtel works best at Budongo, although MTN also works. Make sure your phone is unlocked, can accept a SIM card, and then purchase one in Kampala or Masindi. Or, make sure you keep your original SIM and activate international calling/text messaging on your phone. Here are some costs if you go with a local SIM: Airtime can be purchased all over the country (1,000 – 3,000 USH / minute for calls outside Africa; 300 – 400 USH / per minute for within Africa. International text messages: 120 USH (as per Budongo Camp’s recommendations).
Before you travel, we will send out a list of apps to download for your phone, so please do try to make sure you can bring a smartphone with you. The apps will help with animal identification and the research-related activities you will do during the course.
You can pay to have laundry done locally during the field trip, but bring enough to wear throughout if you don’t want to go through the bother of doing laundry.
When all students on the course have submitted their travel information, we will collate this information and send you an Arrival Packet. This document will let you know if others are traveling on the same flight as you, and provide you with their email addresses so you can get in touch in advance (if you want to). You will also receive exact instructions on what to do when you land, and an image of your instructors so you can look out for them at the airport. The Arrival packet will also provide you with instructions on what to do if you have been delayed, or if your luggage should go missing. In addition, it will include local contact information for your instructors so that you can get in touch with them if needed to let them know if your travel plans were forced to change for some reason.