How to avoid being kidnapped while on a Safari in Uganda

Posted by on April 18, 2019

Practical Ways you can take to Avoid Being Kidnapped on Safari

Steps you can take to avoid being kidnapped while on a Safari in Uganda or anywhere else

How to avoid being kidnapped while on a Safari in Uganda or anywhere else for that matter.  On April 2nd,  2019 the unthinkable happened to an American on her African Dream Safari in Uganda, Kimberly Sue Endicott was kidnapped along with her driver on a Game Drive in the Ishasha region of Queen Elizabeth Park.  That nightmarish event remained in news headlines around the World for over one Week and beyond.  Even President Trump got involved with a couple of Tweets.

This was the first time that a tourist had ever been kidnapped and held for ransom in Uganda.  It was an isolated incident, however many take that isolated incident and paint the whole Country with that same brush.  Uganda remains one of the Friendlies, Welcoming, Safest and Secure Safari Destinations in all of Africa.

The Security and Safety of Tourists is something that the Ugandan government and its President Yoweri K. Museveni take quite seriously.  We as a Ugandan Tour Operator share that sentiment and create Safaris where a safe and secure outcome is the Goal and not just income.  Memorable Safaris, unlike the nightmare that Kimberly Sue Endicott and her Driver Jean-Paul Mirenge endured.

There is no one in Uganda Tourism, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Ugandan Police including the Tourism Police, the Security Forces such as the Military that want to see a repeat of what took place on April 2nd, 2019.

How to avoid being kidnapped while on a Safari in Uganda

Practical Steps you can Take to Stay Safe and Secure on Safari

 1. Common Sense – Do not leave Home without it:

Common Sense is something we all have, it is shaped with input from parents, teachers, faith, past experiences.  Life is like dodgeball, the harder you try to stay in the game, the more you fear you will hit and knocked out of the game, the more likely it can become a reality.

Common Sense is those things we learned in the Kindergarten of Life and include basic survival instincts, a knowing when things may seem unsafe even in unfamiliar settings.

The problem arises when a traveler does things traveling that they would never do in their country of origin.

Uganda, to most Tourists, is unfamiliar Territory.  Most visitors know very little about the country when they arrive, common sense will tell you that it is best that you travel with a local, a driver-guide who knows Uganda, its culture and ways, has years of experience keeping Visitors safe and secure.  We call them our Guardian Angels that implement a safari in a safe, secure and most memorable way.

Common Sense – Do not leave Home without it – that is the best Security Advice we can give you.

 2. Be Self-Aware and stay Focused:

Security Experts tell us that many Kidnappings can be avoided by staying focused on the level of Self-Awareness. You always know who you are and projecting those strengths those that you come in contact with. Know where you are traveling to, the vehicle you will be using, the lodges where you will be staying, the activities, such as Gorilla Trekking, Game Drives you will be on. Know Before You Go. Be and Stay informed about Uganda, we have hundreds of pages that do just that, read the local newspaper.

Exude Confidence, we call it the “Never Act Lost even if you are,”  Strength, projected strength is respected in Africa, in Uganda.  Locally one would say, he or she is tough. How others perceive you is important.  Do not stand out, blend in.  Leave expensive jewelry at home, dress culturally appropriately, speak softly but confidently.

Stay aware of the people around you. Never be distracted with things such as your smart-phone or get lost in the sounds coming from your headset- stay focused – be aware.

 3. Know Before You Go to Uganda:

This is probably some of the best advice that we can give you. Many Tourists that come have little knowledge about the Pearl of Africa aside from “The Last King of Scotland” or the newer “7-Days in Entebbe.” For many, the Ghost of Idi Amin lingers, only enforced by periodic sensational headlines coming out of Uganda.  Most of which are not reality at all but perceptions of a newspaper reporter based in Johannesburg or Nairobi but not in Kampala.

You are coming to Uganda on an African Dream Safari.  You have your flights booked, Safari Itinerary in hand but that is about it.  We suggest, learn about Uganda, become familiar with the Pearl of Africa.  Knowing as much as you can before going is critical to your personal securing and wellbeing.  Leave nothing to chance, the last thing you want is arriving at Entebbe International Airport and there is no one to meet you. We furnish our clients with name and telephone number of their driver who will pick them up.  There is nothing wrong with asking identification from the person meeting you.

During your stay be aware of the layout of a hotel or lodge.  On Safari never wander on your own away from a lodge, you are in the wilderness.  In cities like Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja it is best to avoid walking at night, avoid walking alone. Our driver-guide will be with you.

 4. Do not Post your Travel Plans – your Safari Itinerary on Facebook:

People do post their travel-plans on Social Media.  It is not just your friends and family members who read your social media postings but potential enemies, criminals, con artists, and possible kidnappers. Do not show your travel plans to somebody who does not need to know. Leave all pertinent information, including a copy of passport, travel insurance, itinerary, flights, and any other vital information.

Publishing your Travel itinerary also makes your unattended home a target while you are gone.  It also a wise idea to post your trip after you return home.  You can keep your friends and family posted posting them on OneDrive, Google or DropBox instead of Social Media.

Social Media informs your friends but also gives information to Criminals.

 5.  Stick to the Guidelines for a Safe and Safari:

We know Uganda – we live and work here as we like to say.  We know the parks, know which lodges are secure, know which activities are safe and sane and we know the latest security updates, suggestions and regulations set forth by Ugandan Police, Military, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Tourism board.

Our planning, implementation of a safari is based on your security and wellbeing and not on our profits.  The kidnapping was a one-time incident, we like to keep it that and we stick to doing it safely.  We do not take clients into DR Congo but remain in what has been and is safe Uganda.  We use armed Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers for all treks, game drives, hikes, nature walks.

We certainly, at this time do not recommend self-drive but to be with an informed driver-guide who thinks first of you.

Security Guidelines and tips such as found on our site for Safety and Security, Safe Safaris, Safe Gorilla Treks, Safety for Women Travelers and safe Safaris for LGBT Tourists and whether it is safe to Travel to Uganda in 2019. Check our Facebook Page for latest Updates.

 5. Acts as if you are in Control – do not be a victim:

You never want to appear as a soft and easy target for people that might want to harm you for financial gain.  Exude confidence, even if you have to fake it until you make it until it becomes the natural you.  Act confidently, however, do not draw attention to yourself by making boastful statements, flashing cash, or wearing expensive. Become a Khaki person, blend in and do not stand out.

Carry your valuables with you on safari like in a daypack.  Wear comfortable shoes or boots, avoid sandals and definitely no high heels in the vehicle. Be polite with a tinge of assertiveness when talking to strangers.

Do not show large sums of money when buying things like souvenirs and use the local currency instead of US Dollars. Use only ATM machines in secure places, your driver-guide will assist you.

 Uganda is and remains one of the Safest Countries in Africa for Tourists to Visit:

We had one incident, the unfortunate Kidnapping of an American Tourist and her Driver.  That incident has sparked a review of all things related to keeping Tourists safe.  As an American, I feel safer in Uganda than I would i other parts of the world including in the USA.

We have had no Terrorist attacks in Uganda since 2010, the April 2019 kidnapping was a creation of criminals who lived near Queen Elizabeth Park which today is one of the safest parks in Africa.  One does not want to minimalize the horrible incident, it is and has not been the norm in Uganda, it has however been a wakeup call to all involved in Tourism and added layers of security have been added throughout the country both within and outside of Parks.

Hopefully, this information has been of help to you – enjoy the Pearl of Africa, I have since 1992…jon