Majestic giraffe grazing on high tree branches and loping across open grasslands. A mother cheetah perched watchfully atop a grassy knoll, her fuzzy cubs playfully surrounding her. An array of exotic birds passing overhead as a lion family lazily soaks up the sun, shockingly close to the nearby visitors’ jeep. These animals and more are subjects of safaris in Uganda, the East African country named the “Pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill.
What sets the Uganda experience apart from other major safari destinations—Kenya, Tanzania, etc.—is the presence of the mountain gorilla, a species only found in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Visitors from all over the world come to Uganda to see and study the fascinating mountain gorillas in their natural habitats, and one member of the Faith Travel Association providing safaris with a gorilla component is Kisa Safaris.
What makes Kisa Safaris unique, however, is not its nature safaris, but its special offerings for faith travelers. Rather than featuring a famous faith destination or holy site as the centerpiece of a tour, the company offers the opportunity to live out one’s faith in a way that makes a real difference.
From tragedy to triumph
Moses Muwanguzi, owner and founder of Kisa Safaris, is a native of Kizigo, a village in the Buikwe district of Uganda. Based on the success of his tour company and his big smile, one would never know the tragedies of his past.
At age 14, Moses was orphaned. “I lost my parents and I cried, but no one was there to hear me,” explains Moses. With no way to pay the required school fees, and therefore no way to finish his education, Moses seemed headed toward a life of poverty.
Luckily for Moses, a local church took him in, and it was there that a group of missionaries from California met him during a visit. One couple in the group asked Moses how they could help him, and he told them he hoped to be able to attend school. The couple sponsored him so that he could finish his education, and Moses was able to earn a business degree.
“In my village there were many other children like me, without parents or living in absolute poverty, making it impossible for them to attend school. I know how it feels to not be able to go to school, so I decided that I wanted to give the hope of education to these children, just like the American missionaries had given to me, and I started a school in my village to help the children who need an education.”
Standing in an empty field, Moses made a declaration that he would one day build a school in that spot, and indeed he did—in just 15 months. Together with carpenters and plumbers from his village, construction crews from Kampala and volunteer groups from the U.S., Moses worked hard to see his dream come true.
The Emmaus School currently has 720 children enrolled, all of whom would not have the hope of an education without this school. “Many of the students are orphans, some have single mothers, some live with grandmothers and some have parents who are extremely poor, earning less than one dollar a day,” says Moses. “My goal with this school is to support these children to get a quality education to bring light to my village.”
Moses admits that building the school was not easy, and yet he worked to add a high school as well. He funded the school through donations and through his own company. Moses donates 10 percent of all tour package revenues to the school. Says Moses, “I must be a good steward of what God has provided for the children of my village.”
Uganda’s faith travel options
One obvious option for faith travel in Uganda is taking in the beauty of God’s creation through the various safaris offered by Kisa. Uganda is known for its lush, green landscape and for Lake Victoria, the second-largest fresh water lake in the world. The source of the Nile can be found in Uganda, as well as 1,500 bird species and many zebras, lions, elephants and, of course, the mountain gorillas and chimpanzees.
Kisa Safaris has a three-day gorilla tracking expedition in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park as one of its tour options. This journey includes visiting local communities known for their crafts and fruits, crossing the equator, and seeing mountains and rain forests en route to the park where the gorillas live. In the gorillas’ habitat, you can also see other primates, such as baboons, chimps and monkeys, as well as 350 species of birds and 310 butterfly species.
The most unique faith-travel experience that Kisa Safaris offers, however, is what Moses refers to as a “humanitarian tour.” During this type of program, you select a safari from the many options Kisa offers and pair that with two or three days at The Emmaus School, where you volunteer your time as a way to give back and live your faith in a real-world way.
Moses is open to whatever talents you can bring: “I am looking for people to help with maintaining the building, but also to work with the children. If you can teach or read stories to the children, that would be wonderful. Some groups might want to hold Vacation Bible School or Bible camps, and those trained in medical fields might want to set up a medical clinic.” In short, Moses welcomes everyone with whatever talents they have.
While Moses wants to bring light to his village, his version of faith travel is spreading light to the entire world.
Top photo: Gorilla tracking tour
Photos by Kisa Safaris