Over the weekend, I enjoyed an amazing day at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) in Entebbe, thanks to the Jumia Travel team which invited me. I was last there in 2009, so it was great going back!
For starters, if you stay out of Entebbe, I’d recommend you set off early to avoid traffic jam. We left Kampala at around 10 am (though the plan was to set off at 9, but you know ‘African time’ issues … story for another day).
You will need comfortable walking shoes. If you can find a friend(s) to go with, the better. I’m telling you this because you should visit UWEC, especially if you have never visited the center at all or if you haven’t been there in a long time. Sometimes it helps to take some time off work and our daily routines to just enjoy what nature has to offer. On top of that, you get to learn some pretty interesting facts about these animals. And if you are lucky like me, you get to massage a lioness. Yes, true story.
Now, as you start the tour at UWEC, the guide first explains to you how to conduct yourself around these animals. Animals have feelings too, if you treat them harshly, they get angry. And however much they are in captivity, they are still wild animals, therefore you need to respect them. That’s the first lesson you learn.
Then he takes you to a room with elephant skulls, crocodile bones and skeletons of various birds. For example the Ostrich skeleton. That bird is TALL. In fact we were told, it can grow up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) tall! None of the guys we were with could match its height.
From there, the guide explains how merciless people use harrowing methods to capture animals in the wild. When he was illustrating, I felt pity for these animals. They go through a lot, and I mean – a lot of pain. And I noticed, if the current poaching rates don’t reduce, elephants, rhinos, and other iconic African wildlife will be gone within our lifetime. That’s why I join all people who against these practices. We need to stop poaching, by all means.
Did you know you can even contribute some money to UWEC to support some of the endangered species? As low as 10,000 shillings (3 dollars). Aside from helping the animals, you can look at this from another perspective. It is actually a good way for businesses/companies to market themselves. There’s a huge board where, when you contribute an amount, they write your name on it. The board is out in the open … for every one to see. They even add your logo or photo (for the individuals). Who doesn’t love a kind heart?
From here, you begin looking at the animals and you start with the Ostriches (live ones this time). Did you know that Ostriches can sprint to speeds of 70 km per hour, outpacing almost any predator? Aaaand they are bigger than any other bird in the world? But there’s one main funny thing that got my attention. You see with us humans, ladies have to look a certain way. I don’t know if it’s a natural thing or what society makes it look like. The hair has to be on point, the nails are well trimmed and painted. We have to smell good, look good, generally, the ladies are more attractive. Now when it comes to the Ostrich race, the reverse is true. The males are the ones who go for manicures, pedicures and facials so as to look their best. They are the most attractive compared to the females. Male Ostriches have bold black-and-white coloring that they use to attract females. Females, on the other hand, are light brown.
As you continue with the tour, you see the zebras, the cobs, cheetahs, camels, lions, rhinos, waterbucks, chimpanzees, monkeys, owls, snakes, eagles, buffalos, crocodiles, elephants … among others. For each animal, you stop at its spot. The guide gives you statistics and facts about it. Sometimes, the guide lets you touch it and feel its skin. Oh, did I mention that I fed an elephant? Yes, her name is Charlie. She was named after the man who rescued her from drowning at a very tender age. Charlie’s parents and family had been killed and she was lost and a lone till she got rescued. Charlie is a lovely, lovely girl. Well behaved and very calm. It felt good feeding her, touching her skin, asking her to lift her leg? I know, I know. She understands English! All the guide had to do was touch the leg and tell Charlie to lift it. And Charlie did as she was told. Very good girl. It was an unforgettable moment.
Guys, it’s a good thing we have UWEC. The team does a great job of protecting these animals and birds. The ones that are injured in the wild, the ones that are orphaned at a young age, the ones that survive smuggling. All these animals are rescued and brought to the center and given a better life. Isn’t that lovely?
After the tour, which in total is about 1000 meters of walking around, we were served lunch and drinks as we relaxed. (The chicken was delicious!) Being a person who loves being by the lakeside, I had to go feel my feet in the sand. The waves, the breeze from lake Victoria. It was refreshing.
Inside the sanctuary, there are different spots where you can buy some crafts and toys (if you have children, they’ll love them.)
I must say, my day was really fun. Yes at some point my feet started hurting because my shoes were not that comfortable but it was worth it. You should create some time and go see for yourself. You will love it!