Planning was complete. All my work to get in shape for the gorilla trek was done. I’d gone over the itinerary online and in booklet form at least a dozen times and had sought insight from a friend who had done a similar trip several years ago. Still, I know from experience, that there is no way to totally prepare. There’s excitement and, yes, a little fear. It was finally here.
After three flights, I located my bags and officially entered Uganda. It’s always a relief to arrive at an unfamiliar destination, find all your luggage has arrived and know someone is there to provide safe transportation to your lodging. I’d arrived several days before the official tour began so I could get over my jet lag and add some wonderful solo adventures on the front end. The Boma in Entebbe provided lodging for the first few days. My room was elegant and comfortable. I settled in for what I hoped would be some decent sleep.
I was up early and had a wonderful breakfast, with bacon. Yum!
I studied my map so I’d know where I was going prior to leaving the hotel, hoping I wouldn’t look so touristy. Ha! As if being the only person dressed in safari gear carrying a sling bag didn’t scream tourist. Still, I was confident in my direction and plan. Today’s adventure included a visit to UWEC, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. The roadway was very busy with lots of motorbikes and cars. Motorbikes seem to be the primary mode of transportation and function as taxis. After watching all the near misses, I was really glad to be on foot.
I crossed the street to continue on my way and ended up walking near a group of children, one who immediately ran up and took my hand. She was about eight years old with a big smile on her face. We didn’t speak the same language but we laughed and walked together for a block or two. It was one of the special moments of my first day in Uganda. Not long after, a young man named Patrick joined me, hoping to be my tour guide. He was very friendly and knowledgable. Patrick works at the local golf club and is an amateur golfer.
The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre was established to provide a home for animals who have been confiscated from the pet trade or are otherwise unable to go back to the wild. Samuel volunteered to show Patrick and I around the property. He is fascinating and so passionate about the organization and each of the animals who make it home. The Centre received help from the Bronx Zoo in setting up the yards so that they were as animal friendly as possible. Samuel helped with some of the construction and volunteers his time to educate visitors. He knows the animals by name and they respond to him.
Not only did Samuel have a way with the animals, but the children loved him as well.
Samuel had thrown this chimpanzee some food and the chimp used a stick to get the food close enough to grab out of the water.
I enjoyed visiting the centre. Samuel was such a great example of how a guide can enhance a visitor’s experience. As a volunteer guide at the Denver Zoo myself, I learned so much from him. Thanks Samuel!
Just as I was getting ready to leave, three small children entered the zoo with their mom. They ran right up to me and held my hand with big smiles on their faces. I was so touched, it brought tears to my eyes. They were beautiful and so happy.
Patrick made sure I made it back to my hotel safely, with more good conversation along the way. If you are interested in a guide to see you around Entebbe, he’s the one.
My first day in Uganda far exceeded expectations. As you all know, I love wildlife and new adventures, but I find that the people make it extra special. From the smiling children to my knowledgable and friendly guides, I had hit the jackpot. And…after 19,000+ steps, I enjoyed my gin and tonic (an African tradition), a steak and a good night’s sleep.