Uganda Conservation Foundation

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Day 2: Kampala to Entebbe

10:00 - Kampala Sheraton Hotel

Having had a very nice breakfast and a few more hours trying to sort out the Go-Pro I headed down to find Percy and the boys from the Elite VW Club UG.  The boys had insisted they would escort me to Entebbe and I liked the idea of a convoy of VW's. Quick top-up of fuel and then we hit the road.

13:30 - Entebbe

After quite a few stops to adjust the camera (at one point it had completely flipped around and was taking photos under the roof rack), change who would have the camera and try and keep other vehicles out of the convoy, we finally reached Entebbe.  Despite the lousy weather, and the rain drops on the camera, it was a fun drive with each of us taking turns at going in the lead. 

Entebbe - The Road to Nowhere

For me personally and for a lot of my friends Entebbe is associated with the airport and that's about it. But Entebbe actually has a lot more to offer, it has the Botanical Gardens and UWEC - Entebbe Zoo as well as being the departure point for trips to Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary and the Ssesse Islands. 

Ngamba Island

We had hoped to get to Ngamba Island but unfortunately there was no one else going out that day.  If you do have the time to visit you really should, it's well worth it. 

Ngamba Island is a project of the Chimpanzee Trust Uganda formerly (CSWCT), and was established in 1998 to care for the orphaned chimpanzees confiscated from poachers by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and other partners.  Dr Jane Goodall is a avid supporter of the island and makes regular visits.  In fact I had the privilege meeting her on my first visit to the island in 2002. 

The island is part of the Koome group of islands in Lake Victoria and is approximately 23 km south-east of Entebbe.  It consists of approximately 100 acres, 98 of which are forested and separated from the visitors area by an electric fence. The sanctuary was officially opened to visitors in October 1999 and is currently home to 40 orphaned chimpanzees who cannot be returned to the wild. The only way to get to the island is by boat which takes about 50 minutes each way.  
The sanctuary offers, half day, full day and overnight visits and includes entrance to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. A maximum of 25 visitors per feeding session are allowed and bookings must be made through an authorised booking agent.

Whist the chimps are free to roam their 98 acres during the day, an island even this size of cannot sustain a large community of chimpanzees in terms of their nutritional requirements so the chimps are supplement fed to ensure they receive a healthy and balanced diet.  Visits to the sanctuary are timed around this feeding: 11:00AM and 2:30PM daily, when all the chimps return to an area with raised platforms running along the edge enclosure.   

What makes Ngamba special is the dedication of its caretakers, the chimps are their family and the care and dedication is obvious from the moment you arrive. 

UWEC - Entebbe Zoo

Unable to visit Ngamba Island we decided to spend some time exploring UWEC - Entebbe Zoo.

The Uganda Wildlife Centre (UWEC) was opened in 1952 by the then Colonial Government, as an animal Orphanage that offered sanctuary to young animals found sick or abandoned in protected areas due to the death or poaching of parent animals. In the early 1960s, it became a traditional zoo until 1994 when it was converted into a wildlife education centre. 

All the animals at UWEC have been rescued from poachers, illegal trade or accidents. The animals are brought to the centre by government agencies, animal welfare groups and concerned citizens. The great thing about UWEC is that it is not a traditional zoo, so they do not capture or purchase animals to show here. As well as the Centre itself, UWEC is also involved in School and Community Outreach programmes and we saw many school groups on tour while we were there.

Over 50 different animal species are represented by over 200 animals, all housed in large, open air enclosures, simulating their natural habitat in the wild, with interpretations about each animal.  The centre is also a bird watchers' paradise where one can watch over 250 bird species and for photographers, an excellent close-up photo opportunity for wildlife in an environment very similar to the wild.

At the recent 25th annual conference for the African Association of Zoo's and Aquaria (PAAZAB) UWEC staff received a number of significant awards. Jimmy Awary, currently the curator at UWEC was presented with 'Best Animal Keeper' and James Musinguzi, the Executive Director won the Bernard Harrison Conservation Award 2014. 

There are a number of tours available including  The Inside-Look-Tour / Behind the Scenes or you can simply wander around yourself, which is what we did.  It was when we wandered over to where the giraffes are that something else attracted our attention.     

Special appeal from the boys - whoever owns this beauty please get in contact we have a team ready, willing and able to help you restore it !!

UWEC is open 7 days a week so if you have a late departure flight its a great way to fill in a few hours while making a direct contribution to the work they do.  


Saying goodbye to the boys I headed off to Carpe Diem Guest House where I would be staying the night and catching up with a few old friends for a drink or two. 


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