Thursday, 3 March 2016

A Failed Attempt at Snuggling Lions: A quick adventure in Entebbe

Last weekend marked our first post-election weekend, which meant Aaron and I were not housebound! Seeking a break from Kampala and our flat, we decided to finally make our way to Entebbe to see Reptile Village - something we'd been planning on doing since our arrival five months ago! However, after some research, we learned about a few other options, and decided to focus on those, rather than spending time with only reptiles. These alternatives included the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre and the Entebbe Botanical Gardens.

I will admit, I am not a fan of zoos. My dislike for these attractions is just that - they've become attractions rather than educational tools, as they were originally intended. This strong aversion to such places was solidified after a disappointing visit to the world renowned Zoo Atlanta a few years back. However, after a number of my local friends insisted I pay a visit, I decided to give in just this once. I was also assured that it was an education centre first and foremost.

The trip to Entebbe wasn't too bad. We took a taxi-van from Kampala, and the single trip lasted about 45 minutes with multiple stops along the way. We had debated between this mode of transport or taking bodas, which we were thankful we'd opted out of as it rained quite heavily along the way.

The Uganda Wildlife Education Centre began in 1952. Its mandate was to take in and care for animals that had been confiscated by smugglers. Today, it still maintains that mandate, only many of the animals found in the Centre were found at Entebbe Airport - the country's international airport. Other residents have been injured, abandoned, or were considered to dangerous too be in the wild.

Our arrival at the Education Centre was met with a massive group of small children. As you can imagine, this was not such a delightful welcome gift for me. But, luckily, we were able to bypass them for the most part! When we entered the park, we were greeted by a young man, a guide by the name of Bright. And with that, we began our adventure...

Aaron learned the hard way that such things bring on the small child in me... I think he was a bit scared.
Our first stop was at at the Queen Victoria Park exhibit, named after the animals found within its namesake. This area included zebras, waterbuck, and a four-year-old elephant named, Charles. Charles is a resident of the park that falls under the 'abandoned' category. He was found in the wild, without parents in sight. It is believed that his parents had been poached.

Charles is munching on some greens. Aaron did not seem impressed
at the level of enthusiasm I had when saying good-bye to him...
Next we visited the area that will eventually house cheetahs. At the moment there are more zebras and waterbuck, some antelope-esque friends, and a few ostriches.

There were plenty of other animals to view, including buffalo and even a reptile house that had various snakes! But then we stubbled upon the crocodile pen... there are two that live here, but we were only able to see one*. Bright informed us that the one we did see had been accused of munching on some of the locals from the area he was taken from. He was going to be killed, but instead the Centre rescued him. Next to the croc pen was a lone otter. He wasn't overly active. Both fall under the "animals that are jerks" category.

This little guy is approximately 50 years old. He came to the Centre after snacking on  7 or 8 humans.
And this sir, is separate from his 'lady friend' after he attempted
to eat their child... Someone's not getting Father of the Year!
After visiting the collection of not-so-nice residents, we made our way in search of something I'd never seen in real-life before - a gee-a-riff-y, also known as a giraffe. Unfortunately, the giraffe was in the distance, so we didn't get a great view but it was still pretty neat to see! There are two others at the Centre that are currently in the integration stage. However, along the way we found a really cool tree, and that, of course, required a photo-op.

Yes. I am wearing a MegaMan t-shirt. 
If you really squint, you can see the giraffe. He was pretty far away.

Next was a trip to Chimp Island. Here were saw a bunch of chimpanzees relaxing under the hot sun. They weren't overly playful, but it was really fun to watch them nonetheless. We also learned that when one celebrates its birthday, they put out a cake for them to enjoy! Lucky chimps! I want some birthday cake...

A few shots of Chimp Island. They actually cross a bridge each night to the house where they sleep.
Not gonna lie, I'm kind of considering joining them if this 'big girl job' thing doesn't work out...

The final stops included an aviary, which held a variety of birds, including shoebills. I don't have any shots of them as they were behind a mesh enclosure. They were pretty ugly**, but made a really nifty noise... like two clogs clunking together! There were plenty of other animals, as well, including two of my favourites - white rhinos, and LIONS!!!!!!

These rhinos are two of only 17 remaining in the country! 
Anyone who knows me will understand how excited I was to see this guys... well
guy and three gals! I love lions. It's my dream to snuggle one. Maybe next time...

Afterwards we took a quick 'forest walk' to escape the heat before parting ways with Bright. Then we made our way to the Botanical Gardens.

The Entebbe Botanical Gardens is just a short boda trip from the Wildlife Centre. It opened in 1901 and holds a variety of different plants, trees and flowers. It's also, apparently, where scenes from the original Tarzan series was filmed.

A view of the Gardens. That's Lake Victoria in the background!
A few other shots from inside.

What is, perhaps, most entertaining about this site isn't just the quietness of it all, or the enjoyable walk you take, but the monkeys!


Aaron makes a friend.
So, when all is said and done, was I impressed with the Wildlife Centre? Kind of. For the most part, I found the enclosures were really small, and often inadequate. BUT, I appreciate that most of the animals have been spared otherwise unpleasant lives. My hope is that this is only a short term solution for them, though. And the Botanical Gardens, while beautiful, aren't really worth the USh10 000 (about CAD$4). But, if I were to return, I'd definitely pack a lunch and enjoy a quiet picnic!

For an alternative visual of our day, including some fun with monkeys, check out the video!

Not sure what the next adventure will bring, or when it will take place. It's becoming harder to believe how quickly these last five months have gone by. There's just a little under two months left of my internship, and I'm not really looking forward to parting ways with this beautiful country...

-the Orange Canadian

*Seriously, for much of the visit we were unable to see many of the animals. It was kind of like the initial run-though of Jurassic Park, BEFORE the T-Rex started eating people...
**But are actually kind of adorable once you look at them for a while!

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