The year was 2000 and I was only eleven. I was a village girl who knew nothing much about the world apart from my home town in eastern Uganda. I had no
idea about what the central or other parts of the country offered.
There was always a desire for me to see more of the world. When an opportunity to visit the capital city stroke, I made sure I convinced mother to pay for my trip because I didn’t want to miss out a single bit.
On the D-day for this great tour of Kampala city, 50 pupils boarded a school bus to the capital, the first of its kind for most of them. We visited many places in the city, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (Commonly known as the zoo) being one of them. Twelve years down the road, and I made my second visit to the zoo. The thought of seeing animals again, was fascinating to me.
The nostalgic memories of my last visit to the zoo streamed like a fast flowing river through my mind when I reached the gates of the Center (commonly known as the zoo). Rapidly, I remembered the picture of a little girl of myself on day I came to this cool and quiet place. I instantly recalled being squeezed in a queue with other pupils as we struggled to make entrance into the zoo that day. It was a very hot day, but none of us seemed bothered by the weather as we feasted on baraafu (sweetened, coloured ice) and sweets (never mind that combination, we were only kids).
The place had changed; new structures were now in place for example dormitories and bandas for visitors who spend nights over, restaurants, a research centre, well-built pavements and even a restaurant under construction on Lake Victoria. The place was very inviting that Sunday afternoon unlike the first time I was here. There was no commotion at the entrance.
With the help of a guide, I and my colleague ventured into the mighty zoo. A nature walk through the cool breezed woods, learning about a variety of local herbs made from wild grass and plants was the first activity we enjoyed. Then we toured the caged cats’ family. It was about 3:00pm and many animals were taking their afternoon naps, the cat family inclusive. We toured and admiringly enjoyed views of the caged, spotted leopard, lions, a wild cat and the colourful peacocks.
Then we met baby Charles Hamukungu, an elephant orphaned two years ago from Queen Elizabeth National park by poachers who killed her mother and abandoned him on Hamukungu Island.
Although he was supposed to be grazing, he was literally enjoying his show as tourists stroked and patted his back. Everyone wanted to feel his hard hairy skin as he, in turn used his trunk to greet visitors by sniffing. He would sniff one’s hands using his trunk and move about gently like he was enjoying every bit of the moment. He was a giant little cute thing! Bruce was by his side all the time. (Bruce is the care taker of baby Charles since the time of rescue).
We proceeded to the baboons’ zone where Amiina, one of the oldest has resided together with the grandfather and veteran Zaakayo for over twenty years. I missed seeing the veteran but the memories of amiina, zakayo, fatuma and all others in the family ten years ago was unbelievable. It all looked the same, the place, and the water stream that separates them from tourists…
How the years go by, but mother nature never changes! We toured some more, having a sneak peek into the reptile world, where pythons and other types of snakes rested in corners of a big rock in coils and t
Uganda Wildlife Education centre has expanded its space for Mother Nature. The giraffes and ostriches now have an almost one hectare piece of land for them to exercise some more. This development wasn’t there ten years ago.
When we made our return journey through the bridge that provides a spectacular view of crocodiles basking under the sun that afternoon, I couldn’t help noticing kids having their donkey rides. A thought to have one ride again crossed my mind but I brushed it off quickly.