During August 2008, Uganda Wildlife Authority participated in a bazaar that was organized by Makerere University students. During the bazaar, several students visited the UWA stall, and were given wildlife CDs and posters as part of the awareness creation campaign. Students were also given prizes during the bazaar, with the grand prize being a 3-day fully expenses paid trip for two to either Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) or Queen Elizabeth National Park. Judith Dushimimana, a Psychology student at the university won the grand prize, and was subsequently taken on an unforgettable trip with a friend, Jonah Akandunda, to Murchison Falls, Uganda’s largest national park on 12th September 2008. The two students answered a few questions upon their return, and the excerpts of the interview are produced below:-
QN: Before your trip to Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), had you visited a national park before?
Jonah:- No, I had never been to a national park before.
Judith:- I had only visited Mgahinga Gorilla National Park because I come from nearby.
QN: How did you feel when you entered MFNP?
ANS: We were full of anticipation. We were really excited! We saw baboons near the gate and they were many! We were thinking that may be a wild animal would come and get us if we left the vehicle. Generally, it was amazing to be in such a quiet place.
QN: Where did you stay?
ANS: We stayed at Paraa Safari Lodge.
QN: Did you like it?
ANS: Ha! It was great! They served us very nice juice on arrival. We felt very happy and secure. We felt very well taken care of. Before getting to the lodge, we used the ferry, which was very exciting. We had never used a ferry before. We were mesmerized by how such a huge vessel could move on water and how it changed direction so easily. We arrived in our room and it looked so nice. Afterwards they took us to the dining room, which was also nice. The hospitality was really good. It was a cool place.
QN: What did you do after settling in?
ANS: We took a bath, and then freshened up, and afterwards we sat outside and watched the elephants in a nearby bush. We also saw some hippos at about 7.00pm. There were many tourists swimming. We went to the dining room for supper. They brought us a menu, and we saw there sophisticated dishes that we had never heard of. We almost failed to choose what to eat. After dinner, we watched some movies in the video room at the lodge, and then we went to sleep.
QN: The next day, what did you do?
ANS: We woke up and had breakfast with other tourists. After breakfast, we went for a launch cruise on the Victoria Nile together with some tourists and school children from Masindi town. It was amazing. We saw hippos and crocodiles with their mouths wide open as they enjoyed the sunshine. We heard the hippos calling each other in their language, and they were always gathered together. We also saw many beautiful birds such as the African Fish Eagle, the Pied Kingfisher and saddle-billed stork which has the colours of the Uganda flag on its beak.
QN: How did you feel during the launch cruise?
ANS: We felt very happy because we had never experienced it before. We felt so good, and we did not want it to end. We were mesmerized by the animal behaviour. When we approved the Murchison Falls we could not believe it. It was too much. We had seen pictures of the Murchison Falls but seeing them in reality was simply amazing. We had never seen so much water before. We had lunch after doing the launch cruise and relaxed a bit.
QN: What did you do in the afternoon?
ANS: We went for a game drive. As soon as we started we met many baboons and warthogs. We also saw many elephants with very many young ones. We also saw many Uganda kobs and oribis as wekkas giraffes. My God!! The giraffes were so gentle and elegant! They kept posing for photographs just like the models on the catwalk. We saw the mating grounds for the Uganda Kobs. There were fewer males than females. The grass was really sparse near the mating grounds. We saw lonely buffaloes rolling in muddy waters. We were told that they had been isolated from their herds after growing too old. We saw many isolated buffaloes around the park. We also saw very beautiful scenery in the park.
We went for a second game drive the following morning, and our main interest was to see the lions and leopards. We missed seeing the lions by a whisker because they disappeared behind a bush just as we arrived. Those who got their earlier saw the lions but we were not so fortunate. However we saw a huge leopard sitting in a tree and staring back at us. There were very many people and cars – about 15 cars were parked at the spot with everybody trying to catch a glimpse of the huge leopard. We will never forget that experience. It was amazing. Our guide said we were very lucky because most people have never enjoyed such a spectacle.
QN: Did you see the Murchison Falls?
ANS: Yes we did! We visited the Murchison Falls on the way back to Kampala. It was raining when we got there, so the water was too much. The roaring sound of the Falls was just unbelievable! The pressure of the Falls as the water pumps through the narrow gorge is something we will remember for the rest of our lives. We had not seen so much water in our lives. Unfortunately, our camera had run out of shots, and so I did not take any photographs at The Top of the Falls.
QN: What is your message for the young generation?
ANS: Young people should learn to visit the parks and discover new things in life. Our country is beautiful, and young people should enjoy this beauty. Experience is the best teacher, and we wish to encourage young Ugandans to visit the national parks, because these parks are located in Uganda and it is not good to only find there whites. When you go there, you become a witness to the beauty of this country. For instance, we were shocked to see that warthogs can be used for tourism because in our villages, they are only hunted for meat.
ANS: We thank Uganda Wildlife Authority for conserving our wildlife heritage. You are really doing a great job. Please continue with this spirit.