Medics discover the beauty of Uganda’s wild side

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  • “He is so huge!” Lilian Nuwabaine gleefully said, attracting a chuckle from her husband Frederick Luyima who joked alluding to the animal being so big but with little ears and short legs.

For a moment, it stopped grazing and lifted its huge head to look at the cruising boat. This provided a stunning head shot of its beauty for photographers. Hippos are known to graze in the night, but it was our chance to see them enjoy the savanna grasslands on the shorelines of the 40-kilometre Kazinga Channel which connects lakes Edward and George in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

“He is so huge!” Lilian Nuwabaine gleefully said, attracting a chuckle from her husband Frederick Luyima who joked alluding to the animal being so big but with little ears and short legs.

Well, the Easter holidays were a good time to make merry. Nuwabaine and Martin Lubega were the reason we were out on this excursion. The two are winners of Heroes in Health Awards, a public-private partnership project instituted in 2019 to reward and recognise outstanding individuals, entities, organisations, services, products, and programmes by Ministry of Health.

Nuwabaine is recipient of the Midwife of the Year while Lubega was Nurse of the Year in the annual awards. Part of the event sponsors, Signature Africa, chose to take the winners with their spouses, on a wildlife safari to Queen Elizabeth National in Kasese, southwestern Uganda.

To the duo, it was a deserved break off their normal schedules as health workers to explore the pristine beauty of the park on a morning game drive during which they saw Uganda Kobs, warthogs, herds of buffaloes, elephants, antelopes, beautiful savanna landscapes, wild quails, guinea fowls, and kites.

The king of the jungle was elusive, only sighted by two lucky groups. The tourists in the park were mostly Ugandans, almost by about 70 per cent, which was encouraging to notice the uptake of domestic travel by locals.

Uganda first

The winners stayed at Mweya Safari Lodge where businessman Godfrey Kirumira was happy to offer a comment about the need for Ugandans to visit Uganda as opposed to always prioritising Dubai and other  destinations.

“I am so happy to be in Mweya. I have enjoyed. I call upon Ugandans and all those concerned in tourism to encourage and inform people about local tourism because our culture is not good at supporting domestic tourism. We only go out and we believe that it is better than ours,” Kirumira observes.

He adds, “We have better offerings than what we see outside. We need to inform Ugandans about them so that they can start enjoying their own facilities. I have gone for a game drive, and I am going to Lake Edward to see more. I have seen Kenyans enjoy the beauty of their country, and we can do the same and spend money in our economy.”

Nuwabaine,33, a continuous professional development coordinator on the maternity and new-born baby project at Aga Khan University Hospital, says people like herself are unsung heroes who feel honoured to be recognised and rewarded with a trip to visit and explore gems of Uganda which has been a good experience.

“I feel excited. I have enjoyed the boat cruise on which I have been able to see a variety of animals, many that I have never seen before. The drive around the park was eye-opening about the beauty of Uganda. I wish and hope that health workers are recognised for the good job they do. I like the fact that I was able to come with my spouse. I thank organisers of the awards, the ministry and Signature Africa and my family,” Nuwabaine explains.

Until the Easter Holidays’ trip, Lubega confesses he had last been to Queen Elizabeth National Park when he was in Primary Four. He was taken aback by the avalanche of nature.

“Uganda is a unique country with many things that are worth exploring. From North to South, East to West, each region is unique. With our many tribes, each comes with a unique culture, people, heritage, and each of these can make an excellent package for tourism; the music, the dances, the food, and language. Every one ought to interest themselves in discovering what is in the other parts of the country. Uganda remains a number one destination for those interested in appreciating flora and fauna in the tropics,” observes 27-year-old Lubega, a nurse at Wakiso Comprehensive Institute of Health Sciences.

He has visited three national parks out of the 10  in Uganda. He has been busy researching and publishing use of herbal medicine in the management of children with sickle cell disease and Covid-19 in peer review journals.