Doctors discover the beauty of Uganda’s wild side

For a moment he stopped grazing and lifted his huge head to look at the cruise ship. This provided a great shot of her beauty to photographers. Hippos are known to graze at night, but this was our chance to see them enjoying the savannah grasslands on the banks of the 40 kilometer Kazinga Channel that connects Lakes Edward and George in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

“It’s so huge!” Lilian Niwabaine said happily, drawing a chuckle from her husband Frederick Luyima who joked that the animal was so big but with small ears and short legs.

Well, the Easter holidays were a great time to party. Nuwabaine and Martin Lubega were the reason we were on this excursion. Both are recipients of the Heroes in Health Awards, a public-private partnership project instituted in 2019 to reward and recognize outstanding individuals, entities, organizations, services, products and programs of the Ministry of Health.

Niwabaine is the recipient of Midwife of the Year while Lubega was Nurse of the Year in the annual awards. Part of the event’s sponsors, Signature Africa, chose to take the winners with their wives on a wildlife safari at Queen Elizabeth National in Kasese, South West Uganda.

For the duo, it was a deserved break from 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 savannah landscapes, wild quails, guinea fowl and kites.

The King of the Jungle was elusive, only sighted by two lucky groups. Tourists in the park were mostly Ugandans, at nearly 70% or so, which was encouraging to see the locals’ adoption of domestic travel.

The winners stayed at Mweya Safari Lodge where businessman Godfrey Kirumira was happy to comment on the need for Ugandans to visit Uganda instead of always prioritizing Dubai and other destinations.

“I am so happy to be in Mweya. I appreciated. I call on Ugandans and all who are concerned with tourism to encourage and educate people about local tourism as our culture is not good at supporting domestic tourism. We’re just going out and we believe it’s better than ours,” observes Kirumira.

He adds: “We have better offers than what we see outside. We need to let Ugandans know about this so they can start enjoying their own facilities. I went on game drive and am going to Lake Edward to see more. I have seen Kenyans enjoying the beauty of their country, and we can do the same and spend money in our economy.

Niwabaine, 33, Continuing Professional Development Coordinator for the Maternity and Newborn Project at the Aga Khan University Hospital, says people like her are unsung heroes who feel honored to be recognized and rewarded with a trip to visit and exploring the gems of Uganda which was a good experience.

“I feel excited. I enjoyed the boat cruise on which I got to see a variety of animals, many of which I had never seen before. The walk around the park was revealing of the beauty of Uganda. I wish and hope that health workers are recognized for the good work they do. I like the fact that I was able to come with my spouse. I thank the organizers of the awards, the ministry and Signature Africa and my family,” says Niwabaine.

Until the Easter holiday trip, Lubega confesses he had last been to Queen Elizabeth National Park when he was in primary school. He was surprised by the avalanche of nature.

“Uganda is a unique country with many things worth exploring. From North to South, from East to West, each region is unique. With our many tribes, each comes with a unique culture, people, heritage, and each of them can make a great package for tourism; music, dances, food and language. Everyone should be interested in finding out what there is in other parts of the country. Uganda remains a number one destination for those wishing to appreciate the flora and fauna of the tropics,” observes Lubega, 27, a nurse at the Wakiso Comprehensive Institute of Health Sciences.

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

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