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Wildlife great and small, nocturnal animals, primates, birds, rodents and reptiles of all shapes and sizes can all be seen at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre. That's quite a mouthful for what is locally still known as the Entebbe Zoo. And if a day at the zoo is not enough, there is the option of spending the night there in an African hut, surrounded by grazing and slumbering animals.
The zoo is home to hundreds of species, from lions to leopards, buffalo, baboons, rhinos and elephants. As in every other zoo, the eccentric-looking animals are the most popular: check out De Brazza's monkey with his black crest and white beard, or the Shoe-billed stork with its shoe-shaped bill used for swallowing snakes, turtles or even a young crocodile. Special activities are available at an additional fee, such as a behind-the-scenes tour or an encounter with our closest relative, the chimpanzee.
The zoo was founded in 1952 at a beautiful location on the shores of Lake Victoria. The British settlers opened the zoo as a shelter for animals that were sick, orphaned or rescued from the hands of poachers and smugglers, and it continues this role to the present time. In the 1960s, the zoo also acquired and displayed non-native animals such as bears and tigers, but over the course of several decades the number of visitors fell and the zoo was neglected. Things changed when the Entebbe Zoo, under the leadership of the New York Zoological Society, was transformed into the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), a successful cross between a traditional zoo and a safari park, with a focus on education. A network of paths and walkways leads visitors over the 30-hectare site, past animals and through the forest. Along the way you will also learn about the trees, plants, flowers and herbs and their medicinal effect. The UWEC is the ideal educational preparation for a safari in one of Uganda's wildlife reserves.
“UWEC is a successful cross between a traditional zoo and safari park”
There are few zoos that allow overnight visitors but the Entebbe Zoo certainly does. There are apartments and cheap bunk beds in a dorm, but the most fun is a stay in a banda, an authentic African round stone hut with a pointy thatched roof. The basic but adequate accommodation is furnished with beds with mosquito nets, a small bathroom and a kitchenette, all for 25 euros a night. The huts are set in the zoo grounds among the peacefully grazing animals. Dinner can be enjoyed in a simple restaurant on the waterfront. The zoo is also a convenient starting point for a trip to the chimpanzees on Ngamba Island; the boat departs just across from the zoo.