Following the long awaited procurement of specialized game viewing vehicles, Toyota land cruiser pick-ups with stretched wheel base cabins, half cut doors and convertible canvass tops, all is set for the roll out of the night game drives as a unique product in the savanna parks.
The customized trucks well fitted with an FM/AM/SW radio with two speakers, radio antenna, digital clock in the driver's cabin have each a sitting capacity of nine. They are also fitted with a fridge and charging systems for digital cameras and mobile phone sets, let alone a removable Tracker suit which can be fixed on the bonnet.
According to the UWA Business Development Manager (BDM) Mr. Stephen Masaba, "we expect delivery of 5 night game drives to be used to enhance tourism experience within the parks. The batch of the first two is ready to be handed to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Park respectively. The rest will be received by end of year".
Plans are underway to publically launch the vehicles in the selected national parks any time in November in time for the forthcoming festive season.
Adds Mr. Masaba, "The launch of the night game drives in the PAs will be one of the ways in which we plan to enhance visitor experience during park visits but also generate extra revenue through additional engagement in the night to view rare nocturnal wildlife species. It is expected to attract a specialist safari niche".
The open vehicles which are covered on top provide a better chance for good visibility at night when compared to covered vehicles. They will be fitted with spotlights. Night game drives are conducted at night from an open game drive vehicle with the aid of a powerful searchlight.
Although plenty of game is seen during the day, a night safari gives an entirely different perspective of the park. You can see some animals that are nocturnal, such as leopard, hyena, hippo, porcupine, genets, civets, bush babies, various reptiles, owls and night jars.
The night game drive is also an experience for the senses; listening to the night sounds and learning more about the African stars.
The activities will be piloted in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National parks but later will extend to Lake Mburo National Park and Kidepo. Other parks will be considered as and when an evaluation and feasibility of their operations is assessed.
The night game drives will entail a Sundowner experience where visitors will be driven to designated picnic or view points and remain in this area, the night game drive itself, where visitors will be driven along specified routes in a vehicle fitted with a powerful spot light to enhance their view and sighting.
Other experiences will include a night Bush-life experience: For the adventurous, a night bush-life experience can be arranged. The lodge owner in consultation with park management will drive visitors to an open place in the bush for an early bush dinner. Then the night game drive and star gazing will begin en route to the lodge.
Visitors may be driven back to the lodge at 20:00hrs or do a night game drive before returning to the lodge later by 2200 hrs. Night game drives may be Ordinary (short) night game drive or Exclusive (long) night game drives that links with boat cruise or include bush dinner.
The night game drives will cost $40 per person for Foreigners and UGX 40,000 for the East Africans while the day game drives will cost USD 30 for foreigners and UG 30,000 shillings for East Africans.