Towards the end of 2005, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) called for expression of interest in running two rooms that existed in Kibale National Park and I thought since there was no indigenous Ugandans seriously running an accommodation inside a national park, I would give it a try.
I contacted Joseph Muyeti to write a winning proposal as Damian Akakwasa had told me, its not fair that there was no indigenous Ugandan concessioner during their meetings. He thought it was a good idea some Ugandans give it a try.
Anyway, Muyeti wrote a very beautiful proposal which gave us 72% on the technical requirements and therefore, two of us qualified for the financial part of the bid.
It was about 3rd January 2006 when they opened financial bids in front of all of us and I remember I was in a dirty jeans because I had been in the field. On reading the figures we had won by just 2 dollars but what I realized was that both sides were so disappointed that Great Lakes had won.
I was shocked that Ugandans in the room were disappointed that I beat someone who was not Ugandan.
I knew I was up for a battle and I told myself that battle must be won. I had bitter exchange with the guys for 1 yr. On 12th December 2006, they gave to us but in my face told me, I couldn’t manage and that I was going to fail ( i will mention names in my book). A gentleman called James Bahinguza joined me in the fight and that helped.
Anyhow, we did our impact assessment by April 2007 and engaged the little resource in the building and by August 2007, we were hosting our first clients in a tented camp. Of course people couldn’t stop assuring me about it that I wouldn’t take long. I knew it was a lonely long walk to freedom.
Anyway, the rats couldn’t spare our tents, the forest wasn’t just the right place for tents but we had no resources and we had other competing needs. We started to make sure, our financial reserves grew as some people thought, they wont manage.
Eight years down the road, we had saved up enough money to redo the lodge which is the work you see now.
We also made very many mistakes and through those, we have learnt how things don’t work – thankfully.