Tours & Travel

AMOS WEKESA: Genesis of Uganda Lodges Ltd (Part 1)

Amos Masaba Wekesa, is a businessman, entrepreneur and corporate executive in Uganda, who is the founder, proprietor and managing director of Great Lakes Safaris Limited, a tour operating company, in the African Great Lakes region

Amos Masaba Wekesa, is a businessman, entrepreneur and corporate executive in Uganda, who is the founder, proprietor and managing director of Great Lakes Safaris Limited, a tour operating company, in the African Great Lakes region

Like everything in life, you don’t need to know the end from the start because you will be learning so much along the way and that’s why no one should lie to you about the so many secrets of doing business.

In 2001 April, I started up Safaris Uganda and the biggest motivation I had, I have already written/spoken about it many times before. Ofcourse I had acquired tourism basic skills and the rest I would learn on the job like in everything we do in life.

We spent 9 months in briefcase as a business and that means I had a bag that had our invoice book, receipts and sometimes would host my Nokia phone.

I would issue an invoice and a receipt anytime business came by.

People like me start out with intentions of mainly fighting either hunger or bitting poverty and along the way, you realise you can actually do bigger things.

If you are a hardworking person and you have some money management ideas, you will quickly achieve your basic needs(food
The reality about life is that if you haven’t gotten over the fight for basics (food, shelter and clothing), you will never dream or pursue bigger goals. You need to settle your basics before you start dreaming serious stuff.

With help of friends/former satisfied clients like Annegien Seubring who kept referring people to Safaris Uganda plus appearing in Washington Times on 22nd Nov 2002( by a satisfied client as well), we took off very well and there I knew no more fight for basics if we kept having satisfied clients.

End of 2005, we had saved up some money not much and I thought its possible we can own a Safari Lodge in a national park. I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

Accommodations in national parks weren’t run by Ugandans, many thought it could only be done by foreigners.

Ours was to run small briefcase tourism businesses.

Somehow Uganda wildlife authority advertises for a private sector person to take over the space where Primate Lodge Kibale is now.

I ask a good friend of mine, who is also excellent in proposal writing; Joseph Muyeti. I paid my dues and Joseph did the documentation. We won by 2 dollar difference from the second company.

The reality is that both Ugandans were in the room as they read out figures plus the second contenders ( South African guys) were both very disappointed that I had won.

I was in a dirty, tight jeans and I simply told both parties that I had won and I walked out of the room. I knew I had a battle ahead.

Indeed the battle started in January 2006, and on 12th December 2006, I was handed over the sight, but with very little hope I would develop it.

The South African guys had been told I was going to fail and they would be handed over the site somewhere during 2007.
I was determined by something they didn’t see.

We did an environmental impact assessment by the end of March 2007. We had engaged Allan Semakula, the Architect. We only had a budget to do the interaction area ( restaurant etc).

We were ready to do something. I didn’t have knowledge about managing a Lodge, well faint idea because I had been a guide.
Wait for part 2 which will be talking about the struggles of our first Lodge and how we started learning how to run Safari Lodges.

Below is how our first primate lodge kibale looked like.

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