“Watch out for hippos tonight.” Those words were still resonating in my mind after meeting the Mweya Lodge Manager last night, and this early morning rise, especially in the eve of sunrise, might bring yet again some interesting guests. Alas, the team came together for a quick bite and coffee before our search for the great majestic cat, the lion.
After a drive through a salt lake, formed as a crater in the middle of the park, we headed to Kob-land, a savannah of Queen Elizabeth National Park that has more than a fair share of Ugandan kob, a beautiful mix between antelope and the horns of topi. It didn’t take us long to spot a lion in the midst of the kob population, almost perfectly camouflaged beside a rock, likely to deter attention from the throngs of its prey.
That lion turned into three, and then seven, and by the time our early morning drive came to an end, the team was able to see the impact of national parks beyond its obvious tourism face. Queen Elizaebth National Park extends from the Ruwenzori Mountains down to Lakes Edward and George, spaced between the M’panga River, which we could connect with so closely just back in Kibale. Luckily in the small concentration of tourists (especially in comparison to neighbour Kenya) what we witnessed was a due diligence to keep pollution to a minimum, which driving constrained to the dirt roads, and combined with the boat tour of yesterday, spreading out of tourists to not disturb the natural environments of these splendid species.
As our tour came to a close, we returned to Mweya Lodge to set sail for our next destination, the magic of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Today also marks the end of our time with Dr. Henri Boyi, who unfortunately couldn’t stay for the duration of our journey in order to tie up loose ends and set the stage for French 3140B: Rwanda Society, Culture and Reconstruction next year.
He leaves us with a firm belief in the importance of arts and real humanitarianism in the circle of Global Health. Dr. Boyi’s words yesterday only shed a small light on the true interdependence that we all share as the human species. And that shared blood is why, in this 21st century world, we have to care about the stories of others. Not because of vetted interest, or to mark yourself as a saviour, but because the human condition, including its suffering and its success, is much more connected than we think.
Like the animals in Queen Elizabeth Park, the impact on some of us can be felt in others much more than we think. It is up to us to fight the problems of the world as a collective, not as separate entities with disparaging interests.
We said goodbye and continued our five hour journey to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, passing even some elephant traffic on the road. After some time driving up the hills, quite similar to Rwanda’s Land of a Thousand Hills, we arrived at our lodge topping a breathtaking view over the forest and hills below.
The lodge is run by the Bakiga Project, an NGO dedicated to water treatment and provision to those living in the area, mostly villagers working in agriculture. The lodge is a prime example in innovation in ecotourism – the water tank was built locally, the rooms are tents all built using local or recycled items and there is constant construction to add more amenities to the lodge, with al proceeds going back into its development and the spreading of earnings across the community.
As we had our team dinner to end the evening, we noticed a peculiar paper at the washroom’s entrance. It informed us that in Uganda, the polite way to go to the washroom is to “Go for a Short Call.” Well I guess that explains the many times we waited on ‘phone calls’ for the many locals we had met thus far. In true honour of Dr. Boyi, humour may well be the great connector between every culture.