Minutes after 4am, I finally arrived in Kasese town, western Uganda. Home of the mighty Rwenzori Mountains. The night was still and quiet as the wind sent out a strong chill. Boda boda riders recoiled in jackets.
As the bus screeched to a final halt, the riders sprung to their feet and started their motorcycles to chance upon a customer.
People who dotted the street shielded their faces from the wind. As we disembarked, many locals walked into different directions.
Two gentlemen from Kasenyi Safari Camp had been waiting to pick me up. This humbled me. We had been in touch from when I initiated contact with Phillip Kiboneka, the proprietor of the camp.
After exchanging courtesies, we headed out into the dark from Kasese town and into Queen Elizabeth National Park. Simple talk through the drive to the park as we occasionally hit potholes and bumps kept us awake. The bus trip was long and I had spent much of it napping. As we drove, a leopard crossed the road. We stopped to watch it disappear into the thicket.
We were close to the camp, bringing hope to be there finally. Travelling in the dark was not any comfort and the fatigue after a rocky travel was more tiring.
At Safari camp
Meeting Kiboneka was the opportunity to break ice with someone I had spoken to a bit about tourism and the final agreement to visit his facility. “Would you mind a cup of coffee?” he asked to which I obliged. Conversation was saved for the next morning after some deserved rest. There was a security guard, with a torch, to escort us to the tent. As we sloped, he explained to me that it is important to have the light since the camp is in jungle, home to wildlife, at the lip of Lake Bunyampaka in the Kasenyi.
Interior of nests
The rooms are tented with canvas for walls and a mini-gate held together by a wooden door and walls on both sides, to let you in. I could have waited for the natural light to fully appreciate what lay in the rooms. The most obvious was the big and well-laid bed, covered in white bed sheets and a couple of invitingly strewn pillows and cushions.
All this was closed in by an overflowing mosquito net. There were two bedside tables, a reading table, a couch. When I turned the taps, the water was warm and bathroom big and a shower cabinet made of concrete but in an open space arrangement. If I were on honeymoon, I would comfortably have a conversation with my companion as they brushed. The floor was of fine, vanished wood.
At cockcrow, I woke up to the bright sunrise that sipped through the open canvas windows that led to the terrace which offered a view of the salty lake with salty blocks.
I saw red feet, flamingos in big numbers feeding from the saline. The breakfast call came through a soft voice. “Tea, coffee, juice, fruits, bacon, bread and more!”
Kiboneka shared some tales as we dug into the heavy early meal on the deck that offers a raise view of the salty lake.
Passion for nature
As a boy, he was exposed to nature, wildlife and landscapes.
His father, Dr Gad Kiboneka, a medical doctor was a career nomad of sorts. He would be posted from place to place which exposed his family to different parts of the country. One day, he was posted to Tooro which was an opportunity to visit Kabalega National Park, which Queen Elizabeth II visited and later named after her.
Many years later, Kiboneka left Uganda for exile and subsequently to USA where he made some money. When he saved enough, he chose to invest back in Queen Elizabeth. So, he built the lodge.
Catching a glance at wildlife
We went to Kasese for shopping and saw some animals along the way. The optical treat was the next morning at a game drive during which we saw more wildlife in their natural environs, of crested cranes in pairs, warthogs on their knees feeding, hippos so big with dwarfed feet, buffaloes enjoying a morning bath in mud, birds on trees and more. Kasenyi proves that wildlife can share home with domesticated fellows.
There are four tents all with en-suite bathrooms, spacious living areas and private decks. Many animals frequent the camp during day and at night. Lion prides, hippo, leopard, buffalo, elephant, waterbuck, kob, hyena and wart hog are frequently seen. The night comes alive with sounds of hyenas howling and lions roaring.
You might love to see
This is one of the most endangered species. Chosen as Uganda’s Crest (national symbol) nearly 100 years ago, is one of the most cherished birds in the country. This bird inhabited Uganda’s swamps and fields long before the coming of tribes in our territory and you can catch them at Kasenyi Safari Camp.
En route to Kasese Town, where much of the shopping is done you will not miss the sight of fishermen carrying their day’s catch. This has become a staple food for most of the people in Kasese. They fish from the surrounding lakes.
This is a subspecies of the kob, a type of antelope found in sub-Saharan Africa in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia. This appears on the coat of arms of Uganda. Male Uganda kob antelopes hold territories, for breeding only, that are as small as 15 to 30 metres.