One of the things always said about paradise is that it a state of nature where all animals (destructive man inclusive) live in harmony, each going about their business without fear of the other, and all living off God’s natural endowments – fruits, fish, water, and abundant sunshine!
This can only be imagined – whether in the movies or in children’s Bible stories – for in the real state of nature, at least from the perspective of English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, life is nasty, short and brutish; it is constant war of one against all and all against one.
With those two contradicting accounts of nature, now imagine showing up at a waterside somewhere in Uganda and behold a buffalo lying by the shore taking a rest after a long grazing day while others drink water. Then, a hippopotamus wandering next to the buffalo, another rolling itself in the muddy pond nearby while another is busy plucking out the short grass nearby. Then imagine a big elephant standing in the middle of all these animals, it too drinking water as another ambles away from the water front.
Then look further ashore into the nearby thickets and behold the waterbuck browsing at the short shrubs, and different species of birds flying about or resting on the elephant, buffalo or hippopotamus. Then, see one man bathing astride away from a school of hippos and another man standing by his shack while right in front of him, a hippo is grazing nonchalantly. Think again about paradise and remember that you are in one of Uganda’s national parks!
That is the sight that greeted us when we took a boat ride on Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) early this year. Of course there were no lions, leopards, hyenas and crocodiles by the waterside going about their day unbothered by the abundant prey around, which would have completed the picture of paradise. It nonetheless turned out to be the closest one would ever see of paradise.
The journey to QENP started from the messy Kampala traffic jam that only saw me hit the open road after 8pm. The drive to Fort Portal was dark and uneventful. But waking up in the enchanting Fort Portal town that is flanked by the charming Rwenzori Mountains to the west and small beautiful hills all round was enough compensation for the 300km drive.
Fort Portal to Kasese
The drive from Fort Portal down to Kasese was marvellous as the road literally runs along the Rwenzori, its lush green vegetation nourishing the eyes and giving off very fresh air. The numerous road turns and ridges felt like intimate hugs that make this beautiful mountain, the third highest range in Africa.
The stop was at Mazike Valley Lodge. The ambience and food is first class. Located at the edge of the national park, the lodge is a good launch pad for the tour of the wild. From the lodge, one has a great views of the wilderness beyond.