“The guards will escort you to your cottage in case of elephants and chimpanzees.”
Sorry, what? Elephants?
“Yes. Animals keep away when there’s light but now; you never know.”
Ambrose, a graduate of Wildlife conservation, speaks as he gathers our plates from the dinner whose remnants are bones and scattered sprinkles of hot sauce. He does not see my blank stare. It is 10 pm in the forest, the lights just went out and there’s barely a cell network reception bar on my phone. Edward’s phone has blacked out. The last thing I want to meet on my way to the cottage is the largest land mammal. If I do,I hope that the guard or Edward (doubt it though), deals with it. So as we walk to “Colobus” cottage, I remain Malcolm In The Middle. I am also holding the flashlight of course because I also want to be the first to see the elephant, should it emerge from the forest. Then, it gives me a fleeing head start.
36 km on a smooth faced road out of Fort Portal town towards Kamwengye will lead you to Kanyanchu, a Kibale National Park Settlement. A left turn at the zebra crossing opens to an earth, leaf scattered path with Kibale forest canopy overhead. You have arrived at Primate Lodge. As soon as you step out of the car,the air will hit your nostrils and go straight through to your windpipe to the lungs. Except it won’t choke you into a cough or trigger an allergy. Instead, it will be that respiratory-cleanse feeling you have as a Vicks Kingo lozenge dissolves in your mouth.
The eco-friendly forest home is a sea of green, with en suite cottages whose architecture agrees with nature – from wooden window panes and bathroom sinks, to solar powered heaters and stone walls. A rabble of butterflies joyfully interrupts your step every 2 meters. On an early morning, you’ll spot a chimpanzee or a white colobus monkey as this is the primates’ home too. Luckily, an unspoken coexistence agreement has been come to.
Chef Vincent is on a mission to fatten you; and do it on time. Before you retire to bed after every dinner, he’ll take your breakfast order and the time at which you want it to be ready. After breakfast, he takes your lunch order and right after lunch while you read in the lounge, he takes the dinner orders. The compound has a brightly painted fireplace in the middle of a wide semi-circle of concrete slab for sitting. If you’re lucky, it won’t rain in the evening and you’ll enjoy its purpose. Lucky, because Kibale is a rainforest and Primate Lodge is right in its midst. Chances that it will not rain in the evenings especially are slim.
But when you’re tucked in bed inside your cottage after a warm bath, the sound of raindrops on your window will make up for the missed fireplace experience. There might be a movement in the forest shrubs outside that will evoke both nerves and excitement. To get up and check whether I locked the door or to pull the covers over my head – you’ll wonder. Whatever decision you make, prepare to awaken to the sound of birds chirping when dawn finally comes.