Students

Day 18 - Sunday 23rd July

The report for Day 18 – Sunday 23rd July comes from Thomas:

I think it’s safe to say that for us 11 students who were dragged into the French room three and a half years ago by Mrs Chick in Year 7 and told that we were going to be part of a group called Interact, never in a million years did we anticipate that it would all lead to being in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda seeing elephants and lions about 10 metres away from our eyes. We knew that this was going to be a special day but what came was a day which I know will go down as one of the most special days of my life. I’m not normally one for waking up anytime before 11 o’clock on weekends, but waking up at 6 in the morning didn’t seem like too much of a hardship today! Aidan and I have never welcomed a stupid alarm tune so kindly!

I waltzed into what was already my 4th boiling hot shower of my time at the lodge (considering the pain of the continuous cold showers of the guest house, I decided to indulge a bit in the showers at Mweyah) and was ready to dive into breakfast on time for once at the time of 6:30. I told myself I wasn’t going to eat much for breakfast to make sure I was ok for the bumpy tracks of the safari - but then I saw the sausages. And the bacon. And the eggs. So that pledge went out the window! Honestly, this was one of the best fry ups I had ever had and leaving the breakfast table I had no regrets on the amount I ate. We drew the names out the hat for who was in what bus swiftly after breakfast and it worked out so everyone had a chance in an open roof bus and even those who ended up on the White Flyer (the bus without the pop up roof) were soon up sitting on the roof or, in my Dad’s case, having a snooze on the roof (no surprises there!) so no one had any complaints! We set off at 7 and within minutes the baboons and warthogs were out putting on a show. Yet after about 20 minutes of driving past the little ones, we were on to something bigger. A lion was lurking and we soon found it. Another beautiful male lion in its natural habitat, guarding his cubs which we also got a glance at from behind the bushes. The great thing is this time this lion wasn’t sleeping, it was prowling the land giving us a chance to take some truly stunning pictures and give us a memory that will stick with us forever. While this lion had the limelight, there was another animal in the distance which was just as special - an elephant and even from about 70 metres away, the size of this mammal still couldn’t be comprehended but this was only just the start of the elephant scene. Water bucks, buffalos and many other mammals continued to pass us and the feeling of excitement that hit all of us whenever we saw a mammal never got old. I know that you may just be thinking can’t you just go to a zoo to see all this, but zoos have nothing on this. Seeing an animal in its natural habitat, searching for food and nurturing their families is something that is so special to see and I think this safari has changed my view on keeping animals in captivity. I used to think that captivity provided safety and a happy environment for animals but the sight of these animals running across their own land and considering what I wrote earlier, it shows that they live their lives just like we live ours. These animals aren’t exhibits, they have families, they breathe and they have emotion, they want to lead their own lives just like we lead our own lives. It was also quite a change to be the species that wasn’t in power. We were in their land, they made that clear and we respected that.

We arrived back at the lodge at about 11am and by mine and Aidan’s balcony we seemed to have a few mongooses chilling there. We were not to be deceived by their cuteness however as we were aware of the aggression that these little creatures held so we left them to their own business. After having a few minutes to reflect on that incredible journey, Aidan and I were keen to finally jump into the stunning pool at Mweya and we were joined by Elsa and Velvet. The pool temperature was just right and it was lovely to have a quick peaceful dip in the pool before lunch. Lunch was also stunning. It was the tomato pasta and grilled pork chops that did it for me. I’d missed these tastes so much and to be finally having all these foods I’d been missing again was amazing! It was good to have a bit more of a range to our diet again. Soon after lunch it was time for the lake tour which we were promised would be something special. We all embarked on our boat “the hippo” at 2pm and set off out into the Kazinga Channel. Straight away it seemed the boat followed its name as we saw a lone hippo on the water’s edge and the hippos were soon going to come in plenty. Following the hippo, we saw something which really was a special sight - a group of female elephants with some of their young ones but don’t be mistaken these young elephants weren’t exactly tiny. We were told when born, a baby elephant already weighs about 150 kg! The elephants kept on coming and in the end it turned out to be a group of 8 elephants. We thought nothing could top this but then, on the other side of the lake, out came the big dogs, the male elephants. They were so big it was jaw dropping. We were about 5 metres from a huge group of some of the biggest animals in the world. We were aware that this was a very rare sight to see and we were very lucky to see all of it. A group of male, female and young elephants. It was one of the best moments of my life to see these majestic animals in their back yard. Then came the hippos once again, peeking out the water just making sure we knew who’s boss - and we certainly got the message! Next to the group in the water, lay a hippo that had clearly died in a battle all we saw was the hunch of this huge creature with battle wounds covering its back. We were told that it had been dead now for about two days and after 4-5 days; the crocs would come and snap up the hippo as its skin would be weaker. A big crocodile is one thing we didn’t see but we saw a baby one frozen with its mouth open on the water’s edge and that was a good enough sighting.  Buffalo, warthogs and more hippos continued to come along in their groups including a dead buffalo on the water’s edge which was quite a sad sight.

Many eagles and exotic looking birds were also spotted along the way and overall, this safari was truly a stunning experience for both what we saw and what we learnt. For example, I learnt that the hippo is the second most common animal killer of humans (behind the mozzy of course) in Africa. This is because the people who live by the lakes in Africa go out and fish at night when the hippos are out and the hippos tip the boats and kill people. Apparently, they don’t even eat meat – they just like killing things! The safari didn’t finish once we got off the boat either as this time there were warthogs chilling outside mine and Aidan’s balcony - it was a whole family of them as well! However, it seemed the grown up warthog didn’t take it so kindly when we tried to sneak a selfie with the baby warthogs and gave us a little charge so we just left them to themselves as well.

When we got back into our room past the warthogs, the swimming shorts went straight back on and we were straight back into this stunning pool looking out at the view to the lake at the elephants reflecting on the stunning, once in a lifetime experiences we had embarked on.

After 3 hours of chillaxing, our final dinner in Uganda came and boy was it good! Pasta that was cooked for us while we watched that was made up of exactly what we wanted it to be made up of and so many other amazing dishes I can’t put them all down. I do have to give a quick shout out to the cereal pudding for dessert. The combination of that custard and the sponge was a proper job! Basically, all of the food at Mweyah is mouth-watering.

The final thing of the day was where our emotions all came out and we realised that this trip was coming to an end. It was the end of trip presentation which gave us all a chance to give our thanks to each other and express our love for one another and some of the speeches were beautiful. Jess, the first speech of the pupils, really got everyone going and from then on, it only got worse. On the up side, we all got salad spoons as gifts out of it (don’t know they will be used by me but I’m sure someone like my Dad would like them as a gift!) These two weeks out in Africa have changed us all, we’ll see things differently and the way we look upon life will have changed. I don’t want this web article to become an African speech but we can’t thank all of you back at home enough for all the support you’ve given this trip. Even when it was proposed that this trip wasn’t on, no one stopped believing and look where we are now. You’ve helped 11 Year 10 students of Humphry Davy School do their bit to make a bit of a difference to the world and give them an experience that will stick with them forever for so many different reasons. We’ll do our best to communicate the trip to you once we get back but what we’ve seen, I don’t know if there are any words that will give justice to how special this trip was but we’re all super excited to get back home and see everyone even if it will be hard to leave.

All the best,

Thomas.

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