To grasp the aurora of this trip, one must gaze upon the sky from the hind deck of the MV Vanessa. As she glides upon the waves and slices this mass of fresh water, dotting it with a disappearing rapid. The sky is permanently blue, but the clouds stage play upon play of varying combinations, transforming this big blue canvass into a giant portrait of sceneries, each worth capturing, on all occasions. Some are as white as snow and others as dark as ebony. It’s a whole spectrum of scintillating acrobatics.
The group descends into the beauty of the moment. Taking chances to paste themselves on this beautiful canvas. It’s pictures, photos, videos…some are still as if contemplating, others are ecstatic. Then there is Shafiq, singing “bino bye biluma abayaye.” The fun is only cut short because everyone must take their seats inside the vessel for safe docking. Out at sea, the time flies as fast as the boat. And the MV Vanessa is quite fast.
We docked at Kalangala at approximately half past 4 o’clock. Far from the speculations in my mind, everyone was come. Like this was the norm. The daily routine. We each soon found way to our waiting hotel shuttles. No one dared take luggage that didn’t belong to them. Covid 19 regulations meant our hotel chauffeured us in two lots. The elderly and children getting the nod to go first.
The men soon plotted ideas. Let us walk to the hotel. As we familiarize with the place. Upon the only road leading away from the dock we paced. Taking time to admire the thick greenery on with side of the road. The tranquility was like non I had experienced in a very long time. My role soon took to photographer as everyone posted for the perfect shot. Interest in the walk soon vanished as we went past what seemed the last urban set up of shops in this part of the pearl. Our hotel shuttle whisked past us, caring nothing whatsoever to our raised voices. “Turn around. We had started trekking!” Later, the driver, a one Daniel would apologize with a shrink. “ I never noticed you guys at all! I did not expect you guys to walk.” Soon, whatever disappointment we had turned to curiosity. Was that the main town? Where are the fishermen shacks and the fish stalls? Where are the shops? Isn’t this supposed to be the center of activities? Soon, the questions we posed overloaded Daniel’s capacity to answer. He was saved by the final turn into the premises of the Mirembe resort beach hotel. We were here finally. The sight of all our belongings eased my nerves a little bit. Everyone soon disappeared into the surrounding. To get a first glance if this tranquil establishment, I suppose. It was down to the manager, Betty, Daniel the driver and me. Rooming had to be discussed as well as other finer details. The welcome treat was a tea buffet. If you allow me to call it that. Think of it like breakfast served on a tropical early evening. Fresh cut fruits, toasted bread, coffee and teas with those exotic names. Our early adventures had us solving the room allocation equations. The kids in the meantime were drawn into the games of the afternoon. Some played soccer, others volleyball and relaxing by the beach. Our allocation challenges were drawn to a close by the dinner bells. The buffet was soul awakening. With a touch of all things Ugandan. The signature was the fish. Deep fried, larger than life. We were indeed in Kalangala. The first night ended at a bon fire. A concoction of afro music playing. People sipping off their favorite drinks. Those who’d had enough retired to the safety and coziness of the Mirembe Resort beach hotel beddings. And so went Day one and Night one of our trip.
I awoke to the callouts of a fitness Instructor. The entire group was by the well kept grass gardens, in their stretching outfits. They had gone jogging through the forest into the town and back. “How did we not think about you?” They I quired. “ I have no stretchers!” I shot back to their surprise. The boys then took to football as the catering team set up breakfast. Soon everyone was in queue for breakfast. The weather then decided to put on a show for everyone. To climax it’s dramatics, the clouds opened up and we got to experience an island downpour. Dampened as the atmosphere was, everyone was upbeat about the line-up of activities on this day of Christmas. The music soon came on. The Christmas carols of all kinds and for us in Uganda, the classics from Philly Bongole Lutaya’s Christmas album, made the day nostalgic. Soon the sun smiled upon us, just in the nick of time for lunch. But there was time to cut a cake in commemoration of the group’s matriarchs. And the pleasantries about occupied us into the lunch hour. Right after lunch, we were entertained to a flush game of volleyball, and fun it was. The team then set off for the swimming and sauna treats. Those who didn’t fancy the two became spectators for the Christmas soccer game. By 8 pm, our stomachs ached for a touch of Christmas food. And dinner didn’t disappoint. The oven smoked turkey was the ultimate festive touch. We reclined to the bon fire once again, dancing and drinking to some of Uganda’s top charts. Our second day and second night thus went, we all looked forward to our third day and climax of this trip.
Day three night three.
Boxing day started on a low. No jogging or morning routine. Yesterday’s fatigue was visible as virtually everyone hobbled out of their beds to catch their breakfast. The weather smiled upon us, smearing the splendid Mirembe resort condos with that crispy orange morning bake. Morning activities included volleyball, soccer, and an early morning visit to the swimming pool. The latter was chosen over a 3 hour drive around the islands. As the young lads hot the deep blue waters, the elders found time by the pool side to indulge in grown people talk. The lunch bells soon rang, to the disappointment of the few who felt like they still wanted to swim. Lunch is slow. The fatigue very visible upon the entire group. Our mid afternoon is rejuvenated by an unfathomable visitor. A baby monitor lizard, has set pitch in one of the rooms. You know it is, by the description. “It’s got the snake like tongue!” the sweet creature must have wandered into the room for shelter. Everyone wants it guided back into the grass and trees. Later in the day, we are blessed with another cake cutting. It’s one of the juniors celebrating her fifth birthday. Sun sets in this part of the pearl are a thing to die for. As the trees, cottages, clouds and islands combine to create done of the best hues seen anywhere. On such a day, the smiles of the young celebrant were the perfect enchantment. Clad in an all white gown, the young princess danced her way around the occasion, sending all of us into merry. On the sides, dinner was set up around the bon fire. It was BBQ night and everyone looked forward to the live roasts and live band. The night went down beautifully as the team had some board games to play as the music played on with the warmth of the fireplace. Perhaps the only low point on this celebratory league of the trip, the good nights came in early, as everyone rushed to the warmth of their beds. We that remained camped at the bon fire and listened away to some contemporary hits. Thus ended day three and night three of our trip.
As MV Vanessa speeds away from the dock, we get one more chance to view the magnificence of the Kalangala archipelago. Over the horizon, the numerous islands pop up, as if to say, you did see me! Our time in the deck is cut short as yet again, the nimbus clouds, in show of their circus, decide to bless this water mass with more fresh water. Virtually everybody on the boat is in sleepy mode.
Breakfast and lunch had been early encounters. To grant us the perfect send off, manager Betty insists that our lunch must have the signature deep fried fish, chunks that are once again larger than life. We hastily pack our belongings, in the nick of time to board the boat. Minus the heavy downpour, the lake is relatively calm. The weather perfect to take some photo shots. Entebbe never changes. Life is normal. Everyone is here to make a living. That sense of getting back to reality kicks in. We soon board our mini bus, each destined to their drop offs. Our four days and three nights sails in Kalangala are at an end. A memory that will forever be, a first step for me personally, but a giant leap for us as Ntungo Wildlife Safaris Ltd.
As written by Moses Boma.
Thank you to all those that traveled with us in 2020. Without you, we wouldn’t be this grateful. Now looking forward to a spectacular 2021.
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