The Diary of a Muzungu’s latest: From the Edge of Kibale Forest


Asks Charlotte Beauvoisin / Author of the Diary of a Muzungu in Episode 4, Volume 1 of her ongoing series of impressions from the Edge of Kibale Forest

(Posted 17th July 2020)

In the fourth of a series, Charlotte Beauvoisin shares some of her #LockdownDiaries from Kibale Forest in Western Uganda.

No. 1 Cabbage patch inspiration

No. 2 I had been wondering where the elephants are

No. 3 Locked down and locked IN with elephants

My morning walk cum runs feel – and smell – rather different this week. The destruction of trees is a visual reminder that I don’t have the forest to myself.

The day after elephants invade Sunbird Hill land, my early morning exercise takes me back to the edge of Kibale Forest. The three-metre high curtain of elephant grass has been crushed to nothing. Dung beetles are quick to dive head first into the glistening wet manure that confirms the elephants latest visit.

Curious to inspect the results of their nocturnal activity, I proceed (slowly) under the cover of trees, towards the elephant trench. Trails that have become familiar to me by their overhanging branches, tree root ‘tripping hazards’ and streams of shiny ants have changed dramatically. New trails – wider than mine – cross at perpendicular angles. There is a strong smell of elephant (and I don’t just mean their fresh dung). My senses are alert to every small change.

As I consider which path to take, I hear the distinctive sound of an elephant exhaling! Noise travels far within the echo chamber that is the forest. Is someone letting me know they are there?

I don’t see the elephant (on the National Park side of the trench, perhaps a few hundred metres away) but we too close for comfort. I head back on my heels. Clearly there is at least one elephant still around.

"Exactly how fast can you run?" My housemate Julia asked me, wide-eyed (and she wasn’t quizzing my progress with the fitness app!)

Julia Lloyd lived in a treehouse in Kibale Forest for many years where she led the team that habituated the chimps that tourists pay to track. She recounted how one dark night she was shocked to sense an elephant standing right next to her! As large and destructive as they can be, they can also be totally silent, dare I say: invisible. I was glad to be cautioned by her near-miss story.

My running career is on hold for now. It would be foolish to switch on my music and run amongst all this uncertainty…!

If you enjoyed this story, look out for the next one in this series, exclusively here on ATCNews, written by Charlotte Beauvoisin.

Charlotte is best known for her blog Diary of a Muzungu. She is a travel writer, influencer, marketing manager and trainer. She lives at Sunbird Hill on the edge of Kibale National Park.