A hippo at the hotel

Author Gwynneth Hurley spotted a hippo on the way back to her hotel room at Queen Elizabeth National Park. (Gwynneth Hurley | The Media School)

We had an amazing first game drive at Queen Elizabeth National Park that included a leopard, hippo and two lions. Our lodge was located on a peninsula between two lakes in the western part of Uganda, in the shadows of the beautiful Rwenzori Mountains.

We arrived at the lodge after dark returning from our game drive. We found our rooms, unpacked and changed and then headed to the main building for our dinner.

I decided to head back before my roommate, so I left the main building alone and started the short walk to our room.

On the way, I wondered if any wild animals ever wander into the lodge area. I tend to freak myself out when I am in the dark, so I was a bit spooked walking alone. I decided there probably was a big wall around the compound so no animals ever got in.

Then, I heard a strange noise, a very deep chewing sound. It was coming from the other side of the hedges. I didn’t have my glasses on, and I stared at a big dark shape for a while. I was trying to figure out if I was imagining things when I saw the shape move and realized there WAS an animal there eating the grass.

At first I thought it was an elephant. I quickly called Nick, whose room was right across from the animal, telling him to come out. I went to take a closer look and I realized it was a hippo!

At this point, I panicked a little. Hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. They can be very aggressive. I wasn’t sure if I should go to the lodge to get someone or try to pass the hippo to get to my room. Luckily, it moved a bit further away so we had a good view of it, but it wasn’t too close.

One of the hotel workers came by with a flashlight to escort us back to our rooms and told us that hippos came around the hotel often, but as long as you didn’t aggressively approach them they wouldn’t hurt you. Being so close to a wild animal, especially one so huge, was an awesome experience. Every day, even at the very end of our trip, Uganda continues to surprise and amaze me.