When we travel to Africa we do so in the hope that we will see wildlife, and we have never yet been disappointed. We also accept that on occasion one of the smaller local creatures might find its way into our accommodation, a natural hazard in many parts of the world.
Staying in Fathala Lodge in Senegal we smiled to ourselves when our neighbours in the row of luxury tents insisted on being moved; just because a mouse had ‘broken in’ and eaten their sugar. What a fuss over nothing, we thought.
A few days later we arrived at our second hotel of the trip, Souimanga Lodge in the Sine Saloum Delta. When I booked our stay at this fairly remote small hotel I opted to pay a little extra for what they term a ‘lagoon’ rather than ‘garden’ bungalow. These face directly on the water and have their own private boardwalk and shaded lookout on a jetty overlooking the water. But when we arrived it was to discover that for some reason we had been upgraded to a suite. There are just two of these, and they have the same lovely waterside setting as the lagoon bungalows, plus the extra bonus of a small private plunge pool and a separate inside seating area. What a treat!
The room was beautifully decorated with interesting art pieces and lighting. At the end of our boardwalk was a deck with large beanbags and some shade, perfect for bird-watching.
We spent a relaxing first afternoon enjoying our new home and in the evening had a lovely dinner on the decking by the main building. This was on several levels with only a few tables on each; it gave us the feeling of eating in a tree-house – wonderful! We then retired for the night …
Sunrise in the Delta
We awoke quite early after a very comfortable night’s sleep. As we were completely un-overlooked, we had left the curtains open; so our first sight was of the sun just starting to rise over the mangroves and lagoon. Dressing quickly we hurried out with our cameras.
As it got lighter, we could see locals making their way to work (I assumed) from the small village out in the lagoon which is linked to Fimela by a causeway. Some were on foot, but the vehicle of choice was a horse and cart, otherwise known as the ‘bush taxi’. These are multi-purpose vehicles, used to transport goods, ferry children to school, travel from village to village and so on. They are practical, cope well with the uneven tracks, and of course are easy to look after, as long as the horse stays healthy. The carts these days are fitted with tyres, making for a slightly smoother ride along the bumpy tracks than in the past perhaps; but otherwise this form of transport has changed very little for centuries.
My photos are heavily zoomed through early morning haze, hence the ‘painterly’ effect in some.
Karma – for us
Returning to the room we discovered that the scrabbling noises I’d heard in the night (and taken to be birds on the decking outside) must in fact have been a mouse, which had not only partly eaten one of the apples in the fruit bowl kindly provided by the hotel but also the little ear buds from Chris’s MP3 player ear phones! It felt like karma after we had laughed at that couple at Fathala. But we had no intention of giving up our lovely suite just for a mouse!
We spent a relaxing day enjoying the lodge’s pool and venturing out to explore the local village, Fimela. That evening, learning from yesterday’s experience, we tried to make sure there that was nothing so tempting within reach. But we forget to remove the fruit bowl, discovering the next morning that he had again helped himself to apple. Oh well, there was enough to spare – but we resolved to hide the fruit bowl too on subsequent nights! And we did exactly that.
On the third night we remembered to move our fruit bowl to the safety of the fridge; and we hid all cables etc. in our suitcases, well away from the munchings of our resident mouse. But about 30 minutes after going to bed I heard the scrabbling noises and realised I’d left a silk bead necklace, bought the previous year in Tallinn, on the coffee table. I got up to put it away but too late; it had already been shredded! Yet another casualty of our room-mate’s insatiable appetite!
And karma for the mouse
Another Souimanga sunrise greeted us the following morning. They seemed to me to be quite different each day; some more orange, some (like this one) pink, some dramatic, others more subtle. But each day once the sun was above the horizon, blue skies and heat quickly returned.
We had successfully hidden anything that might tempt our resident mouse. So we were congratulating ourselves on having adapted to sharing the suite with him as we went back inside to get ready for breakfast. However when I put the A/C on I heard the by now familiar scrabblings coming from nearby. I went over and looked up at the machine, mounted high on the wall. I was just in time to see the mouse disappear inside and the machine grind to a halt; the mouse had clearly come to an unfortunate end.
Some might say that he got what was coming to him; but I can’t help feeling a little sorry for the mouse despite having lost a favourite necklace and Chris his best noise-reducing headphones!
When we went to breakfast we reported the fact that our A/C was broken but were a little bit vague about the reason! On our return later we would find it repaired; the mouse was never mentioned but we did feel a little guilty that one of the lodge employees would have had the unpleasant task of removing his remains.
Our remaining nights at Souimanga were silent. But in a way we missed our furry invader; and to this day I regret turning on that air-conditioner just at the wrong moment.
I visited Senegal in 2016