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Bulbul is back!

It’s late July. Dry season is here. A layer of dust has settled over Kampala and its environs, so living upcountry brings more comfort than ever before. We had torrential rain a couple of days ago – the kind of rain that makes you want to run outside, arms outstretched, face turned up, twirling in the deluge. It lasted about half an hour, and that night the tiny little tree frogs were in heaven, peeping and kreeking in the fresh wet grass.

Last week we went to Kidepo for a few days. It was hard to sleep with all the lions roaring around the lodge, but that kind of sleep deprivation is more than welcome.

And Bulbul is back. Our lovely gentle giant – the solitary bull elephant who, despite his gorgeousness can be a real pain the way he breaks our wooden steps, scratches himself on our thatch roof and steals the lemons from our single lemon tree – has returned. He disappeared a year ago, perhaps driven out by another rogue elephant known as ‘Captain Kali’ (kali means fiery or severe in Swahili – Captain Kali ain’t the friendliest bull around). It was a shame when he left as we’d all grown to love his lugubrious presence, his sleepy lumbering meanderings, his propensity to indulge in a little local kwete (which he steals from the ranger camp) and then sleep off his hangover under a sausage tree, his giant eyelashes fluttering during his REM sleep. But he’s back.

It’s amazing how an elephant can disappear in front of your eyes, and even more amazing that he can reappear, poof, just like that. We were having a postprandial drink with guests from the UK (a wee single malt) thinking of going off to bed when the night watchman came to tell us that Bulbul was loitering at reception. It was a very matter-of-fact delivery, almost like being told the taxi had arrived, or the mailman needed a signature.

But there he was. Our Bulbul. All seven tons of Tembo, rummaging and foraging in the shrubbery by the front door. We greeted him cautiously and he breathed and rumbled his reply; that wonderful, tremulous sub-sonic rumble you feel deep in your body more than actually hearing it. Our conversation was short, we felt we should leave him alone, let him settle in after his long absence. Unpack his bags, as it were.

When we left the park the following day, the plane circled the Narus Valley before rising up above the jagged mountain range and heading south. Looking down I could see Bulbul’s lone shape under a giant desert date tree (or Balanites Aegyptiaca), resting peacefully in the shade.

We’ve just chatted with George. A lot of the Kidepo elephant are roaming deep inside the park this month, but Bulbul has staked out his turf at Apoka and it looks like he’s going to stay awhile.

Welcome home, old friend.