By Samantha Bailey
Last weekend, while Isabelle, Dan and Bharath went south to track gorillas, Reem and I went north to Murchison Falls Park with Abigail and Bayo for a three day safari. As I carefully chose the items that would fit into my backpack for the weekend, I saw my mostly-charged Sun King lantern on my desk. Realizing that this was a perfect chance to see our client’s product in action, I tossed it in the bag.
We had chosen the lazy tourist method of buying an all-inclusive tour package from a local company, but we had also chosen the most budget friendly tour we could find, so we were prepared to be roughing it for the weekend. After an amazing experience tracking 6 of the only 9 wild rhinos in all of Uganda, our tour guides took us to the permanent campsite where we would be spending the night. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the dark and loneliness of a starless night in the middle of a safari park. With no moon, no street lights, not even the bioluminescence of fellow creatures nearby, I was suddenly gladder for my Sun King than I thought I would be. This was no longer a casual experiment; it was a matter of surviving the walk from the tent to the outhouse in a place where only a haphazard wire separated campground from lion country.
The solar lamp worked like a champ. Inside our enormous tent, the Turbo mode (the highest setting) allowed us to search through our bags and get situated for the night while the lamp hung from a strap above us. Unfortunately, I did not secure it well, and it fell on the canvas-covered cement floor. We all gasped, but our reaction was unwarranted. As advertised by the maker of Sun King and by SEED program employees, the light kept on shining and the lamp didn’t have a crack on it.
The following day was one of over-stimulation and wonder, as we went on safari through the Murchison Falls Park and became guests in the homes of antelope, warthogs, elephants, giraffes, water buffalo, hippos, crocodiles, and one extremely lazy lion. When we reached the river crossing, we rode a boat up the river until we were within view of the falls, at which point the boat driver told us that this was our stop. As for the other 30 passengers on the boat, they had obviously paid for both directions of the boat ride. We four would need to hike to the top of the falls where our tour guides would meet us. Even though the view of the falls was breath-taking, we were not sorry to hear our guide say that the next stop would be our cabin accommodations for the night.
The cabins set deep in the rain forest seemed luxurious with hot running water and a ceiling light in our dormitory. That is, until we returned from supper at the main cabin and they had turned off our electricity. The Sun King came to our rescue again. Would it still have enough charge in it after the previous night’s use? Yes, indeed. Would it survive being dropped at least twice more as we passed it back and forth? Absolutely. The Sun King was still lighting our way to the early breakfast we took before embarking on an amazing chimpanzee trek in the forest.
If you are reading this entry and feeling frustrated that I left out all the juicy details of our safari so that I could ramble on about a solar lamp, your feelings are completely understandable. However, for me, my passion for our project grew exponentially after experiencing for such a short time the impact such a “small solution” could have. Isn’t contributing to an industry that offers customers freedom, safety and more time in the day just as exciting as roaming with wild animals?