Year for the Planet Week 26: What I Ate on a Safari

Before you can fix the world, you have to fix yourself. Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.

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Spoiler alert: It’s not this giraffe.

When in Uganda, you go on a safari. Not because it’s touristy, but because this is likely the only time when I can see animals run wild and free (or at least in a government-controlled, heavily guarded area). I may never return to this country again, and so I wanted to make the most out of it. So off I went on a safari to Murchison Falls National Park.

There are things about overhauling my eating habits that pay off in this setting. Because I can do without meat, vegetarian options are sometimes almost half the price of meals that have it. Traveling can be exhausting, and so eating enough without excess was a way for me to keep my energy levels up. I ate with a purpose: to make sure I can engage in these rare activities as much as I could. On a game drive, there is nothing like seeing rotting animal carcasses left by bigger predators for me to reflect deeply about the circle of life—and how glad I was to get rid of as much meat in my diet as possible.

I only had a jar of peanut butter left in my arsenal, and that was almost consumed on the second day as we hiked up a hill to see Murchison Falls and its sister waterfall, Uhuru Falls. I needed a lot of water to get hydrated, and sadly in Africa, you can only get safe drinking water through a plastic bottle. I bought the bigger bottles to reduce as much plastic waste as I could. Thankfully, the camp I was in recycles them.

This is a great thing for being in the jungle: you are under the mercy of nature and so it is in your best interest to leave as little trace as possible. If not, then warthogs and chimps will be trailing after you and your food. I think about extreme athletes and how they eat to keep themselves in the game and how modern living is completely against that—we eat because we’re bored or stressed by people.

It was fascinating being on the road in Uganda. Whenever the vehicle stopped, locals armed with edible things to sell would run and gather around, selling chicken on a stick, bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other fruits. These were definitely way cheaper than getting them in a supermarket! I was told that the chicken tastes really great here in UG, and it’s likely because chickens here are kept like cats—they are allowed to roam freely and get their own food, and so a more varied diet likely contributes to better taste.

I had a pretty mystical moment when seeing some of my favorite animals: giraffes and rhinos! Seeing these beautiful animals up close made me feel even more determined to keep to this path. I’m not sure what to call it, considering all the trendy words out there: Minimalism? Sustainability? Whatever. All I know is that the more I encounter nature, the more inspired I am to stop damaging it. We’ve lost a lot of our connection with nature and so we don’t care so much about where our food comes from. Life is a lot more joyful if we learn to live in harmony with the planet.

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