By Jordan Bayliss
Today was perfect. I had done my research on Hakuna Lodge and did a lot looking at Google Maps of the Sine Saloum before we left for Senegal. The day was perfect because I gained a better understanding of the complexity of Senegal’s mangrove delta than I could have by simply researching on Google.
My fishing experience with Bryan was more like a trek to me than it was a walk to get to an epic fishing spot. We set off through the mangroves on an ebb tide, each footstep parted thousands of scurrying fiddler crabs to retreat into their delta caves. Even though I had looked at the maps of the river and mangroves around the Hakuna Lodge, before the trip, I lost myself along the shallow, salty flats searching for fish. We ventured out into clear, waste deep water and cast into schools of bait fish that at times seemed to surround us. We followed the edge back into the mangroves, where we crossed a small, rickety bridge over a small cut, that swayed with every step, and eventually swayed no more. At each fishy spot I helped Bryan learn to cast a fly rod, and once he got the hang of it, I wandered off on my own. This is when I noticed the underwater grasses stuck to my fly. They were completely different from any of the grasses that I have researched on the other side of the Atlantic. Eventually, we came across a small, seasonal camp that left us with many questions about how people interact with the environment here. Although the Sine Saloum felt untouched, it is home to many people and the resource has been impacted by fishing and tourism.
While you might think that the word “impact” has a negative connotation, at the Hakuna Lodge, it does not. Hakuna Lodge was the most sustainable place I’ve been in my life. They improve upon their economy through tourism without harming the natural resources. During our short time at Hakuna, I noticed that the low impact lifestyle makes the sustainable, eco-lodge model a natural fit. There is very little waste produced at the lodge; the meals are prepared with local fish and vegetables; the bread is baked on the premises and the common spaces are open air structures that allow the breeze to be natural AC. The feeling of sustainability at the eco-lodge was similar to the vibe of our host, Bandia’s house, which was open, airy and welcoming.
The perfect day ended as the sunset over the mangroves, and we cruised back up the Saloum River to the dock where this day’s journey began. On the boat ride back, more things kept adding to the perfection of the day. I had the opportunity to drive the boat to the fishing spot, and fish on the way back to the dock. Throughout the day I kept thinking about how the US could become more sustainable, and how I could transfer the lessons learned from the eco-lodge in the Sine Saloum to my own ideas and impact on my community.