The highlight of our adventures in Africa is the time we spent on Safari at the Mosetlha Bush Camp in the Madikwe Game Reserve.
Often when going somewhere totally new I end up having pre determined visions of how things are going to be when I get there. When we booked our safari I was expecting that there would be a big gate around our camp and that cabins we slept would be fully enclosed just in case a hungry lion managed to break through the aforementioned big gate. I knew that there wasn’t going to be power so I was expecting it to be rugged and bare bones. Given there was no power for cooking I also figured that the meals were going to be mostly cold plates of which I’m not a huge fan of. What I was super stoked for was going out into the wild and seeing all of the amazing animals that I had only seen either in books or on TV.
Driving into the camp I quickly came to realize that there’s only a single cord of electric fence about 7 feet high that circles the permitter which is used to keep out the elephants. This means that every other man eating animal in this reserve, excluding the giraffes, are free to come and go as they please. Even more surprising is that our cabin has huge open air windows and the front door uses a cloth gate, about half the height of a normal door, that one can easily step over. If it had been made of wood it may have at least kept out the local honey badgers which have been know to frequent the camp. The owners of the camp told us about the time there was a honey badger in their kitchen making a real mess of things and none of the men who worked there would come to help get it out out because honey badgers are know for attacking ones genitals. They are already crazy fierce and attack pretty much anything, the last thing I wanted to know was that if I do happen to find one in our cabin it’s likely going to go straight for my private bits.
While I was surprised by the lack of resources that went into keeping the guests at a same distance from the wild animals, I loved that it was exactly as it was. Having it wide open to everything made it that much more of a real adventure. They more than made up for not having electricity by lighting up the entire camp, including the guest rooms, with oil lanterns and the delicious meals were all cooked on wood burning ovens and stoves. To add to the awesome the family who own the camp, and the rangers who took us on our game drives, were all super knowledgable and full of great stories which always kept things interesting.
For me the highlights were too many to list out so I will pick only a few. The first time we spotted a lion I was shocked when we pulled up to within only a few meters. This cat was huge and in one easy leap she could have launched herself straight into our open air game viewing Land Rover. We didn’t have doors or windows to close if things got harry. We were right there, up front and personal with nothing between us and real life wild animals. Within minutes the lion was then greeted by one other big female and about 12 younger cubs. We were told that they don’t take much notice of the vehicles as long as the people inside don’t stand up or get out. If we did either there was a good chance that we may be in some trouble. On another drive we saw a pride of lions eating a wildebeest which was pretty cool as well.
Our entire vehicle had a good scare the day a huge male rhino decided that we were in his way. He was walking in front of us when out of no where he decided to take a charge at us. I braced the truck with one arm and kept taking photos with the other. Lucky for everyone our guide pulled forward and the rhino pulled away just a little. If you think that rhinos look huge in photos, I can tell you that they look twice as huge when they are charging at you.
Another day we came across a huge heard of elephants that were making their way to a watering hole that we just happened to be at. One of the big bulls happened to walk right in front of us and with out warning turned and charged toward us. Once again our guide slammed it in gear and backed up just in time. I’m not sure what was going on that day, but the normally peaceful and slow moving elephants were all a bit on edge. After they quickly drank from the watering hole they all ran off leaving a huge trail of dust behind them.
The giraffes were also really fun to watch as they are both graceful and awkward at the same time. Their long front and back left legs move in tandem followed by both of their right legs. They are graceful when roaming from tree to tree, but as soon as they are spooked they run with awkward movements looking as though they could topple at any time.
It was really cool to see packs of wild dogs as they hunted. We never saw them make a kill, but it’s meant to be a bloody mess. The skinny dogs we saw were always running while on the hunt and dogs fresh form a kill were all fat and bloated and were usually just sleeping or relaxing.
We saw a heard of about a hundred impala grazing along with zebras and wildebeests. You often see the three of them hanging out together as they use each other for early detection from their predators. Safety in numbers.
On our way home one night we spotted a huge leopard drinking from a watering hole that was only about 800m from our camp. Our driver had a spot light which was used for the evening drives so we were able to have a great view of the magnificent cat.
Seeing these animals up close and in the wild from a open air convertible is both super cool, and a bit strange. I could never imagine driving up to a grizzly bear, moose or a cougar and observing it from so closely from a open vehicle.
In the night We hear hear wild animals in and around the camp including lions, hyenas and even a buffalo. If it was super late at night we would use a bucket in our cabin for going to pee in the night rather than making our way to the outdoor toilets. I’m sure that it would be fine, but the buckets are in the rooms for a reason so why not use them. Night time is dinner time for the big cats so we figure it best to play it safe.
During the day, between the morning and evening drives, there’s a big gap where you can either read, nap, or in my case wander around and take photos of birds and such. Being right in the middle of the reserve we were told to not wander off for safety reasons. Having seen rhinos, elephants, hyenas, leopards and a bunch of other animals within a few hundred meters of our camp I can see why. Every time my photography finds me wandering away from the camp I start to feel like a snack for a pride of lions or wild dogs, or more likely upsetting rhinos or elephants. Within short order I always found myself quickly retreating back to the camp…
Josi and I love every minute of being on safari. Every and every day was exciting with new and amazing things to see at each and every moment. Equally as wonderful was being totally offline and not having to worry about checking your emails. While I live an incredibly free lifestyle with all of the opportunites for adventure that one could ever imagine, but with that comes a dependency with technology and being connected with the team at FreeBird Agency. It’s more than than just being online for work, when you are connected you end up spending unnecessary time being online. Taking 5 days to be fully offline was a great break.
The next stop in our adventure is being Rob’s guest for Sabbath and then to dinner at his home in Johanisberg before flying out to Bangkok Thailand tomorrow.
As a side note, if you are a regular reader of our blog you may be wondering why we are posting so many posts only a few days apart. We were without a solid internet connection for some time so we are just catching up now.