So, you might be wondering why I indicated that Jon and I went on our last safari… Well, if you didn’t already know, Jon and I are moving back to the U.S. in December! Jon has been away for two years and I’ve been away for almost two years. With that in mind, we’ve decided that, although it’s super bittersweet to leave, we want to move back to be closer to family and friends, for me to get further along with my PA school goals and, of course, to be reunited with Jack and Scout. (It’s been almost 10 months since they left Africa!) We’ll really miss our friends and colleagues here and will have to soak up these last few weeks in Africa.
Ok, back to the main subject at hand: our amazing safari in the Majete Wildlife Reserve (in Malawi). Jon and I have made the realization that if we could afford it and had endless time, we would just be on safari forever. It really is one of the most fun things in the world – getting to see amazing animals, eating great food, being in beautiful settings and having forced chill time to just swim, play games and/or read?? Heaven! (Also, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to be away from Twitter feed than I was last Friday morning… Blech.) We found an amazing deal with Robin Pope Safaris, a luxury safari company that is normally too much for us, and it was soooo worth it. Everything was immaculate – the service was great, the chalet was lovely, the lodge was gorgeous and the food was yummy. We checked in, had a great lunch and set out for our first drive. This is the first time Jon and I have been on a safari drive alone – just the two of us (and our guide and ranger, of course)! And… we loved it! We could take as long as we wanted to at each stop, Jon could ask his 500,000 bird questions without anyone getting annoyed at him (besides me, that is; oops) and we got to stay out longer than usual. It was awesome. We saw two lionesses that had just arrived in the park and they were just beautiful. I could have watched them all night. We got back to the lodge, had a great dinner and went right to bed. (The chalet had this super neat air conditioning system that is fuel-operated and hooks up to the mosquito net. It pumps cooler air through the net’s mesh ceiling, creating a little tunnel down to you. Really schnazzy stuff! Especially because it gets crazy hot there…)
The next morning, we woke up early, had a quick breakfast and headed back out for a drive. There are a few awesome watering holes in the reserve and, since it is so hot and dry right now, they were busy. It was like how you would think a small town would be on a weekend – everyone meeting up in the town square to gossip, eat and drink. (Or is it just me, thinking of “Gilmore Girls”?) Let me set the scene for you: the lone sable antelope was hanging out, then more warthogs than I have ever seen at once came trotting in, then some baboons played around, then zebras came down to have a drink and then some jerky elephants came in and shooed everyone off. I’m almost positive I heard the sable go, “Ok, buddy. I get it. You’re BIG! [eye roll]” (I don’t actually think elephants are jerks, for the record – they’re some of my favorites. I saw there was a baby in the mix and the momma elephant was not allowing anyone to be nearby while they drank. Fair.) It was amazing. We got back to the lodge, read, played a game and then had a delicious lunch. The heat was oppressive so we went swimming and got ready for the afternoon activity. Three additional people checked in and we did a mini-drive through the reserve on our way to the Shire River. (That is the same river that runs along Liwonde National Park, when we stayed at the Mvuu Lodge.) We saw buffalo, birds, hippos and a massive crocodile. It was great! And then we got a bonus gift – we still had time to do a night drive! So, we got back in the truck and saw an incredible number of nocturnal animals: a genet, a civet, a hyena, porcupines, a bushbaby, etc. But, the real prize was seeing the black rhino! Seriously, I cried when I saw it. They’re critically endangered and I had not gotten to see one yet. I felt so privileged to get to observe it. (Really, to have this life where I’ve gotten to go on all of these safaris and see so many beautiful things?? I’m so lucky.) We had a nice dinner and passed out.
Our final morning, we woke up early to pack up, had breakfast and headed out on our last drive. I kept trying to savor every moment because I knew that we would eventually have to turn back to the lodge and it would be over. 😦 We didn’t see anything new but one of the watering holes were ever-busy and exciting, so we spent a long time there, watching all of the hustle and bustle while we had tea, coffee and biscuits. They also took us to an amazing baobab tree that had a huge, natural opening in the trunk. It was super neat and, apparently, it serves as a shelter for lots of animals that are heavily predated. (These trees are some of my favorite things to see in Africa, period, so this was particularly cool.) We got back to the lodge, had brunch, got our bags and checked out. The reserve is pretty far from Lilongwe – over six hours – so we stopped in nearby Blantyre (a big city in the south) to have lunch and then continued on to Lilongwe. It was a really amazing weekend and I’m so happy we got to go on safari again before we leave. I already can’t wait until the next time we can go on safari, whenever that may be…
– By Naama
p.s. Just wanted to point something out, if I may: there are a few pictures of us with bushbabies on our shoulders. In case you didn’t read the captions for the photos (which, I totally get – there are lots of photos), I just want to say that we’re ordinarily really against interacting with the animals. We didn’t want to participate in the feeding but, apparently, these two bushbabies have lived at the lodge for a long time and have gotten really cozy with the manager. So, we obliged when asked if we wanted to give them bananas to eat (which, they love, apparently). I’m still torn about it… (But, they are cute.)