It’s an incredibly challenging task to properly summate one of the best experiences of your life, but for the sake of my friends and family anxiously awaiting an update from “Off to Africa: Pam & Mia’s Excellent Adventure”, I will try my very best. I think the last most of you heard involved our troublesome flight situations. Yet, despite the numerous mechanical errors, several delays, 2 lost bags, rearranging of our entire itinerary, 26 hours spent flying and the additional 15 hours spent living out of an airport, the utter exhaustion and sense of defeat suddenly disappeared upon arrival at Machaba Camp. First let me set the scene for Machaba so you can have a better understanding of where we were, but to be honest, I don’t even entirely know.
After arriving in Maun, Botswana (from JoBurg, South Africa), we touched down in the smallest airport I have ever been too. We walked through customs???? Which was more like filling out a simple info sheet and acquiring another stamp for our collection. We then were greeted by our pilot and told to go through security, which was definitely more to show that they had security than to really be security. We were driven out to our “bush plane” with another couple. The plane had one propeller on the front and 6 seats including the pilot and copilot seats. We were slightly disconcerted that the pilot said we were a little heavy (due to the other couple’s overpacking), but off we went. The couple with us was dropped off at another camp site aka a landing strip in the middle of the African Bush and I got to move up to the co-pilot seat for the duration of the flight!
We were officially in Africa. We could see our shadow flying across the Bush and noticed a few elephants walking about! The twists and turns of the Okavango Delta were beautiful glistening reflections of the sky and the elation my mother and I felt was through the roof. As we touched down on our isolated strip of dirt, we noticed a safari car was waiting; to retrieve us but also as the pilot informed us, to make sure there weren’t any animals on the runway.
We had finally made it.
At this point I am going to apologize for the length of this post, but I fear that if I skip and over generalize I will not capture the true essence of Machaba Camp.
Machaba was comfortable. The staff was incredibly nice and more importantly personal (Elka, C, Sean, Leopard, Mr. T, Masale, Butata, & Carter are just a few). The tents were incredible (minus the big hairy spiders) and took glamping to a whole new level. But after all our traveling we finally had found a place to call home that felt like home too. There was a “living room” and “dining room” tent that was central and connected that opened up to part of the delta. Here we sat to chat, relax, eat, sit by the fire, and watch for any wildlife. But before I get into all of that we had to quickly set down our stuff and jump in the car to meet up with our safari group for the evening game drive.
For those of you who have never been on a safari, the feeling of being driven around bumpy trails with open sides, wind licking your skin and flipping your hair is quite exhilarating. I would equate it to the feeling on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, but in real life and in the African Bush. We met up with our group and jumped in their car and off we went! Our guide’s name was Leopard and we were joined with 2 older couples that were extremely friendly, wanting to show us the ropes of proper safari-ing.
I could go into the many and exciting details of the animals we encountered over the next few days but I will try to sum them up into one paragraph. Within the first 2 days we saw things that some common safari goers hadn’t seen in 40 years, that being a pack of Wild Dogs. Our safari experience will always be tainted because we saw some of the most rare animals within the first two days: We saw 2 female lions (walked within 5 feet of our vehicle), 1 male lion, a pack of wild dogs eating an Impala, a leopard eating an Impala up in a tree (stolen from the wild dogs), and another leopard up in the same tree who stole the impala carcass from the first leopard! We saw plenty of zebras, impalas, kudu, letre (I think that’s how you spell it), warthogs, hyenas and their pups, elephants, giraffes, wildebeests, vultures, eagles, hawks, and beautifully colored birds.
The moments that particularly stood out on the game drives were the following:
1. Seeing a magnificent leopard practically posing in the tree with his dead impala in front of him and his big paws dangling off the tree. He had a full belly and we watched him for quite some time. This was a rare sighting and one of the first things we saw during our stay at Machaba! He was absolutely stunning.
2. Seeing the wild dogs chase and kill a letre and then return to their den to feed their pups. This instance was especially powerful. We watched these animals acquire their food strategically, just as we watched another animal’s life quickly disappear. The wild dogs ripped and ate this animal alive while we watched no more than 10 feet away. It was horrifying to watch but it really helped conceptualize the circle of life. As humans, we are so removed from the source of our food. We see meat as meat and not as animal or another life. This concept came full circle when we saw the wild dogs return to their den to feed their hungry little pups.
3. On the last day we saw a good number of elephants and giraffes. This was very special for my mom and I because we love these animals and to be quite honest, they weren’t as plentiful as we had anticipated. We saw elephants walk right in front of our car and go to drink water. It was spectacular to see them walk so close to us. The giraffes had also proved to be quite elusive but we ended up coming across a little family of them which was absolutely precious.
4. Hippos seemed to be pretty common but on the last game drive we saw quite a bunch of them. While we were there one of them emerged out of the water and started showing off, opening his mouth and yelling a little bit. Then that same hippo got into a little fight with another hippo and eventually presented the submissive behavior by sticking his rump in the air and swinging his tail around.
5. Lastly, on our way out to the landing strip to leave we came across one last animal when we hadn’t expected to see any! We had found another leopard! We took this as a good omen for the rest of our trip.
Machaba camp had exceeded all of our expectations. It was truly magical and I was very sad to say goodbye. Fortunately, we shared unforgettable memories with each other and the families also staying at the camp. We became close to a family from Cape Town that is absolutely lovely and I now have a sense of comfort and family during my time abroad.
Currently I am finishing this post from Cape Town. I will update my next post with our travels in Zambia(which have already happened). PS we found my bags!
will try to post pictures!