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TRAVELLERS

by Dorothy du Plooy

Mayhem in Moremi! “We all agreed that this visit to Moremi, Botswana, with Ace as our guide, was the experience of a lifetime. What a story to add to my arsenal of safari adventures.” It was towards the end of a jovial evening of good food and drink, spent with friends regaling us with their stories of camping in Moremi, that I had taken the unthinkable step of agreeing to a camping trip. Those people who know me, also know that I don’t camp. Why on earth would one want to give up the comfort of a room that you can stand up straight in and an en suite bathroom with a flushing toilet for a tent and a long drop?

DRIVING FROM MAUN TO MOREMI

Anyway, Mark thought this was a great idea and that’s how I found myself on a game drive vehicle from Maun to Moremi. The tar road soon gave way to a dirt road, flanked by Mopani trees. None of us minded the day- long journey as the weather was great and we saw a lot of game along the way. Our guide, Ace, had an extensive knowledge of the bush and was excellent at identifying birds. I was in the right mood to forget that there was a tent with my name on it at the end of the journey.

THE BIG FIVE SO CLOSE TO CAMP

We stopped to admire the biggest obstinacy of buffaloes that I have ever seen – a herd of 200 animals. About 10 minutes further, we saw a memory of 20 elephants. There are very few things that are as cute as a baby elephant, but breeding herds are not docile and the matriarch will protect her babies against any perceived threats. The dust hardly settled after passing the elephants, when we happened upon a pride of lions. By now, we could not believe our luck. To see three of the big 5 so close together is a treat, but I realised that it was already late afternoon and that we were

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bound to be close to our camp. The big 5 are very dangerous animals and my delight at spotting these beautiful creatures was marred by an uneasy churning in my stomach. By the time we reached the tented camp my stomach felt a bit like an old washing machine on its spin cycle. We had snapped many close-up pics of the lions and I felt nervous as I confirmed that there is indeed NO FENCE around the camp. Luckily, the lovely aroma of a campfire cooked three course dinner, soon set my nerves at ease and the only visitor was an inquisitive honey badger.

NATURE'S DINNER TABLE ON OUR DOORSTEP

That first night in the tent, I had the best sleep ever. We were woken by the excited whooping of hyenas and the traumatised trumpeting and stampeding of the elephant herd as a baby elephant had to surrender to the hungry attack of the hyenas. Not long after that, the lions joined in the fray and stole the kill from the hyenas. It was both fascinating and truly disturbing to watch this big pride of lions tussle over the pieces of baby elephant. I can’t figure out why I feel less emotional at a buck or zebra kill. This particular scene was quite unsettling especially as this all played out unnervingly close to our camp site.

LIONS APPROACHING THE CAMP!

With lots more animal sightings and good bird spotting all day long on our drive, I was getting into the spirit of camping and even managed to enjoy my quick shower under a bucket of water in my shower tent. The events of the morning felt boxed and shelved by then. That night after dinner, we all sat around the campfire sharing safari

stories. My heart skipped a beat when I shone my torch around the campsite — there were two lions standing a mere 15 meters away from the staff busy cleaning up the cooking area of the camp! It was such a surreal feeling, that I forgot to be scared and hid behind the big tree near us. In retrospect, I can’t imagine how I thought the tree would be a useful line of defence.

RESCUING THE THREE COOKS

Ace immediately ordered us all onto the game drive vehicle parked right next to us, and we went to rescue the three cooks who were huddled next to their trailer. The two lions retreated a few meters to join the rest of the NINE strong pride. It took us over an hour of hooting and banging loudly on the side of our truck, to convince the lions to leave our camp. They seemed amused by our efforts to scare them off. By this stage, I had more adrenalin than blood in my veins.

AN UNEASY NIGHT

We all reluctantly returned to our tents. I wondered how I was going to make it through the night without my regular visits to my long drop a good 10 meters away from the safety of the tent. It was not long afterwards that we heard the lions take down a zebra somewhere in the distance. I felt that the bush was returning to normality and that we were not the focus of the pride any longer.

AN ADVENTURE TO REMEMBER

We all agreed that this visit to Moremi, with Ace as our guide, was the experience of a lifetime. I might even agree to go camping again and what a story to add to my arsenal of safari adventures. 

September 2019 | the muse | 16

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