One thing we have plenty of in Africa is bush and wildlife, and as a result most of us take it for granted. My first memory of spending a night or more in the bush was in primary school. Our class went on a weekend trip to Liwonde National Park in Malawi. This was of couse before the days of Instagram and digital cameras so I have no record of the trip aside from my faint recollections. I do remember our teacher, Mr Crabb, telling ghost stories by the camp fire and hearing animals outside our chalet during the night. I also remember going for an early morning game drive and seeing herds of antelopes but aside from that not much else.
My next bush experience was in high school when I took part in some student award scheme similar to the scouts which requires it’s participants to learn basic survival techniques including life guarding, navigation (maps etc) and camping. We followed maps provided by our teachers along a set route in the village of Mtunthama (Malawi) to a predetermined destination where we camped for the night. We received no assistance and had to carry our own camping supplies and set up our tents alone, only the food was taken to the camp site for us. Those trips were some of my favorite times in high school and though there were no carnivorous animals or imminent danger of any sort, we felt like we were living on the wild side.
Despite having done these two activities in my youth and having thoroughly enjoyed them, I’m the type of person to opt for something less bush related when it comes to holidays/getaways. This year though, due to a part time job I had with an exchange programme, I was forced to live on the wild side once again. We took a series of trips, the first to Mokolodi, then next to The Rhino sanctuary in Serowe and the last to the Okavango Delta. So in my coming “bush adventures” tagged blog posts, I will share what we did and saw in those places.
Mokolodi Nature Reserve is located less than an hour outside of Gaborone and is a perfect “starter” location for someone wishing to give the bush thing a go without having to stray too far from the comforts of the city. Their company profile from their Facebook page is as follows:
Mokolodi Nature Reserve is a project of The Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation, a charitable organization registered in Botswana. It was established to serve as a protected conservation and environmental education area and is placed in trust for the children of Botswana. It is home to a wide variety of flora, indigenous wild game, bird and reptile species. Animals to be found within the park include white rhino, giraffe, zebra, eland, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, red hertebeest, as well as brown hyaena and leopard. The Reserve has numerous species of lizards, snakes and other reptiles and also has a vast range of resident and migratory bird species. Mokolodi Nature Reserve operates on a not-for-profit basis. The fee-based activity and accommodation services offered to the visiting public are the primary conduit to achieving the Foundation’s charitable objectives and enable it to enrich the lives of children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We began our visit to the Game reserve with a game drive, followed by dinner by the little river before enjoying a few drinks by a huge fire. Personally, I had been to the Reserve before for a wedding but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go there for purely recreational purposes.
The game drive was fun mainly due to our guides dry British humour. At some point we stopped for a drink but suddenly, our guide Glen had us briskly walking through the bush tracking giraffes. We eventually found them and after frantically taking pictures he herded us back to the safari truck.After the braai style dinner, we sat by the fire playing drinking games which lasted about an hour or so. Then we were transported to the dorms on the reserve where we would be spending the night. The dorms are normally used by children who come to visit the reserve. We all chose a bunk bed, put on a few more layers of clothes then headed to the fire that was prepared for us under a thatch roofed shelter. The games continued followed by marshmellow toasting but as the night wore on we gradually migrated into little groups chatting and sharing stories. The night ended at about 11pm for me.
The next day we woke up fairly early to prepare ourselves for a morning of volunteering. I had to suffer through a cold shower before heading to a buffet style breakfast in the hall next to the dorms. Breakfast was as awesome as dinner had been the previous day and I shoveled down as much bacon as my stomach would allow!
We were collected by safari trucks and taken to what, to us, seemed like a random location in the reserve. When we got there we were divided into groups and told to help clear branches from the road way with pangas and help build mini dams along the pathways followed by water during the rainy season. I opted to go for the bush clearing thing and soon found it was harder than I’d hoped. At the end of the 3 hours we spent there we had done nothing of any real significance as far as clearing bushes go. I dare say we were more of an annoyance to the reserve guides than anything else because the smallest thorn branch or slightest gust of dusty wind would make us flail around in a panic. No one was happier than me when it was over!
Back at the dorms we had snacks while we waited for our bus to come collect us from the reserve. It had been a lovely retreat from the city but it was time to return to a life of hot showers! The reserve is definitely a lovely place to visit for that quick weekend getaway or relaxing game drive and pleasant meal. And you only need to drive 15kms! Perfect city girls bush destination.