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Postcard from Africa
I have been on the move this week, and rather than post something I wrote earlier, in the spirit of spontaneity I thought I’d share a few photos from my travels.
You may be aware that I bring groups of people to my homeland of Zimbabwe, Africa each year for Mindful Safaris. We always come in August, which is prime animal-viewing time. Because the rains fall in summer, by the end of our Southern hemisphere winter water is scarce, animals are more inclined to visit watering holes and the bush has died back, making it much easier to see the incredible variety of beings that call this place home.
Our groups have been coming to Masuwe Lodge at Victoria Falls for some years – this place feels very much like a home for me too. As always, the staff were wonderfully welcoming, with drums and multi-coloured soft drinks as you arrive at the thatched reception area. Although they put on a show for guests, their welcome is heartfelt. Jobs depend on tourists in this part of the world, and Covid was brutal. Lodges had to close down, some went out of business, jobs were lost and in a country beset with economic problems, the hardships experienced are beyond the comprehension of those of us who live in the developed world where there is a social security net.
But through all the problems, there is something deeply special about being in the heart of the African bush. Walking to my tent, I felt a wave of release as if a deadweight I’d been unaware I was carrying on my shoulders, slid off. That sense of ‘ahhh!,’ like exhaling a long, gentle breath, when you return to a much-loved place where you are immersed in nature.
I was enjoying exactly this experience when there came the strident and reptitive but familiar cry of the grey loerie bird, otherwise known as the ‘Go-away bird’ - a shrill ‘Gwhyyyyy! Gwhyyyyy!’
But I only just got here, I protested!
My wife and I have arrived a few days before guests to help get things organised both at Masuwe Lodge as well as at Sian Simba River Lodge, on the banks of the Zambezi River. We took the scenic route to Sian Simba through the Zambezi National Park. A dirt track follows the river quite closely. The Zambezi is the fourth biggest river in Africa, a broad, silver-blue sprawl encompassing islands lush with the vegetation of the Zimbabwe bush interspersed with palm trees introduced to Africa well over a thousand years ago by Arab traders, giving the riverbanks their unique beauty.
The Zambian side of the river is much greener and thicker with bush than the Zimbabwean for a simple reason – there are far fewer animals there. Elephants and other animals have been poached to extinction on the North side of the river, while here in Zim we still have large numbers of wild elephants, protected by a variety of anti-poaching groups.
On our way to Sian Simba we encountered small elie herds, both breeding (female) as well as bachelors. They are habituated to people driving vehicles along the road and relaxed about being watched. One of our encounters was with this large, handsome fellow only a few yards away.
On encountering a baobab during the drive, our very knowledgeable guide, Zulu, reminded us of a Shona legend about these ‘upside-down’ trees. In the beginning, the story goes, God asked all the animals to plant a tree for him. They were all willing to oblige except for the hyena, who refused. Irate, God hurled the hyena’s tree into the ground, so that it landed, roots upwards, into the sky. From that time on, God condemned the hyena to live on decaying flesh.
We come to Africa at the tail end of winter, when there are few, if any, mosquitoes around, but many lodges have mosquito nets around the beds as a standard feature.
You arrive back at your room in the evening to find the bed turned down, sidelamps on, and mosie nets drawn. It’s one of the elements of being on safari which has endured as long as I can remember – for me, a sight that, whatever the rigours of a day in the bush, immediately evokes peaceful rest.
You wake early in Africa if you want to see nature at its most beautiful – and active. The photo at the top of this post was taken at about 6 am at Sian Simba. We watched the sun rise over the tranquil river with that gorgeous African red glow. Sunrises and sunsets are another gift of this season. At the end of the winter, when the whole country is parched, it is the dust in the atmosphere that touches the dawns and dusks with such high-coloured splendour.
In all the variety of animals we encounter here, elephants have a very special place in my heart – and also, I know, in the hearts of many subscribers. This coming week, one of the highlights we’re looking forward to is a visit to Panda Masuie and the site where elephants from the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery are rewilded.
Elies aside, we have seen many other creatures in the few days we’ve been here - giraffes, kudu, hippo, a variety of buck and no shortage of baboons and vervet monkeys. Not to mention the wealth of intriguing birds. On our first morning we were shocked to be told that a leopard killed a bushbuck only a few yards behind our tent – we had slept through the whole thing, oblivious to what was happening. Although the leopard ate part of the animal, probably intending to come for the rest of it the next night, hyenas got there first and dragged the carcass out of camp.
I am being called away to sample some of the wonderful oils and lotions being made from Zimbabwean plants like the marula, moringa and baobab by our friend Michele, who will be talking to guests about their many special healing qualities. She has set up a mini-spa in her room where guests are to be offered a massage with such delights as baobab body oil and marula face cream. It smells heavenly in there!
The next two weeks will be pretty all-consuming for me with our Mindful Safari guests arriving from around the world. I have written a couple of posts that I hope you enjoy. And I will also be back in touch to share more about our experiences here.
You can find out more about Mindful Safari here: https://davidmichie.com/mindful-safari/
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