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Africa Odyssey Blog

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A Poem: Wilderness by Ian McCallum

A Poem: Wilderness by Ian McCallum

Have we forgotten
that wilderness is not a place,
but a pattern of the soul
where every tree, every bird and beast
is a soul maker?

Have we forgotten
that wilderness is not a place
but a moving feast of the starts,
footprints, scales and beginnings?

Since when
did we become afraid of the night
and that only the bright starts count?
Or that our moon is not a moon
unless it is full?

By who’s command
were the animals
through groping fingers,
one for each hand,
reduced to the big and little five?

Have we forgotten
that every creature is within us
carried by tides
of earthly blood
and that we named them?

Have we forgotten
that wilderness is not a place
but a season
and that we are in its
final hour?

An exquisite poem by Ian McCallum from his anthology Wild Gifts. Ian has a diverse range of skills and talents, among them being a medical doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, specialist wilderness guide, author and poet, as well as a director of the Wilderness Foundation. His passion for the wilderness and the African continent especially speak compounds through his colourful and inspiring poetry. His gift to put what many of us bush lovers feel into a soft but powerful string of words is a wild rarity. If you’re a lover of words, wilderness, and wildlife, Ian’s other works will not disappoint.

Submerse yourself into the real Africa, the authentic African wilderness that Ian speaks of, and let us know about your travel preferences so we can help plan your perfect African holiday.

Elephants March through Lodge Reception at Mfuwe

Elephants March through Lodge Reception at Mfuwe

To witness an elephant on safari is a privilege. To witness a group of elephants march through a lodge reception is an honour of a different kind. This is the true-life story that takes place at Mfuwe Lodge every year.

Each spring, between late October and mid December, an entire elephant herd ambles through the Zambian lodge’s reception enticed by the promise of fallen fruits from a large wild mango tree on the other side. In celebration of World Elephant Day on the 12th of August, we couldn’t resist sharing this unique story of a particular Mfuwe elephant family.

Elephants March through Lodge Reception at Mfuwe

The lodge was built in 1998 over an ancient elephant path. Rather than add a few metres to go around the lodge once the construction was complete, the elephants decided to stick to the route they knew best. Even if it meant taking a few steps through a tiled reception lobby!

While by no means tame, the elephants are extremely nonchalant during their seasonal visits. Guests are able to enjoy front row seats as the elephants’ journey to and from the mango tree located in the centre of the lodge grounds. It’s all about the ripe, delicious fruit within trunk’s reach at the end of the lobby.

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The Bush Camp Company’s seasoned safari guide, Steve Mvula, explains the intriguing behaviour in a recent Africa Geographic blog:

“Elephants have a matriarchal family structure. Usually the oldest female, the matriarch decides where the family goes throughout the day and the rest follow her. The current matriarch of this family learned from the previous matriarch that a good source of food during the dry season is the wild mangos, so she leads the family back annually and they walk a circuit from one tree to the next, including the tree in the middle of the Mfuwe Lodge grounds.

This knowledge is passed from one generation to the next. The elephants can’t reach the fruit so they are helped by the monkeys and baboons. The monkeys and baboons are in the top of the tree and pick the fruit. If they pick one they don’t like, they throw it to the ground and the elephants then can get it.”

The elephant takeover has become a wildlife spectacle on such a grandiose scale and remains one of the safari lodge’s biggest draw cards.

Not only is Mfuwe Lodge famous for its jumbo-sized visitors, but a particular few elephants have been granted their ticket to stardom. Mfuwe elephant personalities, Wonky Tusk and Wellington, have been the focus of many TV documentaries, photographs, videos, and news articles.

You can learn more about the camp’s interaction with these lovable giants and meet Wonky Tusk and Wellington in the video below:


The Magic of Africa after Sunset

The Magic of Africa after Sunset

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that your day doesn’t stop once the sun sets after a wild day in the African bush. The morning and afternoon game drives may have come to an end, but there’s a whole second half of the day ‘beyond the Big 5’ patiently waiting to unfold. It’s one of pure magic and it begins after sunset.

Here are 4 reasons why Africa is even better once the sun goes down:

1. Family style dinner

After an exciting and adventurous day on safari, a homemade meal is exactly what you need to refuel. At most camps and lodges, meals are enjoyed around a big family style table where guests reminisce about the day’s sightings with family and new friends. It’s a chance to get acquainted with the other guests from around the world while picking the brain of your game ranger who’s had more close encounters with elephant and rhino than you’d probably want to know!

The Magic of Africa after Sunset

Image by Three Tree Hill.

The workings of a bush kitchen will totally amaze you, as will the food. A hearty soup to start, a scrumptious beef filet made from a solar cooker to follow, and a decadent dessert will leave your tummy as happy as an elephant surrounded by hundreds of camel thorn pods.

2. Boma Banter

Many camps and lodges have traditional bomas where you can either enjoy dinner under the stars or sip on a nightcap after your meal with good company. Historically, bomas were enclosed fences used to house livestock overnight to protect them from predators. However, in modern day safari luxury, they have transformed into an atmospheric and inviting setting to absorb the night sounds of the bush while enjoying a cup of tea or Amarula around a crackling fire.

Image by Garonga Safari Camp.

Image by Garonga Safari Camp.

3. Stargazing

The skies are bigger and the stars shine brighter in Africa. Camps in remote wilderness areas have the pleasure to witness the twinkling sensations in complete solitude at night. A tilt of the head and you could see more stars than you’d ever hope to count. Stargazers can enjoy the beauty of the unclouded galaxies and learn a few of the night sky tall tales from the guides who know them best.

Image by microtoxic photographic.

Image by microtoxic photographic.

4. Drifting to sleep in luxury

Safaris, sunset views, family style dinners, boma banter, and stargazing – at the end of the day you’ll need a soft pillow and warm bed to drift off to sleep. Reset your exhausted body and sleep like a king and queen in total luxury knowing you get to do it all again tomorrow.

Image by Tongabezi Lodge.

Image by Tongabezi Lodge.

A safari holiday is not all about the wildlife. When the sun sets after a full day of games drives, Africa part two begins and it’s a sequel that’s utterly magical. Get in touch if this sounds like the Africa you’d like to experience.

Reminiscing about running in the wild!

With the Safaricom Lewa marathon taking place this weekend – we thought it would be good to write about this amazing event from our personal experiences of 2015 and 2014…. each year I seem to get progressively slower!

THE SAFARICOM MARATHON. LEWA DOWNS.

We arrive early and there is already a buzz in the air. Excitement all around and nervous anticipation can be seen in the faces of all the runners who are about to embark on one of the world’s toughest marathons (or half marathon as the case maybe for the majority!). The sun is just rising – a beautiful orange – shining through a haze of dust created by the 1,400 or so runners making their way along dirt roads and tracks to the start line. We are about to run a half marathon through the 62,000acre Lewa Downs wildlife conservancy. One of Africa’s most incredible conservation success stories and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Two helicopters buzz overhead and the hear the whir of light aircraft in the distance – “they’ll be clearing the wildlife from the course before we start” a friend informs me! I hope that is indeed the case, Lewa is teeming with game – large herds of elephants and buffalo roam freely in the conservancy, a healthy number of lions and East Africa’s largest population of both black and white rhino … it adds to the challenge and reinforces why this is such a special event to be a part off. Running in the wild, with wildlife and most importantly, for wildlife.

Even at 6:30 the sun is already impossibly high and getting hotter. I feel like I’m on the set of an action film – walking towards the starting post through hundreds of khaki safari tents set up for the specifically for the event in a stunning grove of Acacia and Yellow Fever trees – it reminds me of an old military encampment. The colours of thousands of supporters and runners are a wonderful contrast to the traditional Khaki; bright greens and reds and blues and whites, Kenyan flags fly in a gentle breeze and the banners of the event sponsors, Safaricom and Tusk Trust seen everywhere – a DJ on a raised platform is playing a mixture of traditional African and inspirational music which adds to the carnival atmosphere.

The 10 second count down begins, everyone cheering – and we’re off, like a stampede of wildebeest crossing the Mara River; being squashed and funneled from an open plain onto a thin dirt road. The first 5 mins is total chaos – 1,400 runners sprinting and pushing to get in position, quad bikes racing past and helicopters overhead! Adrenaline pumping, a long line of colour stretches its way out in front of me (as well as a little bit behind!) snaking its way up and around one of the large hills of Lewa that needs to be climbed! How have those incredible Kenyan athletes got so far ahead in 10 mins!?

Underfoot is a dirt track, littered with rocks, every step taken creates a small cloud of dust, it is hot – and only getting hotter. The altitude of 6,000ft (the same height as the ski resort Courchevel in the French Alps) makes my lungs burn! And yet – I am thoroughly enjoying myself! Running through some of the most stunning landscapes in East Africa takes your mind off the grueling 21km’s with nearly a 2000m climb! The water stations at 2.5km intervals are a welcome break! Enthusiastic crowds gather and cheer us on offering us water and isotonic drinks as we enviously look on at their delicious bush breakfasts, champagne, bloody Marys and Tusker beers!

We push on past the river banks of the stunning Sirikoi Valley, up steep hills and through the stunning savannah interspersed with typical Acacia and Balanites Trees. We pass zebra and numerous antelope who look on curiously – I’m sure wandering what the cause of the stampede is! Up more hills and passing more spectators. The snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya loom over us from the Conservancy’s southern boundary. The rolling hills are seemingly endless, with the Mathews Mountains and the iconic Mount Ole Lolokwe dramatically rising to the North. The sheer beauty of this place coupled with the supporter’s generosity and the fellow runner’s keen spirt takes your mind from the aching knees, tired muscles and tight(ening) lungs.

Finally reaching the top of the last hill and seeing the tents of the camp and the Safaricom and Tusk Trust flags flying near the finish line! Whoops from other runners echo around me, I’m exhausted and it still looks like a fair distance to go… the final push. Down a horrible hill which jars already painful legs and an arduous final 5km to the finish line…
The 200 uber –fit and slightly insane runners, who have to endure the full marathon, turn right to complete another circuit, I thankfully head left and hear the roar of a crowd coming closer. Thousands of local children revel in the amazing atmosphere cheering us on into the finish line, a medal, massage and cold beer at Lewa Safari Camp await!
The Safaricom Lewa marathon is without a doubt an enjoyable experience shared by competitors and spectators alike, a wonderful up-beat atmosphere that welcomes people from all over the world. But it is important to not lose sight of what the Lewa Marathon stands for. Since its conception in 2000 the Lewa Marathon has raised over $5 million for conservation and grown into an internationally acclaimed event, one of Kenya’s major sporting events and listed in Runners World as “top ten must do marathons”. Last year more than £400,000 was raised to support different projects across Kenya. The main three are all essential in the protecting our worlds natural and wild places; Supporting communities, promoting education and protecting wildlife. All three go hand in hand. Wildlife conservation can be used as a catalyst to alleviate poverty, reduce conflict, and improve education and livelihoods in rural areas rich in biodiversity. And of course that in turn aids the protection of wildlife, especially the endangered and targeted elephant and rhino.

What an experience, running wild, for wildlife and helping to secure a future for wild places in Africa.
The Lewa Marathon will be held this year on the 25 of June 2016. Registration for the 2017 Marathon (also held in June) will open in February 2017. Lewa is situated at 5,550ft above sea level and the course records are 2:18:42 for the full marathon and 1:05:00 for the half marathon.

Reminiscing about running in the wild!The start of the Safaricom Lewa Marathon; through a stunning grove of Yellow Fever Trees.

Photo Credit:  Tusk Trust.

 

Reminiscing about running in the wild!The front runners making headway during the Safaricom Lewa Marathon.

Photo Credit: Safaricom.

 

The International Mountain Explorers Connection

Africa and Tanzania Odyssey is proud to be in partnership with THE INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN EXPLORERS CONNECTION, which focus on improving the working conditions of porters on Kilimanjaro and in Nepal.

With our specific focus on Africa’s highest Mountain; Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, it is incredibly important to us that our clients who attempt this summit do so responsibly, whilst creating sustainable connections with the people of developing mountain regions.

 

The International Mountain Explorers Connection The International Mountain Explorers Connection