Up Close and Personal

Oh dear LAWWWDDDD, where do I even start???

Let’s rewind to 1 month ago when I got an incredible job offer to present a travel/wildlife/safari TV series in Africa (airing in 2018, hopefully globally)…. I accepted the same day, 3 weeks later was on an 18 hour flight with a 1 way ticket and in the 5 days that I’ve been here I’ve stood 2m away from wild elephants, been charged at by a mating lion, was surrounded by hippos at night in my little tent and have won a staring contest with a herd of buffalo.

Not even joking.

I wish I could share all of my experiences each week, but I won’t… firstly because that’ll take kudus years (see what I did there?) and secondly because I still want to leave a few surprises for when the show comes out! So I’ll select the top few to write about here and hopefully won’t bore you too much.

The team break down each episode into different locations and for this one it was a beautiful deserted area by a big river almost in the middle of nowhere, which is great because it meant the wildlife was plentiful. It also meant that we got to fly there in this cute little plane:

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We stayed in beautiful tents, built just for us, that looked like mini hotel rooms, each one equipped with its own toilet/ shower/ sink. Def not what I think of when I hear the word ‘camping’, so this was a very nice surprise!

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My guide Craig (Craig is uuuhhhh-mazing by the way, but more on that later.) (No but seriously, anything that you have ever known is the amount he knows JUST about wildlife.) Anyyyyyway, Craig, the crew and myself went out early each day to see what interesting wildlife we could find and we certainly were not left disappointed!

SO: First, let’s talk about how we got charged at by a possessive mating lion, pictured with his Dame below:

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You see, when male lions are in mating season, they only think of … well, you know. They find a sexy lady and hump her every 10-15 mins to get a good shot at passing on genes. So in a day, it can easily happen 80 times. I’D SAY YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD CHANCE, MATE. Oh, and also – it only lasts about 5secs. Max 7. Anyway, we got closer and closer in our vehicle until we were about 10m away. Mufassa got annoyed, stood up and ROARED at us. Most deafening sound in the world and makes your heart drop fo sho. Thankfully Craig knows all about animal body language and it turns out all we had to do was retreat a little and Le King was happy again. Such an exhilarating experience. Really a once in a lifetime!

Later that evening, we were all sitting by the fire in complete darkness and what do we hear about 200m away? ‘RROOOOOAARRRRR!!!’ OH DEAR LAAWWWDDDDDD! Until that moment I did not know what fear was (and just wait until you read the canoeing story. This becomes cute in comparison.) We shine a light and…. It’s the same mating couple from earlier!! At that point my thoughts were: ‘ Gurl, I don’t even know how you can even walk after all that action, but however you’re doing it – applause’. A few more deafening roars later, I try to act cool and walk calmly to my tent but in reality- vjsdcbxksdbvlsdhfvldzbclsdkcjnlsdbjvkdhbvljdhgvlgerhvljn. They kept roaring outside our tents the whole night, along with the dozen hippos that were there every night anyway, practically breathing on me. This is normal, btw.

And speaking of hippos…..

You know how when you take a nice relaxing canoe trip and end up being cornered by multiple hippo herds (‘pods’) totalling to about 80 hippos, who are all prepared to sink their teeth into you unless you leave their territory pronto?

No?

I didn’t either until Friday.

The poor camera man said he could hear my heart pounding through the mic. Surprised he couldn’t hear me almost peeing my pants. Hippos are by far the most dangerous animal in the wild and cause more deaths than any other creature in Africa. They are fiercely territorial, love a good fight (and kill) to show dominance and have no mercy. And here we are, surrounded by a good 80 of them, on our little blue canoe. *breathe…. breathe… breeeaaaaaaatheeeeee… don’t pee.. don’t pee… don’t pee.*

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The trick is to stay close to the river banks to have an escape route if needed, to alert them of your presence with noise and give them time to swim away if they want to. Most of them will just stare at you without moving for a good few minutes before swimming away ….deciding if you are worth their precious effort or not. And some you can’t even see, which terrified me more than anything. They can stay underwater for up to 12 mins, so what if one angry bastard just emerges right in front of us and decides it wants to show dominance or whatever by eating our poor canoe??? BUT, I like to think of myself as an optimist, so let’s look at some positives here:

  • I am alive (#score).
  • My ‘paddle for your life’ skills have significantly improved.
  • I now have a good story for when my future teenage kids think I’m no longer cool.

And since we are on the theme of positives, I think my most wonderful memories and experiences from this past week have been with elephants. Such beautiful gentle creatures. More than what I would have ever expected in the wild. On our first day there we found a giant male who was splashing himself with mud to cool down. He was having a good ol’ time and we sat right infront of him and even though he saw us, he could not have cared less and just continued doing his thing. Such an amazing and serene experience. He later approached even closer as we were by the water, which displayed his curiosity:

The second time we got close to another male was a few days later… and it was suuuuuuppeeeerr close. So close, infact, that if I reached out my hand I would have been able to touch him. Everyone from the crew was terrified but for some reason I just feel so peaceful around these animals. There’s something very good-natured about them. And even though I know that may not always be the case, this one meant no harm and just ate leaves while we were  standing 2m away. I could see his eyelashes when he turned around. That’s how close we got! Insanely cool. Definitely something that’ll stick with me for a while, if not forever.

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And the last incredible sight that I’ll mention was a babyyyy elephant. Not even a year old! So cute that his momma still had to show him how to pick up food with his trunk and chase after him as he ran off to play in the bushes. I. JUST. CAN’T. Too adorable.

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Next week: a famous water hole where we’ll hopefully see awesome animals coming to drink (and kill)…. And we might even go hunting for some skulls and try some traditional foods (fried worms, anyone?)! Stay tuned!


5 thoughts on “Up Close and Personal

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