This week we went to a ginormous national park – so big actually, that it’s half the size of Belgium! Staying in luxurious tented lodges in the wilderness was a fantastic experience on its own:
Firstly, the tents looked like proper hotel rooms with a boutique style vibe, but more importantly – curious elephants would often make their way through the camp… They’d drink from the pool and one even came up to sniff me as we were on our way to lunch! I must have either smelled of acacia trees or pool water and I don’t know which is worse:
The first 2 days were slow. We didn’t see much on our game drives so I was a little worried that we wouldn’t get the footage we need for the episode. BUT on the 3rd day, we saw 4 CHEETAH!! And ON FOOT!! This was the first time I’d ever seen cheetah so my excitement was through the roof (which def showed on camera) and I had to crawl up to them on hands and knees so that they wouldn’t run away. Note: this was NOT elegantly done and even though I felt like a cheetah, I looked like a retarded oversized toddler.
Later we saw them again as they relaxed in the sun and then tried to make a kill!! This was definitely a thrilling moment to watch. We only saw the cheetah and nothing else, no matter how hard we scanned. And suddenly, out of the blue, one starts RUNNING after a whole HERD of impala that appeared out of NOWHERE!! Impressive spotting, mister Cheetah. And the chase was FAST. All happened in a few seconds. Unfortunately, (or fortunately), the hunt was not successful, so seeing a kill is still at the top of my African-Bucket-List.
Before coming here, I was particularly excited to see big elephant herds, which is what this park is known for. A big herd is what – 20 elephants, right? Nope.
All coming to the water hole at the same time. We watched the horizon as they kept coming and coming and coming. Every time the water hole would be full of splashing elephants, I’d think: ‘Okay, that’s probably all there is‘…. except it never was!! I watched open mouthed as the water hole filled up to max capacity with elephant families of all ages- from 1 month old babies to 40 year old matriarchs, splashing, playing, drinking, fighting… I have never heard such a funny cacophony of noises in the wild before and it was hard to keep a straight face on camera.
Observing them is such a privilege and I never realised how human-like they are. They’ve all got personalities and you see everything that you’d see in human families: Young boys play-fighting, clumsy babies splashing in the water not knowing what’s going on, worried mothers frantically looking for their children, careful youngsters sitting on all fours and sliding into the water to avoid a fall, older siblings helping young ones but sometimes pushing them out of the way to get mom’s attention… it really is incredible.
The day finished off with a glorious sunset and the elephants (plus bird) made it picture perfect:
And then there was the moon.
OH DEAR LAWWWDDDDDD the moon! A giant bright red ball rising from the horizon. It looked like Mars from a distance. I have NEVER EVER seen a moon like this, so was completely speechless as we filmed elephant shadows walking past it. Pictures don’t do it justice. Honestly, one of the most surreal moments of my life.
The next day we decided to do something different and went to film at a local school. It recently received a lot of help from various organisations as there was no clean water, no food and very few teachers – resulting in children fainting in class due to hunger/ dehydration and the education not reaching a good standard. Now the situation has vastly improved and there is a well at the school with clean water, teachers living on site and a kitchen where locals make lunch for the children daily. It was so refreshing to see kids genuinely enjoying school… very unlike the western world! When I walked into one of the classrooms, I was SWARMED with little munchkins jumping around me, high-fiving me, wanting to hug me and touching my pony tail! (I can imagine how unusual my hair is to them). We played for a while and when I had to leave, they all hugged me so hard, I physically had to pull my way through to the door! Adorable.
We then stopped at a small village where the locals make jewellery to sell at some of the safari lodges. 100% of proceeds go back to the community in order to improve their living standards. This was a very interesting segment to present, especially because the jewellery looks like big beaded pieces… but they’re actually made from rolled up paper!! Couldn’t believe it:
Next Week: Full on adventure mode is ON with heights, obstacle courses, adrenaline and one of the tallest waterfalls in Africa! Stay tuuuuuuned.