20 Seconds of Insane Courage

Batoka Gorge Flight

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

I remember hearing these words for the first time, watching as Matt Damon, playing Benjamin Mee in the film, We Bought a Zoo, imparts some fatherly advice to his son. I remember my chest suddenly feeling unsteady, taken over by a sort of vertigo, waiting to fall. Not because I so was taken by Damon. And not, I told myself, because I was a big softie. It was because the film had managed to do what all art attempts to do. It spoke to me. Right to my core. To the adventurer in me that longs for new and wild experiences but sometimes needs a little push out of the plane.

There are certain times when the brave soul inside each of us is called into action. For some of us, it is the simple act of making the first move in love. For others, it is getting back on that thoroughbred after being kicked off. Africa is full of opportunities that call on those twenty seconds of insane courage. Here are ten that get our hearts flustered without fail, that we hope will do the same for you. “And I promise you, something great will come of it.” 

ol Donyo horse riding adventure

1. Canoe the Zambezi

Head down the Zambezi River at Royal Chundu in an inflatable canoe, chasing small rapids and relaxing on stretches of calm, while hippos pop their eyes out of the water in the distance and crocodiles take to the exposed rocks to sunbathe. Royal Chundu‘s guides grew up around the river and know which channels to take and which to avoid to ensure a safe but still exhilarating adventure.

Canoeing on the Zambezi

2. Cowboy up

During a safari at ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya, swap the game drive for a horse ride through the private 275,000-acre Mbirikani Group Ranch, between Tsavo East and Amboseli National Parks and next to Chyulu Hills National Park.

“Whether you are a beginner or expert rider, there is nothing quite like a safari on horseback. Accepted by the wildlife as another animal, one is able to get incredibly close for a truly unique game viewing experience. The magical sense of peace and freedom, from horizon to horizon, is un-paralleled.” – Annie Waterer, Equestrian Manager at Ol Donyo Lodge

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Horses at ol Donyo

3. Devil’s Pool

Take the leap into possibly the most dangerous infinity pool in the world. Devil’s Pool on Livingstone Island in Zambia is an intimidating natural infinity pool at the edge of the Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River tumbles 120 metres over the precipice.

“As the rains dry up, usually between August and January, the Zambezi’s water levels sink and reveal a rock wall around the pool that acts as a barrier. This allows travellers to swim about in safety. Formed as a result of thousands of years of erosion, it’s considered the most dangerous pool in the world. A place where the call of the brave is strong.” – Read more in Royal Chundu’s blog, The Heavenliness of the Devil’s Pool.

Devil's Pool

Devil's Pool

4. Game on

The classic activity of a safari in Africa is the game drive. The mission: to explore the land in search of the wild animals, bird life and other intrigues of the bush. The close proximity the drives take safari-goers to these wild animals is not for the nervous of temperament. But for those keen on a little adventure, know that the rangers and trackers at the helm are all professional, passionate and highly knowledgeable – whether at Camp Jabulani, Morukuru Family, Bushmans Kloof, or Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa, Zarafa Camp in Botswana or Mara Plains and ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya.

“Trackers sit up at the front of the Land Rover looking for fresh animal tracks, while rangers drive with astonishing skill into ravines and through thicket in pursuit of elusive animals, simultaneously wowing guests with their outstanding knowledge and unforgettable stories.” – Read more in Londolozi’s 24 Hours on Safari.

Game-Drives

Above: Londolozi

5. A walk on the wild side

It is often said in safari circles that, “Taking a game drive is like watching a movie, while walking in the bush is like reading a book.” A daring, exhilarating book. Guided bush walks take you right up close to the terrain and its residents and demand the fearless in you to come to the fore. It also presents a whole new world of smells and sounds that can be lost to the senses on a drive.

Experience a walking safari in a variety of destinations – including Londolozi, Zarafa Camp, Mara Plains, ol Donyo Lodge, Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness RetreatMorukuru Family or Camp Jabulani.

Camp Jabulani

Above: Camp Jabulani

Bush walks at Bushmans Kloof

Above: Bushmans Kloof

6. Sleep under the stars

Brave the African night at Morukuru Family’s sleepout, on a hide on the edge of a watering hole and protected by an electrified fence.

“Provided with a spot light a sleepover at the hide is perfect for the daring to spend a night in the wild. For a romantic evening with a partner or for family members and friends a magical experience of being left alone in the a vast plain where the wildlife roam free, in perfect comfort, yet surrounded by the African wilderness is not to be missed. For those less daring an evening stop at the hide during game drive is a sublime spot to look up at the sparkling night sky and star gaze.” – Morukuru Family

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Morukuru Hide

7. See Africa from above

Take to the air in a hot air balloon at ol Donyo Lodge or, while at Royal Chundu, soar over the Victoria Falls in a microlight or helicopter.

Scenic Flight

Mighty Zambezi

8. Live with lions

“You know you are truly alive when you’re living among lions,” wrote Karen Blixen in Out of Africa. At the Great Plains Conservation’s Zarafa Camp in Botswana, there is no fence between you and the wild animals of the reserve. Elephants, lions and even the odd leopard are known to make an appearance on the path between your suite and the main lodge or to sneak a peak on the dining deck.

Zarafa Camp in Botswana

Zarafa Camp

9. White waters ahead

Prepare to be shaken, and soaked, very soaked, riding the rapids of the fourth largest river in Africa – the Zambezi. Opt for dry season if you’re eager for a bumpier ride, with whirlpools and boils making capsizing standard procedure.

Rafting

10. Dining in the wild

It is unfathomable for first-timers. To be able to step out of the game vehicle (or off the horse) and pull up a chair at a table laid out in the middle of a reserve, wild animals roaming about you. Unfathomable, but easy to get used to…

Discover more in our blog, How To Dine in the Wild, featuring Zarafa Camp, and The 5 Stages of Dining – A Food Safari at Morukuru Family.

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Above: ol Donyo Lodge

Morukuru Family

Above: Morukuru Family

The Sisterhood of the Animal Kingdom

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While the world still gets its mind around what a woman wants, let’s look at what a woman is, as revealed in the African wilderness. On our recent safari to Morukuru Family in the Madikwe Game Reserve, the females of the Animal Kingdom provided us with the answer. Or rather, answers. Because a woman is not one thing. Her nature is infinite, but there are traits that she shares with her sisters, traits that the ladies of the elephant and lion world hold – like strength, courage, confidence, compassion and a sense of purpose.

In honour of Women’s Day in South Africa on 9 August, discover five lessons the females of the Animal Kingdom can teach you about being a better woman (and an all round decent human) below.


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1. Lead the Way

We all have the ability to lead – whether it’s ourselves as individuals, on our own paths, or larger groups. And the qualities of a good leader are traits we could all do with having more of… In elephant herds, successful leaders have wisdom, confidence and strong connections with other elephants. They care for the needs of their herd, and are compassionate to their own herd as well as the members of other herds.

The head of the elephant herd is known as the matriarch – the oldest and largest female of them all. The rest of the herd follows her lead when travelling, walking behind her in single file. In a crisis, they all rely on her to be the group’s decision maker because she has earned their respect.

Source: IFAW


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2. Be a Mentor

As the first and oldest mother, the matriarch teachers her daughters how to care for their own young. Once they start to bear babies, their sisters will help too. This helps to train them, to prepare them for their own calves. Elephant mothers are incredibly attentive to the needs of their young. They have to be, since babies are born with almost no instinctive patterns. Nearly everything they do has been taught to them by their mothers and aunts. By the greater sisterhood. It is the matriarch that determines what is important for that specific herd and mothers to teach the young ones – depending on the different dangers and responsibilities.

Source: Elephants Forever


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3. The concept of “All For One and One For All”

Elephant families revolve around females; males leave at puberty and become socially independent, but females remain within their families for their whole lives. Within the herd, all of the elephants have a function and all work together for the benefit of the herd. Females rear their calves alongside their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts. Young females fulfill the role of baby sitters or allomothers. Orphaned calves are taken in, usually adopted by one of the family’s lactating females or suckled by various females. Sisterhood at its best.

Source: Sanbi


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This concept of fellowship, or sisterhood, is also strong in lion circles.

Most cat species are predominantly solitary animals. But not the lion. Its existence is based on teamwork, a division of labour within the pride, and an extended family unit centered around a group of closely related females —mothers, daughters, sisters, and cousins. The female lions equally share the burdens of childbearing and motherhood. Cared for by the collective, cubs are more likely to survive compared to when they are reared by a solitary mother. Usually two or more females in a pride give birth at about the same time and the cubs are raised together.

Source: National Geographic


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4. Don’t be shy of hard work… or self-sacrifice

Females do most of the hunting for the members of a pride, while the males patrol the territory and protect the pride. In spite of this, it is the males that usually eat first, followed by the females and then the cubs. Such is the nature of quid pro quo


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5. Try a little tenderness

While there are some mothers who may neglect or abandon their young, especially when food is scarce, many carefully nurture the cubs. A lioness will allow cubs other than her own to suckle, sometimes enabling a neglected infant to survive. When the pride is resting, lions seem to enjoy good fellowship with lots of touching, head rubbing, licking and purring.

Source: Out to Africa


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What did the female wild things teach you on your last safari?

The Way of the Wild Dog

Wild dogs at Morukuru 3

Noun. pack mentality ‎(uncountable)
– The tendency for groups of individuals to act together without planned direction.

When it comes to looks, no two wild dogs are alike. Yet, as unique as the markings of each one’s Pollockian paint splotch coats are, they are “one” in every other way.

Wild dogs are one of the most inter-dependent animals in the African wilderness. The concept, “it takes a village to raise a child” is possibly more germane to this animal than it is to humankind, more “all for one and one for all” than The Three Musketeers themselves.

It is their nature. It is the way of the wild dog.

As the sun begins to set the Wilddogs become active and mobile and begin their search for prey... — at Morukuru Family.

above: As the sun begins to set the wild dogs become active and mobile and begin their search for prey. Image by Shane Kloeck, Ranger at Morukuru Family.

 Pack Mentality

You can witness the togetherness of wild dog packs in many ways, from their close-knit family life to their masterful hunt. HESC, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in South Africa, an expert on the matter, outlines a few examples below:

– Pups are born in a den, where they remain for the first three months of life. The mother is confined to the den while nursing and she relies on other pack members to feed her during that time. They deliver food to her by regurgitation; later on, they regurgitate to the pups as well. Some pack members also ‘baby-sit’ the pups and chase predators from the den, and take care of the old and sick.

– Wild dog females cannot successfully rear pups without assistance and in most cases the pack, rather than the individual, is considered the basic unit within the population. It appears that more pups survive in packs where there are more helpers to assist with their care, but this is not always the case.


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Above: Morukuru Family

 – These social carnivores hunt in groups. The pack often approaches herds of prey within several hundred metres, but they select a particular animal only once the chase begins. The pack functions as a hunting unit and the group cooperates closely in killing and mutual defence. Individuals drawn into this group activity are subject to strong discipline during the chase. A regular group leader selects and runs down the prey. They do not run in relays as commonly assumed, as the leader can overtake the fleetest of game usually after 3 to 4 km (1,9 to 2,5 miles) and within 30 minutes after commencing the chase. During the chase, while the others lag behind, one or two dogs run at a distance of 100 m (109 yards) or more behind the leader, and are positioned to intercept the quarry if it circles or begins to dodge.


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Above: Londolozi Private Game Reserve

– As soon as small prey is caught, the pack pulls it apart; large antelopes are bitten in the rear and chunks of muscle and connective tissue are torn from them until they collapse because of exhaustion and shock. Juveniles are allowed to feed first after the kill has been made.


Wild dogs at Morukuru 4


Wild dogs are a reminder to our individualistic societies of the honour and benefit of ubuntu, of our inherent interdependence as a species, no matter how much we believe ourselves to be islands. Like wild dogs, we rely on each other for food, water, care, security… basic human needs, never mind those higher up on Maslow’s pyramid.

One of Africa’s most endangered mammals, the wild dog relies on not only each member of its pack – but mankind too. While there are many other reasons for the diminishing African wild dog populations, most are associated with humans – land clearance; urbanisation; exposure to infectious; shootings and poisoning.

In many areas in South Africa, wild dog conservation projects have meant a return of the dogs to large areas of wilderness, such as the Madikwe Game Reserve where Morukuru Family lies and the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve – home to Londolozi. Here the dogs have become somewhat accustomed to safari vehicles, letting photographers capture these special animals and their many pack practices.

Meet the wild dogs of the Relais & Chateaux lodges in Africa below.


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Wild dogs at Morukuru

Above: On a recent safari at Morukuru Family, we managed to catch the flash of as two dogs led us through thick bush to a spot under the bushes where the rest of the pack were huddled to keep warm in the cold morning air.

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Above: Londolozi Private Game Reserve. Read more in the lodge’s blog, On The Hunt With Wild Dog, and Lessons from the Pack.

 In the words of Londolozi Ranger, Andrea Campbell,

“It is a special kind of unit: a unified team so inextricably reliant on each other that they exist as one. From the relay race of hunting, to sharing every meal, to then regurgitating food for the pups, these incredible creatures know exactly what it means to support one another. I have spent time with a pack where one member was suffering from wounds inflicted by a hyena. The other pack members routinely took turns to lick the injured animal’s wounds in an attempt to prevent infection. During denning season, a dutiful babysitter is left with the pups while the rest of the pack move off to hunt. When the pack finally returns, the babysitter is fed along with the pups. This cooperative care is inspiring, and is the embodiment of Ubuntu.”


New Wild Dog Pack at Selinda Reserve

African-Wild-Dogs by Beverly Joubert

Above: Wild dogs in the Selinda Reserve in Botswana, captured by Beverly Joubert of the Great Plains Conservation.