There was a comment left on Safari Part 1 asking about camping in Africa, specifically is there a big fence around the campsite. Nope, no fences. In fact all that separates the camp from the game park is the river, no fences anywhere. When we arrived and signed in we received a safety briefing letting us know that hippos and elephants sometimes wander through the camp at night, and that earlier in the week lions were seen crossing the river so once zipped up in your tent at night you should stay there, make sure you know where your children are at all times (GULP), and finally DON'T FEED THE MONKEYS! At this point you need to know something, I don't like monkeys, they freak me out!
Dave is standing in a tree right at the edge of camp. That almost dried up river is all that separates the camp from South Luangwa National Park. Those trees on the other side of the river mark the edge of the park. No fences, no barriers between us and all the animals we came to see.
Actually I was pretty much against the whole idea of camping in Africa. I was convinced that the lions would rip a hole in the tent and eat one of the kids, or a hippo would stampede through the tent killing us all, or one of the kids would have to go to the bathroom on the game drive and the lions would eat the guide leaving us stranded in the middle of....Oh wait that is the movie Prey. Yeah not a good idea to watch that movie if you think you may ever go on safari. David and Dakota made me watch it years ago. I was so freaked by that movie that I brought a blue bucket to keep in the car just in case one of the kids had to go to the toilet during the game drive. Dave and Dakota laughed at me.
Monkeys are freaky! Monkeys with blue balls are just too weird for me. Yes they are really just that color. It is hard to be afraid of a monkey when you are laughing at it. I think I hurt his feelings.
One thing and one thing only convinced me that camping was the way to go. Money! Virtually every place here charges per person not per room, per cabin, or per campsite. So if we had stayed at a chalet it would have run us around $220 a person per night. There are six of us. You do the math. Yes that would include all meals and game drives but still that's a heck of a lot of money. Africa ain't cheap! The camping fees were $10 per person per night with kids under 12 half price. Still way more than camping at the state parks back in Texas but at least within our budget. It didn't include our food or game drives but that's what sandwiches are for and we could swing one guided drive.
The Wildlife Camp was pretty nice, it had hot showers, electricity, a bar, and a swimming pool. Not exactly roughing it. It also had monkeys, baboons and a pair of tame mongooses. The vervet monkeys were pests grabbing and running off with any food item left unguarded for even a second. The baboons mostly walked by and ignored us, although they too made occasion raids on our campsite. They were large enough that I watched them nervously but none of them approached any of us. The mongooses on the other hand were a lot of fun. The first night I was trying to get a few idea down on the computer so I could blog this later when I felt something touching my feet, it was the mongoose rubbing against my feet like a cat.
Our campsite. Our tent is the orange and grey one. Cody borrowed the small blue and grey tent from our campmates so he could have some privacy and sleep without his brother's foot in his ear.
What do you think those monkeys are watching so intently?
The monkeys are watching this! Kids having breakfast. The monkeys are hoping for spilled fruit loops, dropped scrambled eggs, or unguarded bananas. A pack of messy kids turns out to be a pretty good source of food if you happen to be a monkey.
In case you are curious here is what I typed that night. It captures the feeling of that night pretty well so I am just going to post it unedited.
The monkeys weren't the only ones watching the kids. This baboon watched from a distance. The baboons were about three times the size of the monkeys. That's big enough to make them a bit scary.
Zambia night one
The road was horrible but we are finally here! The campsite is rustic but nice and as I type a mongoose is sniffing my toes. It tickles! I hope it doesn’t confuse my toes with grubs or snakes. OMG the mongoose is rubbing on feet the way my cat Bing rubs on my feet when he wants to be petted. It also makes tiny squeaky high-pitched grunting sounds. I had no idea that mongoose made sounds. Colin found out earlier that you shouldn’t mess with mongoose (mongeese? ) first he tried to pet it and almost got bit then he got scared and ran and it chased him until David grabbed him and yanked him up out of the way.
Sitting watching the sun set over the Luangwa River and listening to the hippos grunt was totally surreal. I am so glad the kids are getting a chance to experience this but at the same time I would love to come back without the kids and just sit and absorb nature. That would be fabulous!
Tomorrow we are going on a game drive, I don’t know if it will be the self drive daytime drive, or the guided night drive. I am hoping to do the night drive tomorrow and the self-drive on Sunday. I don’t know what I hope to see more, cheetahs have always been one of my favorite but on the way in we saw elephants in the distance, hippos up pretty close, a baboon, and vervet monkeys and that was just driving in.
For just a moment all the kids got quiet and we could hear the some sort of bird sound in the distance and the grunting of the hippos sounds much closer, which is a little unnerving. Earlier Conrad was here to give us a safety briefing. There are wild animals that routinely wander through the camp. Eeek!
The other family that we are camping with amuses me. He is former peace corps so I expected him to be a hard core back-to-basics type of camper. They brought everything and then some. An ipod with player, a mister, most of the pans from the kitchen, multiple ice chests, the kitchen sink. I was feeling guilty as I packed today. David likes to pack pretty light and I usually take crap for overpacking. I expect that conversation to be at an end, but I am sure it will continue.
Crap that hippo sound was very close!!! Very unnerving! At least I hope it was a hippo sound and not a lion "I want to eat you" sound.
I quit typing when the mongoose decided to climb up and make him self comfy on my shoulders. Yikes! I couldn't handle it and made David get it off of me. Dakota let it sleep on his shoulders for hours that evening as we set around the campfire. Dakota is either braver than me or less worried the wildlife will bite his ear off. The little guys didn't like the mongoose much. They would follow the kids around. The kids would get sacred and run and the mongoose was happy to play chase. Picture three screaming blond kids being chased by a pair of tiny Timon from the Lion King. Yes I know Timon was a meerkat not a mongoose but the mongooses made me think of Timon. I am afraid I wasn't much help since I was laughing at the kids. It really was funny. I wish I had stopped laughing long enough to grab a camera.
That look means "STOP TAKING PICTURES AND GET IT OFF OF ME! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!" Dakota just told me to smile, so I tried to smile while freaking out and ended up looking deranged.
It slept on Dakota's shoulders for a long time. Better Dakota than me.
Later in the night that hippo sound would come back to haunt me. I had a Perlman Update moment when I woke up just after midnight that first night with severe stomach cramps. I lay there for hours drifting in and out of sleep until about 3:30am when I suddenly bolted up out of bed and grabbed the blue bucket. You know the one I got laughed at for bringing? I spent the next couple of hours hugging the bucket, tossing my cookies, and listening to something very big walk around outside the tent. I did some very heavy praying that it was a hippo rather than a lion or leopard. At one point I wondered how dangerous what ever was out there was because I really really wanted to brush my teeth and that something big was between me and the bathrooms. David talked me out of it. Good man! No I never got up enough nerve to unzip the tent window cover and see what was making those sounds. I figured if I could see it, it could see me, and that could be bad. Yes I am a little crazy that way.
Sometime just before dawn I fell back to sleep. David said I slept about an hour. Some sort of noise woke me up. I opened my eyes and looking down at me was Curious George sitting on top of the tent. I am not so nice as the man in the yellow suit so I frightened the mokey away by growling at him. I am never frendly before my morning coffee and even less so if I have been up all night barfing. Poor little monkey.
Even though our first day of Safari didn't start well for me it got a lot better as the day went on. What an adventure we had waiting for us at the education center.
Gratuitous picture of the spider in the bathroom at the camp. Thank heaven it was in the boys bathroom, because if it had been in the girls I might have had to hold it for 3 days.
I just couldn't resist this picture. How often do you have the camera when a pair of monkeys decide to do the funky monkey right in front of you? Who could resist?