Mike Wendel has been looking after Mkulumadzi Lodge for Robin Pope Safaris down in Majete Wildlife Reserve. Whilst camp is currently quiet, the animals have taken over! Read his stories of elephants taking baths, and lions stealing cameras right here:
Well ladies and gentlemen, a very good Monday morning to you all from Mkulumadzi lodge. However, I find that the longer I stay secluded in the bush, Monday feels like Friday and Wednesday feels like Sunday. Days and time have lost all meaning, the only time we know here is dawn and dusk. Many exciting things have been happening in the past few weeks. Now that there are now only two people here and looking after the lodge, the animals have taken it upon themselves to move back into the lodge, no invite or anything, which, if I may say make day to day tasks very interesting.
Being in the bush for this long and being isolated, I have found myself talking with the animals, but many of my family members have said to me “Mike, if they start talking back, I think you need a break from the bush, ok?” We do have a couple of regular visitors that come into the lodge which have names, my favorite has to be Tom, a fully grown bull elephant. For some reason Tom has found refuge at my house. On Friday morning he came crashing through the bush at 03h30 to enjoy a drink at the small waterhole in front of the managers house. Of course hearing this I woke up and decided to join him and watched him from my terrace. It was a day before full moon so we could see each other very clearly. After his drink, he gave himself a little bath, so, I helped him. I got the garden pipe and helped him with his bath by spraying water all over him. After waking up a bit more, it occurred to me that I’m less than 7m away from a wild, fully grown bull elephant, on foot, bathing him at 03h30 in the morning. Mike you are not well. We spent half an hour enjoying each other company until he decided he had had enough and stomped back through the bush into the darkness. And that was that.
Week before last, I found myself sitting at the starbed, enjoying the view (and the little bit of signal that there is) when Eneson, our everything man, call me on the radio in a slight panic, asking me if I was back in camp. After telling him I was still up there, he told me that a pride of 7 lions were in and around camp. I quickly packed up my stuff and went back down the mountain. Over the gentle rumble of the land cruisers engine, I could hear them roaring and calling. I stopped the car at the roundabout by the bridge to try hear exactly where they were. Eneson kept on insisting that they were to the north of the camp but I could hear them to the south. They were everywhere. I got out the car and decided to set up my camera trap to see if I could get any footage of them moving around. I set it up on a tree by the roundabout and walked onto the walk bridge. Now on foot, I hear this grumble behind the vehicle and a male lion ran out from the roundabout itself and ran up the hill. I must have walked right past him. I found myself, somehow teleporting from the bridge to the car with my heart racing. I picked up Eneson at the main lodge and we went out looking for them, but unfortunately we did not find them. Once dark, we returned back to the main lodge.
The next morning, we both woke up and thought to ourselves, are they still here or not. We took the car down the bridge roundabout to see if we manage to catch them on the camera……but…… the camera was now gone!!! We looked closely at the tree and we found the rope that I used to tie it, on the floor and slight scratch marks on the tree. The lions had nicked my camera. I had a mumbled a few words under my breath and told Eneson to stay in the car and to follow behind me while I walk around and tried to find it. Yes, I do know what you’re thinking, and in hindsight, it was very dumb. This is because I was walking less than 30m away from the whole pride and their kill that they made during the night. Fortunately, I didn’t see them nor did they see me. Still not knowing that they were there, I decided to get back in the car and carried on down the road, the same road to the starbed. On the way back, one of the cubs made the mistake of lifting his head and he exposed the whole pride to Eneson and myself. This is when it hit me that I was walking right next to them. Oops. Well searching was out of the question but we knew that the camera could not have been far from where they were.
A few days later we went back to where they were, hoping they had moved off to greener pastures. we proceeded to do a more in-depth search of the area. Both of us ARMED…. with an air horn and a stick, tip-toed through the thick bush looking for this camera, which was now MIA for 5 days. We eventually decided to look near the kill and to my indescribable joy, there it was, lying under a bush, and it had to be a thorn bush. We got it out and to my amazement, still filming. Full of old lion saliva and teeth marks we got back into the car and went home. I opened the camera up and the SD card was ejected and I can’t help think, if they were to have played with it more, it would have fallen out completely. The footage I must say is amazing. You can see them looking at the camera in the tree and see the cubs scheming a plan on how to get it down. This will be an event that will never be forgotten.
We are so looking forward to welcoming you all back to Mkulumadzi in the near future because there are new memories to be made adventures to be done, but for now, stay safe and stay healthy and of course, more updates will come on the next “Its Monday” from Mkulumadzi.
All images are © Michael Wendel
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