We just returned yesterday to campus after a three-day venture to South Africa. To get there, we took two buses full of CWRU students and research students from Professor Lacks’ chemical engineering projects. We first crossed out of Botswana into no man’s land, then drove about 300 meters to cross into South Africa!
We spent our days off at the Tau Game Lodge on the Madikwe Game Reserve just over the border into South Africa. The lodge itself is a five-star resort, complete with a spa, catered meals, and beautiful architecture. What startled me the most was that as soon as we arrived and were handed drinks, we were able to walk up on the meal deck and see elephants at the watering hole just beneath us. This would be a theme for the trip – around 11 each morning, a herd of elephants would mosey over to the lake in then back of the lodge and drink and splash one another. They were all adorable and so close to us that I really couldn’t believe my eyes!
(This is our room! We even had heated mattress pads. It was great. We also had an open shower – so we got to shower under the stars, which was amazing!)
We went on our first game drive on Monday night. Our van was open and sat 9 of us. We were all armed with pretty big cameras and we were in luck, because we saw amazing wildlife right away! Our ranger, Megan, took us first through the elephant herd. Then we got a pretty good piece of luck – we got to see four male cheetahs lazing together. The reserve itself has only five of the animals, so seeing four at once was so impressive that even Megan took pictures!
(We were close enough to the animals that I barely needed to use the zoom on my camera!)
We continued on our drive and, while tracking a lion, saw an absolutely beautiful sunset over the plains. We also got to see some rhinos drinking from another waterpool and at night, Megan pointed out some constellations for us. They’re different since we are on the other side of the equator – you can easily see Orion’s Belt from here, which was cool!
The next morning, we woke up at 6:30 to a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, which we haven’t had in a while. Our morning game drive turned out to be the most fruitful. We saw giraffes, kudu, empala, wildebeest, zebra, and more elephants! We even saw a lioness with four cubs, and a male lion, but he was somewhat hidden in the brush. To end the drive, Megan took us only a LITTLE too far into an elephant herd and we actually angered a baby elephant! He was trumpeting loudly at us and stomping on the ground to try and intimidate us. Megan didn’t think it was a problem until his mom started chasing us as well – so then we basically booked it out of there!
(He was definitely not so happy with us.)
(He, however, seemed to enjoy all the attention!)
After some valuable afternoon time just lounging in the sun by the pool, we went for another drive. This time, we were able to see the male lion, having just feasted on his wildebeest kill. We saw his mate chomping away at the kill in the bushes as well. It was awesome how close we were able to get to both animals and how unimpressed they seemed at our presence. We were so close to the animals consistently. At one point, Gaby and I were just on our porch, when an elephant literally walked right up next to the fence surrounding us. He was so close that had we really wanted to, we probably could have reached out and touched him!
(Photograph by Gabriella Chandra.)
To end the amazing three days we had, we had dinner under the stars at a bonfire. The lodge was really good about cooking vegetarian meals and really impressive desserts, so I was extremely happy with everything we ate! In conclusion, it was an amazing vacation and an amazing break from classes that we all really enjoyed. I’d love to go back and I know myself and my classmates would 100% recommend coming back to Tau Game Lodge in the future!