Where to begin…I love being in the African bush. It is the only place I have been where my soul is completely at peace. The volume is down, but the silence is powerful, the inner voices retreat and I can just be. Moments in the bush are moments where I am the most present.
This is the third time I have returned home from Africa and with each of these return trips, I have noticed a trend. It seems to take me forever to work my way through pictures and share them. I’ll flip through them hundreds of times and each time, I experience an array of emotions. This process reminds me of the Dr. Seuss quote “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”. And then there is that part about sharing an album that truly tells the story of the experience. I get so hung up on this and struggle with trying to perfectly portray the bliss, beauty, peace and perfection of being in the African bush. But, what I am also learning, is that it is impossible to truly portray the experience, whether it be pictures or words. And, maybe that is the beauty of travel altogether. How you experience a place- what you see, feel, smell, taste, do; what you walk away with- is incredibly personal to you and soley based on your perceptions. This post and the following “Kapamba” post are my experiences in the Zambian bush.
We left Livingstone for Mfuwe with a quick stopover in Lusaka. We arrived in the afternoon and were picked up at the airport by Mishek. Mishek has been a guide for a very long time and has known Jay and Sarah for many years. When they have the choice, Mishek is their go-to guy and it doesn’t take long to realize why. Mishek not only grew up in and around the bush, he has studied long and hard to be a Ranger/Guide. He is knowledgeable, but also has this very calming way about him that just makes you feel comfortable in his presence. And, it is obvious from the first few minutes that you are with him that he has a true love of and respect for the bush. He belongs there. Cool side note: Mishek has an identical twin brother, who is also a guide at the lodge.
We drove down a long dirt road through the town of Mfuwe. The road was busy with people walking and riding their bikes and everyone, especially the children, waved as we drove by. Okay, so maybe we were waving at them from sheer excitement of being there but, they did wave back. We entered the gates of South Luangwa National Park and Mfuwe lodge wasn’t far from the gate entrance. Once we arrived, we were checked in quickly and shown to our rooms. We settled in, freshened up and then made our way back to the restaurant for afternoon tea.
Mfuwe Lodge is much bigger than the 7-10 room lodges I have stayed at in the past and is quite lovely. If you do a quick search on Mfuwe, you will see that it is famous for the family of elephants that parade through their lobby every fall. This is the path that they have taken for years to reach the Mangos from the wild mango tree. It’s just that, at some point, the lodge was built in the path. So, they just roam through it and that seems to work for everyone involved.
The rooms are spacious and cozy. Our room looked out over the watering hole and had a lovely, relaxing deck. As I listened to conversations around me during afternoon tea, I could tell that many were visiting for a second or third time. After filling up on some sandwhiches and tea, it was time to hit the road for our first game drive. I could hardly contain my excitement. There is always the excitement of going out into the bush, but this excitement was charged by knowing that my Mom was going to experience the thrill of seeing beautiful creatures running wild and free and the peace of being in the bush.
As we left the lodge, we immediately saw two hippos grazing on land. This was a first for me – to see them out of the water and this close.
We drove a bit more and moved over to our first sighting: some lions stalking prey. As we pulled up to the area, there were way more vehicles than I was accustomed to seeing. And, as we stayed for a few minutes, more and more vehicles pulled up (these were from several lodges). I started to feel uncomfortable with this, particularly when it became apparent that the hunter we were watching was a very young male.
About 10 vehicles were lined up around the cub and, some followed as he began to stalk. This was upsetting to see and, as I was with friends I hadn’t travelled with before, I wasn’t sure how to react. Before I knew it, Jay asked Mishek to leave the area and was also quite agitated with the situation. Thank goodness!! I later saw Jay give some of the other guides (that he knows well) an earful for participating in this silliness. Unfortunately, I saw similar situations throughout the couple of days we were at Mfuwe. And, just to be clear, these are not all vehicles from Mfuwe Lodge nor are they controlled by Mfuwe Lodge.
We had some magnificent sundowners and beautiful game drives at Mfuwe. One of my favorite sightings was one that we saw early on. We saw a young leopard cub in a tree feeding on an impala that his mother had caught and dragged up there for him. His mother patiently cleaned her paws on the ground below him and as he shimmied down the tree to join her, we all held our breaths and crossed our fingers that he wouldn’t make a clumsy mistake.
Another favorite was this massive pride that was quite content and full on an animal I would rather not mention. Such is the cycle of life in the bush…
The food at Mfuwe was fantastic! They had just brought in a new chef and she was quite talented. For breakfast, the jungle oats were delicious and for lunch, I loved all of the salad choices. There were some other nice surprises, but I will leave them out of this write-up in case you are reading this in preparation for your trip there.
The U Foundation also supports a large school in the town of Mfuwe. One afternoon, we were fortunate enough to visit the school, meet the head teacher and go out onto the sports field and play with the kids and their new, donated equipment.
It was such a fun experience. My favorite was watching some of the girls play Netball. I haven’t seen this game in the states, but it looks similar to basketball (but even quicker) and the girls playing were fierce!
For the most part, Mfuwe Lodge is a stopping off point before heading out to the more isolated “Bush Camps“. There are six bushcamps that are all scattered deep in the bush of the South Luangwa park (hence the name “Bush Camps”). These are much smaller and more intimate than Mfuwe Lodge and I was really looking forward to getting to our Bush Camp, Kapamba.