Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On Safari!

On Safari!

Into the Bush – African Bush Camp and Safari Drives  - July 30, 2014
 Okay, okay. So you have had enough of my thought sharing diatribes. So what you want is some of that old, typical blog-travel log, stuff. What you really want, for at least a change, is the Clowards’ take on Wild Africa. Okay, have it your way.

We finished our Semester for the Pathway Gatherings and Institute Class and found ourselves with a brief break so we joined the Davies for a quick trip up to the Botswana border (Oh how we wanted to go on over but…). A four hour drive brought us to the gate of the Madikwe Game Preserve. Now for those Tarzan times folks whose image of Africa is that of a jungle book setting, be advised that relatively little of Africa fits that image. Most of it is more sprawling Brush and Desert. It’s kind of a southern Utah with thick 6-10 foot high brush. The brush is mostly thorn bushes. We are talking about from 1” to over 4” long spines. That is far from the lush plush assumed greenery of the Tarzan image for sure. Also, in that we are right in the middle of the winter here, the brush is brown and, well, again, far from the lush image you may yet fancy. Madikwe is far from that picture, yet it offers its own beauty and adventure.

The Bush
This the setting for the Safari and Ecco Bush Camp where we stayed may be a bit of a let-down for all our Tarzan Tree House envisioning friends and family. The Camp is located right in the middle of the 75,000 hectares reserve, the fourth largest in Africa. Madikwe boasts the Big Five (Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Cape Buffalo) as well as the Magnificent Seven (add the African Wild Dog and the Cheetah). About the only things that we had to go to Kasane and Mafikeng, other preserves, to see were the Sable and Hippos.

The Mosetlha Ecco Bush Camp has no running water, no electricity, no permanent buildings and no all the other luxury Safari lodge amenities that may also be associated with your Tarzan ideal fantasies of an Africa “Hilton” lodge.  No, Mosetlha (name after a huge Mosetlha tree found in the camp confines) is a roughly 250’ compound with only three thin wires strung seven feet above the ground, with a non-inviting 10,000 volt that gives a jolt to any Elephants (and Giraffes by size default). Otherwise any of the other critters can just wander through anytime they are in the area, don’t mind the smell of people and are thirsty enough to raid the small birdbath. The second night an enormous Cape buffalo made a visit, but usually it's the hyenas and a menagerie of interesting birds and lesser frightful visitors that wander through the Camp.

The Vehicle and the Camp

The Rooms
The rooms are, say a bit “airy”, but serve the needs for a bed, johnny pottie for the less adventurous night visits to the VIP bath house (VIP -Ventelated Improved Pit and Shower bucket). But they are certainly adequate and quite a nice repose from a full day in the Safari vehicles bouncing through the bush.
Single beds with sufficient bedding to keep the freezing temperatures away in the night.

The Bathroom
Light is provided outside along graveled walkways by kerosene lamps and inside by solar charged l.e.d.s mounted in wide-mouth canning jars. We will surely find some of these to bring back. The accommodation is far from private, but adequate with two single beds, blankets and a half high canvas door. Some might even call the huts “charming”.


Hot Water
Water is hauled in from a bore hole (their term for well). A bit hard, but not bad. Water is heated for all the camp (washing, showers etc.) in a “donkey boiler”. You get your bucket of cold water, pour it into the funnel on top of the small 2’x 3’ boiler and turn the makeshift nossel over and voila!-- you have boiling hot water to which you may add cold to the desired warmth you like for your Safari riding four-minute shower. Then you run like heck with the bucket to your privy, lower the shower bucket and poor in your, now slightly cooler, bucket of water, raise the bucket back up to a height over your head, strip, step under, turn the valve on the bucket, wet down, lather up, and then turn it on again to rinse off and be glad you aren’t standing there naked when a uninvited guest (two-leg or four) comes to pay a visit, or that it is freezing. (Now that is the case in the early morning).  Actually there is a small chain that hangs across the open doorway to warn the two-legged visitors that it is not yet their turn. Then it is time to let out your best Tarzan call to announce that you are a real “bush man or woman” and that it is someone elses turn for the donkey run. It’s all very invigorating. You even get a nice towel to add to the feel of the luxury of it all.

The meals are marginal but adequate. IF you are an outdoor gourmet, like me, you smile and note to your spouse, back in the privacy or your open air room as to how many different ways you could have enlivened the meal. This time of year they have coffee (or hot chocolate, given the significant number of LDS Missionaries who frequent the place) for breakfast before the morning game drive at 6:30AM. Then after the drive about 11:30AM they have sort of a light brunch. Then it's siesta time till 2:30PM or I mean 14h30 when they serve “High Tea”, a light lunch. Then it's off on the afternoon game drive to return about 7:30 PM when dinner is served. 
We had ourselves, a couple from Ohio and a man from Australia with us for the two days we were there. The couple had been there for five days and the Australian for seven. It was his seventh visit to the place and the second for the couple. We enjoyed their company. A Canadian Rock Band was coming in for one night when we left. I felt sad for the staff and the animals if they were going to use the siesta or evening time for practice.

The Limousine 
The Game Drives
 Of course, the reason you go to a place like this is not for the accommodations or food. It is to see the animals. It is for the Safari game drives. Now I must admit, I was taken with the Land Rover vehicle we were in. It was first class. The stepped seating handled 10 plus the drive and provide great viewing and comfort over the gravel and not-so-graveled or smooth roads - I mean trails. Oh yeah, much of the time it wasn’t even a trail. It was bush whacking. For family members it was reminiscent of the old Power Wagon road-hunting adventures of our youth.
The five to six hour runs were absolutely like road hunting. We all looked while the driver drove and watched for tracks and trails. He certainly knew the habitat and the habits of the area. His name was Jonny and he had been guiding for 12 years, so he knew every trail and way through the bush and where the best places to try to encounter the wild ones were.

So here, not in any particular order, are our encounters with the wild life of Madikwe. We enjoyed it and if any of you decide to come and visit before we return in May, we would go with you, otherwise we have had our fill of the bush-bound wonders of Africa’s game preserves. It was a wonderful adventure that we will not forget and during which we wished each of you could have been there bouncing along and oowing and awing with us.

The Elephants

Elephants are the first of the Big five we encountered. There are over 800 of these big fellows throughout the park. Some are in small herds, the cows and calves, but the bulls are more nomadic and wander on their own until they have to find water or a girl friend for a very short date. Their huge scat, about the size of a gallon jug, was everywhere. They have to consume enormous amounts of brush to survive.  They have a very poor digestive system so they are constantly foraging and pooping.  I thought some smart guy could make a real business out of spraying the very dry droppings with a lacquer and packaging them in gift boxes for an unusual gift to people you really didn’t want to give something to anyway.  It works for Moose dropping jewelry, so, why not? Notice the interesting tail of the elephant.

Tracks                                                           Last Week's Dinner
We encountered one male lion. We actually drove right up to the side of him while he laid their licking his bite wounds from a battle to which I assume he got the worst.  The guide and other guests had seen a group of three, a couple of days earlier, and the sense was this was an outcast of that group. They were sure the disagreement probably had something to do with a woman, I mean Lioness. 

What amazed us was that the animals were oblivious to the presence of the vehicles and the talking of its passengers. What the guide explained was that they see the vehicle as just one large dumb other animal. No competition and no worry to them. It was amazing that, with little exception, we were able to get right up within feet of the animals with no issue. Of course we were to keep inside the vehicle and don’t call out to the animal, rules to ensure the safety and the visits. Again, it was amazing. It was as if we were invisible to them. 

At one point a group of Blue Wildebeests ran across the trail in front of us causing the guide to suspect that they had picked up the scent of a predator. He turned and drove off through the brush and grass and sure enough, within minutes we found a Lioness that again completely ignored us as we drove alongside of her as she followed the not so accommodating prey. We followed her for 30 minutes until she just laid down and took a power nap with us within feet of her.



The Preserve has only a few Cheetahs at present and the biologists are trying to build that number up. We were able to find and follow along a group of four males as they wandered, lounged and marked their territory. That was interesting. It was like a dog, for them they backed up to the hug trees and peed, I mean sprayed the trees and often defecated on them to let others know that this was their turf. 

Marking their Territory  

The Giraffes
 The Giraffes stood up and out above the bush veld. We found several of them who were visiting a bone.  I did not know it but the animals often munch on dry bones for the calcium and other minerals. It was interesting to see a giraffe chew on the neck bones of some former resident. As it dropped the vertebrae it was chewing on, I had to chuckle at the irony of that snack.

The Rhinos!
Perhaps the most interesting large animal for us was the abundance of Rhinos, mostly White Rhinos. Here again we got up close and personal, although they were a little less willing for us to violate their space and occasionally let us know we were in their territory.


They are massive and it is easy to see why the guides carry a .375 HH rifle on the front of the dashboard. The rhinos could push that little vehicle over without much effort.  We are glad that for the most part they accommodated our picture taking and musing about their life and size.

The Black and Blue Wildebeests were almost as plentiful and the Impalas, which are known as the “McDonalds" for the Preserve predators. The Wildebeests are not so smart and look like a cross between the Beast in Disney’s "Beauty and the …" and a horse. They typically run in small to large herds and will often mingle with the Zebras, which are much smarter, alert and act as good lookouts. They are both meal of preference for the lions and the cheetahs and the Brown and Spotted Hyenas are quick to clean up any mess they leave.


The Zebras are also very plentiful in the preserve and are usually in groups of three or more. They too, like the rhinos, are a little less social when we drive up and stop. What is it-- black strips on white bodies, or is it the other way around? Anyway, the adaptation is to have the moving lines of the herd make it hard for uninvited dinner guests to single them out.

Impala's (MacDonalds of the bush)

Impalas were everywhere – just like McDonalds. And they serve the same purpose. They are sleek and beautiful animals and I found myself thinking like a lion as I looked at them. “Hum, Impala looks like a nice meal." Would have been nice for dinner. But, not to be, I guess they just couldn’t do that at an Ecco camp, now could they?

Cape Buffalo 
There are Cape Buffalo roaming throughout the park, but once a day they have to find water. Then they go right in and suck (not lap, literally suck) up five or more liters very quickly and then they move out as fast as they came into the water hole. Instinctively they know that that is where they will be stalked and where they may be at a disadvantage as they spread out along and in the water hole, or in this case, a small reservoir. We just happened to hit the timing right and saw the whole process in about five or six minutes. Water is so scarce in the preserve that there are no Crocs to worry about, but the lions and leopards are always on their minds – and not gently so, either.

Leopards  (sorry none on this trip)
The leopards are plentiful but solitary and rarely seen on the  drives. The day before, the group crossed on, or rather one crossed in front of them for a split second. We did not see a leopard in our roughly 22 hours of “hunting."


The Springbok are tiny little deer-like critters. They are 1½ to 2 feet tall, have small pointy horns and are as fast as they are cute. We saw several of these throughout our adventure.

Hartebeests and Blesbok

The Red Hartebeests and the Blesbok are  strangely designed critters. The face, nose, front leg hump, small back end and tail make you wonder if they are a cross between a pony, a deer & several other critters to boot. We did get some good shots of these animals.


 Kudus and Elands are to Africa as Elk are to us in the Western USA. They are the largest of the game animals. The bulls are solitary and we only saw very small ones with the cows. But some of the bulls we did see were magnificent.  We had been through the Mafikeng Preserve a couple of weeks earlier and saw some real trophies there. We also saw Sable there, which are not found in Madikwe.


Warthog (Pumba) 
We have seen a lot more Warthogs in other areas than we did at Madikwe. There it was, a quick side step into the bush, and they disappeared.

We did not see many Ostriches in the park. 
By the way, we have really become connoisseurs of Ostrich meat. It is really lean and really good. It is almost a beef texture and flavor. So now to the birds of Madikwe.
The Birds of Africa
There are a large variety of interesting birds at the preserve. Some we have seen and        shared before. However a couple of the birds are worthy of note and pictures will tell you   why. They include: several different types of doves, hawks, horne bills, Lorrays, grouse       and the ever present Geni Hens.  The locals tell us you eat them much like we tell people     you eat carp on a board. We are not Birders, but we were absolutely taken by what is the Botswana national bird the Lilac Breasted Roller. Also, the Crimso-breasted Shrike and        the Glossy Starling.

Glossy Starling                                                      Crimson Breasted Shrike


                                                                                      Yellow Beaked Horn bill                                                         Glossy Ibis            



 Lilac Breasted Rollers

Elder Doug asked me to "quickly" add my thoughts so we can get this blog out.

What immediately came to my mind was this refrain to the song

"All Things Bright and Beautiful" found in the Children's Songbook, pg 231,

Words: Cecil Frances Alexander  Music: Old English tune.


All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.


1.  Each little flow'r that opens, Each little bird that sings,

     He made their glowing colors He made their tiny wings: [Refrain]

2.  The purple-headed mountain, The river running by,

     The sunset and the morning That brighten up the sky: [Refrain]

3.  The cold wind in the winter, The pleasant summer sun,

     The ripe fruits in the garden, He made them ev'ry one: [Refrain]

4.  The tall trees in the green-wood, The meadows where we play,

     The rushes by the water We gather ev'ry day: [Refrain]

    *     *     *     *     *

I have truly been blessed to serve my first mission with my eternal companion! He continues to lead me, guide me and walk beside me....every day. This has been and

continues to be a real treat for me. I love nature! I love to walk! I love to see and hear and witness God's creations every day I live and breathe on this earth! What a blessing it has been for me to be able to be with my husband 24/7 for these past 12 months! I've seen him more and have been able to hold his hand more on our mission than I ever had BEFORE our mission! Girls, I'm telling you, a couple mission is a great way to get to know yourself and the man you married for eternity. I agree with the general authorities who have expressed that "their mission was the best two years for their life." It seems I am continually praying in my heart throughout the day for the Lord to hear my yearnings and pleadings and "hearing" my gratitude "...for all his creations of which I'm a part...Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me...!"

To see God's creations up close and personal is amazing to me and then to have a camera that can take a close up of what my eyes can't "see" is awe inspiring! It's as though you can "hear" what the animals are saying and thinking as they see you or are with their young. Our drives to Madikwe, Botswana and Mafikeng, or a creative way to get to any of our destinations by our "Garmin" (our GPS) has shown me vistas that remind me of my stompin' grounds back East and my married life out West. I will remark to my Sweetheart, "That looks like Utah!...That reminds me of Virginia!... these hills remind me of Missouri...

this traffic looks like L.A.!...This store is humungous! I've never seen so much meat (or cheese, or alcohol, or bread or fruit or veggies or...) or have been SO COLD while shopping at Food Lovers!..."

Our prayers and hearts are with you always. We certainly have days where we have more time to focus our attention and ponderings on our family, our future, and our destination.

May your week be filled with joy and laughter and hope and faith and charity as you seek the Lord in all your comings and goings and may you be filled with His light in your life. We love you. We pray for you. And may the Lord bless and keep you and bring you peace!

Hugs and lots of love and prayers coming your way from Africa!

Sister Cloward


  1. I LOVED seeing the beautiful birds and animals of Africa. Thanks for sharing your safari adventures. I also LOVED getting to see and visit with the Clyde's today as they attended the Helper Stake Conference! Congrats on your soon to be here new grandchild:). We also are looking forward to our coming grandchild in Jan. 2015 - Jordi and Jaylene's second in 16 months!

  2. Thank you for such a great description of your safari. We loved reading it and looking at all your pictures. What a great adventure you're having there in Africa. We're looking forward to getting some of Doug's outdoor gourmet cooking when you return!