February 2023

Sunrise Safari

Written by: 
Hannah DenBok


4:30 AM: we woke up to watch the sunrise from our treehouses. All kinds of bird and insect noises accompanied the sounds of hippo’s stomping and water rushing below. 
At 5:30 our guard was at the bottom of our stairs, ready to walk us through the paths and protect us with his bare hands from any animals roaming the park. After a super quick toast and a splash of coffee, all 15 of us (Gerritt Oomen and his daughter Natasha joined us last night) packed into a safari vehicle at 5:45 and headed off to see the sights. A very bouncy and muddy 10 minute drive later we registered and entered the park. 

It was hard to know what direction to look as awe inspiring scenes were on each side of us while the sun crept up. Very quickly we were surrounded by water buck, baboons, impalas and kudu’s. All kinds of bright and uniquely coloured birds and butterflies fluttered around us. We had high hopes for our ‘bucket list’ animals to see, and were not disappointed. 30 minutes in and 2 big elephants were on our radar. Regardless of how many pictures you’ve seen, a real life experience like this is impossible to beat. After everyone took a picture we continued on. 

We came across an army of ants on our trail. The never ending line continued on and on and our guide didn’t want to drive over them because it was bad luck. We finally convinced him to go over them ‘very fast’ and less would be squished. 

We later realized the truck that had been behind us was no longer visible and we found out their vehicle had broken down! The group of Dutchmen on that trip had to sit there for 2 hours - I think the odds were in our favour today after yesterdays boat safari fiasco. 

In the distance, through the trees, we saw a group of 6 elephants. Unfortunately we could not get a clear view, but even from a distance they are breathtaking. 

Since many of the trails in the park were closed, after about 2 hours we started back. Some of us felt disappointed after not seeing any lions or rhinos. Back we went on the bumpy trail, out of the wooded area and towards the grassy plains. There we saw it- another elephant! This created some more excitement as we hadn’t seen too much wildlife for the last bit. As we rounded the corner towards it we were shocked to see another majestic elephant on the other side, this one only 10 feet off of the trail! Everyone fell silent and reached for their cameras in slow motion, not wanting to scare the elephant away, or anger it and cause it to charge. Being this close to a creature that could flip your truck in one second is a humbling experience to say the least! We stayed there for a few minutes, in awe at the amount of food this beast could put away, and watching it flap its ears slowly and methodically. Satisfied, we headed back to the lodge for breakfast at 10:00. On the way back I said to Eva, “I’m getting a tiny bit sick of fried eggs, imagine we had pancakes and scrambled eggs for breakfast?!” Lo and behold, as we sat at the table out came plates of food with a pancake and a piece of toast with scrambled eggs on it! Man, if I knew it was this easy to speak things into existence I would have tried a lot earlier on this trip! 

Full of food, we headed back to our treehouses to relax for a few hours before lunch. Opening our doors, some of us found out that monkeys had climbed through the roof and went through our things! Gone were the nicely organized suit cases, now a jumbled mess, bottles of toiletries were opened and lined up on the floor, chip bags were empty, and the beds dirty and messed. They even turned on the shower and left it running. What an experience! If anyone sees a monkey with a bottle of shampoo - that’s mine. 

We lugged our bags across the paths to the bus and went for an early lunch so we could head out. Lunch was scheduled for 11:30, but in typical Malawian fashion we were served at 12:30. We boarded the bus and headed back to Blantyre. After a 3 hour drive we slid down the muddy hill and landed at ‘Home Up’, our lodge in Blantyre. We showered, organized our souvenir’s into suitcases, and then headed to town for wood fired pizza: authentic Chilliwack food.  Sleepy and with full tummies we headed home and made our way down the treacherous hill to our cozy lodge. Once again, it’s been a day full of eye opening experiences and great memories! 

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