There are five magical words, best spoken around an African campfire, that will turn your safari evening into one you’ll remember forever: “Please tell me a story.”
Oral storytelling, in today’s world, is a neglected part of our human tapestry. But a night around a campfire under the Southern Cross and far from technology is one of the perfect places to rekindle it. You only have to ask your safari guide and the chances are that he or she will be more than happy to regale you with a tale of life in the African bush. Soon, of course, you’ll have your own tales to tell too.
Joseph Molekoa came to Botswana from South Africa in the early 90s when elephant-back safaris were introduced in the Okavango Delta. After 18 years working fulltime with elephants at Abu Camp, he decided it was time for a change and returned to his guiding career, working at Wilderness Safaris’ beautiful Seba Camp where he has been for almost 10 years. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Joe and listen to some riveting tales. Here’s one of my favorites…
One day when I was still working at Abu, we didn’t have guests in the camp and I decided to take a short walk. I had got about 500 metres from the camp when a pack of twelve wild dogs came out of the bush. I hadn’t seen them from a distance and they were already very close to me so I asked myself, “should I run back to camp?” Immediately the answer came; I knew I could not outrun these dogs if I tried, even for 500 metres, they were going to eat me. So I said to myself, “Okay, Joe, whatever happens, stand still and stay where you are.”
I looked around and saw a piece of wood about a metre away and bent down to picked it up. I thought, “If they are going to try and attack me this is what I will use as protection, but if it fails, it fails. Whatever happens, happens.” So I just stood there like a statue.
The dogs came closer and they circled me, completely surrounding me. I held my stick and I was thinking, “now the game is going to start.” There was an alpha male in the group and he moved a little closer to me, then so close that I thought, ‘he’s going to bite me and once he has bitten me all the others will follow.” But I didn’t even move my feet. “I am gone.” I thought. But automatically – it happens sometimes when you don’t have a choice – I just stood there. My eyes were fixed on him, trying to read his behavior. Some people say that you shouldn’t look a predator in the eye but to me it is a myth because you need to know what it’s going to do! You need to be ready.
The alpha dog began sniffing my shoe and the tails of the other dogs showed me that they were ready for a kill. The alpha sniffed and sniffed and then he looked at me. I was thinking nothing, absolutely nothing. Then he just turned around and walked away and the pack followed him. I watched them go and as soon as I could I turned back for the camp. After I sat down, my heart started: “boof boof boof”. Before I had felt nothing, because if my heart was beating while I was with the dogs I would have panicked I would be dead. That’s why – whatever you do in the bush, don’t run. Don’t run and don’t panic because those things can lead to being eaten.
And then one day I saw six lions and a buffalo – the lions started chasing the buffalo but the animal stopped and turned around. The lions stopped as well. I thought, “This is quite strange.” The buffalo was just staring at the lions. After a few minutes, the buffalo turned around and started moving for cover. I thought “oooh this is the trick,” it has happened to me too!
Seba Camp, in the south-western area of the Delta is set in the wildlife-rich Abu Concession which is 180 000 hectares. It’s a place that makes you feel free to let your hair down, to shake off your shoes and to really discover what it is to live beside wild animals.
Seba is the perfect camp for story-telling because, unlike many other camps in the Okavango, there are no raised wooden walkways and before and after dinner you can sit around the open fire beneath large fig trees. If you’re staying at Seba, you’ll be sure to meet Joe and perhaps lucky enough to have him as your guide! The bush is full of surprises but walking back to your tent at night with this experienced guide at your side, there is nothing to worry about!
(Header Photo by © John Glen Weaver)