Camp Jabulani Review
by Connie Ebright
Today we have a one hour 45 minute private jet charter flight from Vic Falls directly to the South Africa bush. It costs the Bank of England but saves us a flight to Joburg, an overnight there, a flight to South Africa the next day, plus the 6 transfers necessary to get there.
It is too costly for a party of two but with our original eight it was a good alternative. Our pilot arrived and soon we were off to Camp Jabulani.
Jabulani is only 6 rooms decorated in the Colonial style of the wealthy with priceless antiques, skin rugs, fresh flowers everywhere and servants dressed in spiffy black Moroccan Nehru suits.
We are immediately fed lunch that began with strawberries and asparagus in vinaigrette dressing, crunchy nut bread and peach tea.
The chef announces each course and foodies would love it. I am a meat and potatoes girl myself, so it was a bit too gourmet for my taste.
However, the lodge is magnificent.
It is owned by Lente Roode who is a founder of the Endangered Species Center and adopted the elephant Jabulani when he was 3 months old and left by his family in a mud hole to die. He was stuck in the mud and could not get out.
The Zimbabwe ranger who found him called Lente and she adopted him. Then she had to get a trainer for him. Now she has 12 rescued elephants and 12 elephant trainers, along with 14 groomers. It is no surprise that they have to charge more than $1,000 per person per night to keep it running.
Clyde, the camp manager, announces that we will have a lantern lit, night ride on the elephants tonight. I have heard that the elephants choose their riders, but Jabulani himself is mine tonight and I am thrilled.
As I mount the custom made saddle, it is just the groom, Jabulani and me in the entire world.
The space between earth and sky blends. First there is one star, then a hundred and finally the sky is filled with a blanket of sparkling sequins in a velvet sky.
Riding the elephant was so comfortable on the cushioned saddle that I did not have to hold on, so I turned my palms to the sky and God came to rest in them.
The world was completely silent and even the enormous padded feet of the elephants were soundless as we traveled through the dark bush with Paul, the trainer, walking in front, scanning the bush with a vapor light for predators. Each time his light lingered on a pair of shining yellow eyes my groom would whisper, "genet, jackal, caracal" or whatever the eyes belonged to.
The huge orange full moon followed us through the hushed bush. On this velvet night we are surrounded by fire, earth, air and water. It is a night for a masked ball. There must be something to this feng shui business because I feel so completely in my skin.
When I look back a the choices that made the bread crumb trail to where I am now I am astounded, grateful and in awe of the fate that guided those many choices. I am in Africa, the place of my heart, with the man of my dreams and precious new friends who will always be in our life.
This elephant back night safari is an experience that was worth the price of the entire safari.
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Our morning game drive the next day is filled with Nyala, Tsessebe, sable antelope, onyx and many other exotic species, but the highlight is the visit to the Endangered Species center
, where we petted toddler cheetahs, then watched the wild dogs and vulture feedings. The animals ate a pickup truck full of meat. It must cost a fortune to keep this place in food.
Watching the wild dogs work in precisely organized relay teams to preserve their dinner was amazing. They would take turns coming out to scatter the hundreds of vultures away, then grab a hunk to take back to their babies, where they regurgitated it into their mouths. There was a constant dust up as the gluttonous vultures tried to steal their meat.
The Animal Orphanage housed a declawed and castrated lion (because he was too aggressive! Can you imagine?), a baby zebra rescued from a fence and a baby rhino whose mother rejected him 12 hours after birth. The rhino is now mothered by a keeper who feeds him milk from a baby bottle. The babies have a surrogate sheep with a beautiful black face to cuddle them.
On the way back to camp we watched a herd of cape buffalo having a spa day at a waterhole.
Our guide was relentless and crossed into Kapama
to find us a pride of lions resting in the shade. One had a huge black mane indicating he had never lost a fight. All the while a white rhino strolled behind the pride. They lifted their heads to look at the rhino as he passed and then plopped back down and went back to sleeping. Such a hard life to sleep all day in the shade and then let their home girls bring dinner in the evening.
Later we came around a corner and nearly crashed into the same rhino strolling down the vehicle tracks. They like the smooth soft dirt as much as the vehicles do.
The bush is full of wildlife
as we came across some giraffes posing for us like a Vogue ad, chewing their cud as if it was a wad of Dentyne gum. Such a day for photography!
Our traveling companions are simply divine. However did we get so lucky? Ed is a 6'6' outdoorsman who hunts and fishes and in between owns a film editing company. His wife Eileen is his business partner and a nonstop photographer who is always laughing. Her laughter fills the vehicle with constant fun. Their marital comedy act could go on the road, but it camouflages a deep and abiding love.
Barry is a handsome former electronics tycoon, now an upstate farmer, horse breeder and photographer par excellance. Laura, his naturally beautiful wife is always admonishing us to relax and enjoy the moment. Her carefree disposition is the perfect foil for all of our eager photographers.
Al and I have been on many safaris but seeing it anew through their eyes is unbridled joy.
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