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Published: March 27th 2015
Coolest birthday ever! My parents and I went into Mole National Park and went on a jeep safari with four other tourists, including one guy from Tennessee. We saw some warthogs, several different kinds of antelope, lots of birds, but best of all I finally saw African elephants in their natural habitat. Of course I’ve seen them in zoos before, but it’s just not the same as seeing them where they are supposed to be living. We actually didn’t see them until the end of the safari and the three of us decided to get out of the jeep to extend our safari in foot so we could watch the elephants. We watched a couple of different elephants at two different watering holes. There were also crocodiles hiding in the water while tentative antelopes came down to see if it was safe to soothe their thirst. On a humorous note our guide pointed out elephant excrement floating in the watering hole. That was definitely not a place for us to cool off in.
However, we eventually made our way up to the Mole Hotel and our own watering hole. My friend Lukman came and joined us. I haven’t seen him
since the beginning of November, so it was so good to see him again. He was one of the guys who was getting swim lessons and I finally coerced him to cool off in the pool. He kept saying that he hadn’t swum since December, but he still remembered what to do.
(by guest blogger, Kit Rawson) We woke up just before sunrise on March 22nd ... Laurel's birthday. The air was mercifully cool, and the household was busy with kids doing various chores all over the yard. Our early breakfast was a fried egg between two pieces of fried bread (the same breakfast served at Savannah Lodge every day). Wonderfully, we also had a large pot of hot water and large cups, so that we can use our instant Via coffee from Starbucks. A very welcome treat, especially knowing that we will be able to have this each of the 5 mornings we will be here in Larabanga.
We soon climbed into Hussein's car. Because it had not been used for awhile, we, and about 8 of the kids, pushed it out to the road where he managed to get it started on the hill.
After a short trip to town for about a gallon of gas poured from a plastic container through a funnel into our tank, Hussein drove us the 5 km to the Mole National Park, the greatest place to see wildlife in west Africa.
Morning wildlife tours begin at 7 AM. We grouped up with 4 others to fill seven of 8 available seats on the roof of a Land Rover, and, with our armed guide at our side, we headed out on dirt tracks through the savannah. While East Africa is where you go to see all the varieties of big game, this part of West Africa has the lots of species of antelope, especially the kob, and other savannah game. There are a few leopards and maybe a lion as predators, although we did not expect to see any of them (this park is huge). But, our two-hour jeep ride was a fun tour of the savannah, with a nice variety of game and a few cool birds to boot.
As we were finishing, we stopped a a water hole below the lodge, and someone saw a couple of elephants in the bush. We took our guide
up on his offer to walk back, with a chance to observe the elephants up close. So, he and the three of us left the Land Rover, and we had a nice half-hour with the elephants, a great treat for all of us and definitely a special birthday treat for Laurel.
We observed a variety of elephant behaviors as they drank huge amounts of water from the pools and them immersed themselves in order to cool off. They share these deep pools (made from two small dams installed by the park) with crocodiles, but apparently elephants have no concern for crocodiles. We saw numerous pairs of crocodile eyes peering from the surface of the two water holes. There were egrets and ducks on the shore and a few bright flowers blooming (the rainy season is about to begin, soon it will be much greener and brighter around here). All in all it was a great African scene.
Later, we stayed through lunch and into the afternoon at the swimming pool that's part of the hotel at the park. Like the elephants, we can keep our body temperature from rising too much by immersing ourselves from time to time.
The swimming pool and lodge overlook the water holes, and we saw elephants (up to nine at once) in the water for most of the morning. Also, some of the other game animals were tentatively headed to the water's edge (they have more to fear from crocodiles than elephants do). There was quite a scene playing out below us.
Up at the lodge area we were also visited by a variety of more daring critters. The baboons came through soon after we sat down and showed particular interest in us. Likely that was because of the bag of shelled peanuts we had as a snack out on our table. We kept that hid after that. There are also a couple of varieties of monkey in the trees around the lodge and warthogs everywhere.
Laurel's local friend, Luke, came by in the morning to wish her happy birthday, and he stayed and joined us for lunch. Luke grew up in a nearby village, is trained as a nurse, and works at the two local clinics, doing all kinds of medical work. In fact, the kids at Savannah Lodge know him as "Dr. Luke man," because he is known as
"Luke man" and basically does much of the work that a doctor would do when they visit the clinic. Laurel and Luke had a great time catching up, and we very much enjoyed talking with him as well. Later in the afternoon he joined the guys in the bar to watch a football game from the English league on the TV. English league football is very popular here, and many of the locals come to this lodge to watch the Sunday afternoon games on the television since privately owned televisions are scarce.
Laurel and we all had a great tiime celebratng her brithday in this special place.
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