WULF UTIAN’S LETTER FROM CAPE TOWN APRIL 2022

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WHAT’S UP?

INTO THE BUSH

Nothing quite matches observing things through the eyes of children. This month we had the unmitigated pleasure of spending quality time with our two grandsons, Jack 13, and Max 11, in a South African game reserve.

Let me say unequivocally, the experience of spending a few days in the African bush observing nature, what my American friends call “going on safari,” is unique. It also provides a respite from all that inundates us from every direction. In South Africa  there are a profusion of places to choose from, some in malaria areas and some malaria free. They range from the Kruger National Park, a vast area of genuine natural flora and fauna, to many contemporary smaller parks that have been taken back from agriculture and stocked with a selection of wildlife. The experience at many of the latter can feel contrived, certainly to locals, although most provide the opportunity to experience the ‘big five’ and satisfy most foreign tourists.

I chose malaria-free Madikwe as the best choice for a first experience of the bush for Jack and Max. A chimera of the above 2 types of reserve, Madikwe is one of the few game reserves in the world to be proclaimed purely on the grounds of being the most appropriate and sustainable land use for such an area.  Run as a joint venture between the State, the private sector, and local communities, Madikwe resulted from a detailed feasibility study of the area that concluded that wildlife-based tourism was the most beneficial option for this remote and economically depressed area. Immediately after it was proclaimed in 1991, in what was dubbed Operation Phoenix, between 1991 and 1997 more than 8,000 animals of 28 species were released into Madikwe Game Reserve, including elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, cheetah, Cape hunting dog, spotted hyaena, giraffe, zebra and many species of antelope and herbivores. Leopard already occurred in the reserve. This was one of the world’s largest wildlife translocation programs ever. Today Madikwe is home to over 66 mammal species and more than 350 migrant bird species. Madikwe is vast, one of the largest game reserves in South Africa.

Lesson number 1 in the bush – your day starts before dawn so be prepared to wake up early. Our adventure started with a 4.00am wake up so we could catch the first flight of the day from Cape Town to Johannesburg. At OR Tambo airport we were transported to the Fedair terminal on the opposite side of the airport to make our Cessna 208 flight to Madikwe.

MADIKWE LIES JUST A FEW KILOMETERS SOUTH OF BOTSWANA AND SO IS IN THE VERY NORTH OF SOUTH AFRICA
JACK AND MAX READY FOR TAKEOFF
WE ARRIVE AT LELAPA LODGE
AND THIS WAS THE FIRST THING WE SAW AS WE ENTERED THE LODGE, A WELCOMING HERD OF ELEPHANTS AT THE WATERHOLE IN FRONT OF THE LODGE.

This will be a newsletter of few words. Rather let the photos speak for themselves. Suffice to say that the boys saw everything except leopard, were continually excited, enthralled, enthusiastic, engaged, happy beyond belief, and an absolute pleasure to be with. We were especially fortunate to have only our family with Lisa the guide and driver of the Toyota Landcruiser. Jack was a remarkable ‘spotter’ and Max often had more information about some of the animals than our experienced guide Lisa, and that is saying something.

A usual day in the reserve is a pre-dawn wakeup for coffee and a rusk, and then drive into the bush at sunrise for about 3 hours. After breakfast on return to the lodge, the day is free, usually relaxing at the pool watching the game at the waterhole in front, then lunch, afternoon tea, and an evening drive also of about 3 hours, with a stop in the bush around sunset for sundowners, and a night drive back to the lodge in time for dinner, and then to bed.

WILDEBEEST WITH A TERMITE MOUND IN THE BACKGROUND. DID YOU KNOW TERMITES DATE BACK TO THE AGE OF THE DINOSAUR?
OH, AND TERMITES ARE NOT INSECTS!
OUR FIRST 2 OF MANY WHITE RHINOS

Sadly, just 2 weeks before our arrival, 2 of these magnificent beasts had been killed for their horns after a poaching free period dating back to August 2021. We were fortunate to see several of these magnificent beasts, both black and white.

A TRADITION ON THE EVENING RIDES IS TO STOP FOR SUNDOWNERS, STRETCH OUR LEGS, AND EXPERIENCE A GLORIOUS SUNSET
HAPPY GRANDPARENTS
OUR FIRST LION OF THE TRIP, A FEMALE AT REST IN THE DARK
SUNSET, THORN BUSH, AND A CRESCENT MOON
A GIRAFFE STRETCHES ITS NECK IN THE EARLY MORNING
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY WE CAME UPON A PRIDE OF LIONS WITH THIS MAGNIFICENT MALE
ONE OF THE CUBS
AND SOME MORE. NOTE THE LANDSCAPE
THE MALE, HOPING SHE IS IN ESTRUS!
THE BROTHER OF THE MALE PICTURED ABOVE, BIGGER, AND MAGNIFICENT IN MOVEMENT
I LOVE THE DESIGNS ON THE ZEBRA. THIS ONE HAD BEEN ROLLING IN THE DUST, HENCE THE ORANGE TINGE.
THE LANDSCAPE VARIES BETWEEN HILLS AND FLAT EXPANSES, ADORNED WITH THORNBUSH, ACACIA, PHOTOGENIC DEAD TREES, AND OCCASIONAL WATERHOLES.
ONE OF THE LARGER PONDS AND A GOOD PLACE TO SEE FISH EAGLE AND MANY WATER BIRDS
A GOLDEN HORNBILL HAS BITTEN OFF MORE THAN IT CAN CHEW, A DUNG BEETLE, WHICH IT DROPPED AND LOST.
MADIKWE IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES IN THE WORLD TO EXPERIENCE WILD DOG, (CAPE HUNTING DOG), THIS BEING ONE OF A LARGE PACK, MORE OF WHICH WE WERE TO REALLY EXPERIENCE A DAY LATER
THE MEANEST ANIMAL OF ALL, THE CAPE BUFFALO. DON’T BE FOOLED, THIS NOT A DOCILE ASIAN WATER BUFFALO.
MY FAVORITE PHOTO OF THE TRIP, ZEBRA AT THE WATERHOLE IN FRONT OF THE LODGE
ELEPHANTS DRINK PRODIGIOUS VOLUMES OF WATER
RELAXING AFTER LUNCH IN THE LODGE
A RHINO SUFFERING FROM ALLERGY. WE AREN’T THE ONLY ONES!
MAX AND JACK IN THEIR ELEMENT, A SUNSET STOP
GIRAFFE AT SUNSET
JACK OF THE BUSHVELD
IMPALA BY THE HUNDREDS, UNFORTUNATELY SHORTLY TO BE ONE LESS
THE LEADER OF A PACK OF WILD DOG – EASILY RECOGNIZED BY THE NATURAL P IN ITS FUR – AND ONE OF 2 DOGS WE WERE TO WITNESS TAKE DOWN A YOUNG IMPALA
THEY IMMEDIATELY STARTED DEVOURING THE IMPALA, AND WITHIN A MINUTE THE REST OF THE PACK ARRIVED AND IN 3 MINUTES HAD LEFT NOTHING BUT SOME SKIN

Witnessing wild dog take down a young impala and immediately start devouring it, followed by the rest of the pack getting into a feeding frenzy, was something we and the boys will surely never forget. The rapid movements, the sound of snapping of the bones and deep breathing of the dogs, their going at each other to take back a piece, the vile stench in the air, the law of the jungle…

A FEEDING FRENZY – THE CRACKLING OF THE BONES AND INTENSE STENCH CANNOT BE DESCRIBED
OUR FINAL MORNING AND A HERD OF ELEPHANTS CAME TO SAY GOODBYE
OUR FINAL MOMENTS WITH LISA

This is the only adventure I plan to report this month. Being with Moira as we experienced the excitement of Jack and Max, listening to their observations, laughing at each other’s jokes, was all such a privilege. One can never really plan or control one’s life, but as far as I was able, this is exactly what I would have planned as one of the highlights of mine.

I intend this to be my final Letter from South Africa for the 2021-2022 season. We return to Cleveland mid-May. Before that I have a Board Meeting in Brussels, and I will definitely not be reporting on that. So, I end this month wishing you Chag Pesach Sameach, Happy Easter, or just the very best, and may all of you be tempted to visit the South African bushveld.

As ever

Wulf

Cape Town and Madikwe, April 10, 2022

38 Responses

  1. Wonderful story Wulf . Beautiful pictures . nothing better then spending time with grandkids. You all look great . Happy and safe holiday .

  2. What an extraordinary letter!
    Your photographs and commentary outdo the National Geographic.
    You have an incredible story telling ability.
    I was riveted to your every word.
    THANK YOU
    Safe Travels
    LOVE to you and Moira
    Jan and Isaac

  3. What an absolutely beautiful and outstanding way to end your stay in SA, your descriptions and photos are incredible and the best is to have that quality time with Jack and Max.
    Love to all. 😘

  4. Thanks for sharing this magnificent travelogue. So happy you are both well and able to spend such wonderful time with the boys. Looking forward to seeing you back in Cleveland. Happy Passover.
    Love to both
    Elaine & Beno

  5. Wulf,

    Thank you for this extraordinary South Africa wildlife adventure! Pleasure to see your grandsons enjoying this experience of a lifetime with you and Moira –

    Safe travels back to the states and Happy Passover!

    With love,
    Jan

  6. I feel honored to receive your messages. What a privilege to introduce your darling grandsons to the country you have known so well. Moira looks well at home and stylish too! Safe journeys to you and give our greetings to Lara.
    Warmly,
    Linda

  7. So lovely to see you and Moira! You both look great!! The grandchildren certainly have grown up. How spectacular that you could do this family trip. Thank you for sharing your photos. After being to a game park (Kruger and Ingala), this is the only vacation that I ever want to take. The experience is beyond words!!
    I want to go back ASAP.
    Enjoy the Cleveland summer, and don’t blink because it will be over before you know it. So grateful to now reside in Florida.
    Regards and much love sent to you and Moira!
    Doreen & Barry

    1. Thanks Doreen and Barry. So good to hear from you. Yes, we have not experienced a Cleveland winter for years – like you, we paid our dues!We send love to you both, Wulf

  8. Wulf,
    SA would be wise to appoint you Secretary of Tourism! All your letters make me want to return, especially this letter!
    How memorable to take Jack and Max on a safari. Truly a highlight for all of you.
    Love zebras and love your photo of the zebras and their reflections in the pond.
    Travel safely see you soon.
    Happy Passover.
    Love,
    Trudy (and Steven)

    1. Thanks Trudy, I would enjoy an Ambassador post but would not want to serve in any government!Happy Passover to you both as well and we look forward to being together soon. Love, Wulf

  9. Thanks so much for your beautiful travelogue and exquisite photos. It was like watching National Geographic, which we do all the time, with yours adding a much more personal touch ofcourse, and being extra special, having your grandsons with you. Wonderful that you both were able to spend such quality time with them. You all look great!! Chag Sameach and safe travels.

    Love to you and Moira,
    Lucille & Philip

  10. Wulf , as always an amazing letter and incredible photos. What a special adventure you and Moira had with Jack and Max. One to be treasured and remembered on all levels.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Travel safely Chag Samech to you both.
    We’ll speak. Lots of love…. besos 😘😘

  11. Once again Wulf a magnificent travel log , beautiful photos and made us feel like part of your trip, very special being with Jack and Max

  12. Dear Wulf,
    SA would be wise to enlist you as Secretary of Tourism.
    Great letter. I want to return!
    What a memorable trip to the game reserve for all of you, especially Max and Jack.
    Have a happy Passover.
    Regards to Ben, the Kovensky’s and Lester.
    See you soon in Cleveland.
    Love,
    Trudy (and Steven)

  13. Wulf,
    I posted a second time because I didn’t think the first response went through. Extra credit, i hope.
    Neglected to mention Lara. Best regards to her and Brett and Michelle.
    xoxoxo
    Trudy

  14. Dr. Utian, thank you for sharing these spectacular photos of the South African bushveld and for allowing me to live vicariously through them. I hope that someday I will be able to visit South Africa and experience its beauty. Glad you and Moira were able to share this lifetime experience with Max and Jack. Save travels back to the US and looking forward to having dinner when you return!!

  15. What a beautiful travelogue and family commentary. We felt as though we were with you on safari. Have a safe return to your Cleveland home. We know they’re waiting for you with open arms. Love, Jan and Bob
    PS…Moira wins the prize for most stylish game preserve traveler ever.

  16. What wonderful memories created for you and your family. Brings back happy memories for John and I as well. Hope we get a chance to return. Chug Pesach Sameach to you and your family. See you soon in Cleveland.
    XXXOOO
    Linda and John

  17. Wonderful article Wulf! Thanks for sharing – so good to see the photos of your grandsons on safari. My favourite holidays are on safari with my 2 granddaughters. WE are off to Kenya on Thursday, Grateful Timeless Africa SAfaris was able to be a part of this important trip.
    Best,
    MArco

  18. Hello Wulf and Moira,
    Got to viewing your letter and pictures only today. We endorse the excitement and sheer wonder of being ‘in nature’ with grandchildren which we’ve done 3 times now at Madikwe at Jaci’s Tree Lodge. All wonderful experiences.
    If you’re coming through London to be in Belgium it would be great to meet.
    Thanks for your letters, travel well and safely and Chag Pesach Semeach.
    Len and Myrna

    1. Hi Len and Myrna, So good to hear from you. Unfortunately I am traveling through Frankfurt, but hopefully some time we do get to see each other again. Meanwhile, hope the Seders got well. Moira and I send fondest regards, Wulf

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