An Introduction to Botswana Wildlife: Mokolodi Nature Reserve
Post by Michaela Riley from Indiana University Bloomington
When many people picture Africa, they imagine the 4x4 safari vehicles chasing after herds of zebra or wildebeest to capture the best angle for the tourists to take photographs because for once, the tourists are not seeing these animals in zoos. Botswana is one of the countries in Africa rich with wildlife. This past weekend I was that tourist keeping my eyes peeled for anything that moved. We spent a day and night at Mokolodi Nature Reserve just outside of Gaborone. It is home to giraffes, rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, zebras, impalas, and warthogs, just to name a few. Our day on the reserve began in a beautiful shaded area next to the lake that is filled with hippos and crocodiles where we had lunch and an introduction about wildlife conservation. We were reminded that even though the park rangers help the animals from time to time (pumping water into waterholes, providing food for the hyenas, and sometimes having to remove animals when the reserve is over carrying capacity), the animals are still wild and precautions should be taken.
After lunch, we drove deeper into the reserve for volunteer work. Some people built dams and placed rocks in strategic areas to prevent soil erosion. Others dug holes to catch rainwater and cut down trees because their roots prevented other vegetation from growing. A friend and myself successfully chopped down two trees with the help of a machete and an ax. Once we were sweaty and caked in dirt, we began our game drive. Driving to our campsite and lunch, we had already seen zebras and warthogs. On our game drive, we saw about ten giraffes, a wildebeest, and an impala. The giraffes were a sight to behold. Their heads towered over the trees and faced us as if they were posing for their photo opp. Giraffes are truly regal creatures with no predators and unique, patterned coats.
Riding from our excitement of seeing the giraffes, we went to dinner, which included a buffet, ciders, and a campfire. Once again as I looked up at the stars, I was reminded of how beautiful this country is with its constant cloudless days and nights. Later on, we cuddled up and heard animal noises steps away from our tents. We were never in any real danger, but the ease of which an animal could have entered our tent was a little unsettling at times, especially when I was awoken by the howling and calling.
In the morning, we could see baboons running around near the campsite as we sipped mimosas and ate a delicious buffet breakfast. Sadly, we had to drive back to our dorms and homestays, but I could have easily enjoyed another game drive. The reserve also allows mountain biking for those who want to be a bit more adventurous. I highly recommend visiting the reserve and cannot wait for the next opportunity to get up close with Botswana’s wildlife.