Molly Lemke | Monday, September11, 2017
“At home in the bush”
This expedition was my introduction to the African continent, as well as Earthwatch. As far as that goes, I couldn’t ask for a better one. Most of the other volunteers – a diverse bunch from 4 different continents – had been on safaris before. Listening to their stories, it was clear that our experience in Majete was different than the typical African tour.
Graduate students Anel and Kayla were the only researchers in camp at the time, but they and Chitsanzo did the work of 12 people. We would usually get up with the birds, have breakfast, and hit the road to do field work. That work included driving transects (counting every animal seen along a particular road), walking transects for plant life, emptying camera traps, and water hole counts.
We only did water hole counts twice, but I think those may be the magic to this trip. We observed two different locations from sunup to sundown. Everyone in Majete comes to the water holes during the dry season, so it was an opportunity to see the relationships between the animals in the park. We also became said animals for a time, especially on the second day, when we forewent the hide and sat in the open for 12 hours. It became necessary to understand how a shift in the wind could startle nearby animals, suddenly able to smell us, or how an empty water hole could mean a lion was in the area. On other days, we saw more examples of these silent signals: tracks on the road and in the bush. The marks that animals leave on the environment are a diary, readable to anyone who knows the script. It’s not every day in this human-filled world that we get to feel like just another animal, and it was an amazing experience.
Majete is a lovely place, and the research done on this Earthwatch expedition goes towards keeping it that way. It also goes towards helping the community; our wonderful student researchers noted that Earthwatch volunteers, by renting out the campgrounds and patronizing the lodge during relaxation time, represent a large amount of the proceeds that the park makes each year. With that in mind, do both yourself and Majete a favor, and book this expedition!