One of the advantages of serving as senior missionaries is that we occasionally have the opportunity for a cultural or in this case a wildlife experience, so with permission we joined six other couples and went on a 4-day safari! It was awesome! First we flew to Tamale in Northern Ghana, then a 3 hour drive bought us to Mole (Mo lay) National Park where we stayed at Zaina Lodge. Immediately we noticed a difference in the homes here. They are round mud huts with thatch roofs and most often built in clusters of four or five with an outside wall forming a compound. Tribal languages are different too, and the area is predominately Muslim.
Zaina Lodge staff gave us a warm welcome, greeting us with beautiful African smiles, waves and a cold cloth to wipe off the grime of the road. The beautiful lodge is located on a bluff, overlooking two water holes that attract animals of all shapes and sizes. After a quick lunch we jumped in jeeps to have our first safari adventure, and we were not disappointed! Our park ranger and guide, Jacob, whom we affectionately called the elephant whisperer (we had to explain that to him) spotted "something" in the bush. He checked it out and then beckoned us to quietly follow him. He led us to within 35 yards of a male savannah elephant that was grazing in a grove of trees. We couldn't believe it, seeing this beautiful animal in the wild was truly breath taking. Savannah elephants are more social than forest elephants and he didn't mind us watching him. In fact he appeared just as intrigued with us. There are about 400 elephants in the park and with the help of the elephant whisperer we got up close and personal with one on our first day. What a memorable experience!
The next morning we headed out atand saw Kob antelope, water hogs, baboons, monkeys and a variety of birds, including the beautiful red-throated bee-eater. It was so fun to stand up in the jeep, under the raised roof to try and get glimpses of movement in the bush. Just before stopping for a safari breakfast Jacob guided us to a water hole where we discovered six elephants enjoying a bath! Another awe-inspiring moment as we observed them raising their trunks and spraying themselves with water. Watching these beautiful creatures it makes no sense why anyone could kill them. Like other areas of Africa poaching is rampant, According to "Ivory Games" documentary I believe the numbers are 1 elephant is killed every 15 minutes. It is so sad. The only way to "shoot" an animal is though the lens of a camera. I'm not ready to work for National Geographic just yet but it sure was fun trying to get the perfect shot.
In the afternoon Zaina teamed up with a local community to give us a cultural experience. Locals from Mognori took us on a canoe ride on the Mole river, we met Lionman, a villager who survived being attacked by a lion, Maymoona showed us how to make shea butter, and Dowda gave us a tour around the outside of the oldest mosque in Ghana which dates back 600 years. Quite unique in appearance.
On our third morning we saw three elephants by the water hole below the lodge but they moved on quickly and we didn't see them again. We did spy a duiker, a bush buck and a water buck (5 points to Sister Munro for spotting it!) on this trip. They are hard to see through the vegetation and often move deeper into the bush when they hear us coming, so pictures were hard to come by, but it was glorious to be in wild. Elder Lambert was in his element!
Relaxing and cooling off at the pool led to a fun activity that the Lambert girls can relate to. The Greater Accra Sinking Senior Sisters Synchronized Swimming team performed a one minute routine interlaced with much laughter and silliness. Thankfully our husbands did not disown us, and its nice to know I'm not the only crazy one out there! Elder McDougal threatened to post the performance on Facebook with the caption "You too can serve a mission in Africa!" Oh, the things we do!!!!
On our last morning Jacob took us on a nature walk where we learned about the medicinal purposes of many plants. Wild mint is an insect repellant, the chewed up bark from the Camel Foot tree helps heal wounds, Barkia Africana is used by the locals as a toothbrush, Lana Accida helps prevent malaria, and the Compass tree will always lead you home, if you know your directions. That said, we returned to the lodge, packed our bags and headed to the airport at the end of a wonderful rejuvenating get-away. No Thanksgiving meal until next week, but truly thankful for this marvelous experience.
Elder and Sister Lambert
The old and the new!
We got this close!
Lionman, 4th from right