Maddy and the Meerkats

Maddy Bowers, Meerkats, Jack's Camp, Botswana

Spending two or three nights in the quiet of the Kalahari desert is an ideal way of winding down after safari. The slower pace and the awareness you gain after a very short amount of time, of small flora and fauna, provides a fulfilling and moving contrast to the attention given to the big game experience that perhaps most African travel tends to focus on.

Meerkats are one of the smallest species to be found here and many people agree, one of the most endearing. I was delighted to be able to arrange an early morning walk to Meerkat territory where I sat among their burrows as they emerged to begin their most active part of the day. Local rangers have accustomed the animals to the presence of humans by sitting among them every day (what a lovely job to have!) so they are unfazed by visitors, sitting on me and using me for their lookout!

I really enjoyed another walk I did, accompanied by Bushmen and an interpreter. The Bushmen demonstrated the skills and knowledge that have enabled their survival in the desert - showing me, for example, which trees provided wood that was good for making arrowheads and which trees were better for fire-making. It is possible to arrange Bushman walks as a family group and I found myself thinking what a wonderfully interactive and intimate way it would be to show children a way of life which has remained the same for 500 years.  Kids would be fascinated to hear the Bushmen speaking in their click language, too.

The Bushman walk and my experience with the Meerkats convinced me that there is more to Botswana than the Delta and this was reaffirmed by my accommodation. Jack’s Camp is registered as a museum and it’s so atmospheric! Everything is lit by gaslight and there are glass cabinets everywhere, containing Natural History displays and other treasures. I could have spent all my evenings here poring over the maps, pictures, movie posters and artefacts (talk about Night at the Museum!) but it would have been a shame to stay indoors because this part of the world is widely known to be one of the best places for stargazing. The sky is inky black and the concentration of stars is both mind boggling and calming. The vastness of the desert and the night sky reminded me how small we are – not much bigger than a Meerkat in the grand scheme of things.

 Maddy Bowers, San Bushmen, Jack's Camp, Botswana

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