There is something magical about experiencing a safari through the eyes of a child. It reminds one of one’s very first experiences: the first time to see an elephant, or giraffe or lion…or anything African. We had two delightful young boys and their older sister, who had been on safari for the first time last year, staying at Jao for the week. For the boys, this was their first trip and their eyes were like saucers. They immediately jumped into the back row of the game vehicle because that is clearly where the most fun is – the highest and most bumpy seat on the vehicle for sure. And from there, this whole new world that is Africa unfolded for them.
When the group arrived, a business of banded mongooses (of which there were about twenty) appeared outside the family tent and were scratching and hanging about as a kind of welcome to the young safari travelers. Apparently this group are resident at Jao at the moment and make their way from the back of the camp where the manager’s accommodation is, through to the front where they play in the coolness underneath the main area structure.
One day I caught up with them outside Mike and my room. They are like baboons – I can just sit and watch them for hours. And they are so curious. I would not, and luckily did not, have anything to feed them so I just held up a very withered berry of sorts in my fingers and one or two came to investigate. Mostly out of curiosity really. They actually came quite close and my colleague, Alex Chaplin, managed to capture them on his phone camera. The quality is not perfect because he too was at ground level trying to get close to them – but you can get a feel for how curious they really were.
We sent message to tell the young folk to come and see them, but the band moved on faster than the boys could get to us. That afternoon around tea-time, the mongooses had made their way over to the main area and were playing just outside the walkway that takes you to the downstairs part of the main area. This was perfect as everyone was around and could enjoy getting close (but without touching or getting too close) and have an interaction with the group of banded mongooses.
These were not the only animals that are familiar with the camp. Hanging around the kitchen area there are two young spotted hyaena and we managed to see them one evening while dining under the stars. Certainly, we did not encourage anyone to get too close – they are certainly very different from a banded mongoose!