This is a guest post by Maria Henson in the USA who recently revisited Savute Safari Lodge.You can follow her twitter at @MARIAHENSON
Savute Safari Lodge has special memories for me because it was my first lodge assignment as a volunteer for Desert & Delta Safaris when I took a sabbatical from my job in 2008.
Imagine how it was to find the words written with leaves and seeds on my bed’s duvet in chalet No. 5: “Feel at home.”
Did I ever. Within a few minutes a herd of elephants emerged from the bush, ambling toward the water hole outside my room. I counted 30, plus three kudu. Babies were among them. The occasional trumpeting sound filled the air. I could only count my blessings along with the jostling elephants as I watched from my deck.
— Maria Henson (@MARIAHENSON) June 21, 2016
A waitress whose name means compassion told me she had been at the lodge 11 months and had never seen so many elephants arrive at once. “They are your welcoming committee,” she said.
I’ve no doubt all of us guests felt that way.
We all had excellent game drives, with sightings of wildebeests, kudu, giraffes, ground hornbills, elephants, warthogs, impala and lilac-breasted rollers.
For me to have just one night in Savute was painfully brief, but I savored the chance to see guides and staff who were my friends and lodge managers Setch and Lucky. (Setch and I were still laughing at the mistakes this American made in talking on the radio and figuring out what strange-sounding vegetables I was supposed to set aside in the mornings for the chef. I had not encountered a pattypan or a baby marrow by name before those days.)
I also saw Score, the 66-year-old bar man who has shown quiet, personalised attention to guests for more than 16 years at Savute Safari Lodge. When I first met him in 2008,, he was preparing to go on time off. Where will you go? To the cattle post. My big faux pas occurred when I asked, “How many cattle do you have, Mr. Score?” To which he replied, firmly, “Mma Pula, you never ask a man how many cattle he has. It is like asking how much money is in his bank account.”
On this day of my return, he greets me. “How long you stay, Mma Pula? Weeks? Four nights?”
He referred to me by the name I was gifted in 2008 by Botswana people who said I brought the blessing of plentiful rain. Pula, among several definitions, means rain here, precious and anticipated.
“Ah, Mr. Score, I am here only one night.”
“No. No,” he said. “You have broken my heart.” He clutched his chest –- in authentic disappointment — before giving me a long hug.
I felt the same way, feeling the tears well up. Once you come under the spell of Savute and its people, you are forever linked to this place. You will always feel at home.