africa part 3: 'get damn excited'

introduction + africa part 1
africa part 2
africa part 3
africa part 4

we're nearing the weekend, people! and while it might snow early next week, we're gonna see 60s on friday and saturday. weeeeeeeeee!

today's post features easily my favorite part of our africa trip back in november (which, full disclaimer, will elicit the most photos). a few days into the trip, we packed up our bags and trekked 4.5 hours to madikwe game reserve, right near the botswana border. we were greeted at the tau lodge (the whole reserve has something like 30 different lodges...it's huge!) with warm towels, friendly faces and our guide for the stay, jesse! 

our first of four game drives (essentially a safari where you go on a drive to find game...makes sense, right?) was that first afternoon and we met a couple, tom and faye, that would become part of our group. they were absolutely lovely and fit right in with the rest of us. 

i knew we would see animals on a safari, but what surprised me the most was the sheer amount of them at every turn. during our first drive and the subsequent others, seeing zebras, giraffes, elephants and others became commonplace - which is just crazy to think about! check these guys out:

this male impala's horns look fake, don't they? 

this male impala's horns look fake, don't they? 

rhinos are super protected at madikwe and other african preserves because they are so often targeted for poaching. jesse told us that when rhinos are spotted in the area, they are not allowed to share locations over the radio in order to keep them safe.

rhinos are super protected at madikwe and other african preserves because they are so often targeted for poaching. jesse told us that when rhinos are spotted in the area, they are not allowed to share locations over the radio in order to keep them safe.

jesse had a knack for finding the smallest, most unique things just on the side of the road. when he saw this lil' guy, he virtually slammed on the brakes and got out to pick it up to show us. so many legs. *shivers*

jesse had a knack for finding the smallest, most unique things just on the side of the road. when he saw this lil' guy, he virtually slammed on the brakes and got out to pick it up to show us. so many legs. *shivers*

since the last photo features jesse's arm, i want to take minute to express just how wonderful he was during our stay. he is fairly new to this reserve, but had so much passion and genuine drive to make the guests happy. i can't tell you how many times he asked if we wanted to go see something and then would immediately get a fiery look in his eye to go find it. the title of this post actually comes from something he said often when going off on adventures. he was so awesome and completely made the trip. 

case in point...jesse got out of the truck and chased down this monitor for us to see and pet. he wasn't too happy to meet us, but jesse kept it quick and painless! 

case in point...jesse got out of the truck and chased down this monitor for us to see and pet. he wasn't too happy to meet us, but jesse kept it quick and painless! 

anyway, onto more animal pics!

i could have watched this mama and baby for hours. they were the cutest!

i could have watched this mama and baby for hours. they were the cutest!

look at this guy's mean mug! we all really thought he was going to charge our truck because he continued to stare at us. talk about intense!

look at this guy's mean mug! we all really thought he was going to charge our truck because he continued to stare at us. talk about intense!

this is one of four cheetah brothers that live on the reserve. they all travel, hunt and live in the pack and after a feeding (like in this photo) even nap together. it really is fascinating to see how animals act in groups! these guys were so fun to watch. 

this is one of four cheetah brothers that live on the reserve. they all travel, hunt and live in the pack and after a feeding (like in this photo) even nap together. it really is fascinating to see how animals act in groups! these guys were so fun to watch. 

just like real cats. expert nappers!

just like real cats. expert nappers!

this cat was a little bit different than the cheetah brothers; she was a leopard! of the 'big five' animals that are typically found in africa (african lion, african elephant, cape buffalo, african leopard and white/black rhino), the leopard is notoriously the hardest to track down. during our stay, we were fortunate enough to see two different ones! this female one was perched up in this tree and just staring out at her domain. i would never want to make her mad, but this day, she was queen of the jungle. 

this cat was a little bit different than the cheetah brothers; she was a leopard! of the 'big five' animals that are typically found in africa (african lion, african elephant, cape buffalo, african leopard and white/black rhino), the leopard is notoriously the hardest to track down. during our stay, we were fortunate enough to see two different ones! this female one was perched up in this tree and just staring out at her domain. i would never want to make her mad, but this day, she was queen of the jungle. 

one of the coolest things we saw the entire trip was this 40 to 45-year-old elephant passing by our truck just minding its own business. as big as elephants are, this one walked so gracefully and quietly. none of us had to zoom in on any photos when this one passed by, that's for sure. it was amazing. 

one of the coolest things we saw the entire trip was this 40 to 45-year-old elephant passing by our truck just minding its own business. as big as elephants are, this one walked so gracefully and quietly. none of us had to zoom in on any photos when this one passed by, that's for sure. it was amazing. 

^ this is the setup for sundowner time, the fancy term for south african happy hour, during the evening drive. jesse packed all the essentials: cocktails, mixers and snacks. it was the best way to recap the day and everything we saw and get to know everyone in the group. we also stopped and had coffee and biscuits during the morning drives. let's see...coffee in the morning, happy hour at night. it's like they know me!

cannot wait to go back someday! cheers to new friends, incredible scenery and an unforgettable few days at tau!