On the road to Kuti we were surprised by the tall grass on both sides of the bumpy road. We really were heading into the wild! We crossed a green gate, and said hi to Kuti Reserve. Let the adventure begin.
Eyes wide open and ‘nose to the ground’ we were ready to catch sight of some zebras that might be hiding behind the trees. No stripy shapes to spot just yet but we were sure that there were many animals hiding somewhere out there in undergrowth.
We drove to the main camp area and got out from our jeep. The hot air hit us. Damp and warm atmosphere around us, the sun was high – we had arrived in the wilds of Kuti.
The camp itself sits in the middle of the reserve. Here animals are free to ramble anywhere. Therefore it isn’t surprising to cross the path of an ostrich while going to have a shower or see the camel rubbing his head against the roof!
At Kuti you can stroll through the reserve and try to find the animals by yourself. There are no lions, no elephant or hippos but the wildlife is still very impressive: over a 100 animals live here!
We took the key for our chalet and soon discovered it, in a corner of the camp hidden behind trees. A little hut with a thatched roof, simple but yet lovely. No electricity, just solar power and of course the daylight; no windows, just a mosquito net standing between us and the wild.
“You might have the chance to see some animals wandering passed the back of your hut, tomorrow morning”, the manager of the place told us. I jumped for joy: this is amazing. I felt like a real adventurer in the middle of the bush.
No time to waste, we jumped into our walking shoes, grabbed our cameras and headed to the trail, hoping to meet Kuti’s wildlife! On our tick list: giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, warthogs, civets, genets and primates. Antelope species include sable, kudu, waterbuck, reedbuck, nyala, bushbuck, impala, oribi, duiker and grysbok. And we weren’t disappointed by what we saw!
After only a 100 meters, close to the office, two zebras were wandering. We could touch them but the manager told us that even if they were not afraid by human they were still wild animals and it could be dangerous to pat them. Yes, zebras look like horses but they are not, they are much more fearful and unpredictable than horses.
So we walked slowly close to them. Fascinated by their stripes and their unusual colours. To me, it was like seeing a unicorn for the first time. The two zebras lead us to a pond where the rest of their herd was grazing.
And, oh, on the other bank antelopes were looking at us. And, here, on the other side, the baby giraffe, 3 years-old was discreetly trying to avoid us. We stood there for a long time, letting the flies bother us, trying to be part of the scenery so we could continue to observe this fascinating wildlife.
After a while we followed the path of the giraffe curious to see her closer up. As we walked on, we suddenly saw two nyalas, under the trees were looking straight at us – we stopped still in our tracks and observed each other for a minute or two before they bounded off deeper into the vegetation.
And here was the giraffe, eating the leaves of a tree, her soft eyes looking all around her with her long neck navigating to find the best spots. A moving, suspended moment.
She finally left us and we walked through the reserve, stopping to observe flowers and butterflies. We saw some birds and heard a lot of them. When we realized the sun was setting we quickly headed back to the camp, enjoyed a shower with the last rays of lights before night fell.
We had a lovely candlelight dinner. We missed the renowned sunset of the reserve, which gives us a reason to come back, but we kept talking about what we had seen during the afternoon.
While walking back to the chalet I looked up to the sky and could not retain a “wow” of surprise. That sky was the most beautiful I had ever seen in my life. Hundreds of shining stars, free from the light pollution it seemed so close and yet mysterious.
I sat on the ground for a few minutes, understanding why so many writers, poets and artists would take the sky as the main character of their works, and why so many legends were born from the sky.
It was time to sleep, with the sound of ‘never’ sleeping nature… the sounds which were to also wake me early in the morning.
I sat on the deck of our hut, the sun was already up but the camp was still asleep. I admired the quietness and decided to lie in a hammock. While enjoying its peaceful rocking Evelyn, the ostrich, came to visit me.
Further away a group of antelope was looking at me, always ready to run away just in case I moved too close to them. What a way to wake up, in the middle of nature, surrounded by wild animals I thought I would only see from far away. I could not believe my eyes but it was true. And as we headed back to the gate of the reserve I realized how fantastic the opportunity to spend a night here was.
Written by Cloé
Cloé is a volunteer at Malawian Style for the next few months. She is from France, fascinated by nature and wildlife and dream to see lions, zebras and leopard (but better not all at the same time!).