Turns out safaris are, as expected, quite awesome. I managed to see all kinds of animals, and was in really, really close proximity to elephants for much of the weekend.
Perhaps the first giveaway should have been that the place I stayed at is
called Elephant’s Bedroom. This name should very nearly be taken literally, as at least one bull elephant spent just about all night right by my tent. In fact, if you see the tree on the left, it was upright the night before, until this guy decided that he would better be able to eat from it if it were on the ground. While he was ravaging this tree, I got to experience an amazing, if somewhat terrifying experience. My tent-mate was out on the deck of our tent, and I heard loud thumping of branches, so I went outside too. And there he was—this enormous elephant, chomping away. With about two steps and a full extension of his trunk, he would have been able to touch us. After eating for a while, he turned, and faced us. There was about a 10 second span where his body was completely turned, and he stared directly at me, and seemed to size me up, as to whether or not I was a threat/worth bothering with. I guess he decided not, cause he then went back to eating from, and demolishing the tree beside us.
While maybe this is basic knowledge to most, I have to confess I didn’t actually know how safaris “work” until this past weekend. Here is how: when you go on a game drive, you are required to stay in the car, and stay on the road. However, there are a gazillion different paths that crisscross throughout the park, so you can head wherever you want to without too much difficulty. You can rent a safari guide or Landrover, but it’s also possible to go safari-ing with any car, as our friends some sort of sedan demonstrated.
There is also an established pecking order as far as animal cool-ness goes, as I was previously unaware. At the bottom of the totem-pole (though still quite cool) are animals like gazelles, oryxes, and antelopes. Giraffes and elephants are apparently fairly easy to find as well, as are zebras in most parks, as are monkeys and baboons. Rhinos are a step up, and then the ultimate goal of any true safari goer is some sort of big cat. Lions and cheetahs are to be sought after, and then the rarest of rare is the leopard, who spends a good deal of time hiding in trees and is quite shy.
We managed giraffes, gazelles galore and giraffes on our first day, so we spent a good part of our second day in search of some lions. We spent a good part of the morning without too much luck, and were considering heading back for breakfast when we saw several cars clumped together in the distance. We thought that seemed promising, and sure enough, we managed to see two lionesses lying on a rock, and a third under a nearby tree. Before too long, they headed out as a group, and found refuge under a bush, where they seemed happy to sleep for a while.
Altogether, amazing first safari. Having an encounter up close with an elephant was pretty awesome, and it was great to see some lionesses too!