Tent 1 – Kendal and Amy
Well the urbanites with no pets and no camping experience did it! We went on a 2 day 2 night CAMPING Safari in the Chobe National Park in Botswana, Africa. Were we scared? Not until we got there. Chobe National Park is huge; it’s the size of Portugal. There were animals at every turn. It was an exhilarating and awesome experience that we will never forget. The trip included; a boat game drive, an afternoon game drive, an evening game drive and an early morning game drive, as well as all the camping gear. Our first night we were with a nice family from Italy and a really fun group that had been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. We were up late talking and telling stories by the campfire. We also had a brave girl from Germany – only 16 and on her own (!??!) and a 20 something guy from Canada. It was fun to learn everyone’s story. Within the first five minutes of the river cruise we saw elephants. We saw an adult and a baby elephant do a river crossing and we saw a herd of water buffalo cross the river as well. We felt honored to see these natural sights. Our eyes did not blink a whole 2 days from all the different sights and animals to see. I’m sure it would bore you to list them all. The ranger told us that they look at the vehicle as one big metal animal. The exhaust takes their sense of smell away, so they don’t smell humans on board and don’t attack. All week Keegan wasn’t allowed to do various adventures because he was considered prey. When we were 2ft away from two lions my mother was not trusting the “one metal animal” theory. Our guide filled us with wonderful information about all the animals, birds and vegetation. There was a full moon while we were out (of course!) The sunrise and sunsets were an amazing red that they say only happens in Africa.
As much as I hated the fear — it was all from a lack of control (who says I’m a control freak?) When we asked the guide if he had any weapons “just in case” he pointed to his head – “only this!” The entire experience was wonderful and it will be with us forever.
Tent 2 – Keegan and Steve
During our camping safari there was a fire going at all times to keep the animals away because they don’t like fire (Kendal and I collected a lot of wood to keep it going and to keep them away — don’t worry we didn’t go that far ;)) On our last sleeping night before we went to bed Dad and I got our flashlights and shone them around the camp to look for animal’s eyes because they reflect against the light. We saw 100 eyes of Impalas. And while I was collecting wood for the fire I was pretty sure I saw an Aardvark or Honey Badger or some kind of animal of that size it was really cool. We saw a TON of animals. Our game driver (Steve, not my dad) was full of great information. On the first game drive we saw two lions up close about to go find them some dinner. Steve told us they were brother and sister that hunt and do everything together. My mom was very scared of all the animals because they were literally 2 feet away, touching distance and they were huge. She was holding on to my thigh and wrist very, very hard. If she held on any longer I would have lost my leg and my hand. I still have marks where she was holding me. We also saw some really cute baby elephants and baby baboons (my dad now does not like baboons but the babies are still cute to us).
Imagine the most beautiful picture of an African Safari and it still wouldn’t do this trip justice. There were thousands upon thousands of animals. The sunsets and rising moons were incredible and yes we were extremely nervous being so close to these beautiful animals. They weren’t like the animals you see in the zoo, they were all in great shape, healthy and robust. The first night, Steve, our very kind and knowledgable guide, basically was running into animals on the road, we had elephants, zebras, water buffalo and hyena practically sitting in our laps (there were no windows or doors on our jeep, easy animal access) . It all happened so fast; I had the big lens on the camera because I thought the animals would be at a great distance, I never imagined we would be staring face to face with them. Then all of a sudden we were parked for about 15 minutes staring at 2 lions, at dusk, which is when they start hunting. That was incredibly nerve-racking! I know for sure one of the lions looked first at Kendal and then was circling the back of the jeep once she saw Keegan. Luckily her hunting partner (brother) started to head down the road and they both headed for bigger game. (My family doesn’t remember it this way but this dad is sticking by what he saw-and I surely remember the pounding of my heart). The next night we had new campers that had just come from a night game drive, they were lucky enough to see a kill. Two female lions, with a male watching (two of which we saw the night before) hunted down a baby elephant killed and ate it in front of them. After seeing their graphic video and watching the elephant kick its legs while being suffocated and seeing it start to be tore apart, we all agreed just seeing the lions close up was good enough for us. The next day we went to see the carnage and amazingly enough it was all gone except the rib cage, which was in two pieces and being picked away by the vultures (ahhh, the circle of life). The first night I was woken up at 2:30am by the sounds of lions, elephants, hyenas and zebras, this went on all night long and are sounds I will never forget. We had a hyena den about 100 feet from our camp so I know they were close by. Our guide gave us a lesson on all the scat that was surrounding our tents and we realized that there were not many animals that didn’t stop by to check things out at night. Most of us took a shower in the bush with a sack of water above your head. It was pretty eerie to look over the “shower curtain” and see 20-30 baboons about 50 feet away staring at you – check that one off the bucket list!
I did not expect for this safari to be so beautiful, thrilling, tiring and memorable but it was all of that!! A special shout out to my honey, Amy, this was 2 rings outside her comfort zone but she dealt with it great!