Springbok, Elephants, Lions, Oh My!
We arrived at Mondjila Safari Camp around 1 p.m. Friday. After a six-hour drive, we were ready to just relax in fresh air. Everyone settled into their tents. We stayed in pairs for the weekend. The tents were upscale but didn’t take away from the atmosphere. We were provided with two beds, two side tables and two light fixtures. Behind a wall, we had our own toilet, sink and shower. It was perfect in my opinion! Until it came to sleeping … I made my tent mate check for all the bugs. For those of you who don’t know, I hate spiders. I never looked up because I was afraid of what I might see. Luckily enough we only had to kill two bugs all weekend! Throughout the night, I could hear every noise possible. There were gusts of wind, crunching rocks and squeals of unknown creatures. It kept us up for awhile until we just told ourselves, “Close your eyes, relax and go to sleep.”
The employees at the camp were so good to us. George, a new friend of ours, served us left and right, whatever it was we needed. He walked down the row of tents with a bell as our wake up call in the morning. He was hilarious! They cooked us a nice warm breakfast in the mornings. We individually ordered eggs the way we wanted them. I accompanied my eggs with toast, fruit, and a little cereal. For us, a warm breakfast at this point hit the spot! They had dinner ready at 7 p.m. sharp. Friday night we were served kudu steak, carrots and delicious rolls. On Saturday, we enjoyed roasted chicken, vegetables, rice and salad. Not only were the dinners delightful, our view was amazing. We were up on a hill looking over all the nature.
Saturday, I was up at 5 a.m., breakfast was served at 5:30 a.m. and we were all on the bus by 6:05 a.m.. We had a short 20-minute drive from our tents to Etosha National Park, where we would spend our day on the bus searching for animals. Etosha National Park is around 10,000 square miles. A vast area of grassland, trees and wildlife. Not even 10 minutes in the park and we came across lions at the side of the road. There were five females and a male with about five adorable cubs. We were so close that you could hear them growling at each other. The cubs were just following the females around. Four of the females were snacking on a giraffe. It was unreal!! We all captured amazing pictures of the lions doing what they do best.
Next stop was our first waterhole. Zebras took over! There was over a herd of 50 zebras with little babies. There was a wildebeest among the pack as well. He didn’t really fit in but sure looked interesting. On the other side of the watering hole were springboks. Springboks here are very common and we saw them in groups everywhere. We watched the zebras puts into the water and take a drink. After they quenched their thirst, we watched them scurry off. The pack went running!
The next animal to stop us was a beautiful rhino. The mom and baby crossed right in front of the bus! We observed the rhinos until they headed off too far into the grass and trees. Only a little further along and we came across a lonesome ostrich. We learned that an ostrich with black feathers was male, while lighter feathers were a female. We found a large group of the rare impalas, very similar to our deer.
Right before our stop for lunch, we saw an elephant. A GIANT elephant. It was picture perfect and so surreal! He walked right along side the bus. He was missing one of his tusks but we were close enough to see his wrinkly skin. As cameras were going off, he crossed the street behind the bus and headed off. Lunch was served at a little restaurant inside the park. Everyone enjoyed a burger or grilled cheese with french fries. I ran into a tourist shop to buy an ice cream bar and a few souvenirs. Right by the restaurant was a watering hole. We walked over as quietly as we could but we’re not very lucky. Just a few impalas playing around and getting a drink.
We started our journey back, when we passed another watering hole with an elephant in the middle. Just gorgeous! Zebras, giraffes and springbok surrounded the area in the distance. We moved on and pulled right up to eight giraffes! These were right along the road eating trees and minding their own business. I have just never been so close to such big animals in their own habitat. We learned that the giraffe has just as many bones in their neck as the human being has in their entire body! They are so graceful for such a clumsy-looking animal.
To end our safari, we saw 42 elephants heading to their waterhole to bathe for the night. They were in line after line after line of each other. Grandmas and grandpas, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. All sizes and all ages. The sun soon started to fall, making the most incredible scene in the world, one that you could buy on a postcard in America. All you could hear on the bus were cameras. Everyone was in silence and awe! We could not have ended the day any better.
All in all, I have no words for the weekend! Etosha was incredible! We were all exhausted for the bus ride home, but we all had a blast. We have a big week ahead of us. I cannot believe that there is only a week and a half left in the trip.
Brittany Busscher, a junior majoring in early childhood education at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.