This weekend I packed my backpack and boarded the bus with the other participants of the Namibia trip from UW-Stevens Point for a weekend of camping and safari. Although the bus trip was long, the new surrounds were too enticing for me to get a wink of sleep along the way. The thought of seeing African animals in their natural habitat had me in tears; I couldn’t believe I was actually getting this adventure!
Outside the city of Windhoek the scenery is very different; we were suddenly surrounded by dessert and brush on all sides of us. The signs along the highway were showing springbok (also referred to as “jumping goats”) and warthog crossings instead of deer, like we are used to in Wisconsin. To make the adventure even more exciting we started to actually see wild warthogs in the ditches! Sometimes we would get lucky and see ostriches along the way, too. There were some not so exciting parts of the trip, too, like seeing the homeless areas on the highway roadsides where boxes were used as shelters. Then there were the unusual differences, like the rest stops that consisted of a picnic table and benches but no bathroom, and the police officers that would station themselves along the road and flag people down to stop, get out of their vehicle and walk to them for their violation.
After several hours on the bus we finally arrived at Mondjila, our camping site. As we drove up a steep mountainside I became quite concerned about what was to be expected–and then at the top there was a beautiful wood structure with an open air restaurant area and beautiful large tents with gravel walkways and landscape that was unimaginable. With an odd number of people in our group and two people to a tent, I took a tent to myself. When I walked in I again could not believe what I was seeing! Was this really camping? The tent was equipped with 2 small beds fully made up with extra blankets, a small bathroom with running water and a shower, and electricity. This kind of camping I could handle! The staff was absolutely wonderful; they walked everyone to their tent and made sure they knew where everything was and how to use it. We got to know the six staff members on a first-name basis and had just as much an impact on them as they did on us.
The day of arrival to Mondjila we all got ourselves comfortable in our tents and then gathered by the main lodge to watch the sunset. Let me tell you, words cannot explain the beauty of a southern hemisphere sunset from high up in the mountains. It gets dark very early here; it is wintertime after all, so we had to do some quick exploring so we would not be lost on the mountainside before dinner. The dinner was prepared especially for us by the head chef–we had an authentic kudu dish with baked chicken, cabbage, greek salad, spinach soup, fresh rolls, and more. As if I didn’t already realize it–we were spoiled!
On Saturday we headed to Etosha National Park. This is a wildlife refuge and it is quite large in size with many watering holes and preserved for the animals to have natural habitat and remain safe from poachers. We were warned before going on our safari that luck has a lot to do with the animals we will see and not to have our expectations set too high. We happened to be quite lucky, as we drove in our first watering hole stop, in the very beginning of the park we saw a lion and lioness! We were told not many people actually ever get to see a lion so we were thrilled. As we kept traveling along the many roads in the park we came across zebras, springbok, impalas, kudu, wildebeest, warthogs and jackals. Still feeling satisfied I was only holding out to see a rhino, elephant and giraffe but kept finding more and more springbok and zebras. Then a fellow safarian slowed and let us know of a watering hole with elephants! There were at least five adults and a baby elephant in that area. This was followed by several giraffe sightings that were quite far away. It wasn’t until we were heading out of the park that we finally got to see some giraffes up close. We had a grand time and enjoyed driving through the park for almost 10 hours. At the end we were very lucky and not even a little upset that we never saw a rhino, leopard, or cheetah.
This was such an amazing experience! We, as a group, owe much of the amazing adventure to our bus driver and safari guide Gustav and his son Graham who had great eyes and amazing animal knowledge.
It was hard to pick just a few pictures to share with you in this blog because I would love to share the entire album of photos that everyone captured. When we get back to the states, a flickr.com account will be made available to view additional photos if you choose to live vicariously through us!
Rebecca Wagner, a junior majoring in early childhood education at UW-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.