Wild and free
We were welcomed at Mondjila, our weekend lodging, with warm greetings and freshly squeezed pineapple juice. These little touches were appreciated after our five-hour drive from Windhoek. Professor Caro informed us that our accommodations would be quite nice, but I had not put much stock into staying in tents. This tent experience was very new for me. Our tents not only had beds, but we also had flushing toilets and running water. We were surrounded by nature as well. The location could not have been more wonderful.
For the rest of the afternoon, we were able to catch up on some much needed relaxation. Our weekdays at the School for the Visually Impaired are amazing, but they take a lot out of us. We all enjoyed the time to to read or tan by the pool. While we were relaxing, we also saw some springbok and kudu grazing nearby.
That night we were treated like royalty for dinner. I did not expect to be served a three-course meal. Every dish they presented us with was truly delicious. The main course of the night consisted of kudu steak, fish pasta, chips, cooked carrots and salad. On our trip I have been excited to try all of the different game meat, kudu being no exception. Honestly, kudu is now my favorite game meat. The meat was tender with a rich, fresh flavor. Meat in Namibia has been spectacular across the board, which is not a surprise. The lack of pesticides or hormones introduced into the animals is what gives the meat its high quality. I will miss the flavor when we get back to the States.
Early the next morning we started our safari. Once we arrived to the gates of the park, we were fortunate to see lions. Our luck did not end there. By lunch we had seen giraffes, zebras and two rhinos. The number of springbok and kudu we saw was also astonishing. I think it is appropriate to consider springbok as the whitetail deer of Namibia.
Throughout the day we were on the look out for an elephant, but there were none to be spotted. Our group of Pointers were on the brink of giving up hope on seeing an African elephant; Gustav, our guide and driver, had other plans. He took us to many watering holes that afternoon, and one happened to have a family of elephants taking a bath. The sight was nothing less than spectacular. Everyone was engrossed in the little elephants who splashed in the water, while the mothers covered their children in mud. It was a heartwarming and beautiful experience.
Our weekend at Etosha was as perfect as they could get. For the first-time safari goers, it will be hard to top this experience. People around the world hope to witness the African wildlife. Most of the time our only experience with these animals are through books or a visit to the zoo. I am pleased and honored to say that I have seen these animals in their natural habitat, wild and free.
Cierra Bartol-Byers, a senior elementary education major at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.