Have you ever experienced something, an event, a moment in time that just left you feeling numb and speechless, in the best kind of way? Every time you think you about it, you can’t help but smile and wish you could be there and see it all again. That is what Africa was to me. The things that I saw, that I was apart of were some of the best travel memories I have had so far. Here are my top 5 from my trip to Botswana:
We woke up early the first day of our stay in Khwai National Park and it was freezing. Our guide had promised us that we would see some wild dog pups and after making us a promise the day before and not delivering, I wasn’t sure if I believed him. The sun was slowly rising as we veered off the dusty road onto a bush lined track and headed to where the dog den was located. It wasn’t long before we stopped and we could see four beautiful wild dogs curled together underneath a tree. They looked so peaceful and weren’t bothered by the car at all. Soon, another dog wandered down the road, started chattering as if to tell the others, its time. We followed the pack around a corner and watched 9 pups crawl out of the den just to say hello. They were so small and looked so adorable. It felt like they had just popped out to see us before starting their morning. The little pups had no markings just yet, were completely black and brown. The mum soon huddled them back underground and they were gone from sight.
You are only able to do night safaris in Khwai so we were really excited to see what we could find. We were still on a high from the night before as we were treated to a Serval, one of the most elusive night cats, so we were excited to see what would come out of this night. We had just finished our sundowner drinks and were heading off to find some Hyenas when we stumbled across a very large bull elephant, standing on one side of the road. Reading his body language, our driver shut off the lights, turned of the engine and told us to be quiet. The elephant looked right at us and started walking towards the car. You could feel how tense everyone was, trying so hard not to make a noise to spook the animal. Everything felt like slow motion, each moment was magnified. If he wanted to, he could have easily charged at the car and we would have been in serious trouble. He walked slowly in front of the car as if he was sizing us up and then along the left hand side, less than a metre away. As soon as he made his way into the bush, we all breathed a sigh of relief and couldn’t help but laugh.
We were on day four of our Safari adventure and each day our guide had promised us one thing: ‘today… we see a leopard’. This phrase was muttered everyday, every time we hopped in the car it would be said. We were yet to catch a glimpse of the spotted cat, so that morning felt no different. After driving around for hours, we were all about to give up until he heard some exciting news over the walkie talkie… the leopard had been spotted. We raced over to the sighting where there were two other cars already crazily snapping shots of a bush. We pulled up and that was when we saw her, camouflaged in the shrubs. It wasn’t long before she emerged and we saw the full extent of her beauty. She was hunting the herd of Impala and she had her sights set. Unfortunately for her, the birds were on watch and starting alerting her presence to the impala. This was a very fortunate moment for us as we were able to witness her skulking through the grass. After baring her teeth and shaking her tail, she lowered to the ground and began to crawl, this was the moment you see just how strong her shoulders and back legs are. After watching for a little while longer, we lost her in the long grass so we proceeded to find her pride and joy, her baby boy. Cars were already at his sighting so when we heard he had moved deeper into the bush, we drove off around to do some of roading. We creeped through the bushes and found hidden amongst the branches was a cub about 1-year-old. He was so sweet and innocent, completely unphased by the cars swarming him.
Our last night in Khwai was a very eventful one. We were driving around when the driver told us we were going to look at some elephants. We had seen a lot of elephants so we were like yeah yeah, sounds good. Pulling up off-road, our driver turned off the engine and we sat still. We see the first few elephants of the herd walk past and with them we could see a few little babies and they were so cute. We sat there a little longer and the herd didn’t stop coming. Elephant after elephant passed in front of our car and we were shocked at how many there were. Our driver started the car and said we will meet there down at the water. Driving down we must haven driven got too close to one of the little ones and we were alerted by one of the older elephants by a trumpet. This was the first time we had heard the noise of an elephant and we were stoked. The car pulled up and faced the water and this was when we realised just how big the herd was. We sat there for what would have been at least 20 minutes and our guide (roughly) counted 99 elephants. At one stage, we were completely surrounded by the elephants that we would not have been able to move without coming too close to them. Photos did not do this experience justice, you could not photograph all the elephants in one shot.
Out of everything that I experienced whilst I was in Africa, this was possibly my favourite moment. We were all sitting around the campfire, chatting away before dinner when we hear this thundering roar nearby. Our guide tells us to get up and watch the bushes about 20 metres away from camp. A car with a spotlight is rolling past shining its light on the trees and with a split second of light I see something… I started shaking with incredible excitement. The next thing we knew, we were staring at the king of the jungle. The light followed him as we wandered out of the trees and across past the camp. He didn’t falter, wasn’t bothered about the cars following him or that 14 people were standing just metres away. He was on a mission. I was stunned in silence, here was the king of kings just casually making his way through the campsites, this is why I came to Africa I thought, this is what Africa is.
These moments were accompanied by many more. They were all so perfect that it seemed rehearsed, like the guides had planned them all out and each trip they run the same routine. Nothing matches the amazing adventures that Africa can offer. Some people reading this would think God, this is crazy, how was she not freaking out, to be honest, if you told me that a lion was going to be walking right past me, at night, with nothing between us I probably would have been a little shaky. In the moment, actually being there, hearing his roar and seeing him walk, you get so caught up in the African vibe that you forget about his jaws and his claws and just take it all in.
“Take only memories, leave only footsteps”