The opportunity to go on safari and view wild animals was a huge draw for me in planning my trip to South Africa. The tour I chose provided multiple opportunities to do this, with game drives in three different game parks (plus a walking safari in a fourth). A “game drive” is exactly as it sounds. You pile into the vehicle (often at an ungodly early hour of the morning, because that’s apparently when the animals are at their most lively) and drive around the park looking for animals.
“Giraffe on the right!” was an oft-heard cry as we all participated in the spotting — scanning the grasses and trees on either side of the truck in hopes of spotting animals. While we drove someone would be looking in the Lonely Planet and reciting the estimated numbers of each type of animal in the park. Not to be all “woo-woo” but as a believer in feelings of scarcity and abundance breeding more of the same, I repeaded this mantra as I scanned the landscape “I believe in the abundance of the universe and I am grateful for this opportunity to witness that abundance”.
I must admit though that sometime into the 7th game drive (somewhere around our 25th or 27th hour of driving
aimlessly optimistically around the park) I became what I’m calling “safari-jaded”. People, I was OVER it. I was simply unable to generate any excitement for yet another spring bok or impala. Baby warthogs were able to grab my attention momentarily but seriously why are we stopping for a giraffe at 200 metres when I’ve got photos of a giraffe at 5 metres in my camera?!? And we’re stopping for jackals now? No. Except for elephants or lions I wasn’t going to be motivated to even slip the lens cap off my camera.
A couple of hours in we stopped on a ridge and our guide pointed out some elephants off in the distance. Now, they were WAY off in the distance. There were about 40 of them around a watering hole but frankly the only way I could spot them was because there were a bunch of white SUVs parked nearby to watch them. When we asked if we could go down to where they were our guide said that it was awfully far away and that they were likely to be gone before we got there. Since there were definitely no elephants up where we were we encouraged him to take us down there on the off chance.
Well despite my attitude at the time, it seems that the universe decided it was time to kick that display of abundance into high gear. By the time we got to the watering hole the 40 elephants had been joined by about 50 or 60 more. Not only that, everywhere we looked there were elephants coming over ridges and crossing plains to join us. All told, there were about 150 elephants there (of the 200 elephants in the entire, very large, park). It was amazing. Like finding religion amazing. Like slap the jaded out of me so hard that I became a grinning fool who kept repeating “This just makes me so happy” amazing. We had seen elephants before, alone and in small herds but this was something else. The way that they were interacting with one another was fantastic. And they were TALKING! I hadn’t yet heard elephants vocalizing. There were elephants of all ages and sizes, including the biggest, oldest elephant I had ever seen (about 70 years old our guide estimated from the enormous length of his tusks). I also saw a baby so young that it still fit completely underneath its mother (about 2 months old). Watching these elephants interact with one anther was joyous. They splashed around and chased one another. They huddled up to protect the baby when it looked like he was going to head out into the road. They called to each other and they play-fought. And I sat in awe with the stupid grin on my face. Oh, and I took about a zillion photos as well.
Here they are in a slideshow. The music is Waka Waka by South African artists CapeTown, which can be found on the South African iTunes Essential album.