This week we went on a safari in Botswana, which is located in Southern Africa. We saw so many amazing animals out in the wild on our game drives twice a day! It was also hotter than I could ever imagine.
I knew we would be going on safari while in Africa, but to be totally honest, I didn’t really know what that meant. I guess I thought it meant seeing animals, sort of similar to when you go to the zoo. And being such an animal lover, I knew I was excited to see animals that are found in Africa, but I was not prepared for this experience. To see the animals up close in their natural environment, warding off other animals of the land, moving around one another based on how important they were in the desert and eating only what the surrounding environment provided was awesome and really different from a zoo! We were four feet away from black-maned alpha male lions, three feet away from a pride of nine lions and only ten feet away from a leopard. And that is just a few of the animals we saw. So, I will try to explain what it is like to be on safari in the middle of the Botswana desert, but in all honesty, it is more than what you see, it is actually more what you feel inside. And I felt amazed!
On the first day, at the water hole, we saw a black maned lion that only lives the Kalahari Desert.Yep, it had a big black mane! It was interesting because, since the lion is considered ‘the king of the jungle,’ all of the giraffes were staying a distance from the lion, and really every other animal stayed away from the lion that guarded the water hole. There was one giraffe that must have been really thirsty because he was desperately trying to get to the water hole, but when the lion would take a step forward, the giraffe would take a few steps backwards.
Around the same time that was happening, a pride of nine lions showed up. The male lion, who was on his own, got up and started to aggressively and quickly walk toward the pride of nine lions (there were three lionesses, four male cubs and two female cubs – none of which were the babies of the male lion, so they had a different dad) and our guide, Godfrey, said, “the lion is walking in a way saying, ‘I won’t attack, but this is my water hole and you can’t be here.’” So, he slowly walked in their direction, where they quickly retreated. It was really interesting to see how they interact with one another. I would have thought that since there were nine lions in the pride, that maybe the male that was on his own, would be the one to back down, but that is not at all how it works out in the wild. Anything you ever heard about the lion being ‘king of the jungle’ is the honest truth. No one dares to test him. The best part about that interaction between the lion and the pride, was that while the male lion was busy being the ‘king of the jungle’ and running about a mile across the desert after the retreating pride of lions, all the giraffes got lots and lots of water since the lion wasn’t paying attention to them anymore. Yeah for the giraffes!
On the second day, the first thing we saw was the brother of the black maned lion from the day before. His brother had his ‘girlfriend’ with him, and his ‘girlfriend’ had a cub who was not a cub of either of the brothers. Scary thing to note is that if the male lion is near a cub that is not his own, he will try to kill it. Thankfully, the female was very protective of her cub and didn’t let the male lion near her cub and our guide told us all the lions were really tired and hungry in the heat (did I mention it was 50 degrees celsius which is over 120 degrees farenheit and we had no A/C for the while time we were there and had to shower in salt water since there was no fresh water! Yes, it was hot), which makes them lazy.
After seeing these three new lions for a bit in the morning, we started driving for a little while when our guide spotted something. He followed what he thought he saw and it was a leopard. Did you know leopards are very shy and like to stay out of humans sight? So, it was very lucky for us to see it. We got to watch the leopard for a very long time. The shoulder blades of the leopard move in the most graceful way. I learned that the reason they move the way they do, is that their shoulder blades are not attached to their collar bone, like humans and many other animals. The reason for this adaptation is so they can run really fast, leap high and be very agile. I kept wanting to sneak out of the safari car and go and touch his shoulder blades while he was walking. Our guide said they hadn’t seen that leopard for four days! It was beautiful. When the people at camp heard we spotted a leopard (no pun intended), they got into their safari car and started driving as fast as their car could go. They told me they saw the lions we had seen earlier that day and they said to their guide, “Look, lions!” and he said, “Not now!” and kept driving at full speed until he reached the leopard. That was another really fun day in the Kalahari Desert.
The third day was just as awesome as the other days, but it was the day we had to leave and since it was so hot, there weren’t as many animals out and about. I’ll just say our stay at Kalahari Plains Camp was super phenomenal because of our guide, Godfrey. We played lacrosse with Godfrey every evening and had so much fun with him at Kalahari Plains Camp everyday! He was one of the best guides we have ever had and was a good friend, and really, really good at tracking animals.