Birdie and I packed large floppy hats to keep the sun off our heads – the African sun gets hot – a scarf to help keep dust out of our mouths, and canteens full of water. I wanted to take pictures but didn’t have a camera, and neither did Birdie. “Let’s stop over at the store here on the compound. I saw cameras one day when I was looking around,” she said confidently. I purchased a small Kodak camera, and a roll of film. I promised Birdie I’d get copies made of the pictures so she could have some. Birdie had her eyes set on a pair of binoculars. She wasn’t sure about spending the money. She was saving for something big.
She hadn’t told me yet what that something was. “Buy the binoculars, Birdie,” I appealed. “Those binoculars will help us to see some of the animals up close,” I added.
Andrew and Bitalo had made plans to meet at the compound’s motor pool to secure a jeep for us. Birdie and I waited outside for them. I was very excited about what we were going to see. We chatted nonstop and before we knew it, Bitalo was pulling up to park at the reserve. “Don’t forget your camera!” Birdie reminded. “Don’t forget your binoculars!” I bantered.
We were met at the gate by one of the reserve staff.
They directed us where to park our jeep, and told us where to meet for the guided tour. As we waited for the tour guide, we got acquainted with the people who would be sharing our vehicle as we drove through the savannah. We only waited about twenty minutes, but it seemed like hours. The tour guide was very warm and presented a detailed overview of what we would see. He told us some of the animals we might encounter: zebras, warthogs, buffalo, impala, and eland, the largest of African antelope! He cautioned us to stay in the vehicle at all times, and to obey all of his commands. Although he didn’t anticipate any disturbances, he said wild animals can be unpredictable, and our awareness of this fact would keep us safe.
“Get your camera ready!” Birdie exclaimed. I laughed at her.
“I’ve got it all loaded and ready to click away,” I assured her.
The driver helped us one by one to take a seat in the olive drab safari-type vehicle. Roll bars with a canopy over the top to keep some of the sun off us, and worn leather bench seats, the jeep was an exact replica of those I’d seen in magazines and books. The tour guide answered our countless questions. He told us the history of the game reserve, and going over again what we might see, when all of a sudden out of the tall grass came a warthog with a lion running fast behind it. The driver stopped the jeep suddenly so we could watch nature in action. The power and grace with which the lion ran was very impressive – the warthog, not so much. However, it ran like there was no tomorrow. They disappeared into the thick brush. I hoped for the best for the little warthog, but something deep inside told me otherwise.
“Did you see that, Jessica?” Birdie squealed. “Yes. I couldn’t capture much on film. They were moving too fast for me. I’m afraid after we get the film developed, it could be just a blur,” I said, disgusted.
We’d traveled a little further when we came upon two lion cubs. As we watched the playful antics of the cubs, we forgot the golden rule: where there are baby animals, mothers are nearby. Just at that moment when everyone was oohing and aahing, a large female lion gingerly stepped across our path. She looked at us for a moment, and then directed her attention toward her cubs.
The four of us sat frozen, not speaking a word. Only the sounds of faint breathing could be heard and the beating of my own heart. The lioness growled, letting her little cubs know it was time to go, and off into the tall brush they ran.
“I can’t believe what we just witnessed!” I said, shaken by the experience.
“I never get tired of seeing animals in the wild, and Mother Nature at her finest.” Andrew said as he stroked my hand, trying to calm me down.
The driver continued along the dry and dusty road while the tour guide continued with his presentation. As we anticipated what we’d see next, our adrenaline began working overtime – keeping us on edge. As the jeep rounded a bend, we came to a clearing and just beyond – a large lake. Playing in the water were several elephants, spraying each other with water from their trunks. I was able to snap several pictures. “
Aren’t they cute?” I said.
“Cute?” Andrew chuckled. I’d say majestic is a better description,” he said, teasingly. I agreed. The elephants were indeed magnificent.
After a few moments, the driver continued. This time we came upon a heard of zebra’s grazing in a large field. They were swatting the flies off their rear ends just like the cows back home. They didn’t seem the least bit afraid or interested in us.
I’d have to say that all the animals amazed me in one way or another, but when we came upon a group of giraffes, I couldn’t believe how tall they were. We watched in amazement as several of them stripped the leaves off the tall branches, as we took pictures.