While on teacher exchange at the University of Namibia in Windhoek, Namibia, I went on a safari to Etosha, the enormous nature reserve in the north of Namibia. Before I flew to Windhoek I found a tour company online; the Wild Dog and Crazy Kudu Safaris. The company sounded like a lot of fun, so I booked a safari with them. On the day of the safari I was picked up from my hotel early in the morning with a big truck with a few rows of rather comfortable seats in the back. The walls in the back of the truck were just windows that could be pulled to the side for a better view and to stick your camera out for a better shot of whatever wildlife we might see.After picking up a bunch of German exchange students from a hostel we took off towards Etosha. In Etosha we drove along long dirtroads to different watering holes and other spots that our skilled guides knew were frequently visited by kudus, oryxes, wildebeests, springboks, zebras, giraffes, elephants, lions and other animals freely roaming the plains of the Etosha Nature Reserve. And we did see them, all of them. We saw a group of elephants following the old matriarch, wildebeests lying in the middle of the road, and zebras with a baby zebra that the guides guessed was only a week or two old. We saw giraffes head-butting each other (but in a photo taken at the right moment they appear to be hugging each other), a lion relaxing next to the road, and hundreds and hundreds of springboks (also the name of a delicious drink that is popular in South Africa).
On the second day, in the middle of Etosha, we had a flat tire and the closest service station was probably 500 kilometers away. The guides firmly told us to stay in the truck and to keep an eye on the tall grass all around the truck while they changed the tire. The guides were visibly nervous about the possibility that there could be a lion or a pack of them close by, using the tall grass to come close and attack. The guides changed the tire as they had been a Formula 1 crew.
In the evenings we drove into walled and fenced camping areas (locking the people inside and keeping the animals outside, vice versa from a zoo; a thought that I found quite amusing), put up our tents (well, the guides did that), prepared dinner over the campfire (again, the guides did that and it was delicious) and slept under the big sky of Namibia. On the second evening we arrived to the camping site at Fort Namutoni, a former German police post built in 1896. While the guides put up the tents and prepared for dinner, I walked to the walkway overlooking a nearby watering hole. I sat down with my camera and a beer and gazed into the diminishing daylight. It was a warm evening and the sun was quickly giving room for the moon. After a while something big moved in the distance, cautiously approaching the small pond of water. It was a rhino, the first that I’ve ever seen in the wild. The slow giant came closer to replenish his (or her?) thirst in the cool water.The excitement and awe of the people witnessing this moment could be felt in the air. After a while the rhino moved on, disappearing into the darkness. Witnessing this magnificent animal in its natural environment was truly an amazing moment. After the rhino had disappeared into the darkness I just sat still for a moment and contemplated over the beauty of nature. I felt honored to have been allowed to witness this almost magical moment, to be allowed to briefly visit the home of the rhino (and all the other magnificent animals that call Etosha their home).
When I returned to our little camp the dinner was ready and while eating we chatted and the guides answered our questions about Etosha and the animals living there. The guides told about the hyenas that frequently stole peoples’ shoes from the camping area (they knew where the holes in the fence were) and recommended that we took our shoes and boots inside the tents; otherwise they might become part of some hyena’s shoe collection. We also learned that the animal sounds we had been hearing all evening were from lions roaring close by. Perhaps those that we had seen earlier, relaxing on the plains.The guides then told us about an incident that had happened a few years earlier. On the very same bench (or at least close by) that I had sat and enjoyed my beer on a couple of hours earlier, a German tourist had been, just as I had, enjoying the view and perhaps his beer. After a long day of driving around in Etosha, in the cool evening air and under the big sky of Namibia he fell asleep, to a calm sleep, from which he would never wake up from again. Two security guards patrolling the camping area found him on the bench, and two lions… After telling the story the guides wished everyone a good night, took their sleeping bags and climbed on the roof of the truck to sleep, leaving us tourists to sleep on the ground in our canvas tents.