Africa has the ability to excite the soul

Botswana's Chobe National Park

Africa has the ability to renew the spirit and excite the soul.

I visited Botswana and South Africa in August and with many great experiences, those moments up close and personal with the animals remain the most memorable.

My first encounter was in Botswana, on a sundowner cruise in Chobe National Park. The boat approached an island, idling along the edge. Thirty feet in the distance, the largest elephant I’ve ever seen feeds on overgrown grass. I stood up inside the boat, leaning on a post, aiming the camera lens at this majestic elephant. The motion caught the Elephant’s eye and he started to walk directly towards the boat. The ranger told me to sit down slowly and reminded me to be still. As the elephant got closer my anxiety grew. Its eyes were directly on me and under my breath I tell the ranger to back up the boat, anytime, please. That magnificent elephant, which came within three feet, changed its direction and walked past the boat but its eyes never left mine.

There are rules while on safari and in fact young children are not permitted as the danger is real and rules must be obeyed. The animals grow up with the jeeps and boats so they are quite accustomed to them. They view the vehicle as one unit and the humans within are part of that unit. It’s ok to talk and take pictures, but you cannot stand up, or put your arms outside of the vehicle, otherwise you breach that unit and the animal may feel threatened. It is the wild, after all.

Young animals bring perhaps some of the most exciting moments on an African Safari.

I’ll never forget my first jeep safari at Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, which is in South Africa. We left the lodge at 6:00 AM before sunrise, heading out deep in the western part of the reserve. Our ranger took the main dirt roads for some time, and then much to our delight, took off through the bush, sometimes driving over small trees, yelling “duck” as we had to clear some larger branches. I had no idea what was in store, but as the jeep reached an embankment it began to descend vertically. All I could think of as we disappeared over the edge was that there was no way in or out of here! Barely enough room to fit the jeep and a sheer drop off the edge, my heart was pounding! Suddenly I saw them in the ravine. Lion Cubs! Lots of them! In fact I counted 11 little cubs, some older than others playing rough and tough with each other. Their mothers, three in total, were all sleeping soundly only a few feet away. You may wonder how we were able to get out of that embankment. I was sure we would need to be rescued, but after three attempts the jeep’s tires held firm.

A favorite moment included an encounter with a group of hippos floating buoyantly in the river. A turtle suns itself on the back of a sleepy hippo and suddenly the hippo’s powerful jaws open bearing its two large teeth. A great photo op!

And then the Hyena; vicious scavengers and one of the ugliest creatures on earth! Our vehicle approached a mother and 4 cubs that were using a hollow area under the road as their den. Curious and playful, the cubs in their youth are so darn cute. A herd of giraffe, gentle and graceful, invokes a sense of delight. The leopard, silent as it stalks its prey. The mother rhino, so proud as she nuzzles her baby. Exceptionally beautiful were the antelope; particularly the oryx, sable and the kudu.

Gillian Scott
UNIGLOBE Instant Travel Inc

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