Phase 3: We really get this show on the road. Or the dirt. In any case, this is the hardest, rockiest, bumpiest ride I have ever taken. Rickety doesn’t describe it. When I spoke to my mom, I felt more like I was chanting into an oscillating fan. How this vehicle even traverses this terrain, I will never know. I do know that one should eat only a light meal prior to climbing aboard, lest they inadvertently barf it up.
I disgustingly digress. Safari! Kruger National Park, South Africa! We made it! Twenty plus hours of planes, a swift jog through Doha, lots of F words from my mom and one very serious promise that one of us was never, EVER again, going to fly that distance ever as long as she shall live…and we made it to safari. Invigorating. Curious. Far. Different. Otherworldly. All these things describe it and yet don’t – it doesn’t describe it enough. There aren’t enough adjectives to accurately describe how it feels to roll up on some rhinos who truly couldn’t care less that you were there.
In a matter of hours, we had seen the big five; it didn’t take long at all. But each and every time we came upon some animals, it was absolutely magical. The park itself was so quiet, you hear nothing but the birds chirping in the distance or the leaves blowing in the breeze. Even the elephant, trotting alongside the car, makes almost no noise. Just the gentle crunch of his padded feets hitting the dirt. They truly are light on their feet.
Nothing could prepare me, though, for the scope and scale of these animals. Their size is beyond imposing, and likening rhinos to the size of a large SUV isn’t totally incorrect. Seeing them outside and not locked up in a tiny zoo – it really makes you reconsider those types of things.
Learning about the anti-poaching measures in the park, and then being able to see how peacefully these creatures exist is nothing short of sickening. Suffice to say, between this and the zoos, my perspective has either changed or my convictions grown stronger. It is impossible, completely impossible, to not fall in love with one, if not many, of the creatures in South Africa. It’s easy to forget how real poaching is, even in a protected park like Kruger. You’ll be quickly reminded when shown the skull of an animal bludgeoned and shot for its horns. Sigh.
After a few hours of seeing animals I thought only existed in cartoons, and having my innards rearranged via tires, I was ready for a siesta. Back to the lodge for a nap and lunch, but not before seeing a pack of zebras hanging on the what’s essentially the front lawn.
By the end of the day, I had seen the big five, and some hyenas and birds that were such magnificent shades of blue I’d never identified before. The one thing about getting out of the Flintstones’ safari car is that as soon as my feet hit the ground, I want to climb back in.
Safari is real magic.