After falling asleep to hyena howls and the beautiful stars in the sky, we got up at 5:30 am. We ate breakfast then quickly went on another safari drive. We were the first group to leave that morning and were happy we did. Within only 15 minutes of driving we saw a group of seven giraffe.
We kept driving and saw multiple animals along the way, some of which included baboons, zebras, and my personal favorite, the hippo! Then we came to a stop to see the animal that “never forgets.” We saw a mother elephant with her child. You could tell the amount of love the parent had for its little one because it was very defensive and stared at us in the car the whole time. So far we had seen 3 out of the Big Five, only missing the rhino and the water buffalo.
When we left the elephants, we came to a pride of four female lions who were relaxing in the shade. It was so amazing to see
them up close without a care in the world. They looked at us when we first arrived, then never again. Even though all our attention was on them, they didn’t give us a second thought. After seeing them we came upon another pride of three female lions this time who were also in the shade not too far from the other four.
It had been a few hours since we left the lodge so we decided to take a break. Kenosi parked our car next to a little lake and we all climbed out of the car to stretch and have a snack. Originally there seemed to be nothing in the lake, but then we saw hippos emerge one after another. We were in fact having brunch with my favorite animals in the Safari, and they were great company.
When the break was over, we went back to the lodge to relax until the next safari drive in a few hours. At least, that’s what we were supposed to be doing. When we first arrived at the lodge the manager told us about a river trip activity we could do during our downtime, so we decided to ask if that option was available. The manager sent someone out to check if the river was high enough for us to do it because it was their dry season and when he came back to tell us we could we were beyond excited.
There was one problem, the dugout canoe could only fit two people plus the guide. My grandpa was the one who stayed back while my dad and I went on this trip. My grandpa didn’t want to stay in the lodge though and asked if he could come with us and wait in the car while we were out on the river. They surprisingly said yes to that so long as he actually did stay in the car, and we were grateful he was there in the car after the trip.
Everything was in place for the best experience ever, and now that I look back on it, it truly was amazing. We split off from the rest of the group with a guide to go sailing down a small river and see the safari from a new angle. While we were sailing, an elephant came out of the trees slowly, looking around. I was so excited to see an elephant from this angle and immediately started taking pictures, but then it spotted us in the dugout and instantly started screaming and running right for us. The guide just said, “Shh,” and he slowly sat down in the dugout so he wasn’t threatening the elephant.
My heart was beating a mile a minute but I continued to take pictures. My only thoughts during this experience was, “Is this really how I’m going to die? Being trampled by an elephant in Africa?” I wanted to jump out of the dugout so badly but I had to fight my instinct because I knew that doing so would truly mean the end. The elephant then stopped about 5 feet away from us, stomping and kicking dirt at us. At this point I stopped taking pictures because I was just too scared. The worst part about this was how incredibly loud it was, and the fact that after it had stopped, we continued to get closer and closer to it. The guide was trying to push us away from it quick enough to get out of the situation, but also slow enough so we didn’t startle it and cause it to take that final crushing step.
After what felt like an eternity the guide was able to push us away, and after we got a safe distance away we all let out a huge sigh. We looked behind us and saw the rest of the herd come out of the trees. The elephant that had charged us was the leader of her herd and was trying to make the area safe so they could bathe. The tension wasn’t over because we reached the end of the river and had to turn back, this time facing the whole herd. I just thought, “Why did we go on this activity?” As we got closer to the herd my anxiety only got worse. Luckily when we got close the herd turned around and went back to where they came from, but the leader stayed back. The elephant just watched us sail by.
My heart was still beating faster than ever once we got back in the car. It didn’t stop until we were back at the lodge. That was by far the scariest thing that had ever happened to me. This one experience beat both the sharks and the lion on how scary it was. After we were back in safety and knew we’d live to tell the tale, this story became the highlight of the trip for us.
The excitement didn’t end because on our way back to the lodge a herd of over 20 elephants walked right by our jeep. I couldn’t
help but think “please keep your distance from us.” For the most part they did but three of the elephants walked up to our car to let the rest of the herd go safely by.
We finally returned to the lodge and told everyone what had happened to us. They were so jealous and told us we were “lucky” to have a story like that to bring back to our friends. I couldn’t help but think we were lucky the story had a happy ending! We didn’t have much downtime and were quickly back on the jeep for our afternoon safari drive.
The staff was determined to let us see a rhino and we were happy they were. After about an hour of tracking and driving through rough terrain we saw a black rhino. We had now seen 4 out of the Big 5. We were truly lucky to be able to see a black rhino because there are only 4000 left due to poaching. Throughout our trip we saw anti-poaching helicopters fly by to protect these animals.
We moved on and saw a leopard up in a tree. When they hunt they take their
meal up in the safety of a tree to eat. Before we saw the leopard we experienced something amazing. We were tracking the leopard and saw a piece of an impala carcass on the ground under a tree. Our guide then looked around and got out of the car. He began to explain how leopards hunt when he heard a noise coming from the tree. He quickly dove back into the car when a leopard landed right where he was previously standing.
After that experience we kept going and saw many other animals such as hyena and kudu. When we got back to the lodge we had dinner, and on the menu was none other than a kudu! It tasted like steak and I loved it. Dinner soon ended and we sat by a fire again where everyone wanted to hear the elephant story again this time in great detail. From that point on whenever we saw an elephant my dad would mention what happened, as if I could’ve forgotten something as scary as that. When we were done talking around the fire we went to bed, definitely tired from our experiences that day.