This article is part of a series; you will find the other episodes here:
Day 3 – On the lookout for wildlife
So, after yesterday’s excitement of the light aircraft flight into the bush and the bonus of spotting lions on the way to camp, you had a tasty dinner and an early night.
Today you are woken in your tent as agreed by one of the camp staff with a hot cup of coffee and some biscuits to keep you going. You splash some water on your face and get dressed and ready for your first morning game drive – this is what you have been waiting for all these months!
You join your fellow guests and clamber aboard the open 4WD for a quick briefing from your guide. And then you are off as the sun begins to rise in the sky and the early morning chill begins to be replaced by the warmth of Africa…
Bumping along in an open vehicle on a game drive, never knowing what you will find in the following couple of hours is one of life’s great feelings. You scout the landscape, looking for any movement in the scrubland.
This is a good example of what you can expect as you leave camp and head off on the trail of those animals you have been waiting so long to see in the wild:
It doesn’t take long before your guide is pointing out creatures great and small.
A fish eagle keeps an eye on proceedings from a safe distance.
Suddenly a giraffe lopes across the plains, graceful and yet slightly awkward at the same time.
A crocodile rests in the sun in that weird way they do, mouth wide open to help cool down.
You begin to learn about the huge diversity of birds that can be spotted in Africa, even though it’s hard to keep track of names and characteristics amongst all the other fascinating information your guide passes on from their years of experience.
Keep your eyes open for the “little 5” too – in this case a Leopard Tortoise.
Here’s a video of the first game drive I took at Lewa Wilderness in Kenya to give you an idea of the range of wildlife you can view in a typical three hour trip:
You stop for a coffee break in a safe location with 360 degree views just in case an inquisitive lion decides to come and see what you are up to. This is extremely unlikely, by the way…
Numerous exciting encounters later, it’s time to return to camp.
Upon arrival you have the chance to get a good look around:
Now a hearty brunch has been prepared – you are hungry now and the full English hits the spot.
By the time you are done it’s almost midday, and it’s very hot. It’s cooler in your tent, though, especially with the portable mini-fan that is provided for your use. It’s siesta time, and you fall asleep dreaming of leopards, hyenas and elephants.
You wake a couple of hours later and take a bucket shower in your private outdoor area behind your tent with high canvas walls to protect your privacy. This is another quintessential African bush experience, and is luxurious in its simplicity. It’s even better in the evening, with the night sky sparkling with stars as your ceiling…
By now it’s time for high tea, if you can manage it. It’s true what your tour operator said – you won’t lose weight on safari. But you can diet when you get home, if that matters to you – now it’s time for delicious home-made bread and cakes.
How on Earth they bake them in the middle of nowhere over an open fire will remain a mystery.
Around four thirty the hottest part of the day is over and the majority of animals now emerge once more – and you do too.
You climb back aboard the Land Cruiser and trundle off into the bush, following a different route and spotting a whole new range of wildlife.
Here’s a teaser:
Plenty of herbivores are grazing on the plains.
These zebra have more than enough food at this time of the year.
Another beautiful giraffe watches you closely.
These tsessebe have other things on their mind than a vehicle full of visitors.
You lose track of how many different animals you see but there are two sightings that you will never forget.
You can scarcely believe your eyes as your guide brings the vehicle to a halt with a leopard lying on the ground in front of you.
Now this is beginners luck – most people wait years to see a leopard – if indeed they ever do – and to see one so close in the open and during the day is incredibly rare.
How beautiful is this one?
This will cement the place of the leopard as your favourite animal for sure. At least for now.
About half an hour later, you get to witness this:
What a day it has been. And now it’s time for a mandatory and much-loved safari tradition – sundowners!
Your guide finds a suitable site and within minutes is mixing G&Ts with his assistant while you watch elephants in the distance, like here in Zimbabwe:
The sun has indeed set, and it’s time to return to camp. You have time for another bucket shower and to change your clothes, then you meet the others by the campfire fro a pre-dinner drink or two and to share stories. These continue as you are called to dinner at the long communal table, and friendships are forged under the stars.
Dinner is again wonderful, and again you wonder at how they manage to prepare restaurant-quality food in the bush.
This really is sheer luxury.
And another day awaits…