People from other groups came back gushing about everything they had seen, including rhinosauruses (sic), herds of elephants, massive crocodiles, and one particularly belligerent charging pachyderm. However, my group had by far the best trip.
We kicked off our trip with a couple of warthogs (just like Pumba from Lion King) and a small herd of zebras, pausing for “oohs” and “aaahs,” before moving on. We were anxious to keep moving, as our true goal was to see the “Big 5:” elephants, lions, rhinosauruses, bison, and leopards. The next two animals that we spotted were giraffes, one male from a great distance and then a pregnant female giraffe who was very close to our Land Rover. We were incredibly excited, given that in the first 20 minutes of our trip, we had already seen 3 different species of animals, including our majestic mascot. Then, while we were admiring the beautiful scenery and the many Pumbas ambling through the bushes, we saw it. A grey back rose above a bush for a moment and disappeared. Our tour guide slowly pulled around a bush and we saw it. An elephant. it was enormous, corpulous and massive; we were astounded by its sheer bulk. Someone asked, “Is it a girl?” As it turned its back to us, however, we could see that it most definitely was not a girl. With the extremely well-endowed pachyderm having moseyed on and our desire for photos having been quenched, we moved on, overawed yet excited for more. Almost Immediately, the elephant was followed up by a bison. The tour guide told us that the bison was the most dangerous of the big 5 and probably the most dangerous on the reserve, as hippos, rhinos and elephants might mock charge, or run towards and then turn away from their target, while bison charge with only one ambition: to attack. They also pursue their prey with vicious intent, not stopping unless it loses sight of its prey. Having heard that, we moved on pretty quickly, not wishing to enrage it and become the target of that considerably large creature. Then, we emerged from the bush into a flatter savannah-like area, we saw entire herds of impala and springbok. The whole time, we were seeing lots of smaller quadrupeds, like springbok, steinbok, impala, and the occasional kudu, as well as intermittent larger ones like wildebeest and gemsbok, or aardwolf.
At this point, the sun began to lower in the sky; since this is the South African winter, their nights are currently long, while their days are short. In fact, they just had their winter solstice, while the US had the summer solstice, while we were on the trip. Consequentially, sunset is rather early in the day, and we began to wonder at the glorious, glorious sunset. Beautiful gradients of vivid hue began to emerge on the horizon, and the potential for artsy photos increased tenfold. Beauty simply exuded from the environment around us as we moved on.
The next exciting animal we saw was a crocodile lying on a beach. All of a sudden, I can see why they can disguise themselves as driftwood; upon cursory inspection, it didn’t even appear to be an animal, but a log on the riverbank. Then, we saw hippos from a distance. Our guide said that while hippos do “mock charge,” intending mostly to scare off intruders, they do have fiery tempers, and we were all glad to be observing them from the safety of our Land Rover and from a good distance. Finally, we saw another pregnant giraffe and a herd of white rhinos. At that point, we had seen the 3 of the big 5 which were out in the area at that time, and we returned to the lodge for a great dinner and a dance show/competition (of which, I am proud to say, I was a winner, along with Cher and Cynthia and two people from other groups). Everyone was tired at that point, and many people retired to their beds. Everyone wanted to be prepared for the next day, when we would be woken up early to see the highlight of our trip: Lions.
Alaric Krapf ’15
Rising Fourth Former