The last day of my Etosha National Park safari was about to begin and while everyone else was hoping to see lion cubs, I was secretly wishing for more giraffes. They are my favorite animal. Awkward yet graceful, shy yet funny, beautiful in their own way, I feel I can relate to them the most. When I’m introduced to someone or something new, I’m embarrassed, nervous, anxious. It’s only when I’ve been around them for awhile that I’m comfortable and myself. I wish I could say I was more like a proud, strong, stoic lion, but I’m the giraffe hiding behind the tree.
We drove west from Okaukeujo, entering new territory. The best part about Etosha National Park is that the animals are completely wild, untagged animals. There’s no predicting where they’ll be. It’s truly a safari where your guess is as good as the next person’s guess.
We were around Wolfsnes area when we spotted a large herd of wildebeest. While I wasn’t as excited as the day before when we were stopped by hundreds of zebras, I was still awestruck. Reminding myself that they were completely wild, unpredictable animals, I shut off the truck and watched attentively. They moved slowly amongst impala and zebras. I often thought of wild animals in singular groups rather than mixing but this was quite common in the park. I assume they help each other against prey, but maybe you know better. I’d love to learn more. Now that I’m back to the land of technology and internet, I’ll research more, but while I was there I was able to let my imagination and experience do the talking.
I took too many photos to count and put the camera down to truly take in the experience before leaving. That was the hardest part sometimes. I live in a world and have a career where photos are an important part of my day, but to fully experience and remember an African safari, it was just as important to put the camera down. Some moments I didn’t even pick it up. They were just for me.
Not even ten minutes after seeing the herd of wildebeest, we noticed six giraffe, in two groups of three, walking toward bushes. I was in my glory! They looked like cranes on the horizon and moved in unison. I did snap a few pictures but I could never capture their actual beauty or elegance.
Another group stood eating and when they noticed us, they stood completely still as if we couldn’t see them. I burst out laughing. These huge, tall, spotted creatures were playing hide-and-seek like children as if we couldn’t see them. It reminded me of Athena when she puts her hand on her face and thinks I can’t see the rest of her body. I wonder if their mentality is similar to a child’s? It left me thinking about them and their thoughts for the rest of the day.
We reached a waterhole around Okondeka, I think, and the giraffes continued to impress me. I remember seeing a giraffe poster when I was in university; it was of a giraffe drinking water with its legs spread wide and its head hung low. I loved it so much that I had to buy it and put it up in my living room. I must have looked at that poster a thousand times and wondered why its legs were spread apart to drink. When I saw it in person, I felt like my safari adventure had come full circle. From a dream and a vision to reality, Etosha National Park was everything I imagined and more.
I still had four days left in Namibia, but I could have flown home that moment and it still would have been the best trip of my life. I’ve always heard that an African safari was life-changing, but all of my trips are life-changing. Every experience is life-changing. This was different though. While being away from family, friends, and “normal” life, I became more connected to them. It’s difficult to explain but others who have done it would most likely understand.