So I arrived in Port Elizabeth exhausted and late at night. I had quite an eventful night that night. I got to my backpacker and was instantly greeted by a creepy, fat, old Afrikaaner. This old man started hitting on me and grabbed me into the most awkward side hug that had me scrambling to get the hell out of this guy’s way. I settled into my bed, threw my earplugs in, and settled in for a nice long sleep.
Well that didn’t exactly work out for me. Around 1am the creepy old man comes into my dorm room and stumbles into the top bunk next to mine. He proceeds to take his pants off, and his underwear. My earplugs were surprisingly good but not near good enough to block out what proceeded. My bag was smushed near the door to the bathroom. My mind instantly kicks into gear and I start fearing that this piss drunk old man is going to stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night, puke or piss on my stuff. I try to just roll over and sleep through this old man’s loud drunk ranting, but then something happened that was just disgusting. He whips out his tiny little…and starts to masturbate, loudly. A few minutes later he gets up to go the bathroom and I quickly escape from the room. Luckily someone was still at reception, so I told them what was going on and how I didn’t sleep the night before because of some rude Germans having loud sex. They gave me the key to an empty single room and I went there to crash. Thank god.
The next day I woke up, gave back the key and got ready for my day trip to Addo Elephant Park. My brain works in mysterious ways because when I walked back into my dorm room I saw a puddle of piss on the floor. W.T.F. This man was over 50 years old and a train wreck. I changed dorm rooms.
So, things improved rapidly once I left the hostel. I grabbed breakfast at McDonalds, which honestly was amazing. I hate McDonalds in America, but I hate to admit hashbrowns and a McMuffin…sure does a lot for one’s spirit! About an hour later I was picked up for my day safari. I was joined by two super friendly Israeli guys and a Belgian older man. Our guide was amazing and drove us quickly to the gate of Addo.
Within two minutes of being in the park we spotted two of the big five! I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but the big five are:
Leopard, lion, elephant, water buffalo, and rhinoceros. Why are they called the big five? Despite the fact that they are mostly hard to find while on safari, they are also deadly to hunters. Those five animals require a backup if you were to hunt them. Just in case you miss the first shot, you will need someone to shoot a kill shot otherwise you will be dead, eaten alive by a lovely lioness. When you go on safari, it is sort of a bucket list to see the big five. It is like unlocking achievements – you can say you’ve been on safari, but you can’t reach the next level of awesome until you have seen the big five.
So right upon entering the park we saw an elephant and water buffalo grazing next to each other. We moved on to a watering hole and before we could see anything our guide says: “oh you guys are in for a treat!” Which instantly a smile lit up my face because I knew I was going to be a happy girl. We spotted a herd of elephants running towards the watering hole. We watched for at least 30 minutes as they merrily and quietly drank as much water as they wanted. And thanks to my dear friend Wayne, I caught it all on camera.
We watched as the elephants merrily lapped up as much water as they could. It seemed like an elephant tussle was about to happen too, because as you can see in the bottom photo there was an elephant stand off. And in the very last picture you can see a baby elephant drinking milk from Mom. Cute? Yes. Amazing? Absolutely!
After about 30 minutes at the watering hole we kept on searching for more animals. Our driver spotted another family of elephants and drove towards them. The family quickly came by our car and surrounded us. They were so close you could reach out and touch them. I could see all the eyelashes and the color of their eyes (a beautiful amber orange). You could feel the power radiating off them.
We continued searching for animals, but didn’t seem to have much luck, so we headed to lunch. We stopped at a little farm stall for lunch. I chose salad, because that’s a luxury item, and I scarfed it down. After lunch we headed to a private game reserve for the rest of the day. We changed vehicles from a van to an actual open safari 4×4. As we approached the gates to the reserve, I realized it was a lot like entering Jurassic Park. Who knows what might find us behind the electric fences and 20ft tall razorwire. The guide asked if anyone wanted to sit up top. I was the only single person along for the ride, so of course I jumped on the chance. I hoped out of the vehicle and headed to the hood of the car. On the hood of the car, right above the left light, there was a padded seat with two baby handles. My feet reached down into the bush and the driver sped off.
I can’t begin to tell you what an incredible experience it was to ride open through the bush on safari. Anytime I recall the experience, I feel like I am walking into a chocolate factory and given the keys. I can feel the wind in my hair, on my face; I can smell the earthy scent of South Africa; I can remember the sensation of spotting the animals. There is truly nothing else in the world comparable to that feeling, the complete rush of being exposed on safari. And there is no rush that compares to sitting on top of a safari vehicle when you approach a rhino.
As we came upon this white rhino, the guide instructed me “if the rhino looks angry or moves towards us, as quickly and quietly as possible scramble up to the hood of the car.” We sat and watched this white rhino and her mate snuggle in the grass for a small while. They looked so content and happy. And I watched them with my feet dangling in the grass, a mere 15ft from them.
We continued on in the search for giraffes and we spotted these guys in the distance. These were the first giraffes I saw in South Africa and I was looking forward to seeing giraffes the most. Given my ridiculously long neck, awkward knees, and gangly body, I’ve always loved giraffes. The guide could tell how excited I was and asked if we wanted to get down and walk with them.
UM. YES. So we got off the vehicle, dodged the various piles of poo in the grass, and walked alongside these giants. They stared at us like we were crazy, but didn’t really give us the time of day. They just kept on chomping down on the tall leaves. They were beautiful and magical animals.
Afterwards we stopped for tea and biscuits, it was starting to get cold. But we continued on for a sunset drive. The sun setting over the grasslands in Africa should be on everyone’s bucket list. We came upon this lovely zebra, and the light was spectacular. But we really wanted to find lions.
And that’s what we found. The whole pride of them. 8 in all, but the male dad was off doing something (we found him later). These little guys were all 11 months old and cute as can be. They watched us intently as we snapped happy pictures of the king of the jungle. Lions look incredibly cute, but they truly are deadly predators. And they are quite vicious in their killings, some animals will put their prey out of their misery, but apparently lions like to torture their prey – not on purpose. Sometimes they will suffocate the guys slowly or rip their genitals off. Want to cuddle one now? Lions can’t sweat, so they are relieved from the heat through their paws, which is why during the day you will see them rolled over or paws up. If you look at their eyes they have white near their eyeballs, apparently it helps with their vision (which is ridiculously good at night). Their ears are sensitive too and any little movement will perk them straight up.
After the lions we headed to dinner, which was a traditional heavy bush meal. It was very cold outside, so I grabbed a glass of red wine and sat by the bonfire. We burned thorny bushes, which burn extremely fast and generate a lot of heat. The sparks from the fire raced into the inky blue sky and faded into the stars above. The sky was only visible through a tiny patch through the trees, but it was spectacular. As we sat around the fire, I heard something in the distance. Then I heard it again. We all fell silent as we listened to the male lion roaring. The noise fills your entire being with awe, wonderment, and thrill. It reverberates through your chest and takes the air from your lungs. The sound rattles your ribs and fills your ears.
As we leave the park, we find the male lion roaming alone through the savannah. I stare up into the starry sky and close my eyes and take a deep breath. I want to soak it all in. I want to remember this moment, because this moment is heavenly.