Yesterday the journalism and photo students boarded the hippie van yet again around 9 am (after loading up on toast and snacks) for another adventure.
The drive was about five hours long, but we made several stops along the way to enjoy lunch, fill up the gas tank, purchase more snacks, and allow the photographers to snap numerous shots around artsy areas we passed through.
For one of the stops, we actually hiked up a short trail of Mount Camdeboo towards a view overlooking the entirety of the town below, as well as the Valley of Desolation. I will admit it was a breathtaking view, with mountains upon mountains to be seen as far as the eye is able into the distance. However, the steep cliffs made the journey quite scary, and I tended to stay closer to safety (as far from the edge of the mountain as I could in staying with the group).
Finally, we made it to the outskirts of the game reserve. We spent about twenty minutes letting the hippie van relax its tires, since the road ahead would be an incredibly rocky one. During this stop, we got to watch as a full, red moon rose from the horizon into the starry sky. Not a bad way to pass the time!
After a very gravely hour through the beginnings of the reserve, we made it to reception. I honestly did not conduct much research before coming on this trip, so I must say I had zero expectations. When we rolled up to the house we would be staying at, we all were absolutely blown away!
This place is indeed boujee.
Heated floors, heated blankets, three meals a day, you name it! The students are split between two bedrooms: one for the boys, one for the girls.
After placing all our stuff down and exploring the house, which we share with another group, one of the guides drove us to the courtyard house, where we have our meals. The house is made up of four bedrooms total, one living room with a fireplace, a dining hall with snacks consistently available, a kitchen for staff members, an indoor eating room with four different tables, an outdoor porch area adjacent a large field (which holds more chairs for lounging), and another field that leads to a pool. Like I said, boujee.
For dinner, we were served lamb stew, and I think it might’ve been the best meal I’ve had during my time in Africa. It was served with rice and these amazing, soft, hot bread rolls. We left dinner with full stomachs and full hearts. I then had a very satisfying night of sleep.
This morning, we ate breakfast around 8 am. They served us eggs, toast, bacon. We boarded our safari car ready for a day of spotting animals.
Our guide was a nice South African man named Harry. I don’t think he spoke much English, as every time he pointed out an animal he would say its name in Afrikaans.
The terrain of the reserve was completely different than any other safari I’ve experienced in Africa so far. We would drive up and down the mountain range. The land was rarely flat.
At first, we saw different antelope species. We had beautiful views of the landscape, and even took about fifteen minutes at the top of one of the mountains to get out, stretch, and take landscape shots.
One our way back down that mountain, I could for some reason feel in my soul we would see a cool animal. I breathed in the fresh area and allowed myself to feel fully content at that moment. After all, it’s not everyday you get to do this.
“IS THAT A CHEETAH?” my instructor asked the driver excitedly just then.
The car came to a stop, and we all tried to peer for the cat. Sure enough, hidden behind two large oryx, I was able to spot the head of the cheetah. We then drove closer, which eventually scared off the two oryx, but the cheetah remained under the tree.
We came to a stop, and all of a sudden our instructors started telling us not to crouch when photographing the cheetah. I thought it strange, then I noticed the boys starting to get out of the vehicle in the back. Apparently, we were supposed to approach the cheetah… on foot.
I got out of the car and had to scramble to catch up with the group, as everyone was clearly very excited to take pictures of the rarely spotted animal. I was super unsure about this whole thing, although we had already gone on a cheetah walk, because this was basically the wild. We got closer as a group, and I at first remained in the back. The cute cat licked its paws and would often roll over in the grass. I noticed its large stomach, signifying that it must eat well out here in Camdeboo. We watched for probably twenty minutes, although it flew by like seconds, until it got up. Apparently it needed to use the restroom, so it trotted over towards some rocks under the tree to do its business. It then walked back behind some bushes, before returning to its original spot.
When it got up, we were seriously only about 30 feet away from that cat. My mind and body was in a strange place of both wonderment and worry.
After a few more minutes of rolling around in the grass, the cheetah got up again and walked right towards our car. It then walked past, up the hill next to us, and then out of sight. We all could not believe what we had just experienced.
We continued down the road, keeping our eyes wide in hopes of catching other wildlife. We caught sight of some spring buck (South Africa’s national animal), wildebeests, warthogs, vervet monkeys, and more antelope.
Then, as we turned a corner around a bush, we practically came face-to-face with a giraffe! My favorite!
We watched as he curiously observed our truck, then continued onward towards some other trees nearby. I was beyond content at this point.
Eventually, we drove back to the courtyard area to have a nice pasta lunch (with more of those delicious bread rolls). Since lunch, we’ve had time to relax, play some dominoes, and learn more about environmental writing.
The downtime is fine, but I can’t wait to get back out into the wild. There’s no other feeling like spotting a wild animal in its natural habitat. Mount Camdeboo’s facilities have made the experience beyond enjoyable. I look forward to hopefully listing even more species in the next blog.