Jun 15

Stop! Look at that!

by in Africa, Botswana

This was my brother’s catch phrase. So much in fact, that he was eventually banned from saying the words. But he really was justified. In the Kalahari Desert there were tons of animals to see. And before we came Mom gave me a book where I could cross off all the animals we saw.

The first thing you should know is the Kalahari is wrongly named. Maybe in the summer it is more desert like, but in the winter the temperature really drops.  On the morning of our last day it was -2°C or 28° F! How did we survive getting up at six in the morning when it was cold and still dark as night? The answer is bush babies. Have you ever seen those commercials where they say “Having back problems? Buy our back compress for only $10.99!” you know the ones on Fox and stuff? Well bush babies are essential a hot compress except people boil the water by hand and pour it into a big squishy water bottle. In other ways, the name is just. The Kalahari definitely looked like a wasteland with long yellow grass and occasional trees.

Anyway, when we got off the plane we saw our grandparents! My dad’s parents. We were expecting them, of course, but I was still super excited. They would be with us for almost two weeks. We flew together on a mini airplane and when we landed we were met by a jeep. Once we arrived at the camp we got a special tour. The main tent where we ate was huge, with electricity and glass table wear and sofas. The tent the four of us shared was not at all what I had expected. There were beds, running water and even a shower. I never went in Grandma and Grandpa’s tent but I imagine it was much the same.

Now, back to bush babies. Bush babies as I said, were hot water bottles. We got them every night after dinner in our beds and every morning in the cold jeep. My mom always said that the reason that her bush baby was always warm in the morning and ours was cold was because “you have to love the bush baby!” Apparently if you curl around it, it will take your heat and then give it back to you, warmer.

Safari was every morning after breakfast. At 7:00 you hopped in the jeep, pulled on the provided poncho, and hugged you’re bush baby. At around 9:00, you stopped for tea and cookies. Mean while I have been busy checking off all the names of animals everyone threw at me. You returned at 12:00, ate lunch, napped, and got back in the jeep at 3:00. Finally you got back for dinner at 6:30, then immediately crashed when it was over. Every day.  Because of the lion tracks and sometimes sightings, at night and in the morning you had to be escorted to and from your cabin, and everywhere you went.


We saw many animals like elephants and giraffes, but the ones I want to tell you about are the big cats. First though, the animals we saw the most were oryx and springbok. The oryx were big horse like animals with long thick horns. They always looked at us when we went by and Carter insisted that this was the inspiration for many Gary Larson cartoons. The springbok were like deer and were amazingly fast. They ran for awhile then, seemingly at random intervals they put on extraordinary bursts of speed.


On our first day we saw both a lion and a lioness.  They were rare black-maned lions.  The Lioness was getting moisture from the plants by licking them and the lion was lounging about. The jobs for the lion and lioness are different than one might think. The lioness is the one who hunts while the lion protects their territory. We were almost six feet away from the female and about ten from the male.


After a while they got bored of us and walked away. I was not as scared as my mom looked when we were so close. I guess because I knew the animals saw the jeep as one big animal and would probably not attack.


The most interesting thing we saw was definitely the cheetah. We were lucky enough to actually be able to see two cheetah chases, and they were amazing.  An important thing to know is that the cheetah works so hard to run so fast that their muscles are literally burning. It is possible for them to die after a chase if they push themselves too far.


In the first chase the cheetah was a female. She sprung up and chased a herd of steenbok (like deer) and oryx (like ox). She was so fast as to be just a blur. Sadly though she couldn’t catch anything, because the steenbok sensed her before she pounced.

The second was better though because the male was super close. I could actually see him drooling as he looked at the steenbok.


He was closer than the first but still didn’t get anything.  Eventually he gave up and laid down hidden in the tall grass.  After half an hour, he sat up very slowly and looked around hoping for another chance.  But the Oryx saw him and all the males walked over and stared.  

Then they all walked away and the cheetah sat by himself. Cats have good night vision, so he decided to wait. We had to go home then, so we will never know what he caught for dinner.

The impression of a kid is different from that of a child. For that reason I am interviewing my grandma with three questions I will also answer myself.

Q: Do you enjoy Safari-ing? Why?

G A: Yes. Because I can see a part of the world with the help of a guide so I won’t be eaten. And I especially like it with my grandchildren.

K A: Yes. Because I love seeing exotic animals when they’re not in a cage.

Q: What is your favorite animal? Did you see it?

G A: A piggy. We came pretty close with the warthogs.

K A: An elephant. No, but we might see it in the next camp. The Kalahari isn’t really a good habitat for elephants, it’s too dry.

Q: Would you recommend Safari-ing? Why or why not?

G A: Yes, I would recommend safari-ing because it’s a fascinating way to see animals that you could otherwise only see in zoos, and they are in their natural habitats here.

K A: I would only recommend it if you are a huge nature lover and an early bird. I’m a night owl though, and still enjoy it.


2 Responses to “Stop! Look at that!”

  1. From Sandy:

    Wow! How amazing to see those lions and cheetahs up close! And what a great experience to be able to share with Linda and Jerry (say hi to them for me). I can’t wait to see all your pictures when you get home. Have fun and don’t get eaten!

    Posted on 20. Jun, 2011 at 7:06 am #
  2. From Alex White:

    You have some really amazing pictures, what camera did you take??

    It took us 5 weeks on safari to see a cheetah!! They are amazing.
    Oryx and Springbok are also my favorite. They are beautiful.

    Enjoy the rest of your time!!

    Alex W

    Posted on 20. Jun, 2011 at 7:56 am #