by Kelsey Smith
Our time in Etosha Park included seeing 3 out of the “Big 5”, a Sunday morning traffic jam of Elephants, my newfound love for Giraffes, and more Springbok than the number of bad jokes that have been told on this trip. On second thought, disregard that last comment. We have experienced a lot of extraordinary things, but there is a line between extraordinary and impossible that we can only get so close to crossing.
Before coming to Namibia I had imagined seeing many of the stereotypical animals that are so commonly associated with Africa. Those thoughts, however, seemed to come and go quickly because I don’t think I honestly expected to see the wildlife that we experienced at Etosha. Seeing each type of animal took us on a continuous roller coaster of excitement that began early Friday morning and continued until we headed for Ogongo on Sunday.
Each animal offered a unique sight because of the beautiful details in their size, shape, color, and movement. Seeing a little Jackal became a familiar sight, especially for our friend Trotter who took to its cute pet-like characteristics and tried to feed it a dinner roll. A less familiar sight that our bus driver Dennis enjoys seeing most of all each time he brings a group to Etosha was the Rhino. We were fortunate enough to see its historical and ancient movements that showed both strength and grace at a watering hole one night.
Zebras were not in short supply. The details in each Zebra’s appearance begin with definitive black stripes that perfectly shape around each one’s face and continue in the same matter throughout the rest of its body. We were also lucky enough to see one male Lion laying under the sun, which created a golden shimmer on its mane.
Before coming to Namibia I was not familiar with some of the animals that we have seen during our time here. Names like “Kudu” and “Gemsbok” were of another language to me, and their appearances seemed even more foreign. Sights of mule and white-tailed deer that are common to us in Texas don’t offer much comparison to the long spiraled horns of a Kudu or the size of its vaguely striped body. Each time we see a Gemsbok it never grows old to look at its beautiful black and white detailed face and straight, spear-like horns.
One of the most amazing sights at Etosha, and maybe even for the entire trip, were 12 powerful, yet gentle Elephants that silently walked up while we were observing a watering hole. The baby of their herd energetically followed its mother around with an unconditional excitement for life. Other Elephants whipped their trunks back to throw clouds dirt on wet skin under the warm sunshine. Each member of the herd enjoyed independently playing in the water and quenching its thirst, but the reliance they had on each other showed as they fluently moved together to and from the watering hole.
Last, but definitely not least, was the Giraffe. I’m sure each person in the bus could tell you about my overreaction when we saw them drinking at a watering hole for the first time. I have seen Giraffes before, but it wasn’t until I saw the awkward splits they have to do when bending down to get a drink of water that I fell in love. I don’t know what it is, but my heart now melts when I see this beauty of a stretch animal with a long and lanky physique that leads up to big, beautiful eyes. Maybe it spurs from my appreciation of being able to relate to another creature that looks extremely awkward when they run. I don’t know. Whatever the case, my next mission is to find a plane big enough to get my next pet back to College Station, TX so that I can introduce my dog to her new brother or sister.