The camp, where I was staying at, is literally in the middle of the bush – between springboks, zebras, elephants, monkeys, hyenas as well as crocodiles in the Limpopo River approximately ten meters away from my tent. I had been told that they stay in the water, though.
When I opened my tent in the morning, I would usually find a couple of impalas standing right in front of me grazing. Once they noticed me, they immediately ran away. Still, waking up to bird sounds and grazing antelopes was a very peaceful way to start the day.
The Kwa-Tuli game reserve is famous for its population of giants. In addition to the common bush animals like impala, zebra, and wildebeest, there are troops of monkey and baboon, as well as steenboks, grysboks, waterbucks, bushbucks, and warthogs.
Most of the time, while driving through the game reserve, we got to see zebras and impalas, and sometimes wildebeest. Now and then, a herd of elephants would slowly cross our lane, which was an excellent opportunity for us to stop the car, watch the elephants, take some photos of them as well as some notes. After staying in the bush for a few weeks, you kinda get used to seeing zebras, impalas, and monkeys all the time. However, I never got used to seeing elephants – it had always been special for me whenever we spotted them and watched them for a while.
Very rarely we also got to see a giraffe or two. During my time in the camp, we spotted them twice. Once they were standing along the main road towards the South African border. The second time, one was greeting us when we entered our game reserve. Usually, giraffes are not among the animals to be found in our sanctuary, but, apparently, a small number of them slowly moves from one reserve to the next – just like lions and cheetahs by the way.
Occasionally, we also came across aardvarks, aardwolves, African wild cats, and black-backed jackals. Oh – and of course leopards and spotted hyenas at night.
On one of my last days in Botswana, we were on the move in the game vehicle when suddenly, our ranger abruptly stopped the car and pointed towards a dog-like creature about 50-100 meters away from us. He told us to stay super quiet, and we did. Nobody knew that we´d just had the very rare opportunity of seeing wild dogs. They came closer and closer, our ranger got out of the car and positioned himself on the floor to take some photos. So did we from the game vehicle. At some point, the pack of wild dogs stayed at a distance of 5-7 meters and watched us closely. After 20 minutes, we decided to leave them and continued driving. In the car, our ranger explained to us that African wild dogs are an endangered species with only 1400 fully-grown adult dogs still alive.
Last week, our supervisors took us on a day trip to another reserve in Botswana (~3 hours away from camp), where we did a walking safari through the bush to find rhinos. Together with one ranger from the reserve, our supervisor and seven safety guards with guns (in case there comes a lion along or the rhinos freak out about so many people), we tried to find the rhinos by looking at rhino-tracks on the ground. After an excellent 45-minute- trek through the bush and savanna, we finally found a mother-rhino with its baby, which appeared to be really curious about all those people suddenly coming out of the bush staring at them. We took photos of the rhinos standing approx. 3 to 5 meters away from them – absolutely incredible!
Besides those impressive giants, there were also a couple of small animals to be found in and around camp on a regular basis. Spiders, scorpions, snakes (all venomous by the way) were frequent visitors at night and sometimes during the daytime.
On one of my first days, I had to deal with a scorpion in my tent. To cut a long story short, I decided that it was too risky to let it stay alive crawling through my tent, so I brutally killed it with five smashes using my hiking shoes.
Another day, there was a spitting cobra underneath someone’s tent and had to be removed (the spitting cobra is one of the most venomous snakes on this planet).
And, apparently, there must have been a hyena walking through the camp at night sometime as we found tracks in the sand the next morning. Thank god I didn’t see neither the spitting cobra nor the hyena. 🙂
However, some other night, there was some kind of animal crawling or walking across the roof of my tent. It was really creepy, but it became even worse when the animal suddenly started scratching. I was told that it had either been an enormous lizard (like one of those 25cm lizards) or a bush baby, which is some kinda monkey-related animal – google it! They look hilarious.
After a few weeks, I really started to fall in love with the camp/this experience more and more. The campsite. The lifestyle. No civilization. No mobile signal. No internet access. Nature. Wild animals around. The lizard living on the roof of my tent. That triumphant feeling after having removed a deadly scorpion. The sense of being productive after trekking through the bush for four hours almost every day. The impression of a particular kind of achievement while holding a big, ugly, spider-like cricket in my hands and thinking that it actually looks quite cute. The way my legs looked like those of an eight-year-old covered in scars, little wounds, and bruises.
I loved the camp after all, and I’d like to leave you with an observation that I´ve made over the last couple of weeks – something I’d never thought would be possible, at least for me: It is possible to overcome creepy crawlies phobia!