We woke up around 7 A.M. to the sound of beautiful birds chirping. As I awoke I felt my tummy turning in circles of excitement. Today was the day my dreams came true. Today I was going to see an elephant for the first time. Elephants are my favorite animals hands down. They are intelligent and gentle giants. I could not wait. I spent about 30 minutes just picking out my outfit to make sure I looked perfect for the photos. About an hour later we were off.
The drive was so exciting. Driving through Port Elizabeth lets you see so much about the ways the small cities in the eastern cape thrives. The ocean right next to the freeway was magnificent. You see a concrete wall that looks like an art exhibition, placed there to stop the waves from crashing right onto the freeway. About an hour later we arrived at the gates. I could barely contain my excitement. We were going to stop for lunch then hit the dirt road on a quest to see an elephant.
The small restaurant on site was called The Cattle Barron. They were known for their award winning steak, which made my mouth water at the thought. However, we chose to go to Addo Elephant Park right after a rainstorm, which had knocked the power out. Once we sat down, the waiter described the parts of the menu they could still serve, lucky for me steak was one of the items. I ordered a glass of Pinotage while I waited for my steak. My fiancée and I sat, drank and discussed plans.
When we first drove in we saw the game drive trucks and joked at the idea of maybe signing up for a drive instead of attempting to search on our own. Little did I know that when he had “gone to the restroom” he really went to purchase two tickets aboard what would be my first game drive ever. Once we finished our delicious steaks, I began walking to the car but he stopped me and pointed to our new ride. I was beyond excited. My heart was beating so fast and loud I almost screamed.
We walked up to the beautiful dark green truck. Our game driver Jonathan let us in and gave us a small run down of what was about to happen. I sat right in the front row; I needed to be right there for the elephants. About 5 minutes later we hit the road. I could barely contain my excitement, and if it weren’t for the other people aboard, I would have shrieked. The dirt roads seemed so much smoother in the truck than the small rental car. The first animal we spotted was a water hog, or Pumba from the Lion King. They are a lot smaller than you imagine from when you were a little kid, and boy, are they quick. By the time I looked, they were pretty much gone. I did snap a quick picture though.
After he rushed away, we spotted an older cape buffalo. He is the first of the big five I saw. He was taking a sip of some water in a small watering hole. Jonathan, our game driver, knew he was an older male because his horns had shed. Once they get a bit older, Jonathan told us they begin to fight with the younger men in the pack and eventually separate themselves and shed their horns. He looked like a grouchy old man as he bent his face over into the water. Once he spotted the bakkie (Afrikaans for truck), he looked up and walked away, annoyed.
After seeing this beautiful boy we drove for what seemed like 20 minutes until we heard them, beautiful elephants hiding in the bushes and eating. My heart began racing and I could feel the tears coming on. We couldn’t see them at first but they were right there, so close I could almost touch them. We drove around the corner to try and see if maybe we would be able to get a better view with no luck, but then it happened. She made her way out of hiding and walked right in front of the bakkie. It felt as though she was staring right in my eyes and I was defiantly in awe. Tears began to fall as I smiled so wide it hurt my mouth. My fiancée looked at me with such joy as I gazed at my favorite animal in the flesh. That was not all though, she had some tricks up her sleeve. As she began to walk away, a beautiful baby came out of nowhere and followed. I really didn’t think it could get much better but it did. They began communicating with each other as they moved across the path. My day was complete and my dreams came true in that moment.
Nothing could make me stop smiling after this. I had seen the second of the big five, and my absolute favorite. We spotted a few more elephants congregating nearby and then continued on the drive. We drove for about 30 or 40 minutes with no animals in sight. Although I was hoping to see a rhino as well, I was truly in awe by the sight of the empty bush. The nature in Africa is the most beautiful I had ever seen. We drove on bumpy roads past bones of animals that had passed long ago. I began to think we would not spot another animal, but then something surprising happened. We drove up a small road to a single bush and hiding in it was the king of the jungle. Two young male lions: resting, hiding from the lethal sun. Real lions in the wild; I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew people could spend hundreds of dollars to see these beauties in the wild and never get the chance, but there they were, right in front of me.
After we stopped to see these beautiful lions, we were on the road back to the camp. My heart was so full from the two hour experience. I was excited to share it with all of my family and readers. Addo Elephant Park will always hold such a special place in my heart and these animals will always be my first memories of Africa.