So, we were ready for our drive, having impressed on our brains the euphorbia damarana and the welwitschia, investigated skulls and finally become a little too competitive at bokdrolspoeg (a spitting competition involving old antelope droppings) to continue the game…and for the record, my bokdrol absolutely did fly further than anyone else’s and it was totally unnecessary to ban from me the contest entirely.
Let’s face it, we all enjoy seeing beasts, and children are no exception. As fascinating as plants are, they will only keep the average child’s boredom at bay for so long (and for some adults, even less time than that, if we are honest with ourselves). Now, my own mother did not understand the pain threshold of a young child when it came to learning about plants but what she could do was make it interesting, skillfully filling the hours between animal sightings with tit-bits of information she gleaned from the many (understatement) books she took along on game drives with us. She chose her paths well to ensure there was a maximum amount of content for her to draw on and entertain us. The joy of any Namibian itinerary, also if chosen carefully, is the fact that each camp heralds its own unique array of animals, insects and birds that have over millennia (and against all odds) carved a niche for themselves in this harsh terrain. That is the miracle of this enchanting country: extraordinary animals against an out-of-this-world backdrop.
We saw herds of springbok and mountain zebra, groups of giraffe, jackal, hyaena and even a lone desert elephant bull making his way along one of the river beds in search of water. All of this we saw in the space of an hour. We then almost literally, but not quite, bumped into a male black rhino. “Oh my goodness”, said the two year old. “It’s a hippo”. My daughter does actually know the difference between a rhino and a hippo and I blame her error on the sheer level of excitement that had erupted in the vehicle among kids and parents alike. (I am pretty certain most guests are not going to be expecting hippo here…Ever.) I have seen thousands of rhino during my life, and seeing this magnificent desert rhino among the russet glow of basalt rocks and the green of the damaranas was among one of the most exciting animals viewings in my memory. We enjoyed a beautiful 30 minutes with him – he quietly browsed while we took photos of him in the golden light of the fading day. The kids were incredibly respectful of his presence and kept their own noise level to only a few decibels above tolerable- at least, the rhino did not seem to mind. (His name is Don’t Worry for good reason, so I reserve the right to retract what I just said about my children being quiet).
Just before the last glimmer of sun disappeared behind the mountains, Nestor climbed us all out of the vehicle to search for niftily shaped- and coloured rocks among the thousands of red basalt ones that have been flung over every surface in this concession. Our son was in his element, returning to the Land Rover dragging a jersey bulging with his “treasure” behind him. We went through his collection, Nestor explaining the incredible processes that formed each one. (Admittedly I slept through university geology and people, this was an entirely different experience) While we searched, Nestor had set up sundowners and poured each of us our drinks of choice including the sugar free kind the children are allowed to drink. We returned to camp satisfied and exhausted after a busy day.