The next morning we loaded up the trucks for our excursion into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. We kept asking the drivers how long the drive would be, and we couldn’t get a straight answer. Our driver said nine hours but then all the other guides laughed, and then another said two hours and there was more laughter. So we decided it best to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
With a stop for lunch, the trek ended up taking about seven hours. Geographically it might not have been that far, but half of the trip was over dirt roads pocked with unexpected ruts and bumps, keeping our speed in check.
We finally arrived at our “campsite” – there are no designated camping areas; our guides just picked a spot with some open space and decent tree cover. We set up camp while the guides rustled up another too-good-to-be-camping type of meal over an open fire.
That night we got a briefing on a few safety things: wear long pants and closed-toed shoes on account of the scorpions and snakes, don’t make the walk to the pit-latrine at night, and so on. Little did we know just how pressing those words would become.
The next morning we went on a game drive at the crack of dawn. Just as in the Okavango Delta, the experience in the Kalahari was completely different from other game drives on which we had been. The reserve is hundreds of kilometers across, and so it was basically open wilderness. We saw herd after herd of springbok and gemsbok, as well as wildebeest and suricats.
That afternoon we heard lions roaring in the distance, and so on our evening game drive that night, our guides went in search of the pride. And we had success. Just as the sun was beginning to set we came upon one male, two females and two lion cubs. They were relaxing in the shade before their nighttime activity.
We headed back to camp before the sun was down and apparently the lions followed us back. That night the pride of lions came into our campsite! One of the cubs dragged away one of our tarps as a new toy, and a student stepped out of her tent to use the bathroom, scanned the bushes with her flashlight, and saw the reflection of two lion eyes not twenty feet away. We could hear their calls, too. One would call from one side of the camp, and then one would respond from the other so we knew we were encircled.
It was nerve-racking, but our guides handled it like veterans. They never showed a hint of fear, and reassured us that the lions weren’t interested in hurting us. We were told to remain in our tents for the rest of the night, though, which was advice obligingly followed. In the morning the guides used the trucks to subtly usher the lions away from camp.
The next day on the evening game drive we tracked down the lions once more, and got an even closer view of the pride. The cubs were adorable – pawing at each other and rolling around as the mom watched their antics from beneath a tree. The father stayed covertly behind some bushes, but every once in a while would raise his head to yawn or survey his surroundings, and he was majestic, indeed. With a full mane and a filled-out, muscular frame, he was a dominating presence. We heard the lions again that night, but they weren’t inside of our camp, so everyone slept a bit easier.
The trip was very relaxing. Everyday consisted of a morning game drive, followed by a schmorgasboard of delicious lunch options, then a four hour break to socialize, read, nap, play cards and just beat the heat in general. Then came a shorter evening game drive where we tried to work up our appetites for the dinners of consistently delectable and monstrous helpings of food.
After four days of that, I was accustomed to the laidback lifestyle, and definitely wasn’t ready to get back to the grind of school and everything that came with it, but we had to go back eventually. The drive back to Audi Camp was much quicker on the way back (or maybe it was all in my head) and one thing I didn’t mind about getting back was taking a proper shower.
We spent one last night at Audi Camp and headed back to Gabz in the morning.
One more three-course meal at Audi Camp for dinner…