Seeing your country battle it out on football’s world stage is one thrill, but when Micah Demmert got so close to an elephant he could smell its bad breath, he thought all his birthdays had come at once on Intrepid’s Southern Explorer…
“The trip started on a kind of night that was to become increasingly common – around a camp fire with a drink in hand, telling stories and laughing. We met our tour leader, Johan, and our driver Sedrick, and were briefed about all of the amazing things that we were to see and do. After 8 days of World Cup shenanigans, what I was hoping for was a nice relaxing sleep in, a leisurely drive, the odd elephant or lion or two, and a chance to become a participant in southern African culture. Well, 3 out of 4 aint bad!
We (being 16 plus Johan and Sedrick) were up at 4.30am the next day and in the trusty Intrepid 4WD van for a very long drive. In terms of wildlife, we saw plenty – baby hyenas, giraffes, black and white rhinos, hippos, antelope of all kinds, zebras, eagles and much more. But no big cats yet.
In Botswana, at Elephant Sands we had a wild bull elephant come within 4 metres of where I was sitting enjoying a beer. Every muscle in my body was taut while it stared at me in the darkness, wondering if I was a threat or not. I slowly worked out my exit strategy, knowing full well that clambering over my colleagues who were behind me was a realistic option. Luckily, after what seemed like an eternity of smelling elephant breath, he simply turned around and walked away. Elephants were to become a common sight in Botswana. It seems that it is the people who are kept in cages, while the wildlife roam free.
The landscapes were breathtaking, none more so than the Okavango Delta. Two hours in a mokoro watching eagles soar in front of a brilliant blood red sunset became the norm. Then the night was lit up with the eternal full moon. Another fire, another beer, singing and story telling with the locals in the middle of the Delta was an experience that will stay with me forever. A close second was Mosi Oa Tunya (the smoke that thunders) or Victoria Falls in Zambia. Such power from nature I have never experienced, nor am likely to again.
Enormous baobabs, beautiful food (even for a vegetarian like myself in meat-loving South Africa!), wonderful happy locals, cheap soccer balls, great craft markets and more. Then, on the last day as we were heading out of Kruger National Park, a lion crosses our path, and we witness a leopard drag a recently killed impala up a tree and wedge its corpse between two branches while it then goes back and looks for more. Finally!
Best of all, was the chance to experience these places with the 16 strangers who became close friends by the end of the trip.”
* photo by Micah Demmert