Every time we have family members or friends visit us in Australia, one of their first requests is to go to the zoo or to an animal park where they might be able to see, take photos and hopefully touch koalas and kangaroos. And of course, there are those braver ones who like sharks and choose to dive with them. I have to admit that as someone who has grown to fear and respect the ocean, I choose to stay on land with the cute furry ones instead.
And just as us Aussies seem to get used to seeing koalas on gumtrees around town and in fact over time no longer notice them there anymore – and in several areas of Australia tend to call koalas and kangaroos “pests”… it really shouldn’t have surprised me that these perceptions are no different over here.
In the suburb we live in (in Windhoeak/Namibia) I usually sight baboons every few days. They run around in groups, often sit under big trees and seem happy enough to observe the movement around them. Yes, they can be a nuisance when they decide to tip rubbish bins around looking for food but I can’t deny that I immediately notice my heart racing with excitement, especially on those occasions where I spotted little baby baboons clinging onto their mummies’ backs.
We have also been lucky enough to have the opportunity of doing the “touristy” safaris and game drives and WOW! The feeling of driving through a huge national conservation park and suddenly coming to a stop because you realise you are inside a small car, in the middle of “nowhere” and only a few metres away from you is an elephant herd or a rhino family. These massive creatures who I am only used to seeing in a zoo…are suddenly there – right in front of us. We anxiously wind our windows down, try to be careful not to have any flash on the cameras and snap away. A-MA-ZING! Huge, so strong, for some reason I can’t help but think of my daughters’ dinosaur book as I’m staring at these animals. (I think to myself: they seem peaceful? Or are they just waiting to see what our next move will be?)
I still recall the day we were driving through Pilanesberg national park and all we could think was “I can’t wait to see an elephant.” As we are driving through some windy gravel roads, at times only wide enough to fit a car we suddenly come to a stop. Two young elephants suddenly start play fighting, head butting each other towards the car. First thought. “should we reverse or will that scare them? “Should we stand still? But what if they hit the car?” “Should we take photos? Shit! Did I turn the flash off?” and suddenly the thought of so desperately wanting to see an elephant changes to “Oh man, let’s get out of here.” Luckily they seemed too entertained to even notice us and eventually walked away, we took a deep breath and drove off ready to see some less intimidating animals.
Oh! The gorgeous springbok, impalas and the tiny little duiker running, jumping around. Hello Bambi! Hello Reindeers! Yes, I know… they are completely different animals – but once again I am taken back to my childhood and find myself open-mouthed, with a smile on my face. They really are real!
We spot a huge number of wildebeest and wildhogs and our daughter calls out “they hurt Mufasa: Simba’s daddy, mummy. And look, there’s Pumba!”- Phew! I’m not the only one caught up by the magic of seeing these amazing animals in front of us.
Wildlife surrounds us everywhere and it is so precious, sometimes it really does feel a bit surreal….or a lot! And we should take the time to be amazed by it and cherish it wherever we are.