I was well acquainted with long drives to Jeffrey’s Bay in the Eastern Cape. I had endured more twelve bus journeys than I dared to count and once the beauty of the Garden Route passed by, I slept soundly missing nothing much on the roadside but endless open land and dreary hills. My husband and I were only dating then and bus rides were the cheapest way to get there unless a few people went up together in a car.
I had never been further. Not until my then-boyfriend and his family decided we would take a drive through Addo Elephant Park. The only other game reserve I had visited was the Kruger National Park when I was 13. I remembered so much of it but didn’t recall seeing many animals. This time five of us squashed into a little Fiat and made our way inside the gate.
We stopped at the sight of anything stirring. A tortoise crossing the road, what appeared to be antlers amongst the thorny bushes and even a snake making its way through the heat of the road. A warthog scampered around amongst the dry grass and dug into the earth before crossing the road. I was at the back of the two-door car and started to feel claustrophobic without a window beside me. I longed to get some air and stretch my neck out and see bigger animals.
Not long after we were rewarded by spotting three lions lazing beside a small body of water. They languidly licked themselves and resumed their sleeping positions totally oblivious to us and the people in cars observing them through binoculars and cameras. Their limbs seemed too heavy for them to lift and I wondered how long they would lie out here in the blazing sunshine before they sought shelter before hunting at dusk.
We were all famished and tired of the car’s confines. We took a break on benches on a hill overlooking the plains where we devoured our packed lunch. A sign read ‘Beware of the Lions, alight from vehicle at own risk’. We ate quickly constantly checking our surrounds for any wild visitors who may enjoy us for lunch.
We continued through the reserve’s generous portion of wild territory and in the distance we saw many cars parked together. They were all staring at the same thing. A massive herd of elephants were walking towards the watering hole. Some walked slowly as if in no rush at all, whilst others quickened their pace at the sight of water. The babies followed closely at their mother’s feet and couldn’t believe their luck when their bums landed in the mud. Teenage elephants tousled playfully with each other, unaware that someday their jabs may become fierce in their fight to lead the herd. Mothers sucked the cool water up their trunks and