The African bush is prime adventure country. Lions, tigers, bears, and hyenas. The horizon is endless, the sun sweltering and the mosquitoes thick. This is the wilderness, a rare oasis for natural life. In Botswana, you can join a safari and explore the countryside, a rare chance to coexist with the animal kingdom.
“Once I am tucked into canvas, I do not want to go out. Despite my three full glasses of South African wine. Despite my Botswana-
brewed ‘St. Louis’ beer. “A satisfying blend of flavor and refreshment” boasted the can that I had crushed before turning in. Now I wish I had kept it. Or, better yet, that I had a jar.
Though the night is quiet, I think I hear a rustling in the leaves outside. I swing the beam of my flashlight but see nothing except the trunk of a tree.
I hear it again. It is crunching, not rustling.
Someone chewing on something brittle and hard.
Crunching or not, I’ve got to leave the tent. When I unzip the flap and edge outside the chewing stops. I do what I have to do and grab my flashlight again and shoot the beam towards the coals of the fire.
Two dog-like mottled shapes. Four electrified eyes.
I am back in the tent and zipped up before I take a breath. And I lie there making sure my cot is squeakless and that I gingerly exhale. Strongest jaws in nature, I think. Masticating. Swallowing. Probably wanting more.
It is dawn and I am awake with my still-bright flashlight clutched in my hand.
“Yes, hyenas,” says Peter blandly, when I ask. “They eat the chicken bones. The bones from the fire.”
Suddenly there is shouting — there’s a fanfare in the brush near Wolfgang’s tent. A flappy ear pokes out. Now the wrinkled rear. Elephant. A big one.
Time for our game drive.”
By Peter Mandel, travel writer for GoNOMAD.com.