African safari participants in Botswana (at Selinda, Xigera, and Chitabe Lideba camps) enjoy some fabulous rituals that do not seem to exist in the “regular” world. Here are a few:
1. Sundowners – This ritual is performed during the evening game drive. We usually left the camp at 4pm and drove around spotting animals and taking photographs until about 5:55pm. If we weren’t tracking lions or taking photos of a cheetah until sunset (to enjoy the great lighting), then we would stop and the guides would set up small appetizers and beverages for the four of us. Appetizers included things such as mixed nuts, beef jerky made in Africa, or dried fruit. The guides mixed a gin and tonic for James’ father and the rest of us would have a silver goblet of red wine (no kidding) or a cold beer made in Africa. We would stand around outside the Range Rover, sip our beverages, and discuss the game drives. The sun in Africa is truly a special force. Watching it set each day, coloring the sky red, orange, yellow, and purple, was a majestic sight.
2. Hot water bottles – It is currently winter in Botswana. In the evenings it dropped to 40F and during the day it would get to 65F. That’s not a problem except that the tents and game drive vehicles do not have heat. In order to keep guests warm, camp staff will add hot water bottles to the beds during turn-down service. The bottles usually stayed warm all night (at least until the 5:30am wake up call). At our last camp (Chitabe Lediba), our guide B.B. put hot water bottles in our seats with wool blankets so we could stay warm (sort of) until the sun came up.
3. Wet towels after game drives – At certain camps, someone always meets the vehicle after a drive with wet towels for guests to use to wipe their faces and hands. This is such a nice ritual because the dust from the drive can sometimes get in your eyes. Plus, it is nice to have someone welcome you back and ask about what mother nature provided for viewing that day.
4. Breakfast by the fire – Because some of the best animal viewing is early in the morning, guests are woken up at 5:30am or 6am depending on how hard-core you are. At this time (as explained above), it is freezing. So, after the guide collects guests from their room while it is still dark out, they are led to the campfire where coffee and oatmeal and other breakfast items are served around the fire. It is a lovely way to wake up and usually there are ribbons of color starting to brighten up on the horizon in the distance as dawn approaches.
5. “Going behind a tree.” This is a safari ritual that I don’t particularly appreciate but it is a part of being in the bush. When someone needs to go to the bathroom while on a game drive, they have to go behind a tree or bush. For women, this is certainly more troublesome but one does get used to it. After watching lions hunt one day, we stopped out in the open where it was unsafe to use a bush or tree because of all of the wildlife nearby. We were instructed to go behind the truck and I almost couldn’t do it. Luckily, James’ mother went with me and made jokes while we went. Not cool - but part of it.