Written by Polina Utkina
Photo Courtesy of Rowan Prown
After a 9 hour drive from the airport, we finally arrive at the lodge. It’s already dark outside and everyone is reminiscing about a nice, warm bed. The lodge is a lot more luxurious than any of us expected, with warm showers, a pool and a gorgeous view of the mountains. After a few brief and sleepy introductions everyone is snuggled under a comfy blanket for the night.
When my alarm goes off at 5am I do not think that there is anything that could get me out of bed. I am not a morning person. So I’m about to roll over and fall back asleep when a strange and loud noise breaks the silence. My roommate and I sit up in bed, staring at each other in the darkness.
“What was that?” I whisper.
We get out of bed and tentatively look out of our glass door. The sound is there once more, louder this time. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. We saw beams of light from the other side of the camp which meant that our guide and the others were also coming to investigate the noise. The beam of lights hit something moving in the bushes right outside our fence. A pride of lions. Maybe 8 or 9 of them, all stalking towards the call of their male leader who woke us up. One of the lions stopped briefly, looking at the light, but a few minutes later they were gone. For the rest of the day I felt wide awake.
If I thought that nothing could beat a lion alarm clock, I was wrong. Several days later, as we were driving towards a bird count site, our guide spotted a rock. When the rock started moving, however, we realized that we were looking at a rhino for the first time. And not just any rhino, but a mama and her calf. As they walked right in front of our car, we all sat there with bated breath, not believing our luck. After about 20 minutes the rhinos moved off and we watched them leave, feeling that today was a great day. The evening brought even more excitement when we stumbled across a small group of rhinos on our drive. Some happily grazing, some watching us curiously. As we watched, our guide talked about the huge problem of rhino poaching in Africa and we all wondered whether in a decade people will get to watch them as we are now. We sat there for a long time, fascinated with the large, slightly clumsy animals. The sun was setting now and the rhinos were becoming a mere silhouette in the darkness. An ill-boding metaphor for their future.
(South Africa have a little photo competition every week and this amazing photo, taken by Rowan, won this week!)