Going Wild in the Wild
That’s the word I’ve been looking for. For hours I spent searching the ol’ noggin for a word that would sum up the Kruger Park here in South Africa. Exciting? Gorgeous? Unpredictable? They weren’t quite right. Then came Wild. Wild works. After all, Wild is the whole point of the Park; wild land and wild animals preserved and protected to maintain their wildness. This is one not-so-small part of the world (it’s bigger than the country of Wales!) that values Wild.
The joy of visiting the Kruger is not in spotting exotic animals. After all, you can see a cheetah in the zoo. It’s about observing wild animals being, well, Wild. It’s not about the bragging rights you earn from spying an elephant through a pair of binoculars. It’s about sitting still for hours and watching elephants come closer, and closer, and closer…and then start play fighting right in front of your car.
After living in South Africa a total of three years, beginning with a quick six-month stint back in 2006, I felt I had “done” the game viewing thing. Buffalo? Check. Rhino? Check. Impala? Snooze (oh, I mean check). I assumed this trip to the Kruger would just be a refresher course.
But what I didn’t understand is that game viewing is not something you simply check off your bucket list; it’s something that you interact with – something that is completely new and surprising each time you’re lucky to have a shot at it. Yes, I’d seen a giraffe before my trip to the Kruger. But I’d never seen herds of giraffe that soared over the cars in the road. I’d never watched a giraffe chew (like a funny cow, actually) just feet away from me. I’d never witnessed a mother giraffe get annoyed as her twin babies goofed around. I’d never been able to take in the difference in color and pattern of different giraffes. These were all new. And Wild.
After all, Kruger is the place to watch Wild in action, from elephants having water squirting contests, to lions attacking buffalo – and then the buffalo herd coming back to protect its own!
It’s amazing how exciting it is to observe Wild…and to go a little wild. No, not club style Wild or even big boozin’ style (although a bit of booze never hurt), but back-to-basics Wild. Kruger is a place to howl at the moon along with the hyenas, jump in mud puddles like the baby elephants, and keep your eyes sharp like a leopard. Without realizing it the Kruger Park transforms you into a slightly wilder version of yourself. You may begin your stay worrying about applying mascara and making the bed. But by the end, you’re lucky to remember to brush your hair.
Here, Wild is cool.