Looking for lions, and lost luggage, on safari in Namibia

“If you need a clean shirt, you can borrow one of mine. I’m sure everyone could throw a shirt or pair of shorts your way.” When the men on your safari trip start offering you items from their own limited clothing, you know your personal hygiene is of public concern.

My nine-day safari in Namibia started with one of the worst discoveries for a traveller who’d just  spent 33-hours getting to her destination: My luggage was missing. I was about to embark on a unique adventure under warm sun and bright blue skies but my malaria pills, sunblock and five-blade razor were nowhere to be found.

A low for sure during my trip to experience the beauty of Namibia, but lows were far outweighed by highs. Here, a breakdown of both and why I look forward to going back.

High, for those prone to car sickness  Etosha National Park is about 450 kilometres north of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. The drive is flat and straight, which is a bonus for someone who may be concerned about motion sickness or who might want to get a little sleep after a long flight. I am both of these people.

High, for first-timers  The park is approximately 22,000 square kilometres and I can see why it’s a perfect safari destination. Watering holes are scattered across Etosha making it easy to spot all sorts of wildlife. Wildebeests, rhinos, giraffes, zebras and elephants can be found quenching their thirst, and in the case of a herd of elephants we came across, taking a midday shower. There are few things that have taken my breath away as much as being only several feet away from a herd of wild elephants on their own turf.

High, for animal lovers  Eland, kudu, springbok, oryx: We saw hundreds of these different antelope species during our drives through the park. Antelope of all sizes travel in large groups and their grey and tan colours help them blend in with short bushes and trees in the distance. Looking out towards the landscape, you might think there aren’t any animals nearby, but blink and you will realize hundreds of springbok are grazing while hiding in plain sight.

Another highlight of the safari was taking a boat ride along the Kwando river when visiting the Bwabwata National Park in Caprivi. Though they appear like rocks in the distance, hippos are skilled at spying at people with just their eyes and ears above water. Get a little closer and they grunt, show off the impressively wide range of their jaws, and potentially charge at your boat if you get too close. Though they look fun, hippos are actually the most dangerous mammal in Africa. You do not want to be the white marble in a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippo (probably a real low on a trip).

Low, for vegetarians  We were served game meat — all the varieties of antelope we saw during our safari expeditions— at each lodge we stayed at during the trip. Exciting for meat lovers. For vegetarians, not so much. Our safari guide joked that there are no vegetarians in Namibia. A Namibian on the trip who was experiencing safari for the first time said she would literally die without meat. I trust both of these statements to be of popular belief but not factually correct.

High, for me and my fellow travellers  Did I have to wear random men’s cargo shorts and quick-dry shirts? Fortunately, on my third day in Namibia, in the middle of massive safari park — truly in the middle of nowhere — while seeing my first wild elephants at a watering hole, a beat-up station wagon tracked me down and delivered my suitcase. The relief and sheer joy of having my belongings (Moisturizer! A hat! Razor with all five blades!) combined with the beauty of Namibia and the excitement of wild animals was the ultimate high.

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