I sat at the breakfast table looking out over the Kalahari sandveld, enjoying a strawberry and chocolate muffin and thinking about how strange it felt to be so far from family on Christmas Day – although to tell you the truth – I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. Christmas at Wilderness Safaris’ Kalahari Plains Camp in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve was full of festivity. It’s the start of the rainy season, which completely enthralled me; brown-veined white butterflies gathered on blossoming trumpet-thorn bushes flashing their wings like Christmas lights, young springbok went pronking wildly around the waterhole like excited children on Christmas morning, and, every now and then, a bright red crimson-breasted shrike flickered by.
But there was something else that was particularly exciting that Christmas morning.
“Elephant tracks through the camp last night!” exclaimed our guide Godfrey. Although tracks are seen in the surrounding veld fairly often, the animals themselves have not been seen in a year and tracks going right through camp were something special.
We set out on our morning drive, determined to find the ellies. After following their big round tracks for a while and scanning the bush carefully there was no sign of them. We were about to turn around and give up when suddenly they appeared. Godfrey’s elation really helped me appreciate how remarkable the sighting was!
After reporting the “tlou” (elephant in Setswana) on the radio, all the other vehicles rushed to join us.
“Our Christmas present!” said T-man, one of the other guides.
We counted nine male elephants all standing together flapping their big fan-like ears to keep cool under a shady acacia.
Back at camp we shared our special sighting with the rest of the staff who were equally astonished. Mama Bee, Kalahari Plains’ manager was particularly thrilled with the news, “Kalahari is like Mombo now! We now have wild dogs AND ELEPHANTS!”.
So this was our very large Christmas present, the first elephants to be spotted at Kalahari Plains in 2015, certainly something to celebrate, which we did in style.
The camp staff arranged a surprise sundowner on the open plains in front of the camp and entertained us with vibrant singing and dancing as the sun set.
“We love dancing!” said one of the waitresses who I chatted to afterwards. “We would dance all night if only there weren’t so many thorns out there!”
Back at camp we enjoyed a traditional roast turkey dinner and Christmas pudding with a beautifully decorated table. That night I slept on the roof deck under a full moon surrounded by the sounds of barking geckos and nightjars. ‘These stars are bright enough to wow any of the shepherds or wise men in the Bible’s Christmas story” I thought as I drifted into a happy sleep.
Thank you to the lovely staff at Kalahari Plains for putting in so much effort to make our Christmas special.