Lions and zebras and meerkats, oh my! Not to mention leopards and cheetahs, jackals and hyenas, giraffes and giant porcupines, springbok and steenbok and birds, of all kind! We all know what we’d like to see when we go on safari – after all game spotting is the whole point of this great adventure.
But what about the things you don’t expect … this month, I was lucky enough to go on a Kalahari safari, where I encountered some of the unexpected!
1 A Kalahari bushman’s grave
Remote desert sands hold the bodies of Kalahari bushfolk, buried in shallow graves which were then covered with rocks to keep predators at bay. The men were buried with their spears, bows and quivers; the women with their digging stick and cooking pans, so that they would be prepared for their journey to the land of the moon.
2 Salad veg
Handy to know if you’re lost in the desert, this unappetising-looking fruit, and its roots, holds enough moisture to see you to the next watering hole!
3 Wooden telephone poles – complete with birds’ nests!
The sociable weaver bird spends its days with its flock, building homes that come together in nests so big that eventually they’ll bring down the tree they’re built on. No trees around? A telephone pole or waterpump will do the job nicely! The sociable weaver bird lives up to its name even more by inviting pygmy falcons in to a nest to help scare off predators.
4 A Kalahari bushman singing the alphabet song
At !Xaos Lodge we met members of the Khomani San tribe, who entertained us with dancing, demonstrated their ancient skills in making weapons and jewellery and tried to teach us their language – a series of clicking sounds that is impossible to imitate. Honeyboy sang the numbers 1 to 10 for us in a rhythm reminiscent of our alphabet song.
5 Slimming aids
An appetite suppressant discovered by Xhosa tribespeople many years ago, the hoodia plant is sought after by European pharmaceutical companies, who turn it into slimming pills. They’ve been made to pay the Xhosa money in exchange for their tribal knowledge.
Want to know more? Visit South Africa Tourism’s Wildlife Safari page and discover all the delights of the desert