Heading back to my banda after a delicious, heartwarming dinner in the open-air Laini restaurant, I can feel the heat and humidity on my skin and some drops roll down my forehead. We are now entering a dry season in the world’s largest National Park, and boy it gets hot!
As I enter my banda I feel the cool air crashing down on me from the overhead ceiling fans and the cool thatch that keeps the room chilled. I head straight to my monsoon shower and I let the strong pressure of the water wash off all the sweat and dust off my body. I could stay there for hours but I find myself super excited about tomorrow, my mind is imagining all the picturistic landscapes and animals that I’m used to seeing on National Geographic and Animal Planet but now I’m going to see all of this live before my eyes! I don’t waste any time and jump into my king-size, Egyptian cotton bed. The bed sheets gently cuddle me to sleep.
As it is still dark outside I get woken up by a beautiful melody from a string instrument like in a fairytale. I grab my phone from the side of the bed to check in with reality and I see that it’s 05:00 AM! I have never in my life been this excited and functional at this time but today feels so right! I open the curtains and I can see the reflection of the world’s longest river at my feet, thanks to the last lighting of the moon.
As the sun starts to brighten the sky we are in the open safari car, left and right of us are the traces of the bush burning, so I asked our driver why this was like that and he explained that these fires are conducted by the park rangers in order to control wildfires, these fires are done before the start of the dry season as the risk of involuntary fires arise. Some plant species also depend on these fires in order for the seeds to germinate and reproduce. Lucky for us, not the whole park was burnt, they work on specific areas in order to allow animals to still have areas to graze on.
The cold morning mist gives us goosebumps but lucky for us our driver was prepared and had small blankets for us to wrap around us. As we are driving we feel the sun starting to pick up and shine down on us. The sky had some phenomenal colors, ranging from a hot pink to a fiery orange and a deep red marking the rim of the sun. Over in the distance, we see a herd of buffalos, a mix of young calves, old bulls, healthy females and injured males. A smell of dust, cow dunk and mud hits my nose, that’s when I really feel close to the animals, and really on a safari! Sitting on the dry muded back of the buffalo were these funny black birds named piak piaks. They have a symbiotic relationship, they pick the ticks and bugs from the buffalos as well as alert the buffalos of danger in a distance since the buffalo has poor eye sight and relies on his sense of smell. The sun rising behind the buffalos created this silver lining effect that was so beautiful, this lighting brought out the red mud that comes from the soft termite hills the buffaloes scratch their heads on.