After flying for over 15 hours (and missing at least 3 flights), I was beyond excited to finally touch down in Windhoek, Namibia. Coming from the piercing winter cold in New York, I was ready to peel back my 15-layer combination of coats, sweaters, scarves, and socks to embrace the warm Namibian summer.
To be honest, while I was excited to be in Namibia, I was not particularly excited to be in Windhoek; not after hearing all the lackluster things people had to say about it. Don’t spend too much time in Windhoek, there’s really nothing to see. This was the general consensus amongst just about everyone I consulted with. It’s a good thing I take all advice with the proverbial grain of salt. Because while I can agree that most of Namibia’s beauty exists outside of its particularly modern capital city, I was happy to discover gems like Windhoek Game Camp, which certainly had plenty for me to see and experience.
Located about 20 minutes outside of the city, the family owned establishment was a welcome alternative to the standard hotels available in the city. Though I didn’t need much convincing, the promise of glamping in luxuriously decorated self-catered "tents" while still being surrounded by the stillness of nature was all I needed to know to make a reservation; especially when paired with an extremely affordable price tag and warm customer service. The highlight of the camp, however, came after I met Kapi, the social giraffe that was born on the property and bottle fed by the owners. It was precisely the way I’d envisioned starting off my Namibian adventure.
After settling into our tent, I listened as my sister told me about all the encounters she’d already had with Kapi (thanks to all my missed flights, I arrived a day later than she did). How he slowly walked right up to the deck while she ate breakfast the morning before. How he patiently posed for her as she captured endless amounts of photos. How she got to interact with and pet him as he fed from the nearby Akasia trees. I was happy for her and wanted to let her finish…but I couldn't hide the pangs of jealousy I felt in the moment; devastated mostly by the thought that I‘d missed out on these once in a lifetime opportunities. I knew it wasn't her fault, but the unfortunate combination of envy and jet lag turned me into quite the sour patch kid (sorry Eposi, you know I didn't mean it!).
Once the owners found out I was disappointed (or being a brat depending on if you ask my sister), they kindly offered to take us on a safari-style drive through the property. Riding in the back of an open 4x4, we watched excitedly as warthogs, springbok, and oryx stared back blankly at us. I was pleasantly surprised to later see Kapi and his (antisocial) brother grazing nearby. This was my chance!
Filled with excitement in that moment, I stopped paying attention to my surroundings - a rookie mistake that left me with a bloody face after I clumsily went face-first into a heavily thorned cactus. I took it in stride and had no choice but to laugh at myself, considering it was likely my bad karma for being so spiteful to my sister earlier. Finally presented with the opportunity I thought I’d missed, I was thrilled to interact so closely with him. That is, until he started drooling uncontrollably into my hair.
While the entire experience was extremely delightful, especially through the warmth and care of the owners, it was most uncomfortable to be warned about Hitler, the aggressive bull-mastiff tasked with guarding the property. He was apparently trained to attack intruders, so we were told he would not take well to us because he had been known to only attack black people. Umm what? We thankfully never made Hitler’s acquaintance, but did enjoy meeting Spotty, the lovable Jack Russell terrier that relentlessly followed us around.
I ended the day reading on our deck and enjoying the solitude our tent afforded us. As I watched the sun set, I was delighted to see the sky transform into a sight akin to something out of The Lion King. Remember how brightly the night sky shone during the scene when Simba, Timon, and Pumba debated what stars are made of? I know it's cheesy to say, but the sky somehow managed to look even better that.
P.S. – Choosing to shoot most of my trip on my manual camera was a major risk. What a relief it was to see how the images turned out once I was back home and the film was developed. I can’t begin to imagine how devastating it would have been to be go all the way to Namibia only to come back and be stuck with black blobs of nothingness as memories instead. I’d like to think my risk paid off :)
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