“Katie, look! A dik-dik!”
“I don’t see it, where?”
“There, running away into the woods.”
And thus went what seemed like the first hour of my “game drive” through Awash National Park, located a few hours’ drive from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
(By the way, a dik-dik is a small animal that kind of looks like a mini deer).
In reality, we spotted two oryx next to the side of the road almost as soon as we left Awash Lodge. My driver slowed and, since they were on the driver’s side, he let me slip out of our truck to try to get better pictures. Despite warnings in the lodge that visitors were supposed to remain in their vehicles, my driver didn’t seem to care.
But after the oryx, our trail went cold. We drove and drove and drove as I squinted out my window, looking for any signs of life among the dry bush. Every now and then, the conversation above would repeat itself, increasing my disappointment exponentially each time.
And then suddenly, up ahead of our truck, I finally saw movement! It was a baboon! And then another baboon! And another one! I was soon completely engrossed in watching the fun animals hustle up and down trees, chase each other around or just saunter back and forth, oblivious to the sound of my camera snapping away.
After that first baboon sighting, there seemed to be animals everywhere! Warthogs on the left! Oryx on the right! A rare kudu straight ahead! My driver was ecstatic about the kudu, telling me he almost never spots them. They are apparently very shy animals and it was impossible to get a good photo as the three or four we saw were always behind trees and quickly ran off once I got out of the truck.
Altogether, we drove for three hours around the park and I saw multiple oryx, kudu, gazelle, warthogs, baboons, guinea fowl, dik-diks and tortoises. While it wasn’t quite the thrill that I’m sure a “big five” safari would have, it was still pretty cool to see all these animals in their natural habitat for the first time.
After the drive, we returned to the lodge and took a walk down by the waterfall, where we spotted several crocodiles bathing in the sun. They blended in quite well with their surroundings so I almost didn’t see them at first! Luckily, they were all on the opposite side of the small lagoon from me – I’m not sure what I would’ve done if they had been on my side!
Shortly before noon, it was time to move on and start the long drive back to Addis Ababa. Like my visit to Harar, I left Awash National Park wishing I had more time there.