Where Nature and Technology Collide

I woke up this morning and, in real-time, watched an elephant drink from a waterhole. A giraffe, haloed by the sun, captivated my attention. I didn’t even have to leave my home or change out of my oh-so-comfy pajamas to see any of this. The free website, africam.com, offers people all over the world the opportunity to witness the many intriguing and unique animals on their reserve. I am fascinated (and slightly obsessed)!

Sure, I could Google or search for videos of these animals on YouTube, but there is something magical about seeing these animals live and unedited. These magnificent creatures are doing their animal thing in the present moment, without humans around, and anyone with a screen and decent wifi connection can watch. It’s almost as cool as actually being there. Almost.

On this website (which accepts donations and does offer paid experiences), there are so many cool features. There are 8 live cameras set up around conservation reserves, and you can switch between them as you like. They even update the video snapshot every 30 seconds for the videos you aren’t watching. That way, if something comes onto the screen, you can switch over.

How cool is it to watch, in real-time, something living on the other side of the world? I once saw two lions that were covered in blood as they had just finished eating. I didn’t see what they had eaten (thank god), but I like to imagine it was poachers. I’ve watched baboons perch in a tree over a crocodile-infested river (though infested sounds harsh, doesn’t it?) to protect themselves from predators at night. Of course, I’m always afraid that one would get startled and fall out into the river. That’s a side of the animal world I don’t want to see! I watch them through my fingers as though Freddy Krueger might pop out at any moment.

Do you know what pure joy is?  Gazelle youngsters, that’s what. Gazelle youngsters are such a pleasure to watch as they leap around and play, not a care in the world. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and driving their herd crazy while they’re at it. It’s just a joyful thing to witness. No lions allowed, thank you very much.

The sounds of the birds and insects are very soothing as well. Usually. At times, it’s a raucous cacophony. Sometimes a mammal can be heard before it is seen. The camera pans around to find where the sound is coming from, sometimes finding it, sometimes not. The search, whether successful or not, is exciting.

africam photos slide

Once I heard a loud rumbling and expected to see a Jumanji style stampede burst into view. It turned out to be a safari-type jeep, tourists in tow, off on an adventure. Lucky them! I’ll admit, I’m just a little jealous. Okay, a lot jealous.

Don’t get too excited about seeing a rhino on live camera, though. When rhinos appear, the camera immediately cuts out or gets turned away (a sad but needed strategy to avoid alerting poachers to their whereabouts). I apparently turned on my screen at a time when the camera operator was taking a bathroom break or chatting with a co-worker. I watched the rhino for a few minutes before the camera was suddenly jerked away. I was left staring at a pole (an overcompensation, I imagine, before the operator caught their breath and shifted the camera again to a rhino-free grassy section of the view). I bet they didn’t leave their post again for a while.

If waiting around for an animal to appear on screen is not in your schedule, they also have video highlights. These play in a more digestible time frame for our present-day hustle and bustle culture. These are exciting as well, though they aren’t quite as suspenseful as the live cameras.

Still, the videos are a pleasure to watch; a hyena licking the camera (swear to god, you could see down his throat!), baboons and impalas sharing a waterhole inhabited by frogs, beautiful birds building nests, bull elephants trying to impress the ladies, and even a dung beetle pushing a ball of poop up a hill and comically tumbling back down with it.

You can take snapshots of anything you see, save them to your gallery, and share them with the Africam community. Or you can watch ranger videos to learn more about the animals. I also learned about the Black Mambas, the first all-female anti-poaching group. I know, right!?  Awesome!

With its roaming animals and soothing nature sounds, this site brings such pleasure to quiet moments. It helps remind me there is a whole, magical existence out there that I have yet to see. Someday I hope to (so long as I’m in a covered vehicle because, you know, lions…).