The African Safari – Day 4

Breakfast was served at 7:30 again, and this time we were joined for breakfast by some young nyala at the water near our breakfast deck. R and I would be dropped off at the nearest petrol station and wait for Adam, our guide for the day, to come from the other lodge with four other guests before we entered the park through the Orpen Gate again. Adam is a guide first, driver second, so this day we would learn more about the animals and surroundings than we had the day before.
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After the usual suspects of some antelopes, zebras, a couple of ostriches, it didn’t take long for us to see our first herd of elephants. All of us in the jeep had seen elephants on this trip already, and on previous trips for some of us, but as we sat there for 10 minutes, sometimes taking photos, sometimes just watching move mere inches, it was like we were seeing them for the first time. One of the English guys sitting in the row ahead of me, when asked why he came on safari, offered this simple reply, “I just want to watch Planet Earth.” And that is what we did.
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We passed a different watering hole this time, Adam’s journey through the park taking us to new pastures. A herd of buffalo were joined by a small pod of hippos, meaning two of the Big 5 had been seen in just over two hours. The day was shaping up to be outstanding.
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There are times on safari drives when all you do is drive. You hope the people on the opposite side of the jeep are keeping their eyes peeled for anything to see, to photograph, to learn about. You can go minutes, sometimes hours without seeing anything other than yet another herd of impala. Some people find this tedious. I don’t. I could drive around on safari all day every day. Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that on most days I prefer animals to people. Just being out on a drive, the breeze bouncing through the open-air jeep, the sounds unfamiliar and quiet, or well-known and loud, the slightest snippet of movement all offering hope that another prized sighting has arrived. And to me, they are all prized sightings.
We turn off the tarmac onto a smaller gravel road that weaves beside a dried out riverbed. Every kilometer or so there are little turnouts where you can park and scan the riverbed below. We drive into each one, each one yielding little more than an outstanding view of the scenery below. We pull out of the third one and bump down the road when a shout comes from the back of the jeep on the opposite side to me, “cat”. Adam slams on the brakes and we all look behind us to see a tail slink into the bushes. Adam reverses to where the cat went in. We all know it’s a leopard. Lions don’t slink. The leopard is even more finicky than the one the day before. He rarely makes an appearance, making photographing him impossible. But at least we all get a good look at him. For the briefest of moments the six of us in the back of the jeep and Adam share silence as the leopard peers out from a bush along the bank, his nose shining. And just like that, he is gone. We reverse further, but we cannot find him again. Still, the most elusive of the Big 5 crossed off our list – and crossed off mine two days in a row.

A little further down this same road we come across a solitary car parked on the edge of the road. We all look around us, spotting nothing. Adam slows down as he approaches. Some conversation happens and then the man in the other car says, “lions down there in the riverbed. You can see them from the bridge.” Adam reverses back towards the bridge, and now we see the line of cars waiting to cross it. When it is our turn, we peer off into the distance. Finally something moves and we can focus on them. I would not have seen them if I was driving by myself.
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We had yet to stop for lunch and all but one member of the Big 5 had been seen. We were still heading to go and see the lions with the giraffe kill from the day before. They would still be there. The giraffe would feed them for a couple of days at least. And when we got there, the giraffe looked a totally different prospect than it had the day before. We tried to count the lions in the area, and we got either 16 or 17, which made this a mega-pride. Now sign of a big male though. A lonely jackal tried his luck at sneaking a piece of giraffe (he was chased off), and the ever-present vultures sat in the safety of the trees while sending random scouts to try and steal tiny morsels.
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Check out the distended belly on her. That’s what giraffe snacks do to lions.

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Can you see the cub inside the giraffe?

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We lunched late, at a smaller site this time, and were entertained by unfortunate people having their things stolen by baboons. Food, a purse, even a camera all ended up in the slippery thieving hands of the baboons. We ate quickly, Adam once having to run to our jeep to keep the baboons from ransacking whatever was left in it. For the record, I didn’t leave a single thing in there.

Needed to be out of the park in less than three hours, we had to stick to the tarmac roads and would only stop sporadically. By now, we had all seen countless zebras, antelopes, giraffes, and birds, but we’d still slow down and gaze at each one. And I would take countless more photos.
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Southern ground hornbill

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The sun was dipping, but we still had enough late for some great photos if the opportunity arose. And in that final hour in the park, we came across a lone elephant with the longest tusks I had ever seen (probably around 50 years old – they can live to around 65 in the wild). And just for good measure, with less than 20 kilometers before the park gate, a rhino was found grazing on the grass. The white rhino is more common than the black rhino seen the day before, but when you hear that three rhinos are killed a day by poachers wanting their horns for Chinese and other traditional medicines, you realize it won’t be long before the only place you’ll see them is in zoos. Two more white rhinos were seen off in the distance a few miles down the road, and for a rousing cap to the day, another group of lions lounging on the far side of a dry river bed. I had seen almost 30 lions on this day. That, to me, is brilliant. And I would have done the same thing all over again the next day.
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However, back at Marc’s Lodge and enjoying another great dinner, it was learned that R and I would indeed get to go to the Moholoholo Rehab Centre the next day. I could not wait. But I think I slept okay.

28 thoughts on “The African Safari – Day 4

  1. Its getting better each day 🙂
    Again the zebra and the elephant photo – too good. I am getting my share of Animal Planet here.

    • Sadly, the journey is almost over. But I’m thinking of just posting some photos as well that people can journey back to if they want.

      • Ah!!! Already ?
        I am not a birds person, I don’t know one bird from the other unless someone points me to it and explains it. But saw some good ones here. I am still a little awestruck on the ‘roller’ bird from yesterday’s (I think) post.

        I am going to use these posts to convince a few more folks for our next year’s safari plan 🙂

      • My previous guide in Africa was a specialist in birds and he really took the time to explain them to me. I have a new appreciation for them now.
        And yes, use these posts to persuade people to safari. They will love it.

    • The breakfast visitor. Thank you for continuing to stop by and read my blog. I’m glad people are liking this recap.

    • He said it so matter of factly too, like it was the only possible reason for going on safari. Not that I disagree or anything.
      And thank you for the comments on the photos.

  2. Read aloud these safari posts to my kids tonight…the cub in the giraffe carcass pics and the baboons stealing human belongings (“you mean they really do that…like in that movie Rio??”) were major hits, Ger. Some young adult fiction adventures based in Africa would be a good follow up to your safari…hmmmm….

    • Interesting … I hadn’t thought of that.
      I’m glad these posts and photos are resonating with audiences of all ages.

  3. What a fun and fascinating vicarious trip. The photos and the tone of your recap – reverence and respect – are just right. If I’m not mistaken, you sound a bit melancholy now that it’s over. If that’s true, thanks all the more for making the effort to share it with us.

      • I’m hoping to post a bunch of photos as well. Maybe that will suffice for now as well.

      • She LOVED the cub and giraffe carcass shots. She’s not queasy; she’s ten now, but she’s been watching PBS nature documentaries since she was 4 or 5, and they usually don’t pull punches. Most recently, she watched a couple of episodes of Sex in the Wild (I think it’s a Nova series) with me – and she handled the graphic portions better than her 45 year old mother!

        I often wonder if someday I am going to need to trek through vast swaths of wilderness to visit her (or, maybe more frightening to me, a fashion runway, because she’s a Daredevil Diva…).

        So glad you’re sharing your journey!

      • I’ve been watching nature shows since around that time too. And I’m as old as her mother (roughly).

      • There were fewer nature shows back then…I remember watching Daktari when I was very small (3 or 4?), and I grew up on Marlon Perkins and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I caught every Jacques Cousteau special I could, and loved the nature documentaries on PBS (still do; watch often with Annalise).

        She has no real idea how lucky she is having access to so many documentaries, not to mention webcams and blogs, and other resources.

        Today she caught (and later released) the frog she’s been aiming for all week. Good times!

      • I tend to buy a lot of nature DVDs these days. I watched a 3 part BBC special on tigers, and how they are hoping the nation of Bhutan can be the link to free movement of the tiger between the Himalayan countries. It was awesome, depressing, beautiful, and ugly all at the same time. I bought the DVD as well.

      • We don’t buy so many DVDs with the advent of Netflix and Amazon Prime in our lives, and PBS on our basic cable package. The plight of the tiger is all the things you say…I hope there is a way to allow these magnificent cats to travel safely as their nature intends.

        Awareness is always helpful.

  4. The second to last photo of the lion family lounging, made my heart seize up for a sec. Such affection. I have so many wonderful memories of observing North American animals (Wyoming,Montana,Canadian Yukon and Alaska). An African safari is definitely on my bucket list now.Also-I did reply to your Dubai comment but I think I replied to myself. Computer says no!

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