Monday, July 28, 2008
O-M-G! Safari Day 2
Off for our very early lion hunt at 5:30 am – no sun at that point (did I mention that it was cold without the sun??) Here’s the outfit: long sleeve shirt, fleece pullover, fleece vest, fleece jacket, windbreaker/raincoat, jeans, two pairs of socks, and a hat – eventually, Shawn loaned me her gloves, too, oh yes, and a wool blanket. Aside from my cheeks, I was pretty toasty. OK – perhaps it was overkill, but I wasn’t complaining about being cold which, as most of you know, is my modus operandi.
We were the first ones on the road (there are probably 4 different vendors that are driving the park – seemed like maybe 8-12 game vehicles at any given time). Cruising out to the place where the lions had been reported, we saw MORE elephants (well the same ones just in a different spot). We hung out there for awhile again and then off we went. The sun started coming up so Shawn was able to start looking for tracks on the road, too. Eventually she spotted a track. We were all gazing into the distance looking for anything that resembled a lion (and in a park filling with rocks and boulders, lots of things do), when she slams on the breaks and there is “Kitamese” not more than 10 feet in front of us and walking right past us. Kitamese is a male with a magnificent mane. He was walking away from us toward a dam where, it turns out, two of his sons were with a wildebeest kill. We watched as long as we could before losing him in the brush and then went over to the dam. We saw the two adolescent males playing with each other, and eventually saw Kitamese stroll over the ridge. Each of the boys separately ran over to him and did what can only be described as face nuzzling. Then dad walked over to the kill, grabbed this wildebeest and startes dragging him into the shade – it was his meal now. The sons were none too happy about that and tried to stop him but he shooed them away. I bet he dragged that carcass about 200 yards. He would stop and rest about every 10 yards or so. And then he was gone. Wow! Time to head back after that with our usual assortment of impala (very common), zebras, elephants, giraffes, and wildebeest…with a couple of warthogs thrown in, too. We got to the road taking us to our lodge and there were two rhinos blocking the road. They let us get right up to them. They stopped to check us out but eventually just moved on so we could get through. We never felt scared being so close to the animals. Shawn would talk us through each encounter to explain what to do and what to look for to know we were safe – various things from their demeanor to the look in their eyes, etc. So we’re back at the lodge now…must be time to eat!
We said goodbye to our Utah friends and had some time to rest, shower, read, nap. There is a watering hole outside of the lodge that was frequented by animals. When we got here on Friday, there was a giraffe munching away on a tree, and today, there were lots of zebra (which rhymes with Debra) and wildebeests just hanging out.
We had new trip companions on the afternoon drive – a couple, one from France and one from Italy. Off we go and what do we see? Elephants – same group but they were moving further away. Shawn got us access to a private road so we had them all to ourselves – another indescribable experience. Truly…you just can’t imagine what it’s like to be surrounded by a herd of elephants. On this trip, we were also introduced to kudu, springbok, and red heartabeest, which is the second fastest in the antelope family. Then, more unintelligible Afrikaans over the radio and off we go. She wouldn’t tell us what we were chasing, but whatever it was, it was on the move. We go to one spot – nothing. A second spot – nothing. More Afrikaans and off to a third spot before she finally tells us they’ve spotted the cheetah (the one and only cheetah in the park). She finds it in her binocs, but it’s far away and dusk out. We go to a spot where everyone thinks it’s heading (there were about 5 other vehicles there) and…no cheetah. No one knows where it went, but it disappeared. By now it’s dark – more Afrikaans on the radio, and off we go. This time we learn that we’re on a lion hunt, and once again, Shawn was the one to find them…a male and a female. We tracked them for awhile as they moved parallel to the road we were on and then we moved up to the spot where they were going to cross the road. We had a front-row seat to the lioness roaring several times – calling for her family and the majestic male following her. As they say here, we were all quite chuffed (happy). Back to the lodge – more eating (I never made it past the 4th course and that was with only eating about ½ of what was on my plate). The thing I tried tonight was springbok carpaccio – not my favorite although I couldn’t get past the fact that I was eating raw meat. I had a couple of bites, though…
What a day!