Sunday, March 30, 2014

Report # 91 Safari March 30, 2014 Sunday

We woke up suddenly to one of the strangest animal noises we have ever heard at 4 am in the morning. It was like a loud, sharp scream, and it kept up for half an hour or so. It sounded more like it was coming from the trees over our room, but the way sound travels, you never know the direction let alone the source. Suspecting it had something to do with the female leopard that came through the camp yesterday, we decided it may not be wise to go outside our room with a flashlight to try to spot the animal. Oh well, we did not need the alarm clocks set this morning.

We were up and ready to go by the time our guide arrived with the hot water pot. Asking him what the noise was, he said it was a female vervet monkey. She was perched in the tree above our room, and had sounded the alert because she did indeed spot the leopard near the camp. And she had good reason, because this same leopard had taken several of her family and friends since last year.

The two couples we had with us on the game drives were due to leave the camp this morning, so they chose to sleep in, forgoing the drive. That meant we would have the vehicle to ourselves until more folks arrived. That was good, because we could go wherever we wished and see what the guide had not shown us yet. No compromising. Our first sighting was that of a lone hyena, who literally walked right to our Land Rover. 

Oh no, watch out for the hyena
Jeffrey said that he was probably looking for a leopard or lion kill from the previous evening. These animals are known for stealing what is left of a kill. Here is an interesting fact. The hyena have learned to associate the vehicles with locating a kill. We are also looking for these sightings, and the hyena know it. If they follow us, they may find the kill easier. Good thinking.

The herd of impala does were exactly in the same meadow, cavorting with the bucks. They will be coming into season soon, and judging from the buck's behavior, it should be very soon. We witness the same type of behavior with the deer at home in California. 


Notice the "M" markings on their's for McDonalds
Come to think of it, we have already witnessed the bull elephants and rhino getting frisky, as they like to display their "manhood" for the world to see. Never ceases to draw many amusing comments from the guests, especially the ladies.

As the sun came up on the horizon, we saw it was the color of an orange. Must be due to smoke in the atmosphere, but it sure was neat. 

Dense brush with the sun rising

The most unusual orange sunrise
It seemed to stir the birds to fly such as the lilac roller, a black-billed korhaan, and yellow and red hornbills. These birds resemble a small toucan, but their bills look like bananas. 

Lilac breasted roller, actually the country bird of Botswana

Can see why, he is pretty
Lilac breasted roller in flight

Yellow beaked hornbill

Hamerkop bird....likes to eat toads
Black-billed korhaan bird

Korhaan bird
A large male warthog appeared from the brush, complete with red and yellow beaked oxpecker birds on his back. These little birds help clean the large animals of parasites, like tics and fleas. However, they can also keep wounds open as they like to pick at the meat and blood of the animal and pull out hair as well.

Large male warthog
Curious wildebeest

Herd of wildebeest

Striped sided

Tree squirrel

Kenneth and Mary Ann at bush coffee stop
Black starlings are like a small crow, but when the sun hits them, they reflect a deep turquoise color. While examining a termite mound and learning how they are built, two hyenas popped out. 

Termite mound
Flock of helmeted guinea fowl

Blue headed ones are males
Guinea fowl, the other alarm birds, sounded their screech when they saw the hyenas. None of this phased the mama rhino with her 4 month old baby in tow. The little guy was cute, as he clung to his mom.

Female rhino with 4 month old baby boy

Baby boy

She is very out
A waterhole

Time for breakfast, we headed back to the lodge. Yesterday we had met an elderly couple, who had been here for a week already. They are from Great Britain and come here almost every year. The only game drive they do is the evening drive with Joseph. They have the vehicle to themselves, because they do not always feel like staying out until 7:30pm. Joseph will drive them back when they have had enough. Anyway, they told us an amusing story about not completely closing their sliding screen door to their room last year. One or more of the vervet monkeys figured out how to open the door enough to get into the room. Who knows how long they were in there, but when the couple came back, they found every instant coffee packet, sugar, and chocolate opened up all over the floor. They had gotten into their luggage and spread stuff around the room. The monkeys also had put their hands all over the huge mirror over the headrest of the sleigh bed. Little critters are really naughty if given the chance.

After finishing a hearty breakfast once again, we were surprised to see a herd of 10 kudu parading across the field beyond the dining room. Once again, the large males were chasing the does, even though the girls were having none of it. They spend all of their time grazing and watching last year's babies.

Female kudu

Kudu buck as seen from the lodge at breakfast

He was chasing does

Herd of females

Male kudu, but younger

On the run

Another kudu chasing does

She may be interested

Checking it out
Bush walk with Joseph leading Emily and John
It was time for another bush walk, and Joseph was doing it again today. This time, it was only us that went, and we spent more time talking African politics, poaching problems, hunting, and game rules at the camps. While we headed up the dirt road, we all saw a small herd of impala running. 

Impala buck
Open fields
Joseph was not concerned about that, but said we should wonder why these animals were running. Usually means they are being stalked, which means we could be stalked as well. Since Joseph was packing the rifle, we felt safe enough. We were back to the lodge by 12:30pm, and happy to get our fill of ice cold soda and iced tea.

It may have been easy to lay low in our room, but the beautiful infinity pool was beckoning us to take a dip. Joining the kids Emily and John, we found the water to be heavenly. What was even nicer were the heavily padded chaise lounges we used to take in some sunbathing. Perfect place for a quick nap too. We could have spent a lot more time here, but remember, we had to use the afternoon time for showering and shaving.

Infinity pool

Swimming the laps
Swimming pool

The spa

Pool house
Lion print in the cement while pool was being made
Backside of the camp

Some of the units

The gift shop
With that accomplished, we went to lunch at 3pm. Lunch is more like a tea. Small plates of sandwich type foods are brought to you, and included in the mix were three types of cheese with crackers, ham and salami slices. Some days they have pizza slices and other days there were quiches. Their mixed salad was delicious with a lemon and olive oil dressing seasoned with a little sugar and Italian spices. Dessert is always good with homemade cookies and cakes with sliced fruit. Bottles of ice tea and ice water are always on each table. Thanks to some advice given to us by our cruise buddy Martha, we know to consume something salty. Salami, ham, cheeses, and crackers fill the bill. And once again, restricting your fluid intake helps keep you from having emergency stops in the bush. In fact, they cannot stop just anywhere, and you have to wait until "sundowner" time to get any relief.

The workout room at the bush camp

Mary Ann waiting for the PM drive
Our afternoon drive would not be private, since we got new people. Three couples joined us, and we figured they were parents traveling with their daughter and son and their significant others, probably in their 20's. Judging from their accent we would say they were British, and not all that friendly. They had also been here previously and seemed to know all the staff well. On the plus side, they loved seeing the bird life as much as we do. The downside was that the vehicle was crowded now with three sitting on the back row, and the two couples in the other seats. Lucky for me, I held my spot in the front seat.

Lots of dead trees for firewood
Grazing trees

Some ready to fall
Playful impala
We had lots of sightings this evening. Can you believe we saw all of the Big Five in three hours tonight? Starting with a Cape buffalo, we saw two adult rhino with a year old baby, that mewed like a kitten. 


Baby is one year old and cried like a kitten

Another mother rhino with baby

Red-beaked oxpeckers on rhino

Wide mouth is why they are called "white" rhino
In the air, we spotted a red-backed shrike, more hornbills, colorful rollers, and the goaway bird, who makes a noise that sounds like "go away". 

Red-backed shrike

Shrike flying away
Orange-beaked hornbill
Grey goaway bird
Goaway lorie
We thought the three elephants were exciting, until we saw the six lionesses with two male lions laying in the grass. 

We almost missed them. Our tracker never saw them in the tall green grass, but one of the fellows with us did see the creamy color of their coat as we flew by them.

As powerful as these animals are in the bush, they look like big household kitties that like to sleep the day away. They could care less that we were there within feet of them. None of them had babies, because according to our guide, they lost them all one by one to predators, sickness, and other big cats. Life is tough for them in that respect. Our driver stayed for his allotted 5 minutes, enough time for us to take copious amounts of photos.

Lions again

I'm watching you....

Too lazy to get up

Always watchful

Buried in the grass

Listening, not watching

More vehicles coming

Do they care?  No.

Let's move

Do I have to move?


Just roll over

The view is better this way

Ah, that feels good

More Land Rovers to come

Oh no, they are here again

Guess we got to move

Not again?

Maybe this will scare them

Oh this surely will

I'm leaving

OK, we're outta here

Darn people

Smelling the breeze

This meadow has lost its charm

Follow that scent

Last to go

I'm coming soon
Continuing on, we passed two elephants, an eagle owl, and baboons.....two big, mean-looking males with a couple dozen females, all with babies hanging onto them. 

Bull elephant
Foraging elephant

Eagle owl
They were in the exact same meadow as last year, taking refuge in a huge tree off the road we we approached. They seemed to be fighting and nipping at each other all the way to the tree.

A troop of chacma baboons

Baboons with babies

One big male
This was a good place to stop for sundowners, where we were promised "doubles", since we missed last night's cocktails. Actually, every night doubles were there for your taking, since they are most generous with their hospitality. Three beers and one white wine later, all the men found their bush to go, while the ladies refrained.

Sundowners with new people - parents and 2 kids, and their significant others

Sundowner's snacks
On the way back to camp, we were in for a surprise. Jeffery had a call that directed him and all of the other vehicles to see something special. Never saying an animal by name, they have codes like marula (elephant) or mandela (perhaps a cat). A gut feeling told us we were going to see a leopard. Jeffery kept mute on that, because if they slip into the bush, we would be dissappointed. Well, we were correct. Not only a leopard, but a huge healthy male was strutting across the road, through the trees, oblivious to the many trucks chasing him. He was gorgeous, majestic, a creature to be most admired. And dangerous. Although the daylight had left us long ago, the lights from the truck lamps gave us enough light to snap photos and even video as he slipped out of sight into Mala Mala, the place we are not allowed to venture. That sure made our night.

Male leopard as seen in the dark

Had to use spotlight

Got very close to fear at all
It was getting late, so Jeffrey floored it, passing by a waterbuk, a duiker, and three rhino in a mud pond. They are not allowed to light up any animals that are hunted by the meat eaters. But they can put the light on the predators sometimes. We will explain this further tomorrow.

Young male waterbuck

Grey duiker

While we were waiting for dinner and enjoying more beverages, we talked about what we may have missed today on the ship with Margaret and Keith. It was the morning that Archbishop Tutu held a Sunday Eucharist at 9am in the Queens Lounge. The Soweto Gospel Choir accompanied his service, and must have been an unforgettable experience. Because they are professionals, none of their performances could be televised. We hope that Tutu included prayers for the passengers and crew that have been missing for almost a month now on that mysterious flight from Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps when we get back to the ship, there will be some more news. Hope it is good. Also, Tutu's second speaking engagement took place, as well as the Mariner Appreciation cocktails in the Queens Lounge. The evening was formal and the Gala Dinner included complimentary African wines. They supplied music in the dining room orchestra pit by the group Amabush, with the sounds of the African Marimbas. Guess this was one of the major days of the Grand Visit.

Table set for 16 tonight
BBQ fire

Time to get ready for dinner

Important to keep hydrated

Black Label is a local beer
Dinner began at 8pm on the dot. It included cream of asparagus soup, wines, and an excellent salad. This would have been enough for dinner......a grilled portabello mushroom with a mixture of sauteed onions, veggies, and bacon under it. On the top was a slice of melted cheedar cheese. Oh, so good. The buffet table was set with more green salads, roasted ptatoes, and chicken masala in a stew pot. The little spotted genet peeked his head around the corner, looking for a piece of that chicken. He was unsuccessful tonight, because they had put a lid on it. He is the neatest little cat in the bush. A slice of cheesecake followed the ample meal along with a shot of amarula. We all finished by 10pm, tucked in bed by 10:30pm. We slept soundly until three am when we were awakened by.........RAIN!!

To be continued...............

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