We‘re up before the 5:45AM wakeup call and quickly gather our things for the morning drive. The weather has turned cold and rainy and we bundle up with layers of clothing and thick wool blankets on the truck.
At first only the birds are active, very active in a loud cacophonous competition known as a bird party – each species of bird squawking at the top of their little lungs, vying for a better ranking in the bird-hierarchy.
We spot several large raptors, a tawny eagle and a type of vulture, but not much else before we break for much needed hot coffee and biscuits. Warmed, we head out again and stop for the occasional small herd of impala and then a herd of about eight female elephants and their young. One is just a couple of months old with a smallish and young mother. Mike thinks this is her first calf. The elephants seem more curious than bothered by our presence wandering closer to the Land Rover to get a better look at us.
Even the young mother approaches leaving her baby to follow on his own, trunk in the air and his big ears flapping as he trundles past the vehicle to keep up with his mum.
Back at Camp
Back at camp we are fed a proper breakfast of eggs, mini loaves of a zucchini orange bread, sausage, grilled tomatoes and grilled onions. We compare notes of animal sightings with the other group and say goodbye to our new friends. This is the last day for everyone except us. We’ll meet the next round of guests at lunch.
Shortly before 3PM we gather again in the dining hall and meet our new safari companions – a young couple from Belgium and another couple from the US – a Brit married to an American living in Chicago. A light lunch is served – green salad, bean and cheese samosas, a pile of shredded cheese and crackers. Lunch is quick, just enough time to exchange pertinent bio information and itineraries before jumping on the Land Rover for the afternoon safari.
With only eight guests we take just one vehicle with Sam driving and Mike sitting up front in the spotter chair reading tracks and scouring the landscape for signs of life.
Although we were primarily searching for the elusive lion we stopped for a small herd of giraffe, one very pregnant; several types of birds, including more big raptors; a distant rhino; and a rare species, the water buck, so named because it heads for the safety of water to escape predators.
Mike spots fresh hyena and wild dog tracks but just a little too late to spy the actual animals who left them. The sky continues to threaten rain spitting at us from time to time and drastically dropping the air temperature. Thank goodness for the warm blankets.
Sundowners at hill top. Too chilly for cold drinks, but the salty chips taste good. As we climb back in the Land Rovers to start the night drive a radio call comes in from camp saying that they hear lions roaring just north of the camp. Sam tells us to hold on as he is going to drive just a “little bit fast”. Sitting In the back row which sits higher than the other rows of seats, the race back to camp on bumpy dirt roads over rolling hills feels more like a roller coaster ride than a drive through the African savannah.
By the time we reach camp the sun is nearly gone. Mike pulls out the spot light, quickly darting the beam from one side of the road to the other and up the taller trees. We continue like this in silence for more than an hour. The trees glow white in the headlights, but there is no sign of lions. Finally the urgent mood fades and we stop to watch some smaller creatures – genet cat, bush baby, and dicker before heading back to camp. No lion tonight.
Katy, the darling cook, with timid pride in her voice announces dinner – beef pie (beef stew in pastry), butternut squash, creamed spinach, rice, “and for dessert, mmm.” “Mmm” turns out to be a moist fruit cake topped with a pudding sauce.
September 22, 2011
For links to all the posts in this series see the South Africa page.