Friday, 8 July 2011 – Bush, day 1
Today we woke up at 5:00 for our first safari, or game drive. We left just as the sun was coming up, and it was still absolutely freezing – something we were totally unprepared for. Shivering, we left camp in our open safari truck, turned onto the paved road to the park entrance and right away spotted a small herd of impala. I blurted ‘Look!’, but the driver seemed fairly disinterested. He calmly told me to relax myself, and that there would be plenty more where those came from. Sure enough, in the 1km drive to the gate, we saw maybe 50, plus many other small grazers, and hippos in the river just before the gate.
The next four hours were spectacular. As we drove around the dusty roads of the park, we were seeing wildlife everywhere. More impressive than the diversity of large mammals is the number in which they occur. They were everywhere – herds of impala, puku, bushbuck, and water buck were grazing in the chilly morning air, while giraffes picked at the tops of the trees. We spotted elephants, and even a small group of warthogs.
About an hour into the park, we climbed down from the truck and headed off on foot into the bush with an armed scout, to search for animals, their tracks, and perhaps most of all, their poo. We saw loads of it. After an hour or so we heard lions on the other side of a small dried lagoon bed, so we decided to approach closer in the truck. When we arrived on the other side, we could only see a large troop of baboons on the lagoon (only a troop of baboons!), but after a few minutes, a beautiful young male lion emerged from the bush, lazily walking past the monkeys. Another three lions descended upon the lagoon, and we watched them walk out of sight, clearly in charge of this section of the bush. It was exhilarating!
Later, in the afternoon, we saw something really great. Driving down a path we spotted a lioness with three cubs, and she let us approach close enough to watch her cubs rolling around in the dust before us. Watching her and her cubs was, needless to say, a wonderful experience, but we eventually decided to continue exploring. A further 200m down the path were a number of vultures in the trees, a sure sign, our guide told us, that there was a fresh kill about. Sure enough, a young male lion was guarding a freshly taken buffalo. He appeared to be almost in pain for eating so much, and was laying on his back next to his kill, completely indifferent to our presence and prying eyes. We continued on into the night, finishing off the day’s hunt with sightings of mongoose, crocodile, civet, and a bush baby. Leopards are relatively common in this particular park, so that was something we looked for, although we weren’t lucky enough to spot one. In just one day, I saw more animals than I ever imagined possible. I can’t wait for tomorrow!