29 June 2012

Day 2, Sunday: Safari drive

Our deep sleep is broken by the sound of an alarm. 5:15 am! Time to get up and go on a safari drive! A quick sip of instant coffee and a Cliff bar, and we are off.

We climb in the Ford Ranger at 6 am. The back of this 4WD truck is fitted with seats, open to the air. On each seat is a heavy fleece poncho and a windbreaker poncho. Tonia says to don them both - it's going to be cold! We pull them on, dubiously, over our long pants and jackets. (Isn't Africa hot?)

Andrew, our local guide, tells us that, behind his seat in the truck, there is a rifle. Okaaay.

It's dark out. We take off through the bush. Bush is certainly the word for this vegetation. Mostly small trees, small bushes, large bushes, and grasses. Grasses just like we have seen in nature movies about lions.

The sky slowly lightens. Our hands and faces freeze in the wind as we bump up and down the jeep trails. I sniff the air, and find it smells of animals . . . and soon we enter a clearing with two black rhinoceros.

black rhinos
black rhino

These black rhinos are roaming freely in the preserve, but they are guarded 24 hours a day by armed militia. Poachers are shot, no ifs, ands or buts. The black rhino is a critically endangered species, largely because the horn is used in Chinese medicine to aid male sexual stamina. Poachers kill black rhinos and take only the horn, which is worth tens of thousands of dollars. Note in the photo that the larger rhino's horn has been pared down; this is to prevent the poachers from killing the animal for it's horn.

Right next to the black rhinos were a couple cape buffalo.

cape buffalo
Note the redbilled oxpickers that are on the cape buffalo in the photo below. These birds eat the ticks off the buffalo.
cape buffalo

Scroll to the bottom of this blog post for a short movie of the cape buffalo.

The photo below shows the jeep trail we were on. Note the vegetation - it shows why bush is called bush.

safari jeep trail

The next photo is a black jackal that I was lucky enough to get in the photo. He was skulking quickly back into the bush, but glanced back briefly at the crazy humans in the jeep.

black jackal

We saw different kinds of birds:
brown snake eagle
brown snake eagle

marabou storks
marabou storks


And we saw zebras:

I liked watching baboons but I don't think they take great photos. They kind of blend into the background.


We got close to an impala:


After a couple hours, cold but excited, we came back to our lodge for a proper breakfast. Famished, we loaded our plates from the buffet of fresh fruit salad, cheeses, sliced meats, rolls, breads, dried fruits, and cereals. When we sat down at our table, we were asked "Would you like some eggs? How would you like them cooked? Toast with that? Ham, sausage, or bacon?" Thus began the "fattening up" of the tour members.

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