Wandering and Wondering

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Animals at last

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Africa is to see and photograph the animals. For the first couple of weeks, however, the only animals we saw were the odd Springbok along the side of the road, and lots of jackals around the campsites (one of which stole one of Adam’s shoes from the front of his tent):

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We discovered a nature reserve by chance when Blair (our tour leader) decided to try a new road. According to the guy at the gate, there was supposed to be some rhinos in the reserve so we decided to take the top off the truck to try and spot them. Other tour companies may have fancier trucks in many other aspects, but I think this is one of the best aspects about our truck. With the top off, we could sit up top and have the sun on our face and the wind in our hair:

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In terms of animals, however, we didn’t really see much. The only rhino we saw was the statue at the exit gate. The next day we came across a big herd of goats and a few baboons, but still none of the “Big 5”:

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We did manage to see some pictures of animals when we visited the Twyfelfontein to view the ancient rock carvings, but still none of the real thing:

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The next day we arrived at a Cheetah Park with a guarantee of getting pretty close to some real live cheetahs, so everyone was pretty excited. We first visited some tame cheetahs that were reared by the owners of the park, and I got closer than I ever thought I would to a live cheetah:

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We then did a drive through the cheetah park where we got to see some wild cheetahs fight over donkey meat thrown to them by the guides:

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The next day we came to Etosha - the first major nature reserve on our itinerary. After driving through the gate and travelling a few hundred meters to the first watering hole, we were greeted with an amazing sight, as hundreds of animals all tried to get a drink:

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After a couple of days driving through the reserve, we had sighted most of the major types of animals:

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Zebras, elephants and giraffe were quite a common sight. Lions were much more elusive. On the first day we saw one at a water hole, but it was much too far away to get a decent photo. This man ignored the warning sign to try and get a bit closer:

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On the next day we saw another lion and a cub and watched them for a while as they stalked a herd of wilderbeast. The lion didn’t have any luck catching any wilderbeast, and neither did I have any luck getting a decent photo (still too far away).

When we entered Etosha, we jumped at the sight of any type of animal, but by the time we left we had become rather blaze. We would drive by a herd of zebras without really bothering to look. A few days after Etosha we entered the Chobe nature reserve in Botswana. We were driving slowly along the main road through the middle of the park for about half an hour without spotting a single animal before we started getting a little bored in the back of the truck and asked Blair to speed up a bit. No sooner did we speed up than we saw a big herd of elephants about to cross the road. Blair slammed on the brakes and did a 180 degree turn, allowing me to get the following snap:

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Apart from the lion, the other animal that has been a bit elusive is the hippo. We have heard lots of them at night in some of our campsites and while in the Okavango delta, but haven’t yet got a really good view of any. The best sighting we had was while we were on a sunset cruise along the Zambezi river, when one hippo gave a nice yawn to show us its jaws. Again, it was too far away for a decent photo.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the animals I’ve had the chance to see so far in Africa. Out of the so called “Big 5” (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant, buffalo), the only animal I haven’t yet seen is the leopard. Hopefully one will show itself on the next leg of the journey.

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