The Big Five
The day begins in the usual way, with the town crier coming by at 5:45 to wake us for 6:00 coffee. Way aheadaya dude. I was pouring myself coffee by 5:40.
One of the guides, an obsessive, managerial fellow, heard a lion in the distance at 2:00AM and immediately set off to find it. He didn't, but what he did do is determine that two lions had made a kill, and a hyena had stolen it. Damn hyenas again. So the place was abuzz with rumors of lions and hyenas in the hood, and finding them became goal #1 this morning.
We were not successful, even after a couple of hours hunting. We did see a few new birds (yawn) and some antelope, of which there are many varieties. We saw Kudu, Nyala, Waterbuck, and Steenbuck this morning. Beyond that, not even a zebra was sighted. ("Zebra" rhymes with "Debra" here) Mid-drive we stopped and had coffee. The barista made me a mocha out of instant coffee and instant cocoa. Whatever works. There was not a cloud in the sky and it was beginning to get warm. It would become hot later.
Failing to find the neighborhood lion/hyena combatants, the guide drove us to an old termite mound that is currently occupied by an established clan of hyenas. (I love animal group names, like a tower of giraffes, or a business of mongooses, or a dazzle of zebras) Obviously, this hyena condo was the guide's ace in the hole (pun intended) - when all else fails, take the tourists to the hyena exhibit. It worked. We were all amazed to be able to watch them in their own habitat, from no more than 20 feet away. We saw that one of them was hurt, a large gash on her back. Maybe a lion did it?
On the road again when the guide receives a call (the guides have constant radio contact with each other) and he makes a sharp about face, then drives up a narrow path where we encounter another vehicle leaving the area. There is a pride of lions established on a wide spot in the road, on some private land, and the owner has given us permission to view them. There were five of them and we were able to get within 20 feet and just watch. How can that be? Same reason as before, the lions have seen the non-jeeps many times and they have never been threatened or hurt by them. However, humans had better remain seated with all appendages well within the vehicle, otherwise the lion might detect a predator.
Once home, the routine of mid-day begins. A big brunch is followed by siesta time and then a big lunch is served. At 3:30 the evening game drive begins. The goal this evening is to find the rhinos that I missed the first evening (while sick). The guide tells us that a couple of trackers are looking for them. We set off to see what we can see and mostly it's birds and antelopes. When the guide is notified of a herd of Cape Buffalo nearby, we drive to the purported location and there they are - not as big a herd as we saw on the Chobe, but fun to watch nonetheless. We take off and drive some more (birds & antelopes, birds & antelopes) and then another call comes in. The rhinos have been spotted!
It's getting near Sun Downer time but we need to postpone the cocktail hour in order to have a bit of daylight left to view rhinos. Several miles later, in a clearing deep in the bush, are five of them grazing. There was just enough light for just enough time to get pictures - and then they wandered off. With that, I have seen The Big Five: Leopard, Lion, Cape Buffalo, Elephant, Rhinoceros!!!!!!!
After dinner this evening we were entertained by some of the staff who sang and danced to honor another one of our group who is celebrating a birthday. Of course, the honoree was called up to dance a few steps, and then I was. Maybe they could tell that I wished it was MY birthday. Or maybe it was that little glistening in my eye because I love those voices so much. I know right now that Amazon.com is gonna get some more business from me as soon as I get home.