Animal kingdom


The morning elephant drive was cancelled due expected major hangover. I slept in until 9:30am. Yeah, kids. Only when you've been up at 5am every day that you'd call 9:30 "late". The hangover was surprisingly not bad. Thanks to beer. Went to sit in the pool a bit. Read a bit. Then went on the evening drive to check out buffaloes, hyenas, and hippos. The telemetry reading was quite active today. But alas, we only saw hippos, Bambi, and a bunch of birds. Alex then drove us to this gigantic vast open space. Hslulugan clearing something or other. Surrounded by 1000s of animals (zebras, wilderbeests, impalas, kurus, etc), we shut the engine & lights, and for 30 minutes watched the moon rise and listened to the beating sound of noturnal animals under a sea of stars.

Overall today was a day of homosapean observation. I wanted to know why people travel. What effects constant solo traveling make on their view of 'home' and relationships (friends, fam, loved ones, etc). And what they hope to learn, change, or grow from their experiences. The social interaction among people from very varied background put together in a remote place for a short period of time is interesting. We are forced to adapt and accept that which is diffenrent from us, all the while exposing our own vulnerabilities to total strangers. Sounds like a plot for awesome reality tv program? Ahem; real world, survivor, amazing race, etc.

Anyway. Not to run off to the nether on this subject: fear of losing control via compromise, escape, desire to find one's own independence, a life goal.. These were a few answers so far.

I also thought a lot about my friends, my relationships, and what I want to achieve. I wonder if I'll be able to find my answers here...

In other more exciting news - I ate a wilderbeest sausage. Beasty feasty.

Last day of game drive. The morning session started off fairly uneventful - after a long petrol snafu we mostly did birding (yawn) and some more telemetry work. Finally by 12 we found 2 male cheetahs lounging lazily under a tree, about 10ft away. These guys have collars for tracking purposes. They were quite cute and cuddly. Worth noting - world's ugliest stork is the maribou stork. He was one ugly ass mofo. Then we drove back.

By now I'm beginning to feel more and more like this place is a giant zoo. All reserves in this region are fenced - even Kruger. The animals are completely used to cars and people. They don't even flinch one bit when we get close. Some have tracking collars. The whole area has planned irrigation system to create and maintain water supply balance. Extensive road work across the property was designed to allow careful navigation to the animals. Reserve property owners have vested interest in keeping their animals in their properties. The only difference between this and say, the bronx zoo, is that humans do not go in between the animals and their respective food source. Oh and that this place is hella big. Killing for food happens here everyday. Maintaining balance between predator and prey thus become very important for property owners. Too many lions around would deplete primary consumers (animals that carnivores eat) too quickly and the owner would have to go out and buy more to release on the property to maintain balance. It is a fascinating concept - controlled wilderness. I also learned that a private game reserve, while much smaller in size than Kruger National Park, are generally less crowded. They limit guests by price point and exclusivity so you are not surrounded by 15 cars while trying to watch wild animals. Capitalism never seize to amaze me.

I did some calistenic excercise with Vlad in the afternoon and prepared an African stew (potjie) for everyone for dinner. The days are long here but time sure fly by quickly. Our evening drive tonight is my last one. Tomorrow is report day and Monday I get to go to town for some real friggin Internet (oh how I miss u so).. Next week we head out to bush camp until i'm done at Makalali.

Right as we rolled out of our camp, a giant herd of 22 elephants rolled through to go hang out and our water reservoir. You could see them from the kitchen. They hung out for a while - bathing, feeding, drying off, and playing with each other. I took a video of their stroll. They were completely aware of our presence, some came very close to check us out. The closest was probably 2ft away. I could reach them.

That was an amazing start. Thereafter, we wandered rather aimlessly in the general direction of Garonga (only because we haven't been there) and parked ourselves at the vast open plain by the airstrip. Cracked our sundowner beers and toasted to the sound of animals grazing, playing, and roaming about. A little wordhog family nearby was teaching its 3 newborns to walk. Baboons on the trees played peekaboo with us. One zebra couple had hot zebra sex. Other wilderbeests and impalas gallopped around.

Right as the night sky began to envelope, a radio call came in indicating a female cheetah was spotted about 300m from us. It was hunting. We stuck around. The moon hasn't come out yet so it was rather difficult to see. She laid quietly in the bush, down wind, and watched the grazing herd frolicking away. About 10 - 15 minutes in the wind suddenly changed direction. Immediately ALL the animals on the clearing started howling and stampeded off. Chaos ensued. There must have been close to 1000 lives out there. Loud and haunting. Totally bizzare. The cheetah did not move. Some time later more of the grazers came back out, though with much more caution. By now it was really hard to see anything anymore. The whole area was almost pitch dark. I had my binoculars set dead on the cheetah. Then, in an eye blink, a low swift, steady, fast shadow sped across the clearing in the direction of the returned herd. It was so fast. Rumbling sound of stampede commenced immediately, followed by total silence. No screaching. She didn't make the kill.

We hung around for a short while longer to make sure nothing else was happening. By this point neither the predator or the prey could be spotted in the dark. We made our way back - the last long drive. I love night drives. Not so much for the animals but for the crisp cool air and the million stars. If the word freedom could be distilled into an experience, a long night time game drive in Africa is one for the taking.

The potjie with garlic ginger rice came out perfect despite my wild guess on the metric-to-cups/spoons conversions.

As I'm about to get ready for bed (and typing this) I'm hearing major ruckus in the woods outside my door. Yesterday a lion strolled thru the property already. Not sure what the sound is, whatever it is it sounds big. Window's open and the door doesn't really lock. Everyone else's room is on the other side of the building. Hmm. What to do?

Thaniya KeereepartComment