03 June 2007

Africa Trip Report - Part 2

MAY 9th
Woke in the middle of the night with the moonlight so bright, no torch was needed to make my way to the loo. It was also just so deathly quiet. Absolutely no noise.

As morning approached, I woke again, but wasn't ready to get out of our comfy cots. Got the wide-angle lens out and took some photos, but again, just not enough width to capture the pans.

We packed up, had a quick light breakfast, and got back on the ATVs and headed back to camp. O'Yapo showed us some of the stone tools they had found on the pans throughout the years and we had one of the ATVs breakdown on the way back (or run out of gas...not sure which), so we had to stop again and they towed that ATV back behind another one.

Back at camp, we packed up our duffels and had a delicious hot breakfast before saying our goodbyes to the wonderful staff. Although, we had our guide Richard throughout the trip, at each camp, we had a different set of camp staff. On our way out, we passed through the village of Gweta. It was an interesting contract of the old Botswana round mud huts interspersed with small concrete houses with air conditioning units and satellite dishes attached.

On the road to Nxai Pan, Richard was able to spot some tracks in the dusty road, including a set of black mamba tracks. Of course he spotted the mamba tracks right after we had all just climbed back in the truck after crawling all over the brush for our bush loo breaks. Richard also spotted lion and wild dog prints, but those prints are as close as we would ever get to seeing the wild dogs.

We saw several of those tiny little steenbok on the way into Nxai Pan, but they were quite elusive to photograph (we eventually got them on film later in the trip).

We made a side trip to Baines Baobob and had a box lunch under these fascinating trees. These trees are thousands of years old and so HUGE. Baines Baobob's were more like a grove of baobobs unlike Chapman's which one one large tree consisting of 7 trunks.

We saw our first Oryx (Gemsbock) and Wildebeast and the first of many springbock after leaving the baobob trees. Once we entered through the Nxai Pan park entrance, we saw springbock and impala everywhere. We even got to see the springbock do their pronking jump, which is when they spring up with all four legs.

Richard saw an elephant in the distance heading to the watering hole, but it was pretty far away. So in the meantime, we spotted three lions resting in the shade under a bush. This was the only time throughout our entire 2 week trip that we had to share a animal sighting with another vehicle. In fact, it was one of the only times we even saw other vehicles or people. The lions weren't interested in doing much but relaxing, so we wen't back to see the elephant.

It was timed so perfectly as the elephant, heading to the watering hole, crossed between us and the amazing African sunset. What a great location for a sundowner. The whole scene seemed so perfectly Africa.

We meet out new camp staff... AB, OB, Khumo. They were one of our favorite groups and the food was simply delicious. We had a breaded porkchop that was fantastic and I am not a porkchop fan.

MAY 10th

We had two game drives today... morning and afternoon. In the morning, we saw an amazing amount of game, including the cheetah. Nxai Pan has three young cheetah brothers that like to hang out around a certain island of trees. Richard found them right away and we followed them for a while.

We also saw bat-eared foxes (cute) and several jackels along with plenty of zebra, giraffe, springbock, & impala. We also saw lots of birds... too many to write down all the names. I know there were various kinds of vultures, starlings, kestrals, and some large bird that I think was called a secretary bird.

At the local watering hole, we watched a male impala defend his turf and his female impala harem from another male impala. Also surprised to discover just how skittish the zebra were. A small bird at the watering hole had the zebra constantly jumping in alert. I guess to survive, you have to be somewhat skittish.

For our afternoon game drive, we again found the cheetah and we just stopped the truck and waited. One of the cheetah was low in the grass intently watching a nearby herd of springbock. To our amazement, the springbock slowly got closer and closer to us and the hidden cheetah.

We really thought that we would get to see a cheetah hunt/kill right in front of us. We could barely see the cheetah in the tall grass slowly creeping forward as the springbock got even closer to our truck. We were frozen in anticipation and excitement. But it wasn't to be. The cheetah lifted his head at the wrong moment and a springbock sent out a loud warning call before they all ran and vanished.

We joined the sprinbock heard for our sundowner and then headed back to camp for dinner and bush TV. Before dinner, we were treated to a wonderful choir of African songs sung by our camp staff. I would love a CD of all these songs as they were simply delightful to listen to.

NOTE: More photos from Africa can be seen at my Smugmug Site.

Next Up.... We head to the Delta and away from the dust (for a short while).

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