Never a dull moment on safari
16.05.2017 - 16.05.2017
I guess the lioness we heard calling out for her babies yesterday afternoon didn't find them, as she was roaring all night. Hearing nature in all its raw glory is always exciting, but not necessarily conducive to a good sleep. With that and my incessant coughing, I didn't get a lot of rest last night. I feel embarrassed and concerned about keeping other guests awake too, so I am grateful there are no other tourists around in the lodge when we leave this morning.
The tables are laid out ready for breakfast, which starts from 06:00. I always find it strange that people don't want to make the most of their day on safari by getting out into the park at the earliest opportunity (06:00), which is also when the animals are at their most active. After all, a safari is not a cheap holiday, and for a number of people, a holiday of a lifetime. If you want to relax, build in some chill time at a beach resort afterwards.
Now getting off my soap box.
We leave the lodge in darkness. As the light of day starts to brighten up the sky, the promise of a beautiful sunrise teases us with a warm yellow glow above the savannah and a blue sky sporting fluffy clouds edged with crimson.
It is not long, however, before the sun sends its first rays of the day over the horizon, warming the cool morning air.
A wobble of ostriches (I love discovering apt and humorous collective nouns of animals) enjoy the warm glow of the sun. One male can have a dozen or more females in his harem.
He is in his breading colours as evidenced by his red neck and legs.
Having recently been kicked out of the herd (or obstinacy, as I am on a roll with collective nouns), the bull buffalo has anger management issues, as can be seen from his sweaty nose.
Having a 700 pound animal's stare directed right at me is more than a little intimidating, especially as he keeps walking closer and closer, while snorting angrily. Not that it seems to bother the oxpecker much.
Time to make a move.
Oh, to be in that basket floating effortlessly over the African plains in the early morning sun.
If it wasn't for the price tag I'd be there like a shot! I do realise, however, that part of the reason for the high cost is the huge fee they pay to the park authorities to be able to drive off-road to retrieve the balloon and its passengers.
Almost totally hidden by the tall grass, a lone hippo wanders towards a small pond. All we can see is the top of his back.
It is hard to describe the feeling of awe I get when we drive along and encounter wildlife – such as these hyenas – in the road. Being part of, or rather guests in, their natural habitat is an experience I will never tire of. It is at times like this that I realise that it is me who is the stranger here; this is their home. I feel incredibly humbled to have the privilege of being included in their lives, even for a short while.
There is some serious 'establishing of territory' going on here, with chasing, growling, barking and baring of teeth.
A cackle of hyenas (♥collective nouns) can be enormously intimidating, especially when they are plotting gang warfare such as here. Or maybe I just have an over-zealous imagination.
Although sometimes they can look almost cute.
Three amigos saunter off down the road...
… while another goes for a drink.
And then lies down in it to cool off.
The hyenas do not seem to bother this three banded plover though.
Hippo flatulence gives off a powerful ammonia-like aroma, with the result that you can usually smell the hippos before you see them, especially when they are present in numbers such as these.
Meanwhile, we head back to the Maasai Kopjes, where we immediately see a collared lioness atop a rock.
It looks like she has a cub with her.
As one cub walks off to the right, another one can be seen sitting up on the left.
Mum goes off to join the youngster on the left, and we discover another cub in the shade of the tree.
The Maasai Pride is huge, and rarely venture far from this collection of rocky outcrops known as the Maasai Kopjes (hence the name of the lion pride, of course).
At the base of the rocks we see another lioness, hiding five young cubs in the long grass.
The mum on top of the rock leaves her three cubs behind to go for a wander.
Prompting her babies to explore too.
Maasai kopjes is teeming with big cats this morning, spread out over a large area. Everywhere we look there is a lion; some seeking the cool shade of the shrubby undergrowth, others the warmth of the sunbaked rocks.
The kopjes are also home to a number of other species, such as this Dark Chanting Goshawk.
And the Crested Lark.
The lark has a most beautiful song, as you can hear in David's video below.
More lions to follow in the next instalment of my blog. Our safari was arranged by Calabash Adventures, the best safari operators by far.