Saturday, 25 July 2015

May 25th: The Okavango at its best, lions, breakdowns and all

Sorry for the delay -- just 5 posts to finish Africa...

If the sunsets were pretty, the sunrises were very special, with mist rising from the water.

Whoa. Purple. 
Which minutes later, turns to yellow orange 
Boats in the morning 
Mist rises 
And the world awakes
We were up early to go on the morning game drive. Not 200 m from our lodge was the footprint of the lion that was making noise last night, on top of our truck tracks from yesterday.

That's a big footprint
I kind of had expectations of Etosha-like animal density, but while there are lots of animals, the animals here are few and far between here, because of lots of water and lots of edible grass everywhere.

Impala in the morning sun 
Wary zebras
Our guides found more lion tracks, and started tracking it. They found a warm pile of urine (yes, they really did, and they felt it, too), and knew we were close. 

It's that way
Tracking the lion, we ran across an elephant hanging out.
Just chowin' down
Then suddenly, we heard a crack, and the 4x4 lurched to a stop. Whoops; broken driveshaft.

Um.... isn't that supposed to be connected?
We were broken down in the middle of field for exactly an hour. Fortunately, it was in a field, not a forest, so we could see critters coming (and none came). We hung out and looked at the neat stuff on the ground while our guide called for help. Yes, there is cell phone access where we were, but the camp manager calls it “spotty at best” and only comes from one provider who is “problematic”, and our guide kept losing signal, so stood on the truck to get better reception. 

Dung beetle tracks 
An elephant footprint in the mice tracks 
Maybe I can get reception up here...

Bye, truck...
We were picked up by another 4x4 from a 2nd lodge, who took us to another 4x4 from a 3rd lodge, who took us to see the lions which they had tracked. There was a mom and 3 cubs.

Mom and one of 2 kittens 
Now we're boring her 
Yep. Bored.
Right around here, we learned that lions mind trucks coming but don’t mind trucks being there. Drive in, they care. Park and shut off the engine and they stop caring.

We went home for a glorious lunch and then had a few hours to do what we wanted. Some played cards, some sat in the lounge area and read, some chose to fight with the internet, some showered or napped, some did laundry. We chose to sit on our deck, wander around camp and take too many pictures. We saw lots of fun birds, listened to baboons bark and hippos grunt, and enjoyed the spectacular weather (it was about 25°, but the sun was hot. Sitting in the shade was awesome.)
The view from our balcony. There's a creek in the reeds. 
An incredibly beautiful Malachite Kingfisher. All of 6" tall, with a 3" bill. 
The elephant crossing in camp, because the elephants do cross here 
Fish eagle 
More butterflies 
A Pied Kingfisher. He spent the entire afternoon fishing
Later in the day, we drove out to go for a nature walk. On the way, more critters.

Baboons on a termite mound
Turns out that baboons and impala tend to travel together. Baboons have good eyesight, impala good hearing. Each kind of plays lookout for the other in a symbiotic relationship.

Nature walking in Africa is different than at home. For starters, while we try to make noise to make animals aware of our presence, in Africa, we walked in silence so the animals that would consider us prey (lions, cheetahs, elephants and hippos) aren’t disturbed by our presence nor are alerted to us so that they could consider us the day’s lunch. In Africa, walking's done in single file, and you only do it in wide open spaces where you can see predators coming. Plus, you always look down to check for snakes. Our guides carry no guns, and use their bush knowledge to stay out of trouble.

Single file, like good students 
A bee eater 
Through the lion grass 
Elephant tracks, larger back foot almost registered 
Multiple pussy cat tracks. Large pussy cats.
The guides were kind of disappointed with the walk, so decided to go back to the trucks and look for more lions. Not 1 km from where we were walking, guess who we found? Two females (apparently a mom and a daughter) and six cubs, three aged 3 months and 4 months. The moms were hunting at first, being very interested in a kudu nearby, but we kind of spoiled their hunt. The kids were hiding in the trees.

"What's over there?"
"That be the kudu..."
"Did you HAVE to show up?"
"I still think the kudu are here" 
Three of the 7 cubs we saw 
Attempting to hide 
A solo hider 
Three more hiding
After we watched for a while, the cubs got bored of watching us and started playing.

#4 arrives 
Gnaw time 
Look at the size of that paw... 
Now 3 are at it
The moms didn’t care that we were watching their kids. But since we spoiled their hunt, they plopped down in the grass. They cared that we pulled up. They didn’t care that we parked 10’ away.

Yes, that is a truck seat back to illustrate how close we were. 
And they find us boring. 
This is why it's called "lion grass" 
You can just guess she's wondering when we'll leave
What a face. 
A flea-bitten face, but still cute.

Yet another spectacular sunset…

Now that's orange
…then after a wonderful steak dinner (the food at Fallen Baobab is awesome, plus they have desert!), the staff sang and danced for us, and even got some people up dancing.

It's an African line dance 
Karen having fun 
The staff doing their thing 
The awesome staff say goodnight
A wonderful day in a serene place.


Today’s Africa Travel Tip: Cold

Africa’s hot, right? Well, at 3 pm in the sun, yes. But at 5 AM? Not so much.

It was 2° the morning in Ghanzi – and our shower was an outdoor shower. Our camp in the Delta was tented, and tents have no insulation. It was 10° one morning, 12° the next. It was 8° in Etosha one morning. It was 7° near Soussvlei.

And it’s always like that. It’s not just because it’s coming into winter (though that does make it “worse”). This is why you’ll normally have duvets on beds.

So bring a down jacket and a hat and gloves. One of our fellow travellers brought a blanket for early morning truck rides. Fallen Baobab had thick fleece blankets for morning game drives. By 9:30, you’ll be in shorts again, but you’ll be glad you wore your down jacket. 

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