November 6, 2015 – 12:00P
Rough night’s sleep. My mind kept pondering over what to expect on our first game drive plus, the repetitive male lion mating call in the near distance took some getting used to. haha! Finally, I fell asleep sometime after 2:30A. I woke up once to use the restroom. Aryn had brought these mini battery operated candles that she had bought form the dollar store. There is one beside our sink and one on the back of our toilet. They provide a great little night light for the tent. I was awoken this morning by native drums and a friendly “good morning” from one of our guides. As I stretched myself into consciousness we heard a “plop” above our heads followed by a sliding sound down the pitch of our canvas roof. We were like: “What the heck is that?” Then we saw a little baboon head pear over the edge of our roof into our room. There were baboons jumping from the overhanging tree onto our roof and sliding down our roof. They were playing! It was hilarious. They were also jumping down onto our stone front porch but as soon as we stood up from our beds, they left the porch. They seem curious yet very skittish. Much like the zebras we’ve encountered along the side of the road.
Baboons sliding down our roof
I have a new morning routine out here in the bush: following my shower and moisturizer I have to apply sunblock and Deet for the mosquitos.
Breakfast was simple but filling. Then it was off to our first game drive in Chobe National Park. Our total group (minus our trip leader) equals 15. We go out in 2 separate jeeps. Out guides at this camp are “Six” and “Genius.” They’re very friendly and incredibly knowledgable. It’s amazing how they can spot even the smallest of creatures at a distance. What I found the most interesting on this drive was the variety of different species co-habitating together. In the grass across the Chobe River in Namibia we saw different types of antelopes (impalas and kudus) grazing with a “dazzle” of zebras and we saw a “clan” of hyenas running behind them all. Amazing. Inspiring. And very educational.
Our game drive jeep
Our most frequent encounter on this trip were impala antelopes (mostly female). We also saw a lot of zebra, sable antelope, cape buffalo, elephants (baby elephants are so cute btw) and get this … cows! And they were wearing bells – no joke! The beef industry is apparently huge in this region. So these cows were all owned by a Namibian farmer.
We also saw a lot of magnificent birds and even a few monkeys. There were also a lot of small grey & blue spotted chicken-like animals called guinea fowls. They travelled in packs and were quick to scatter as our jeep approached. Our guide said they were nicknamed “Chobe Chickens” and someone in our jeep (I believe Donna) asked if they were edible. “Six” said the meat of the guinea fowl is edible but so tough that they have to be cooked for many hours over hot coals and then once the meat is cooked the natives throw away the meat and eat the coals instead (because the meat is so tough). haha!
Guinea Fowl aka “Chobe Chicken”
“Six” is a funny guy. The roads of the park are dirt and extremely bumpy. They called riding through these parks the “African massage.” Six kept joking: “It’s not the driver or the jeep, blame the roads.” He was a good driver and very aware of tree branches that encroached the road. He would slow down the jeep and raise his had to try and lift the branches up over the roof of the jeep. He would then joke: “I am the branch manager.” I found this hilarious since that’s what I do for a living – branch manager of a bank. 🙂
I also learned what a termite mound was. Very interesting. If they were solid they are still active, the ones with holes (exposing the inner tunnels) are no longer active. The soil from these mounds is so dense and strong it’s used to build the walls of the homes in African villages. They range in size but are typically tower-shaped structures some thousands of years old. For example, it takes a termite colony 100 years to build a mound the size of a soccer ball. Very interesting.
A 1,000 year-old termite mound
Lunch was delicious. Had my first taste of shepherd’s pie – very tasty. Now I’m sitting on the cement ground of our front porch at our “tent.” Aryn is inside trying to take a nap before our 3:00P afternoon game drive and “sundowner drink.” – not sure what that is but it sounds fun! I’m looking out at Chobe National Park. It’s so beautiful and peaceful. I can hear a hyena in the distance. Before yesterday, I didn’t even know what a hyena sounded like. Now I’m hearing them not only in person but in their natural habitat. What a privilege. Everything else around seems still and relatively quiet. There is a gentle breeze that feels good amongst the, otherwise, hot air.
Today’s afternoon/evening game drive was awesome. Our first sighting was a “troop” of baboons around a grove of trees. They were nestling their babies in their arms and when they walked their babies clung to their bellies and wrapped their tail around their mother’s tail. So adorable.
Baboon mama and her babies
Next our jeep ventured into a trio of Southern Giraffes. Six turned off the engine and while we sat their snapping a million photos another giraffe appeared from the trees, followed by two more until we were surrounded by 20 giraffes. They kept coming from behind trees and cross the road right in front of us to go munch on more trees on the other side. They were watching us as closely as we were watching them. We must have sat there, in absolute awe, for, at least, a half hour, watching this “stride” of giraffes. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. So cool!
I like that at the end of the day Vitalis briefs us on what to except the next day, including what time we need to wake up and be at breakfast. After this briefing, our guides Six and Genius walk us to our “tents” by flashlight. There are two guys dressed in all black that sit up along the trail leading to our tents. Apparently, they stay up all night on guard. They are watching for lions and leopards coming through camp.
Time for some sleep now. It’s quieter tonight. Mostly, I’m just hearing cicadas and crickets and the occasional baboon barking or hyena howling. No lions tonight – as of yet.