Our drive this morning could be called "Everything but the Cats." It was my first of 4 drives thus far in which there were no cats to view, despite hearing the lions early in the morning about an hour prior to our 5:30am wake up visit from our friendly Guide, Formen, to serve us tea & coffee. We saw most of the other animals I have been wanting to see and photograph. While I have seen and photographed the very old female elephant around camp here yesterday, I wanted to see a herd. My wish was granted this morning. The herd tried to give us the slip by changing direction, but Formen seems to have a sixth sense about anticipating where to go and how to get always on the other side of them to give us the best view - seemingly outsmarting both the animals and the other trackers in the other Rovers. I am thankful that I am "stuck with" Formen, as he put it, for the duration of my stay here.
Several of the different animal herds have either a young child or have a VERY pregnant female with them. A herd of zebras in particular had 2 pregnant females; one of which looked like she would give birth any day now. How exciting it would be to witness that....
A herd of elephants we came across had a young elephant about a year old or less. Given that the gestation of an elephant is nearly 2 years (a fact I learned today), you don't always have a newborn elephant every year, even with multiple females in the herd.So, this was a treat to see this youngster.
While driving around, on the hunt for our next lion sighting, half of our group left with our tracker, Jeffrey, on a walk about looking for the lions that everyone thought couldn't be that far from camp given their roars just before arising. Those of us who stayed in the Rover saw a group of 3 young male giraffes. They are such majestically gentle creatures that seem so different from the other animals. While our walk about group missed the elephants, we picked them up near the giraffes, so they too were able to see these gentle giants.
Then it was off the rhinos - another of my desired sightings that had alluded me until today. We saw a mature female, a very young one and another older youth. They were quite skittish and tried to keep a good distance from us, regularly turning their backs on us and moving away. A picture of a rhino's behind wasn't exactly what I had in mind . . . As Formen attempted his usual play of anticipating their moves to get on the other side of where they would head, this small group of 3 was having none of it. They kept moving, heading away from us at a steady pace. Just when we thought we were going to be continuously rebuffed by the group of 3, we spotted the bull on the right in the river bed. Although he was probably 200-300 yards away, he posed beautifully for us. A beautiful, thick and strong specimen with beautiful horns. He would face us, walk a couple of steps towards us, stop, turn sideways and stay there for another minute or two. Then, he would turn to face us again, walking a couple of steps in our direction, stop and turn sideways again to look up the hill in front of us. He would stay in that position for another couple of minutes. Fabulous views of him.
If only he had been closer, they would be even better pictures. We'll see - nearly a dozen more drives to experience.
Along the way also were owls, beautifully colored birds, kudu, impala and nyala - which look almost just like impalas, but they are striped instead of spotted, and have much larger ears and are without the large horns of mature male impalas.
All things considered, it was a very successful 3.5 hours, despite no large cat sighting. My next wish is to see a herd of buffalo and ideally a cheetah. The cheetah will be a miraculously rare sighting if made, so I'm told, but the buffalo should be very doable over the next few days.
To find out more about my safari lodge, see here: Tanda Tula
To see more of my safari photos, see here: My African Safari Photos - Best Of 1 and here: My African Safari Photos - Best Of 2