Day trip #2 took place earlier this week. This time, we headed northeast toward the south gate of Moremi Game Reserve, about 100 km (60 miles) away. Again, we didn’t plan to go into the reserve, just drive to it. The reserve isn’t fenced, and the animals don’t read maps, so they are clueless about the boundaries and cross them willy-nilly. We might see them anywhere, and we are especially fond of happening upon wildlife in unexpected—or less-expected—places.
We were also investigating the gravel and sand roads, anticipating more of those in the coming months. It’s been dry, so there were no puddles, and the sand was hard packed. No problem.
We left at first light, about 5:30 a.m., and were soon on the pastoral outskirts of town.
Again, the first wild animal we spotted was a roadside elephant not too far out of town. This one had a broken tusk. I like to think that will keep it safe from ivory poachers: Who wants a broken tusk, right? It still has one unbroken one, though.
We saw three elephants in all, but this was the only one not in a rush.
We also saw a couple of elephanty areas, that is, areas with lots of broken trees.
I’ve heard of elephants causing this kind of damage, but this is the first I’ve seen it. I can see how people might get upset about it.
I wonder if the elephants break trees on purpose or if it’s an accident. Do they go on rampages knocking trees over, or might one just be eating when . . . “Oops! I didn’t see that tree there. They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.”? Maybe a bit of both?
We saw a couple of bright and beautiful new birds, but I’m going to save them for their own post. Birds don’t get the appreciation they deserve when giant and/or adorable mammals are around. Plus, I’ve got too many photos even without the birds.
So we’re cruising along at about 20 km per hour when something catches my eye on a slightly cleared pathway into the woods. I jump in my seat, flap my hands as I search for the camera in my lap, and whisper-shout, “Stop! BackupBackupBackup. Stop!”
Mike searched the area, wondering what I’d seen, while I rushed to capture some quick, awful pictures. Finally, he sees it: a giraffe, the coolest African animal, in my estimation.
“Two giraffes,” he says.
“Two? I’m looking at a little, dark one.”
“Yeah. And there’s one in front of it.”
Um . . . yeah. I missed that one, though I was getting it in the photos. (Not this photo, the awful ones Mike deleted.) I’m telling you, it’s ridiculously easy to lose a giant giraffe amongst the trees and brush!
Another reason to love giraffes: They don’t run away.
Next in the wildlife parade were some steenbok.
We saw several individuals and pairs, but unlike giraffes, as soon as they feel they’ve been spotted, they sprint away.
Then came something new. In the distance, I spotted what looked a bit like water with deer-like creatures in and around it.
It wasn’t water—just gray sand?—and they weren’t deer—yeah, I figured they were some sort of antelope. But what kind? We studied them through the binoculars and referenced our wildlife book. After some time, puzzling, and patience, we made out curved horns and dark stripes on the rear end and tail. We felt confident about our conclusion: Impala.
Had we waited just a bit longer, we might have come to that conclusion much faster and with much less effort.
Impala, it seems, are like caribou in Denali: abundant. We saw many groups of them throughout the day, very close to the road, easy to see without binoculars. Who knew? Well, probably lots of people, just not us.
Only the males have horns.
And, of course, you know what they do with them.
We got tripped up by the straight horns of not-quite-adult male impala, but those stripes on the back end of the animal are diagnostic. That’s a youngish male that seems to be tending the nursery.
A bit farther along, a particular impala caught my attention. “Stop!”
It was bigger than the others, and on closer inspection, it had white stripes across the back. It wasn’t an impala: It was a kudu!
Check out the connect-the-dots eyes and the milk mustache! What we’re missing are long curly horns on a mature male. There were three others—one with horns—but no mature males.
Then there were more giraffes, five in all for the day.
It doesn’t look like it in this picture, but this giraffe is pale; it looks as though it’s spent too much time in the sun and has faded.
I caught a glimpse of a running warthog at one point, but it had no intention of stopping, and the car couldn’t go where it was going. Later on, we saw two more in no hurry to go anywhere so long as there was food to be had.
Check out those tusks and warts, and that long hair, and the eating on the knees. Crazy, eh?
Seriously, that’s a funny looking animal, no?
It took about eight hours to drive those 60 miles and back, a bit (or a lot) longer than we anticipated. Time flew, of course. Will all our drives be like this? I haven’t even told you about the birds, or that I drove on the way back, or about the zillion other things we noted and contemplated. We’ll get to those next time. Maybe.