Sunday, January 26, 2014

My First Night Drive

Sunday, January 19 I had my first night drive.

Looking for wildlife.

(It's not like I haven't been in a vehicle at night before.)

Josh and I turned out to be the only ones signed up for the drive, so we sat in the first row of seats, in opposing window-seats (although the rigs don't have windows) and we each got a spotlight to shine on the surrounding savanna. Our guide explained that since it was dark out, we'd be using the lights to look for animal eyes only. I thought to myself, that the animals might not take kindly to being blinded, but I decided that would just have to be too bad because I was curious about what lurked in the dark. Plus, my night vision is crap so the light was entirely necessary for me to see anything.

As we set out into the darkness, just the three of us and our trusty spotlights, I couldn't help noticing that we were unarmed entering into a wilderness filled with nocturnal animals who could see much better than us and were likely on the hunt for their dinner...

Luckily, we were not on the menu.

The first animals we spotted were impala, just outside the Orpen camp gate. Huddled together with wildebeest, our guide noted that the two species often stick together as they each have different strengths in spotting predators and they are safer together than alone. So there you have it: interspecies collaboration in action.

Shortly thereafter we were delighted to see a black-backed jackal, a rather rare sighting, and one that we were quite excited about it. Next Josh spied a genet, a cat-like long-tailed smallish animal that is even less common to spot. And we started seeing loads of shrub hares -- small, brownish rabbits that hop around at night. (Yes Mom, I did think to myself, "that's a real rabbit!")

At one point, our driver stopped and pointed out a small owlet. It was so cute, maybe 5" tall at most and something I would have loved to keep as a pet. But alas, animals here are wild, so I left it behind. Plus, I didn't think it would fit well in my already-stuffed luggage.

As we headed back to camp, we were content with our night drive and pleased with our day overall. Over the last 16 hours, we had seen two prides of lions, zebra, elephants, giraffe, water buffalo, a rhino, and hordes of impalas and wildebeests. Here are some pictures from the day:

Plains Zebra grazing in the grass.

^ Female giraffe checking us out.

^ Rhinoceros hiding in the bush.

^ Lioness taking her turn as lookout.

But the day wasn't over yet. Lounging in the middle of the road like it was no big deal were four male lions. A skinny bunch, our guide remarked that, as expected, the lions were upwind of the herd of wildebeest, likely resting up before attempting a kill. Apparently, lions like to warm themselves on the paved roads at night when the day's stored-up sunshine is released like that of a heated tile floor in a luxurious bathroom.

^ Lions enjoying the warm road at night.


With a cool breeze brushing across my face, I wanted to lay down beside them, but decided we had survived enough adventure for one day. And who knew what tomorrow would bring...


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