As everyone says, Africa was unlike anywhere I have ever been. The people were incredibly friendly, they truly cared that I had the best stay possible, and the sights and views were incredible. Our first stop was Idube Private Game Reserve, where our ranger Rob and tracker Mark had the privilege of showing me my first African animals. Upon our arrival, elephants stopped by the camp after a trip to the nearby watering hole. Seeing my favorite animal within the first 5 minutes of being at camp got me so excited, and it was just Day One.
On our first game drive we were introduced to the locals: hippos that glared at you, the matriarch of the local elephant herd nicknamed Snaggle Tooth for her one crooked tusk, and the herd of 1,000 buffalo roaming in the fields. “Sundowners” quickly became everyone’s favorite part of the drive: everyone would get out of the vehicle and the ranger and tracker would pull a portable bar out of the back, and we’d all have drinks watching the African sun set.
The next morning, we drove to see a hyena den, where there was a mother and her two five-month-old cubs. Hyenas generally have two cubs per litter and, like elephants, have matriarchal societies where leadership is passed from a female to her daughter. Because of this, if two females are born, the first born will kill the second born within days of birth, thus answering any question about who will become the succeeding matriarch.
Next was a rare sighting – African wild dogs, often called painted dogs for their coloring. These calico-colored animals look like a cross between a dog and a fox. People can go on many safaris without ever seeing them. We saw a pack of wild dogs resting in the shade, with all of their young in a pile off to the side. They cared very little that we were there, and every once in a while, an adult would do a lap around the pups to make sure everyone was alright.
When we got back to camp, we were introduced to Vervet monkeys. I had a very personal encounter with this species: after prying open the window to my room and ripping a hole in the screen, they proceeded to go through my suitcase and stole all of the tea and coffee. They look so innocent…
The next day we heard of a sighting of Kashane, a 10 year old male leopard. This very graceful, powerfully built and very large cat steadily made his way through the bush, seeing something our mere human eyes could not. At 10 years old, he is reaching the end of his expected lifespan in the wild. Even so, I wouldn’t take him in a fight.
Day 3 brought us upon a lioness and her three cubs sleeping on a dry river bed. Although they were not starving, the ranger said they looked hungry. Lions only need to eat every 3 days or so, but will always take advantage of food if available as they never know when the next meal will be. For the beginning of their lives, the mother and cubs separate from the rest of the pride for child-rearing. When cubs are very young, the mother leaves them behind to go hunt. At several months old, these cubs were at the stage of following Mom while she hunted to observe and learn. After 10 minutes of our photo shoot, Mom got up with the three cubs dutifully (mostly) following, although pouncing on each other or Mom’s tail was more exciting. Finally, we found Mom’s destination – a herd of impala. The silent order was given for the cubs to stay put in the grass to watch – if the cubs get too curious and follow, they could ruin the hunt by scaring the impala before Mom can get there. Likewise, we also kept our distance so as to not disturb the hunt. In the end, Mom did not catch any dinner – I was really rooting for her.
Stay tuned for next week, when Leah goes to the next stop on her safari: Tanda Tula Camp.
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