Monday, June 25, 2012

Game Drive!

While I didn't manage to complete any interviews today (the hospice staff member who was supposed to come with me wasn't around), I thought I would post some pictures of my weekend and some more lighthearted things in the meantime.  My two flatmates and I set out on Saturday in search of good photo ops, since one of them is returning to the US in two weeks.  We were somewhat aimlessly driving around when we realized we were right next to the Mokolodi Game Reserve, a nature park on the outskirts of town that has lots of wild animals.  It is also a conservation and education center, and has a delicious restaurant where we ate lunch while we waited for our game drive to begin at 2pm.  We got a preview of what we would see on the game drive during our lunch on the terrace since there were two impalas and a couple of baboons lurking about in the adjacent bush!  There was also a tree right near the entrance to the park that was completely full of beautiful weaver bird nests - they almost look like something out of a sci-fi movie:

Weaver Bird Nests
I didn't see any birds near the nests, though, so these are either abandoned or it's not nesting season for the birds.  The nests are truly works of natural art.  There is actually one in the yard of my flat which I discovered the other day - here is a photo:

Weaver Nest in my Yard

On the 2-hour game drive we saw many different animals, some of which I attempted to photograph, although the pictures really don't do the experience justice.  It was a nice day, a little windy but warm in the afternoon sun.  The most abundant animals by far were impalas (or is impala the plural too?) - we spotted one right after leaving on the game drive and many, many more after that.  Most of them let us get pretty close and then would stare at our truck curiously for a moment before wandering off into the bush.  Others just bounced off into the distance without giving us a glance.  The have huge, beautiful black eyes, long eyelashes, and graceful, wide horns.

Impalas in the Afternoon Sun
Other animals we saw: Ostriches, baboons, vervet monkeys, warthogs, wildebeests, kudu, zebras, one giraffe head above the distant trees, and a ton of beautiful birds, including hornbills (which you may recognize as Zazu from The Lion King - my first thought when I saw one).  Unfortunately the pictures really don't do the experience justice, especially because by the time my camera was ready the animals were running away from the sound of the truck.  It made me really want to track animals on foot!

Male Ostrich
Red-billed Hornbill (aka Zazu)
Sidenote: Speaking of Lion King references, I have been noticing them everywhere (ok obviously it is ridiculous of me to think that these things are Lion King references, I am fully aware that these things existed in Southern Africa long before the Lion King was conceptualized, but I'm unable to dissociate.  Apologies in advance if I offend anyone).  Here are some examples: the word for "problem" in Setswana is "mathata".  That's right, like "hakuna matata".  It's also a very fun word to say!  I think every single animal that I saw on the game drive on Saturday appeared in the movie, and I couldn't help but be reminded of Pumba seeing the adorable warthogs plodding along near the muddy water hole.  Additionally, check out these awesome potato chips I bought a couple weeks back:

Simba Chutney Flavored "Crisps" - Delicious!
Okay, that is enough of  a side note!  I am planning to do an entire post about food soon enough, so stay tuned for that one.  In the meantime, here are some more pictures from the game drive at Mokolodi:

Kudu - These things are LARGE!  Quite impressive to see their size in person
I think the hoofed animals (categorically called "antelopes") don't get the respect they deserve from the safari-going masses.  From what I can tell everyone is so focused on seeing "the big five" that they forget how amazing the animals right in front of them are.  "The big five" is a term I learned after arriving here in Botswana, and it is more or less a checklist of the large animals you should see while game watching.  The big five are: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo.  I realize that once you have seen 50 impalas in one day it is easy to ignore them (or hope one of them becomes a meal for one of the local carnivorous species), but I just thought I would mention that all of the antelopes that I have seen are quite impressive animals, and worth appreciating.

Warthog and Family (Pumba?)

Zebras! Very shy and quick to run away, although not as difficult to spot as the well-camouflaged wildebeests.
Here is an interesting tidbit we learned from our guide about zebras - they have a symbiotic relationship with wildebeests.  Apparently, zebras have very good eyesight and a very bad sense of smell.  Wildebeests have a keen sense of smell and can easily track down the freshest grass, but they are easy targets for lions and other predators because of their poor eyesight.  By hanging out together, the zebras get to the best grasslands and the wildebeests get alerted when a predator approaches.  Added bonus: one animal likes taller grasses while the other prefers shorter grass, so they aren't even competing for a food source.  I am inspired by this natural collaboration and I think humans should strive to mimic the wildebeest/zebra relationship whenever possible :)

We didn't see either of these, but I did hear a hippo

Our wonderful guide with me and my two flatmates after the game drive

The bush - we saw some baboons creeping between groves of trees from this vantage point.  Hard to believe this is just 20 minutes out of town.

1 comment:

  1. I love how just a random day of nothing can translate into an adventure in Botswana. Seems like you are surrounded by wildlife and exotic surroundings.