Today’s Wheel of Adventures has stopped at 2014, so here we go.
This is the last in a four part series about my recent African safari.
Part one introduced Camp Banoka and described what a typical game drive day was like, and showed a variety of some of the larger wildlife. Part two showed more of what camp life was like along with photos of the camp rangers and staff, and a look at some of the birdlife along with more about how game drives are done. Part three was all about a wetland camp where guests travel by boat and canoe for the game “drives”. This concluding part is about wildlife experiences with leopards, elephants, and giraffes
Camp Banoka was mostly dry forest with scattered swamp areas, Camp Xigera was almost all wetlands intermixed with open dry areas, many of which have tall palm trees. Camp Duma Tau is in a dry light forest next to a large river basin that attracts large numbers of animals. Since the forest is not very thick, and has a lessor number large trees, wildlife is easier to spot from the Land Rover trail roads. And there is a lot of open grassland between the forest edge and a major river with marsh areas. The result is that Duma Tau is highly favorable for viewing somewhat more creatures than the two previous camps – and we were not disappointed!
The first game drive was in the late afternoon during which plenty of elephants were sighted. In fact, sometimes the herds contained several dozen – a very impressive sight indeed. As dark settled in, word spread that a leopard had been spotted with a fairly fresh kill, so all three camp Land Rover groups arrived at the location to find a fully satiated male leopard almost passed out with full belly laying just inside a small thicket. What was interesting in this situation was that normal leopard kill practice is to carry the animal to the top of a large tree where it will be safe from marauding hyenas. This allows the leopard to descend anytime for ground roaming, then return to find the kill untouched.
But this particular leopard was in an area with few large trees, so the kill was hidden as best as possible. This had some advantage in that hyenas search by sight rather than scent, so a hidden ground kill would be practical. Additionally, vultures sit in trees to watch for carcasses, but with no suitable trees, there were no vultures nearby. We returned at dawn the next morning to see that the killed antelope, a bit bigger than the leopard, was still safe and the leopard still snoozing. But after two more Land Rovers arrived, the leopard gave us a glare (why don’t you guys let me sleep in today), then slowly walked around the grassy plain, finally settling down almost out of sight in the grass only a few yards away from us. Leopards do not chase anything, they just lay hidden in the grass then jump any unwary prey that happens by.
Our ranger suspected that a female leopard with a cub might be found a few miles distant, so off we go. Staying on the sandy trail, leopard tracks were soon found. When the tracks left the trail, our ranger just drove off-road crunching thru the light brush and over small trees, all the while keeping the tracks in sight. Sure enough, we caught up to the lactating female leopard walking along at an easy pace. We drove a parallel path along side her until she stopped in a shady spot to call out to her cub, which was hidden in a hollow log. Oh my, such a treat to see this tiny little cub meekly appear and join it’s mother.
For two days we spent hours roving about various kinds of terrain, all filled with such a variety of wildlife, both animal and bird. So many elephants were seen almost to the point of becoming too common to seek any more. We had to be careful not surprise any herds with babies. At one point it was a bit scary, several charged in our direction kicking up dust and smashing trees to warn us to stay back, even blocking the road for a while. So many kinds of birds, hippos in every pond, giraffes gliding gracefully, heads above the low forest – a sight like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Certainly not an Animal Kingdom nor any grand zoo, but wonderful creatures in their own lands. Bucket list…safari now checked off!