Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wandering where the lions are (Nov. 26, 2008 - Halili, Etosha National Park, Namibia)

It rained like crazy last night. Our first rainy night, and most of us had gone to bed with our tents' front doors and windows open, as usual. So at 3am, most of us were fumbling around outside half asleep in our pyjamas, trying to close the flaps as we and the contents of our tents were drenched. Needless to say, 5am came way too soon, and although the rain was long gone, all our stuff was soaked. We were loaded and off at 6am, headed out for a long morning game drive that would eventually take us to tonight's campsite at Halili at the east side of the park.

The sun had just come up and the light was bright enough, and the air cool enough, that spotting animals was easy. The very first thing we spotted was a female lion walking across the savannah several hundred feet from the road. Score again! We had all hoped to see a lion today, and it was accompished by 7am! She was beautiful - illuminated by the sunlight and pausing only briefly to check us out before continuing on her way.

We drove for over 5 hours and saw hundreds of animals, including:
  • a dozen giraffes, including several young ones

  • hundreds of zebras, including lots of babies and one adult that had evidently survived a lion attack, as his rump was gashed and bloody

  • countless springbok

  • lots of oryx (gemsbok)

  • a dozen or so red hartebeests, including a baby that was probably less than 24 hours old

  • a dozen wildebeest, including two play fighting and head bashing

  • several ostriches, including a pair with 10 tiny babies (maybe a week old?) and they put on quite a show for us as they tried to protect the babies from a bird of prey that was circling and threatening to hunt them - this involved spreading their wings to show their huge plumage and dancing circles around the babies while screaching at the bird to piss off

  • several weird "kori bustard" birds, which looked like a fat goose with a large beak and big head feathers

  • more random birds, including blue cranes, Egyptian geese, sandgrouse, vultures, and Northern black korhaans

  • two spotted hyenas

  • a rabbit

  • and the absolute highlight: FIVE African lions lounging in the shade right at the side of the road. They were so beautiful - three males with thick manes and two females. They were only about 15 feet away from the truck, sleeping and occasionally looking up at us nonchalently. Those big brown eyes making eye contact was an amazing experience. A herd of zebras passed by behind them, but all the lions did was sit up and eye them... They had apparently just eaten, and it was way too hot to think about hunting.

We drove to the edge of the salt pan for a view out onto the white horizon, then headed to camp. After a swim and some downtime, we went back out for a couple hours, this time traveling farther east to a spot called Springbokfonetin in a circle tour of the eastern part of the park. It was still pretty hot out, so we really didn't see a lot, plus some big storm clouds were moving in, so animals might have been heading for cover. We did see lots of impala and wildebeest, including more babies and some zebras, some steenbok, and even a turtle paddling around in a mud puddle on the road. Even though we didn't see a lot, it was still fun to look!

1 comment:

  1. is it true that only the lionesses hunt? If so, what do the boys do all day? What a life, eh? I hope you + Ken managed to go see the Madagascar 2 while you were in London, it was very um, authentic, and I'm sure would make you appreciate those animals all that much more. Especially the lemurs.

    Next safari, you need to do the riding one like i did! Imagine cantering alongside the giraffes and zebras. Oh the memories. Can't wait to hear all about your experiences!!!