My parents have been visiting from the States, and our discussions have made me realize that my accounts of my recent travels left several gaping holes (mainly due to internet access on the road). One thing I neglected was any real mention at all of wildlife. This included a self-guided safari in Kruger National Park in a rented Tata Vista with Sara, mountain-biking in Mlilwane NP in Swaziland (and suffering through the abduction of Alex’s frog, Hoppy); facing off with elephants and baboons in the mean streets of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe; and guided day trips in Botswana’s Chobe NP, Moremi Wildlife Park, and Okavango Delta.
Though photographs certainly provide the best description, I’ve included some safari shorthand below:
Baboons: See elephant (nuisance), only smaller and less unique.
Birds: a surprising addition to the list. I have always imagined birds to be quite boring (though flying, ironically, ranks number one on the “Superhero Attributes I’d Most Like to Have.”). However, armed with a checklist, a bird chart, and a pair of binoculars and all of the sudden we have a changed reality. Now every detail of each bird is studied and logged on a stimulating challenge to find and identify every bird in the park. It’s a two-person gig: one with pen and paper, the other with the binoculars:
Me: “It has orange markings on its wings, blue chevrons on its chest and a tail about twice as long as its body.”
Sara: “It’s the Southern Ground Hornbill!”
(high-five and mutual recognition that we are complete dorks.)
Buffalo: Hmm…how did this guy get in the Big 5?
Cheetah and Leopard (the most pressing question of the bush after “Will this eat me?” is “Do I add an “s” for the plural?): elusive and mysterious. Solitary hunters, they lurk amongst the trees and brush, resembling snipers.
Crocodiles: After the T-Rex and Nessie, still the most frightening animal in the wild.
Elephants: the rats of Africa. They are a nuisance, eating crops and tearing down infrastructure. Locals in Zimbabwe expressed to me that they wish they could shoot them, but of course are prohibited. Twice, we got “mock-charged” by one, and let me tell you, these guys can move fast. Turns out, if their ears are extended, it means they are angry.
Giraffe (and Elephants): the most unique of the large animals in the bush. Where the heck did those things come from?
Hippos and Rhino (black and white): apparently dangerous, but boring. Never saw one move. Not once.
Impala: like squirrels, they are everywhere you look. AKA, the McDonalds of the bush, they have a furry, white “M” imprinted on their butts and represent for most predators a fast meal.
Lions: known as the Kings of the Jungle, but apparently, the hyena is not afraid to steal its kill. Seriously though, if I could be any bush animal, it would be this one: lie around and sleep in the shade all day, while the many women of my harem hunt for dinner.
Vervet Monkeys: same old story: cute and furry (see: http://www.fupenguin.com). Fascinating, agile, little guys. They win you to their side quickly. Also, head over heels for sadza.
Zebra: basically just gangly horses with a snazzy coat. Now if they raced these things, that would be interesting.