African Safari: Day 4

March 6. My cold is no better and I did not get a good nights sleep.  I’m cursing myself for not including cold medicine with my things.  As thorough as we were on the planning and packing – taking anti-malarials, spraying our clothes with permethrin to ward off mosquitoes, bringing “safari” colored clothing – I should have anticipated the possibility of catching a cold given the nature of air travel.  In any event, we’re on the road at 7:00 and the first wildlife we encounter is a pair of cheetah’s feasting on a wildebeest. You can tell from their distended stomachs that they’ve had their fill.

Not long into the drive, I’m feeling quite exhausted. It takes all my concentration just to stay awake, and even so, I’m dozing off as we’re bouncing and jouncing along some very bumpy roads.  Joann thinks I’m looking pretty pathetic. At one point, I’m watching wildlife using the telephoto lens, standing with the camera perched on the top of the truck and I catch myself dozing off . Heaven forbid I should fall asleep and drop the camera. One doesn’t simply open the door and step out of the car to pick something up you might drop. In any event the day progresses and I’m putting everything I have into photographing wildlife.

Later on our route we stopped for a herd of wildebeest with a number of young. This is a calving ground. Wildebeest cows like company while calving. Being in a herd provides protection from predators. The calves can typically stand and run just a few minutes after being born. Within two days they can keep pace with a running herd.

We also saw a pack of bat-eared foxes, with huge ears and a bandit’s mask. These animals feed largely on insects and their ears act like twin-dish antenna. They can hear dung beetles up to a foot underground.

Our track for the day covered 36 miles and we returned to camp in the early afternoon. You can view a track or our route here.

African Safari: Day 2

March 4. We’re going on a lion hunt! Early start. At 5:00 AM our steward hails us with “good morning.” He unzips the tent and leaves us a tray with a pot of coffee and fruit. Then it’s breakfast in the dining tent: porridge, fresh fruit, eggs, sausage and toast. At 6:00 we’re on the road. David tells us our objective today is to look for cats. It doesn’t take long before we find a koppie (a rock outcropping on the savannah) which seems to be a hangout for a pride of lions. We watch as the pride returns from their night time hunt. Their bellies look full, so it seems they had a successful outing. The pride includes a number of cubs ranging in age from perhaps six weeks to several months. We spent the better part of an hour and a half watching them and photographing their activities. Most of the lions just wanted to lay in the sun and nap. The cubs wanted to play.

 

At 8:10 am we leave the lions. Soon David had us poised to photograph a pair of cheetahs. I’m using my Nikon D800 with a 200-500 zoom lens. This is a substantial piece of equipment, and handling the camera and lens requires support.  The drill is to stand up slowly and stealthily and place a beanbag (a device to help hold the lens steady) on the top of the truck, and then to put the camera and lens on top of the beanbag. This is a new drill for me. I’m used to photographing architectural subjects with wide angle lenses and a sturdy tripod. Shooting wildlife from the top of a truck proves to be a challenge.  It takes me a few days of practice before I’m feeling comfortable with the drill.  I’m starting to appreciate how much skill it takes to photograph wildlife.

The cheetahs moved on. One of them passed quite close to our truck and David was concerned it might climb on the truck. We continued our game drive. Close to noon David suggested we stop in the middle of the road and have our lunches while a herd of wildebeest and zebra were crossing. This is the start of the wet season and the zebra and wildebeest are on migration following the rain and looking for green grass.

 

After lunch we continued, stopping for a family of warthogs with the mother nursing her young. We also stop for Thompson’s gazelles and  a pair of jackals. By mid-afternoon, we were feeling like we had put in a full day and we headed back to Seronera Sametu Camp

Dinner was a special treat. Being that we were the only guests in camp the staff moved a dining table out under the stars, and the three of us, David, Joann and myself, had a exquisite dinner by candle light with a campfire crackling near by and the stars twinkling overhead. For dessert, we were presented with a cake that said “Happy Retirement Joann.” It seems as part of our safari itinerary we indicated that our safari adventure was in-part a  retirement celebration. A fun surprise. We were so stuffed we could hardly touch the cake.

 

Our day’s drive covered 62 miles. You can view a track of our route here. You can also view a more extensive gallery of photos from our safari here.