In the Bush

Geo: -18.5421, 24.5105

Drums waking us again at 5:30AM, our typical wake-up call, our Chobe National Park safari again began as we boarded the jeeps an hour later. But this time we were searching for animals for the whole day, not returning to lovely Baobab Lodge for lunch and quiet time. The Baobab Lodge staff promised to provide PB&J sandwiches for our picnic lunch, but we should not have been surprised by the amazing feast that was presented instead, and served to us in the wilds of Chobe NP. Moses was the driver and guide on the jeep I was riding in today. Even as the jeep was climbing up the severely rutted road from Baobab Lodge, we saw two giraffes, a mama and her big baby. Like the kudu, giraffes seem to use standing still as their protective strategy; it wasn’t until all the photos were taken by the group and we were driving on that the giraffes finally moved. So we had seen the first giraffes of our trip!

Ranks of impala had become so commonplace that we didn’t stop for them unless there were nursing babies, or, as Sku said, if they were climbing in the trees. How quickly we adjust to new places and experiences, with the formerly unfamiliar now expected and familiar, seeing wild animals no more than a few feet away from us! We followed the peaceful Chobe River closely today, seeing hippos submerging themselves in its water; once, at a distance, we saw a mother hippo closely followed by her baby jumping into the river and creating an enormous splash. Later we saw more hippos and Cape buffalo as well, serious numbers of Cape buffalo in addition to impala and ibis almost everywhere. I had not seen so many ibis in one place since walking in parks in the city of Sydney, Australia.

One exceptional game sighting today was of two jackals taking turns scavenging the remains of a baby Cape buffalo. But this in itself was not the whole drama; a vulture was nearby, edging ever closer until the jackal turned and attacked the vulture! National Geographic could not have presented anything better, and we were there in person to witness it all.

Another memorial (group) of elephants playing by another waterhole brought delight not just to those impressive beasts, but to us as well. Who can ever tire of watching baby elephants fall into the water, and then struggle to climb up a muddy little hill, only to drop again onto their sides and roll in the mud? And who of us is so blasé that s/he doesn’t feel wonder and awe as an enormous elephant approaches, not even ten feet away, and looks right at us before passing on? Or watching an elephant in the road walking resolutely toward the jeep, looking threatening because of his size and his ever forward movement? Moses kept inching closer and closer, fearfully so; why was he provoking this wild animal? Eventually the standoff ended when the elephant finally turned and melted into the bush. Afterwards Moses told us that had we retreated, the elephant might have considered attacking the jeep, seeing retreat as a sign of our weakness. Such amazing sightings and experiences we’ve had already, and this is only our second day of safaris in Africa.

This tour is not just a passive observational experience. We play a part in what happens here, as life unfolds enveloping our presence and its impact. Yes, we are watching the animals, but they also see us; to them our jeep might appear as a hard, noisy shell full of wiggling, clicking things inside, but this image must be incorporated into their gestalt, their understanding of the world in which they live. By our just being here in the bush we make an impact.

And there were more lions, at least four of them, resting under a shady tree during the heat of the day. I saw one lion at first, moving through the tall grass, and when she went back to her tree, three more smaller ones stood up. After they all settled all we could see at that point were their ears poking up; had she not moved as we were driving by we never would have seen them; they were so well camouflaged, blending right into the grasses and shadows. Thus in two days’ time we have already spied fourteen lions, a remarkable achievement for any tour.

Warthogs, kudu, more giraffes and elephants than could be counted, if this was what could be expected every day, then I had certainly picked the right trip! This Botswana is a gift, a wonder, a paradise.