Part 9: Namibia

On our fourth day of safari, we spent the morning looking for the leopard again. As we drove towards known leopard areas, we found two male cheetahs walking on the road. They were clearly hunting. We slowly followed them in the jeep. At one point, one of them actually climbed a tree to look around. Did you know cheetahs climbed trees? I certainly didn’t! After about 10 minutes, they wandered into the bush off the road. We didn’t follow them since we were likely a hinderance to them finding a meal. But we got to hunt with cheetahs twice! Woohoo!

Tree climbing cheetah

Tree climbing cheetah

While we had no luck with the leopard, we drove far out to an area known for large congregation of elephants. I think I heard Uly say 60-80 elephants! When we got there, it was shocking. It looked like a tornado had ripped through the area. There were few bushes or trees standing. I dubbed it the Elephanado. It was incredible to see this devastated place because elephants. Because elephants.
Landscape after elephant landscaping

Landscape after elephant landscaping 

On our way there and back, we met an elephant happily drinking from a pond, leftover from the rains. We were about 10 feet from him as we slowly passed him by. On the way back to the lodge, we found three additional elephants hanging out by the side of the road. Absolutely incredible creatures. They were just relaxing.
That afternoon, we decided to go check out Stompy and the other elephants. As we drove outside the gates, we found the wild dogs had all decided to take a rest under nearby trees. We got to see them really close up. They were adorable even though they would have torn us limb by limb if we had been dumb enough to get on the ground with them. There were over a dozen of them but they sat in 1s, 2s and 3s underneath the trees. Some places you could just see a tail wagging, likely hitting flies off of them. We also saw some puppies piled on top of each other! So neat!
Wild dog puppies

Wild dog puppies

 We then went off to find Stompy. Unfortunately, the cloud cover was messing with the antennae. But Uly was able to track them using foot prints, body prints, and fresh dung. All of a sudden we saw a whole herd of them come out of the bushes. There had to have been at least a dozen elephants of all sizes. At one point, the herd crossed behind us.
Then Stompy came out and then charged us! Yes, charged us. Twice! He waggled his head a little and ran at the truck. It was exhilarating. Thankfully we were on the road with him behind us so there was no danger. It was what is called a “mock charge.” Both charges lasted for about 5 seconds. He was playing around, acting tough because of the herd. If it had been a real charge, he would have trumpeted and pursued the jeep!
Stompy charging

Stompy charging

We then went off to find the hyenas. So far, we hadn’t any sign of them. We did see some jackals, which were adorable. We even heard them calling to one another. We also saw some female kudus wandering around together. But we didn’t find the hyenas. Alas.
The storm clouds emerged in the distance in the later afternoon but we didn’t get rained on. However, we did get a double rainbow, which was super neat.
However, at dinner, we did spot a hyena at the watering hole. At first we thought it was a hippo! However, as it got closer to the water, it was clear that it was dog-like, but not a wild dog. Very neat!
That’s all for now!

Part 8: Namibia

That evening, we went on a night drive starting at 9pm. Nighttime on the bush is very different from the day. There are simply many animals that are nocturnal, rather than diurnal (new $5 word of the day). So the weather was clear enough that night, so we went out. I was a bit anxious about insects since we would be in darkness. So I battened down the hatches by wearing a scarf tight over me head, a fleece, and jeans to prevent insects from hitchhiking. I was ready.

In a night safari drive, the driver uses a spotlight on both sides of road since it is so dark. The only issue is that there were lots of bugs attracted to the light. There were more at this time of year due to the rains. Alas.

For this drive, we decided to hunt again for the leopard and hyenas since both are a bit more nocturnal. Almost off the bat, Uly found us a snake, one of two on the entire trip. It looked brown and small. It was hanging out near the meerkat den.

The most incredible thing was to see green and red eyes staring at us from the bush. There’s a piece of skin, called tapetum lucidum, that reflects light and produces the effect. It’s supposed to help animals see in the dark. Humans don’t have this surface. With these reflecting eyes, we saw a lot of antelope, just hanging out, resting under trees. So wonderfully eerie.

At one point, in a rocky area, we thought we found the leopard based on green eyes in the distance. As we got closer, we discovered that it was a bit too small to be a leopard. We think it was a jennet, a smaller cat. Still nifty!

We spent much of the evening looking for the leopard or hyenas. Sadly, we didn’t find either. But it was amazing to wander around in the darkness. At one point, Uly cut the engine, turned off the spotlight, so we could appreciate the darkness. We could so many stars above us! It was not 100% dark since there were so light haze from a neighboring farm in the distance but it was darker than I’ve experienced. I had an inkling of what it was like to be a person before electricity. This darkness was your daily life.

While we wandered in this darkened landscape, we did find an elephant carcass. It is huge. Quite delightfully unsettling at night. Funny enough, we never saw it during the day!

Elephant carcass

Elephant carcass

Most exciting, we ended up finding the lionesses on the main road, clearly out to find some food. They were sitting around but then they wandered away from us. These were the cranky lionesses that charge the vehicle. They didn’t feel the need, which was good. I think it would be scary to happen during the day; nighttime would be down right terrifying. It was amazing to see these creatures with their reflecting eyes near midnight. Later, we could hear them at camp roaring.

Nighttime lionness

Nighttime lionness

At one point, we nearly ran into an ostrich who bolted out in front of our vehicle. He really came from nowhere. Thankfully, we did not since that would have been horrific.

So that’s all for now. Tomorrow is a new day of more day safari!

Part 7: Namibia

In our afternoon drive that day, we spent our time looking for the leopard. In preparation for this trip, I learned about the “Big Five” animals. One site says they are the greatest wild animals in Africa; another says they are the hardest animals to hunt on foot. Either way, you try to see all five on safari. The big five are: elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and water buffalo. At this point of the trip, we had seen the first three. The park didn’t have water buffalo because they can carry diseases that can devastate cattle farms. (There are a lot of cattle farms in Namibia).

The leopard was going to be tricky. Uly said he had seen it eight times in the eight years he had worked at Erindi. Some leopards had electric collars but the battery died and they hadn’t been able to capture one to put a new collar on. So we spent the afternoon searching in known leopard haunts, namely rocky outcroppings. So we drove to some particularly rocky areas and scanned to see if we could find a leopard. We did see a violet starling, which was super cool. We also saw a dik-dik, the smallest antelope. So cute!

Violet starling

Violet starling

Dik dik

Dik dik

At one point, we drove up this road in a hillier area. Imagine a road covered in stones like a cobblestone street…but with no molding to keep it flat. But Mrs. Jones managed to get us up and down it without any issues. I’m sorry I didn’t take a photo; it was really a road of stones that were vaguely flat. While we were up in the hills, Uly spotted some recent leopard tracks from the following night. Incredible! We also watched another thunderstorm come over the horizon. However, we managed to completely avoid it. Instead, we got to see some wonderful African rainbows. That was super neat.

After our jaunt up the hillside, we found an open area where we had our afternoon drinks and snacks. We did see two giant hawks gliding over the area. Very impressive. And there is this moment that I’ll never forget. I was drinking my appletizer (fizzy apple juice) with my cheesy crackers. I realized that I was standing over a small amount of antelope dung, tiny pellets. They are everywhere. And I didn’t care. It seemed so natural for me to be eating and drinking. I love it!

On the way home, we ran into another eagle, hanging out in a tree. We watched him for awhile as the birders tried to identify him. He was extremely majestic. Then when we were close to base camp, we also saw two owls. They were massive. It’s crazy but I don’t think I’ve ever seen owls in the wild before. So that was super neat.

Eagle

Eagle

Owls

Owls

As the sun began to set, we also got to experience a most peculiar mating ritual of the red breasted coran. When the bird is courting or alerting others to his presence, it will fly up in the air and then immediately stop flapping its wings. It then drops like a rock but manages to pull up before it hits the ground. Such a crazy thing to watch!

So may not have found the leopard, but we did find some other amazing animals. Goodness, I love safari.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about our night safari.

Two new catalogs online

pera411:

Check it out!

Originally posted on That Belongs in a Museum!:

Hobbs (shoulder brooch)

This month we have two new catalogs on our site:

Catalog #7 from February 11 at Gallery Cabaret
Catalog #8 from a special TBM in DeKalb, IL in assocation with the Northern Illinois University Art Museum

Inside you’ll learn about a mysterious animal hairball, a musical instrument you can make with parts from the hardware store, surprise finds from auctions, and lots of other objects and stories.

View original

Part 6: Namibia

On our third day, we decided to opt for a special drive: the Cheetah Walk. This was the only drive where we had a different guide. Going into this, we thought that we’d go for a stroll on a road with a cheetah. We were a tad mistaken. The cheetah walk meant tracking the cheetah with a radio collar. Then we leave the jeep to hike to where the cheetah is. Then we hang out and follow the cheetah if he or she decides to go places. Craziness! As a rule, you never left the vehicle. So this was a completely new experience for us!

On the way to cheetah territory, we happened across another lion, Duku. He was hanging out in the long grass. It was incredible to see how he blended in so well! We took some photos of him but then he wandered off behind a tree. Didn’t like all the attention!
Duku. Blends in so well with the grass!

Duku. Blends in so well with the grass!

So we kept driving on. Our guide used an antennae to narrow down where the cheetah was hanging out. When we got sufficiently close to her, he parked the vehicle off road and we all got out. As soon as we put our feet in the bush, a lion roar rang out in the distance. We asked, “How far away is that?” Our guide reassured us that it was 3 km away. And he told us that a roaring lion is not a hungry lion!
Then he gave us the ground rules. We had to follow behind him single file in silence. If he held up his gun, we had to stop and pay close attention to him. The cardinal rule of the bush is don’t run. If you see a lion, stand your ground. If you see a rhino, run behind a tree. They won’t charge through things that they can’t see through! Never found out what to do about elephants…
So we began our silent march into the bush. Our guide had the antennae in one hand and a gun in the other! It was crazy to have our feet on the ground. I was a bit nervous about snakes and spiders over fears of poison/venom. But it was a nice walk.  At one point, we heard the roars again and our guide raised his gun. He listened and then lowered it. We wandered on.
Eventually, we spotted the cheetah and her two cubs lying in the middle of a wooded area. She was a success story from the Cheetah Conservation Fund. I had done my first marketing project in business school for the CCF so it was super neat to see one of their animals who had been rehabilitated. Apparently, no one had known she was pregnant when she came to Erindi so it was a bit of surprise when she had two cubs. They were nine months old and seemingly well.
It was incredible just watching these three creatures lying about. They began licking each other, grooming each other before they began to hunt. Our guide said it had been about two days since they had eaten so it was time. The two cubs got a bit rambunctious and wanted their mother to get food. It was hilarious as they wrestled and scampered all over!
Impatient cubs

Impatient cubs

Then it was time to hunt. The  mother stood up and began strolling off, searching for food. Cheetahs have to conserve energy so they do this walk 100 yards, lie down for awhile, get up and wander some more, then lie down again. They can only run for short periods of time so they don’t waste the energy. And we followed behind. Yes, we went hunting with the cheetahs.
At one point, our guide told us to crouch down since the cheetah seemed to see something. We were tall and bright colored so we would definitely be a hinderance. So we crouched. It was sheer will that I didn’t freak out about the giant millipedes just hanging out all around us. I prayed that none of them would crawl on my foot. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. At one point, we ended up crouching over an active termite nest. It was really neat watching these tiny insects pulling twigs and leaves into holes.
After about an hour of following the cheetahs, it became clear that we weren’t going to help their cause. So we decided to call it a day and let them go off without noisy game scaring humans. We wandered back to the jeep to go back to the lodge. On the way, we found an elephant who was just sleeping on a tree. He had his head resting against this tree. Incredible!
Sleepy elephant
When we got back to the lodge, my friend asked: “How far were those lions?” Our guide admitted: “1 km.” 1 km!
That’s all for now!

Part 5: Namibia

We set off for our afternoon drive. Just outside the gates of the lodge, there was a small colony of meerkats. Three of them. They were so adorable. They came out to check out the truck. At different points, all three of them ended up underneath the parked truck, which was a bit nerve-wracking. One of them had been hand reared so he was very comfortable with humans. He rubbed himself against the tire of the truck. Then he started to dig where the truck was dripping water. So cute. The rangers were trying to catch them to bring them back into the conservation area set aside for them. They explained that there weren’t enough meerkats for them to survive by themselves.

Meerkat rubbing himself against the truck tire

Meerkat rubbing himself against the truck tire

Then we were off to see the rhinos. They can’t put tracking collars on the rhinos since poachers can use the frequency to hunt them. Horrible. So we had to hope that we could find one of them at a favorite haunt. As we were driving by another watering hole, my friend shouted, “There he is.” She had turned around and had seen this incredible brown colored beast grazing. It was a black rhino covered in mud. We kept our distance from him (all the guides knew the comfort level of all the animals). But the rhino decided to trot off into the bush. I feel incredibly lucky to have seen a rhino in the wild. I fear that this might be something that I tell my grandchildren about. I hope I’m wrong but I fear that the economics aren’t good in favor of the rhino.

Black rhino

Black rhino

Also, my friend taught me an important lesson: look to your left and right and behind you when on safari. You will catch some amazing things. That’s how she found the rhino.

After our incredible rhino sighting, we drove up to another small mountain/large hill. Over in the distance, we could see a very nasty thunderstorm coming across the park. It was super exciting to see the dark clouds rolling in and see the rain in the distance. Lightening would occasionally strike, sometimes three times at once! There we heard stories about how they once found the leopard there. The trick with the leopard is to walk away slowly, ignoring it, but you never turn your back. That’s how you survive. Not exactly the most reassuring thing to hear!

Then it was time to return to base camp and deal with the storm. As we descended the rocky outcropping, our friend spotted little eyes from a hole. Another aardwolf! I think it was new for the rangers too! These tiny black eyes and big ears peaked from the hole. So cute. We continued our descent. It started to rain a bit as we began to return to the lodge.

In the midst of it, we stumbled upon Goldie again, sitting in the middle of an open area, no cover from the thunderstorm. He was a little bit more alert this time but not by much. We drove around him, caught some magnificent yawns. Then it was time to face the storm. We all got prepped, positioned our blankets and scarves.

Goldie hanging out before the thunderstorm

Goldie hanging out before the thunderstorm

A taste of the roads during the storm

A taste of the roads during the storm

Then the storm came upon us. It was a doozy. It rained so hard that the drops stung when they hit us. My fiancé and I used our hats as shields to block the rain hitting our faces. It actually worked rather well. Then the rain became less painful. That’s when we noticed that all the roads were now effectively rivers. This was the desert, so there wasn’t a lot of water beforehand….For the first time in my life, I was really concerned the jeep was going to stall and we were going to have to be rescued from the bush. But Mrs. Jones kept her reputation. Uly and Mrs. Jones got us home safe and sound. It was really remarkable!

I got my first African thunderstorm. Woohoo!

That’s all for now!

 

Part 4: Namibia

On our second day, our morning drive was initially filled with birds. We had companions in the jeep who were bona fide birdwatchers. We slowed down a little bit and took a longer time to look at the birds. At one point, we came across storks wading in a pond early in the morning. It was simply magnificent watching them. So idyllic.

After a few hours of birding, it became all about big cats. One of the rangers managed to track down two lionesses hidden in the bush. It was the most incredible experience. Uly would just plow through bushes and past trees so we could get to them. The two of them were just lying under a shady tree. They are generally cranky and, like Stompy, also they charge the trucks occasionally. They did growl a few times at us, which made my heart race. Thankfully, nothing more happened. One of the lionesses was named “Yoda”. Apparently, many of the animals were named after Star Wars characters, which is pretty cool.

Then we got word that the male lion of the pair was spotted. So we drove to find him. Like the other two lionesses, he was lying underneath a tree. He barely acknowledged us. So sleepy. But he was huge! His paws were enormous.

Then we got word that cheetahs were spotted. So we were off further into the bush to find them. It was incredible how the terrain changed so much. We’d go from bushes and trees with beige soil to just bushes with red soil, and so on. It felt that traveling five minutes in any direction would change the landscape. So neat.

We came across the two cheetahs, also lazing about in the shade. I had heard that big cats spend a lot of time resting about. I fell in love with these cheetahs. They are such beautiful animals. One of them kept rolling in the opposite direction from the camera. Shy!

Cheetah!

Cheetah!

The rest of the morning and early afternoon was spent lounging on the deck of the restaurant facing the watering hole. The temperature was perfect; I was shaded and curled up with my best book. During that time, I listened to the hippos making their grunts. They even walked out of the water during the hottest time and grazed on land. It was amazing to watch a small herd of hippos wander about, bobbing their heads as they walked.

Wild dogs!

Wild dogs!

And then I finally saw the wild dogs. I was lazily reading when I had this feeling. I grabbed my binoculars and looked to see a whole pack of wild dogs hanging out on a small rocky outcropping. There were at least a dozen of them. Then they wandered across the plains and disappeared into the bush. I counted fourteen of them. A while later, I saw them running back from the bush back to the outcropping. It was so neat to see these relations of our dogs.

That’s all for now! We’ll talk about our afternoon drive tomorrow!