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!
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.
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.