Have you rested enough? The sun is getting lower now, and we have so much more to see before night fall. So let’s climb back onboard our sturdy safari van.
On the savannah between the many small hills, we encounter more giraffes. They are further from our trail now, enjoying a variety of afternoon snacks. Did you know that no two giraffes have the same pattern? It’s just like our finger print, or a snow flake. The pattern is unique to each individual.
Holding on to the bar while we bob and hop forward, we look at every tree and every bush. And suddenly something really big flies over our van! A surprisingly nice looking Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture settles on a tree a bit away from the trail.
This is a remarkable bird. It holds the record as the highest flying bird, spotted at an altitude of over 37, 000 feet/11 kilometers. Like watching it fly alongside a jumbo jet. It also has lots of throttle. It can fly over three miles in six minutes from a standing start- a Ferrari of the skies – and can venture about 90 miles from its nest in search of food. That is quite amazing.
Not far from the vulture, but miles away on the beauty scale, we find a family with kids. Beautiful Grey Crowned Cranes. The chicks travel safely between mom who leads the way, and dad who checks the surroundings for any dangers.
This tall, colorful bird’s French name is Grue Royale, and they certainly look royal to me, with a golden crown and everything.Our journey continues up and down the hills. And soon we spot some familiar looking birds. Actually they are the cousins of two salt marsh birds. The tall Black-faced Heron would get along great with our GBH, the Mayor, and the small Striated Heron could easily be mixed up with our Green Heron.
Nice to see some faces that look a bit familiar, isn’t it?
After a while we arrive into a grassland (phew, it’s flat and the ride gets a bit easier) where several different antelopes enjoy their afternoon. The first one we spot is the graceful Thomson Gazelle. He’s close to the trail and gets scared by our “zebra-van”. But he doesn’t show us how fast he can run…up to 40 miles/64 kilometers an hour. I guess that speed is reserved for real dangers, like lions and cheetahs.
Then we notice a little head reaching up from the tall grass. A baby Bushbuck is observing us. She’s well camouflaged to stay safe. The Bushbuck calves don’t follow their mom until they are about four months old, so this little one must be younger than that. Stay safe baby, you mom will come back before nightfall.
The next sightings throw us directly into the “large department”. It’s aptly represented by the Eland, one of the largest antelopes. And the Cape Buffalo.
These buffalos are quite surprising animals. They have an extraordinary memory – and they never forget. They’ve been known to approach people they like with great affection even after a long time. Similarly, they are known to ambush and kill hunters who wounded or hurt them many years earlier. And they are the strongmen of the bush, with four times the strength of an ox. We better be friendly.
We drive down a hill towards a small lake. We spot herds of antelopes and buffaloes on the other side. Down by the water, we find a couple of Egyptian Geese, and two other beautiful smaller birds: the Black-smith Plover and the colorful Crowned Lapwing.
This Lapwing has a black crown intersected by an annular white halo, and is really easy to spot in this short grass because of it’s bright red legs.
Much of this rough ride we’ve been standing up and looking out through the raised roof. I was hoping to spot a lion or a cheetah. You too? But in this vast park they could be anywhere. My hope to find any of these cats is fading with the setting sun.
But what is that? Looks like a bird running for her life. It’s a Yellow-necked Spur Fowl scooting across the trail from the tall grass to open land. She is obviously in a hurry.
Now look where she came from! Our fantastic driver/guide points to the other side of the trail. There’s a cat. Not one of the big ones, but a serval looking for dinner. No wonder the fowl was scurrying away, it has about 50/50 chance to escape.
While bigger cats on the savannah catch a prey in one of five to six tries, the serval only needs two chances. It’s sometimes referred to as small cheetah – because they look alike, but also because the serval is the next fastest runner of the cats on the savannah.
Just as we approach the east gate of the park at the end of our drive, we get company on the trail. A gorgeous young man comes to say hello and goodbye. A heart-warming send-off. A perfect expression of the savannah’s state of mind.
I hope you enjoyed our afternoon in the wild. Nature is amazing. Let us take better care of it.