Our jeep safaris were during the four or so hours each morning between breakfast and lunch, and sometimes in the afternoon. We did not set out with the expectation of seeing any particular animal in mind, other than a lion, which we had not seen at Oddballs. Face of course had a good knowledge of where particular species preferred to hang out, but except maybe for the turtle, all of them had wide ranges and would go where they needed to make the kill for their meals. They could be anywhere from one day to the next.
Impala were everywhere. They were the cracker food for the larger species I think. Because there had been no rain since May, most of the animals really had to search for food. In the photos some of the animals are emaciated to one degree or another, but as any real situation some managed to find food more readily than others.
We had hoped to see a pack of wild dogs making a kill, but we saw only one trotting through the grassland. They are highly intelligent animals. Like on a football team, each dog has its specialty: ripping the stomach, severing the foot tendon, jumping on the preys back ….
A few of the photos deserve special mention: the mother leopard hunting with her two juvenile sons bounding playfully behind her, and the lactating lion with her cubs hidden somewhere nearby, flaked out on the grass after a hard nights hunting, are two of them. A third is the Red-crested African Ground Hornbill, and endangered species we were lucky to come across. A dominant male pairs with a hen that produces an egg maybe every two- and-a-half years. But a single fledgling survives only every nine years or so. The other males don’t mate, but help the dominant pair rear their young.
By the end of our second day at Sango we still had not seen any lions. Face was determined that we would see one. He told us to get up before dawn the morning of the fourth day and get in the jeep. He also roused several of his friends out of their beds and sent them to different parts of the reserve in search of lions with instructions to them to radio him if they found one. Because we had a plane to catch to our third camp mid-morning Face drove like a madman to cover ground. Sixty kilometers/hour over rough savannah is quite a kidney massage. At one point I shouted “I think I cracked a nut.” After Laura and the kids got home, Laura asked Alex what was the high point of the trip for him. He said it was when grandpa said “I think I cracked a nut.” Ah, the things that make one famous. Face’s radio crackled. One of his friends had found a lactating lioness. Face picked up speed. Julia loved the speed, the bouncing, and wind on her face –huge smile, arms in the air. Nothing in Disneyland approached this. It was an aspect of her personality I had never seen before. I turned to Laura, and smiled: wild one you have there my daughter. She’s giving you a glimpse of what you will have to deal with when she becomes a teen.