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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lion Sands Private Game Reserve 9.7 to 9.10 - Animals

"A safari is an overland journey, usually a trip by tourists to Africa. Traditionally, the term is used for a big-game hunt, but today the term often refers to a trip taken not for the purpose of hunting, but to observe and photograph animals and other wildlife" - Wikipedia. 

For the next few days, we followed the camp's strict schedule, which was designed for the optimum wildlife viewing. Two game drives a day, one at the crack of dawn, one at the sunset.  The temperature varies drastically from mid 30ºs F (around 0º C) before sunrise to near 90º F (30º C) at mid-day, and then once again dropping to mid 30's after sundown.  

We spent an average of 6 hours a day on a 4x4 open vehicle out in the bush with our team mates, ranger and tracker.  It was always an unknown discovery when we drove out into the bush. You never know if, when, and what animals you would see.  Even at times when we did not spot many animals, I enjoyed the peaceful ride and the scenery.  There was an indescribable feeling that we were on the soil of the motherland.  The landscape was primal and rough.  It was about survival and natural selection for all the living creatures, even trees grew poisonous thorns to protect themselves from being eaten by animals. 

At some point when you plan an Africa Safari trip, you will for sure read about "The Big Five". The big five animals are lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalos, and leopards.  They were referred by the big game hunters to be five most dangerous and difficult animals to hunt, rather than their sizes.  
Jona, our ranger, seemed to have quite strong opinions on the term being used by the safari tour operators for the marketing purposes nowadays when he explained the big five to us.  However, for someone who rarely watches any national geographic/animal kingdom shows and on the first safari trip, I wanted to see the big five and some more!

We spotted white rhinos and the rarely sighted black rhinos at various occasion during our stay. The way they moved their disproportional tiny ears reminded me of Shrek so much. 

We had many close encounters with elephants, and they were so much fun to watch.  One early morning, we came across to a herd of elephants. Our vehicle stopped in the middle of the road as they peacefully strolled passed us.  

Another morning, we watched a herd of lions taking naps in the same spot the whole day.  

Leopards are usually very hard to spot.  We were very lucky to spend quite some time watching a young leopard playing with his food and jumping up and down the trees while his mother rested under the bush one morning.  

The animals are used to seeing 4x4 vehicles around.  As long as we stayed seated in the vehicles, the animals would not bother us.  Being so close to these animals and seeing them relaxed and playful gave you a false sense of security.  You are tempted to stick your hand out to pet these adorable giant baby elephants, rhinos, lions, or leopards. Now I understand why some tourists were attacked on safaris because they got too close to the animals.  Do not be fooled, any reckless move could aggravate the animals and put your life in danger.  The trackers and rangers understand the wildlife and read the situations carefully.  They know how to keep a safe distance and not aggravate these animals. 

One day after breakfast, Jona and Abraham took us on a bush walk. 
We walked to the river bed and got a close look of some hippos. 

Jona told us that he thought buffalos were the most boring animals to watch, and we did not see any buffalos for the first few days.  Later on, we spotted a few of them across the river from our dining deck.  Were they boring to watch? I couldn't tell.  They were too far away. However, the last day when were out on our last game drive, we were told by other guests that a few lions came by the river to attack a herd of buffalos.  Two buffalos were killed while others got away.  That was definitely National Geographic material. 

Of course there were many other animals that lived in the bush.  We got a glimpse of a hyena, two  funny looking warthogs, some zebras, a few giraffes who gracefully chewed on leaves on top of the trees, and herds of bushbucks, kudus, nyalas that I still have trouble to differentiate from one another sometimes.  

On the last game drive before we returned home, we saw a baby elephant that was just born within hours, still covered in blood, and barely could walk.  Here is the adorable footage of the baby elephant and his mother.

Click for PHOTO ALBUM 9.7

Click for PHOTO ALBUM 9.8

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