Day two in Selous was a long, beautiful day in the bush. We had an early breakfast watching the hippos and crocs and then set out for a ten hour safari that would take us to some areas with higher game densities.
It took almost an hour to get out of the super mountainous/scrub terrain and into more savanna-like areas, though there were few really open areas. We didn't see a lot of animals during that hour, save the occasional herd of impala or quick little squirrel. We did pass through about 1/4 km area that was literally buzzing with cicadas. It was only in that one area - I'm not sure what it was about that spot, but they were everywhere! You could barely hear the engine over them. Fascinating.
Our first exciting sighting of the day was a gaggle of giraffes. Over the course of the next few days we'd see many similar groups - several adult females and males and a whole host of babies and adolescents. I mentioned before how the crocs were skittish. Well, it wasn't just them. Every animal was super skittish. We surmised that the hunting concessions in the south of the park and the animals' migratory patterns to and from those areas made for extremely frightened animals. It was a shame, really. I love turning the car off and just watching animals go about their business, but, with few exceptions, we often got only fleeting glimpses. We did, though, get to see a lot of giraffes running away from us with their funny, awkward gaits.
This particular gaggle had two males who engaged in some neck fighting. I'd never seen it before, and it was as odd and captivating as it had seemed on you tube. There was a definite whoosh of wind as they wound up, and yet it was as graceful and choreographed as a ballet. Fascinating.
We moved on from the giraffes, encountering olive baboons and more herds of impala as we descended down toward one of Selous' many lakes. We were looking at what seemed to be a beautiful green field when all of a sudden a hippo rose out of the 'field' covered in lily pads. It was actually a marshy area completely covered with lily pads! He and his companion egret walked off toward a cooler spot without a glance back at us.
After that we hit Lake Tagalala, a shallow lake with an abundance of birdlife. Our guide also told us that it has the highest density of crocs per cubic volume of water, and we saw plenty of evidence of that! Birds included great heron, lots of egrets/ibis/sandpipers/etc., marabou and yellow-billed storks, African spoonbill, pelicans, fish eagles, and many more, often all at once. It was a feast for birders; while none of us really are, we were impressed by the sights nonetheless.
As we traversed the lake's edge, we were met by the unmistakable scent of death. While in most aspects of life one would be repelled by this scent, on safari it often means predator sightings are in store. We didn't find any predators at the remains of a giraffe, but it was still pretty fascinating to see. Our guide said it was lions who had killed it, a few days prior.
We continued on, and the mud started getting a bit thicker and harder to traverse. Our guide/driver - a very practical man - checked out a shortcut to another area he wanted to visit and saw that the muddy ravine was too difficult for us to cross. He headed out on the long way around, and we bumped into two vehicles from our lodge - the only two vehicles we saw all day! Those drivers wanted to go via the ravine and figured if three cars tried it they could use winches to help. Our vehicle - consisting of three women - sighed and shook our heads. So we turned around and headed back to the ravine. We were the second car in the line, and, sure enough, the first one got quite stuck. I'll spare you the gory details, but 45 minutes later we were all on the other side. In between there was a lot of eye rolling on our part, excited cheers from the male tourists in the other vehicles, and at least two winch applications. One of the men in another vehicle caught D, T, and me rolling our eyes and told us, "this is the essence of safari!" We looked at him, rolled our eyes, and muttered under our breath that watching animals was, in fact, the essence of safari, and that this little escapade had robbed us of 45 minutes of prime viewing time.
Once on the other side we separated again and looked for animals - the essence of safari. We had just found our first herd of elephants for the day, some munching on branches behind some trees, some heading into the lake for a bath, when our guide took a call over the radio. He asked us, ever so politely, if we'd mind leaving the elephants. Another guide had found lions. We laughed, agreed, and set off. After about ten minutes of excited driving across fields and through scrublands we spotted the other two vehicles. And then we spotted the lions.
There were seven of them lazing in a slightly muddy depression underneath several trees. It was midday, hot and humid, and they were all panting fiercely. There were two mamas and five babies and adolescents. A few of the little ones still had their leopard spotting. Our guide knew this pride, and they were the among the few animals not to run from us on the whole trip. I guess when you're at the top of the food chain you have some leeway on deciding whether to run from the vehicles.
The mamas got comfortable, rolling from their fronts to their backs, all four paws in the air. One of the youngest babes left his nook in the trunk of a tree to come over and smell the tires before retreating behind a bush to relieve himself. One of his brothers got up to smell him when he returned.
Despite the oppressive heat, several of the lions were all cuddled up and made an effort to cuddle up more when one of the mamas repositioned. We stayed there with the engine off for probably thirty minutes just watching and marveling. Lions never cease to amaze me. I could watch them all day, even if they don't do anything like this group.
I'll leave you with some photos from the morning as I take time to write the next installment.
|Running away, as always|
|baby giraffes - so many of them!|
|See how tiny?|
|A hippo and his egret. And his lily pad hat.|
|I love that he kept the lily pad adornments on the entire time!|
|The site of, apparently, the largest number of crocs per cubic volume of water. We did see a lot. |
|Marabou stork; these guys are like pigeons in Kampala|
|Remains of a giraffe|
|Baby elephant running from us|
|Heading for a bath|
|Beautiful fish eagle in the water|
|Cuddling with the siblings|
|Pile o' lions|
|Smelling brother after he returns from the bush|
|Repositioning for better cuddles|
|So incredible sweet!|