Throughout the night, we could tell there were monkeys (probably baboons or vervet monkeys) running across our ceiling. We woke up early, without any power. The generator had gone out the evening before, and apparently we ran out of power in the inverter circuit over night. Justin bashed into luggage holder, but fortunately did not break any toes. Crystal got a bloody nose – not because she bashed into anything, but because it was so dry.
Our drive went very well, however. First we saw a Capparis tomentosa (we wouldn't find out the name for some time), a plant that Crystal thought looked very nice. Then we stopped for a while to watch several impala, and learned that birds basically act as a sentry for impala. The birds themselves look out for predators, especially leopards, and make signals that indicate when a predator is present. At one point, the birds made a noise and Newman said "leopard," and immediately all of the impala stopped and looked in the same direction – looking for some time to see if there was a leopard they could see. We saw a Reed Buck as well. We also saw a pair of yellow billed storks from some distance away – they looked to be huge.
We came upon a large palm tree that elephants had knocked over, and they were tearing it to shreds in order to get at the palm heart. They all came in one at a time. There were 7 males, all of which were making an effort to be the dominant one in the group, but there never was any fighting. One of the elephants basically ripped the palm tree in half long ways, which was a phenomenal feat.
Other sightings were good as well. We saw a Tawny Eagle at the top of a tree. We saw a group of starlings in a dead tree. We saw a pair of male impala fighting, but one of them kept backing away instead of fighting – it was clear who the stronger one was at this point. We saw a termite mound that looked like a sandcastle.
We had stopped for morning tea when we got a call that one of the trucks had spotted a leopard. We drove over and saw her, but she had positioned herself in the shade at the bottom of a palm tree grove, with grass in front of her, so it was nearly impossible to get a good shot. We had to either wait for the wind to blow some of the grass temporarily out of the way, or get shots in the 2-3 seconds she would re-position herself. It was easy to see why no prey would be able to spot her in the bush. This was the one pretty good shot that we got. We came home after waiting (unfulfilled) for the leopard to move. After dogs on first drive and leopard on second drive, we asked Newman what he would do for an encore.
We took a siesta shortly after finishing brunch, which was very good. For the afternoon drive, Newman told us he wanted to take us up to the far northern part of the concession, and to do so we wouldn't be stopping unless it was to see a "leopard killing an elephant" or something similar. Thus, we drove past a number of things we might otherwise stop to look at for longer, including giraffe and zebra. Newman told us that Chitabe means "place of zebra" in the bushman language. We did see a group of banded mongooses, which we founded out travel in groups, whereas slender mongooses are solitary animals. We also saw a group of vervet monkeys in a tree.
On the drive up, the engine overheated from driving in a low gear for so long while trudging through the thick sand. In the deep sand the road has deep ruts, and the car pretty much drives itself as it slaloms through trees and shrubs, around sharp corners – it reminded us of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland , where there's a steering wheel that doesn't do much. We got up to the northern edge of a concession and saw a low flying plane, which was circling. Newman told us it was circling illegally, as it did not have the right to be flying so low, and also flying over the Moremi Game Reserve without authorization.
We soon saw what it was circling for – there was a giant group of water buffalo just across the river that formed the concession's border. Fanie and Newman estimated there was about 350 to 400 buffalo. This time there was no dust, as the area they were in was green and with water. Some were right across the river, while others were farther away. Soon they all started coming towards the river, and we could see and hear hundreds of them splashing through the delta. A couple times we could see small buffalo almost disappear crossing the water. We saw a couple baby buffalo, including one that Newman estimated was less than a day old. We sat and watched all the buffalo for some time, and then Newman suggested we get out of the truck for sundowners. We had to get out on the side opposite the buffalo so as to not disturb them. Justin set up his monopod to catch the buffalo crossing the river onto our concession as the sun was heading down. He also got a picture of a large elephant crossing the river in front of the buffalo. He also got a picture of the group of us. These are some of the highlights:
Even though we had seen basically just the group of buffalo, we really enjoyed the afternoon. Then we started driving home, and the drive got even better. First we saw a Genet, which Justin spotted under some broken branches when Fanie was moving the spotlight around. Then we came across the group of Wild Dogs, preparing to head out for the night. We almost ran over the alpha female, which was apart from the group and was right in front of us when we came around a corner. She was close enough we could get some decent shots from the light of the spotlight. Almost all of the way back, we also saw a giant eagle owl, as well as a jackal walking right up to some impala. Overall, it was a very good drive.
Dinner was pretty good. We sat with Ryan, the manager. He told us all about his trials and tribulations running the camp. He told us about all of the things he has to do to keep out problem animals – baboons because they are clever, hyenas because they are pests, and Honey Badgers because they never give up. He told us a story about a honey badger getting into the kitchen, and using the wire mesh in a vain attempt to keep them out. The honey badger had simply climbed up the mesh, then eaten through the roof and climbed down into the kitchen. He guessed that Baboons had a collection of photographic equipment that they sold to the mafia. After dinner, we just hit the sack.