We were kept up at night by some impala grazing on the grass just outside and underneath our tent. On our morning drive, Newman told us we would be driving down to the southwestern part of the concession that had some permanent water, and had also recently had a fire from which new grass was resprouting. For the first time, there was some actual weather – it was cloudy and windy. We barely saw the sun after it initially rose. It was still warmer than mornings in Selinda however. Newman and Fanie saw some fresh hyena tracks, and followed them to what used to be a Wild Dog den from a couple years back – the hyenas were not there, however.
We made it over to the fresh green area, which looked to be the most appetizing area we had seen – huge open fields of low green grass. There were barely any animals, however, just some Waterbuck, impala, and baboons over a huge area (less than two dozen animals in total). We did get some good bird shots, including wattled cranes and saddle-billed storks. We even got to see two saddle-billed storks flying – their wingspan was enormous.
Our morning was completely saved from mediocrity, however, by an elephant we named Cinco. He was chewing on a Sycamore Fig that was at the very tip-top of his reach. He was basically standing on his tip toes reaching for the lowest branches in the hopes of pulling them down. Newman kept hoping he would get up on two feet, but it never happened – the closest he got was three feet. We watched him for roughly 20 minutes doing his thing, and then he decided he wanted to come watch us. He slowly walked over towards our truck, and kept coming. Newman did not turn on the engine, which indicated to us (perhaps wrongly) that there was no danger. He came to within 15 feet of Justin, and Crystal decided to capture the moment on film. Justin also got some good video of the occasion.
Then, shortly before reaching camp, Newman saw a leopard. It was off to our right, about 500-600 feet away, in a tree, facing away from us. It took Newman about 5 minutes to show us where it was, and then we had to use binoculars to see it. Justin just aimed the camera at it and hoped for the best – zoomed in on a picture taken with an 18x zoom you could finally make it out. We decided to drive around to the other side to see if we could get any closer. We weren't able to get much closer, but at least it was facing us this time. It was still almost completely camouflaged, however. Justin rested his camera on a beanbag on the edge of the truck, which helped steady the camera a bit. Again, it was pretty much shoot and hope for the best. The picture turned out okay, but not quite as good as the leopard we saw in Selinda.
We tried getting closer to the leopard, but almost immediately it hopped down and hid. We drove back to the camp, which was actually quite close at this point. So in 4 drives with Newman, we had seen dogs twice and leopards twice – we kept wondering how long he could keep this up. At lunch we spoke with an Australian couple, Steve and Ann, who also had a close encounter with an elephant. In their case, a male had mock charged their car, and Ann had freaked out, and Steve had been polite enough to catch both the elephant and Ann on video. We had another afternoon siesta, and Justin caught up on the diary while Crystal read Guns, Germs, and Steel. We heard some more louries, and Crystal noted that the louries sound very much like Nancy Kerrigan after getting whacked with a pole at the Olympic qualifying – "why, why?" We also saw a Crested Barbet.
Before we left for the afternoon drive, we heard that some of the people coming in from the airport had seen a lion. Shortly after we started our afternoon drive, we saw Fanie driving in some new guests, and they too had seen the lion. We decided we would shoot for the lion as well.
On the way, Newman gave us some more education. First he told us about the knobby combretum, a shrub Crystal likes. Then he told us about the numerous uses for the sausage trees, including making mokoros and also using the sap as a sunscreen. He told us about how Botswana's diamonds are almost all washed down from Angola with the yearly floods. Because of this, some crocodiles would swallow diamonds, thinking they were rocks, to aid with digestion. Some people thereafter hunted crocs in the hopes of getting diamonds, using impalas laced with sharp sticks as lures. Newman also taught us that many of the animals lack calcium in their diet, and therefore will eat hyena feces, which are full of calcium because of all the bones they eat. We learned the long-tail shrike is called the butcher bird because it kills its prey by picking it up and then ramming them into the spikes on acacias or other thorny plants – Justin thought this was pretty cool, Crystal not so much.
We came upon a large group of impala, and Newman taught us how they communicate with one another. They cannot make any noise other than a warning sound. They have individual body scents, however, so they can recognize one another from scent. This scent gland is on their legs, and passes onto the grass when they run, so they can tell where each other has run, for example after fleeing a predator. Only impala themselves can smell this special impala scent. After the impala we saw some baboons, one of which was a large male stalking around.
There were two cars by the lion when we showed up – she was right by the road just lying on her side – much more conspicuous than the other animals. When we got there, she stood up to look at the baboons that we had passed a minute or two before reaching her. She looked around for a minute or two, then laid back down. We drove around a bit more, and came upon a group of elephants. One was a youngster very close to the car. There was also a mom and youngster that walked right in front of our car, and a teenager. We also saw a honey badger on the drive back to camp.
Back at the camp, it was actually starting to drizzle a bit as we got ready for dinner. We had decided to spend the night in the hide – a place outside of camp that is basically just a platform in a tree. The weather, although hot, had been clear and calm the whole time, and now that we were preparing to spend the night in the elements it was starting to rain and the wind was picking up. We ate dinner, and then took off for the hide. Right as we were about to get in the truck, it started to rain in earnest, but Crystal decided we would "tough it out."
The hide, while very rustic, was still nice. They had nicely decorated the loo, and the bed still had a mosquito net. The clouds lifted occasionally for us to get a photo of the full moon, but photos do not capture the wind, which was crazy. There wasn't much to do, and we were tired, so even with the wind and rain, we fell asleep in record time.