Are we really doing this?
Expectations are a funny thing. The Buddha tells us that they are the source of suffering. We would have suffered a great loss if we had not gone on this safari.
Safari conjured up many half-formed ideas and most of these were relatively negative. As a child, camping was never a happy occasion for me. Living in the country, camping was too close to everyday life. It was also experienced in a hyper-masculine version of Boy Scouts that added identity mis-match and threat of discovery of difference. So with this background and a vague sense that the safari was a camping experience, I was braced to endure.
I investigated our accommodations. Hmmm... this seems quite promising. Beautiful thatched cabins with gracious accommodations, plunge pools and a lodge house with an accomplished chef.
I still thought this was going to be a visit to the zoo via truck.
Always Be Learning
It was amazing.
One expects that there would be a guide of some sort to explain what we saw, but in no way did I expect to have such a walking Wikipedia of South African wildlife.
Ashley was not just a competent driver with a good knowledge of the byways of the preserve. He conveyed a sense of genuine interest and robust understanding of the full ecosystem in which we moved. He was able to speak comfortably about mammalogy, comparative psychology, entomology, ornithology and conservation biology.
The context was what made this a really profound experience.
Fascinating creatures, they move in herds defined and managed by the female. Once grown, the males are not allowed to spend much time near the herd. In the herd photo you can see that the female leader has cleared one of the males to visit briefly with the two youngsters in the herd. They lift their trunks to greet and examine the visitor.
The African elephant societies are arranged around family units. Each family unit is made up of around ten closely related females and their calves and is led by an older female known as the matriarch. When separate family units bond, they form kinship or bond groups. After puberty, male elephants tend to form alliances with other males.
Retrieved 6 Mar 2016 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_elephant#Behavior.
The Game Drives
We had two game drives a day. The morning drive would start off at 05:30 and return between 08:00 and 09:00 for breakfast. The evening drive would start after tea about 16:30 and return between 19:00 and 20:00 for supper.
We would break mid-way through each drive to enjoy coffee and tea of a morning and a cocktail in the evening. Ashley and his colleague Chris would turn the front of the truck into a pop-up bar and mix up whatever they could for us.
Back at the lodge in the evening we enjoyed a lovely supper prepared by a skilled chef often featuring local delicacies.
The Big Five
I learned about The Big Five. This list is supposed to detail the five most dangerous animals to hunt. I'm not sure it is accurate, but it is a marker of some sort to seek out for shooting... photographs, of course.
The Big Five are the lion, elephant, rhinoceros, cape buffalo and leopard. We were quite fortunate in that only the leopard escaped us as they are very shy and very nocturnal. One can never be sure of seeing any particular animal in a wild setting and we only saw the rhinoceros on our para-scheduled last day morning drive.
Cats -- Big Cats
These graceful, elegant animals were largely indifferent to our presence. Ashley let us know that this was because of our proximity. If we moved closer, indifference would become attention. Closer yet and agitation would manifest. Closer than that and you were likely to be injured. He and his colleagues understood the signs of agitation and were alert to the animal and the exit paths.
The cheetah here had eaten the day before and was feeling very content and lazy. Patrick won a fun shot in the upper left where the cheetah is looking back at us. Patrick rarely takes up the camera, so it was brilliant that he captured such a beautiful image of this amazing animal.
The Hooves of Africa
Our hoofed neighbors were beautiful. The giraffe and the zebra were regular friends, and then there were the many other bucks such as the Bless Buck. It was difficult to keep up with the different varieties.
We encountered so many beautiful animals and scenes. I tried to capture the best of my shots to share with you here. I hope you've enjoyed this tour. Let me know if you have questions or ideas about expanding this page.