About a lion

On my final game drive of the week, we got to be in the darkness with my beautiful pride of lions one last time.  It was a different experience to be with them at this hour, this is when they travel, when they hunt.  All of the little ones rushed up along side us, looking at us straight in the eye asking, "Do I know you?" "Should I care?".  After they got bored checking us out, they returned to the lesson at hand; their moms teaching them how to hunt, and of course, a little bit of play as well.  We sat there for a good half hour watching them interact with each other, then followed as they marched down the road to find their dinner for the night.  With the big cats, you can shine light on them at night and it doesn't bother them at all because the light gets absorbed behind the retina and is reflected back out.  For this reason, we could shine the lights around them and get an intimate viewing of their night time habits.  The antelope don't have this trait, so you have to switch off the lights immediately if you see them.  As we started to head home, we noticed a herd of impala grazing directly in the path that the lions were walking.  We stopped, switched off the engine and the lights, and listened... There in the pitch black of the bush you can almost hear your own breath, your senses heighten in anticipation of witnessing a kill. We heard the "Pbffff!" of one of the impala, it was her danger call. Then a slight rustle, then complete silence... The impala had seen the lion, so it was too late, there was no attack this time.  I was both disappointed and relieved at the same time.  It would have been a thrill to witness, but I also didn't have to listed to the scream of a dying animal.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from the night, I'll miss my "babies", as I got used to seeing them almost every day.  The gaze of my one special little lion will stay with me forever, it's precious beyond words to feel a silent conversation with such a stunning being.  A sweet connection with one of God's great creatures.  

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Eles

It's amazing to me how a six ton animal can virtually disappear in the thick of the bush in the blink of an eye.  Their huge pillars of legs lifting off the ground with such grace, setting down again so gently that the long grass below hardly notices its being taken down to meet the earth.  Of all the animals I've come across, the elephant is one of my favorites. Maybe it's because their eyes meet yours when you pass, being at the same height as you in your vehicle.  You find their tiny orbs staring into yours just long enough to sense that they acknowledge you as a fellow being on the planet, sharing space, connecting for just a moment.  You hold your breath because you are in the presence of such power, such massive strength.  You sit there quietly listening to the whoosh from the flapping of their ears, you can almost hear the thick air split in two when they lift their trunk up high, then release it, falling towards the ground with a muffled snap.  When their canvass of a head turns to look at you, everything in your body wants to crawl inside itself and hide, but you savor the moment instead, daring to look in his eyes to say hello.  He turns his head forward, continues on, and you are left with the residue of awe tingling in your veins.  Eles, they are very special creatures indeed. 

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Rainy day

My trip to Dumphries was postponed today due to the rain, so I used the time to prep for my big class tomorrow (nervous to be teaching once again but excited!), sort through old photos and laugh my butt off from the memories (cherishing the awesome friends I have at home and realizing just how crazy we all are!), hang out with my flat mate Franci (who I believe just might be the coolest woman in the southern hemisphere), and edit safari photos (and staring at them in awe as I realize that I was actually there staring into these creature'e eyes!).  

So, without further ado, here are my favorites of Safari number four.  What.  Magnificent. Animals! 

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Safari magic

My new Africa life, typical day is as follows... Wake up at 5:30, stretch, peek out the window to see if there are Impala outside, flip on the kettle, scoop Nescafe in a mug, grab the biscuits and coffee and sit on the stairs, listen to the birds, say hello to passers by, watch the elephant up on the hill (if I'm lucky to see him), go inside and start to edit photos and write for a couple hours, pour a third cup, go meet up with David and drive to the village, visit a school or two, take lots of photos, come home, download pics, make lunch, have a fourth cup with biscuits, (maybe add a cup of sav blanc with ice), edit and write some more, make plans for tomorrow, then go wait by the safari trucks to see if there's room to join on the evening game ride.  Not a bad routine at all, and I'm getting to like it a lot!  

We start out at the lodge up on the hill, overlooking the vast plains below and chatting with the other guests as we sip on a iced coffee and (the best) cupcakes (I have ever had in my life).  Then we hop into the safari trucks with our ranger and tracker and off we go into the bush.  We drive around for hours, stopping when we see big and small creatures alike.  The birds here are outstanding, some beyond colorful, and others with the most curious calls.  We sit and look at them while Johnny or Shane tell us stories about their behaviors and how they got their names.  My favorite so far is the Grey Go Away bird, which has a call that sounds like someone is squashing the last bit of breath out of it!  

Then there are some big guys like the buffalo, or as they are called here, Dagga Boys.  We learn that these guys are the most dangerous animals out in the bush due to the fact that they will charge you in a heartbeat with their massive bodies and solid horns.  We also come across a pair of white rhinos grazing in the bushes.  Rhinos are being poached at an immense rate, threatening their continued existence on this planet.  Traditional Chinese Medicine is the main culprit, as they believe the horns can cure anything from headaches to comas.  Yet, they are such a beautiful creature, so ancient in their body engineering, it's hard to imagine someone coming along and torturing these innocent beasts and killing them in the name of medicines that are not even proven to work.  

Farther along the road we watched elephants (eles, as they like to call them here) gracefully move their thick bodies through the trees, we came across a pair of sleeping male lions, we tracked a female leopard, and finished off the day watching a pride of lion in the grass;  two females with eight young ones all peeking up at us with their huge eyes, and round fluffed ears... These little lions are definitely my favorite sighting of all.  Yet, each time I go out I think to myself, "That was my favorite"... Then I see something else and say "No, no, now that was my favorite by far!"   That's the fun of the bush, it's like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gunna get.  

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