Safari is actually a Swahili word that means “journey.” It is surprisingly descriptive because if you ever go on an animal safari you’re basically driving around and discover what you discover-
The 4×4 truck we drove around in and Lucky, our guide, at Mala Mala Game Reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park (there are no fences between the areas so the animals can roam as they please). Going around in a 4×4 is awesome by the way because of the off-roading you can do, on the grounds that a herd of wild buffalo do so much worse damage compared to a mere Land Rover. Small tree in the way? Smash. Bushes? Gotta be kidding me, those suckers are gone!
Mind you might be in a Land Rover but safari can still be dangerous- the most dangerous is an elephant because they’re bigger than a car, and can flip them over if provoked. We learned this a little too well during our first elephant sighting (not this guy, this was a nice elephant) where there was a mother, a baby, and the equivalent of a teenage boy in a wooded area. The teenage boy was, in the fashion of teenage boys everywhere, with excess energy and burning it off by chasing impala and baboon around. Then there was a bit of ominous rustling in the bushes… and a huge gray thing started streaking towards us. Lucky, being experienced in such matters like a charging elephant, knew enough to turn the Land Rover in the direction of a quick getaway and we sped off, the elephant receding behind us looking like that T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park.
It should be noted that during the elephant charge (which we were later informed was a “play charge” and hence not as serious) I was laughing my head off, to the bewilderment of my parents later. I suppose I should mention that I wasn’t worried at this moment, frankly because there was absolutely nothing I could have done had the situation become serious so I may as well have fun with it right?
My sister being a studier of birds (“not a birder!” I am informed) kept a good eye out for interesting ones, and this one is definitely the prettiest bird of the veld- a lilac-breasted roller. My favorite though was called a gray lorrie because of the “nyahhh” sound that is straight out of my “I’m being too lazy for words” vocabulary and always made me smile.
Of course, the trick about safaris is most of the animals sleep during the day and only come out at night, meaning you drive around with a flashlight trying to catch animals by the reflection of their eyes (you only keep light on non-predators like impala for a brief amount of time though because it gives the predators an unfair advantage). This here is a lesser bushbaby hiding in a tree, which is a small primate.Another cool night find- a chameleon! We picked one up to play with a bit and he even started changing color to match Linda’s dark blue sweater when she held him, like any proper chameleon should. Quite awesome.
There are a lot of safari stories to tell, but the best one happened on our last game drive. We got word on the radio that a leopard had been caught killing a baby zebra and we headed for the spot, to find the leopard eating as seen above. We watched him mesmerized for a few minutes until another car reported hyenas up the hill, making everyone in the group hold their breath for what would happen. Hyenas are bigger then leopards, see, meaning they usually carry their kill into trees but this kill was just too big for the leopard to do such a thing. And no one knew if the leopard would give up without a fight, or if there would be one, or…
I have it all on video that I will upload once I’m not at the mercy of slow African internet, but here’s a synopsis of what happened. They hyena showed up and snarles were exchanged but they proceeded to feed on the carcass together for an uneasy minute, until the hyena got greedy and started heading for the leopard’s side. The leopard retaliated with a well-aimed paw swipe to the right side of the hyena’s face, just below the eye, and after a few seconds the hyena slunk off, undoubtedly injured. I’m still not over seeing that with my own eyes, frankly!
Safari is awesome. Good thing I have some more in my future or I’d be a little upset right now.