Bright and early we hopped a little plane from Joburg to Maun International Airport in Botswana. There we boarded an even smaller plane to travel deep into the wilds. From the window, the Linyanti River stretched beneath us. The plane flew low enough for us to glimpse hippos drinking from little silvery pools amidst the vast expanses of brown and green.
Kings Pool Camp is two hours’ drive from any other inhabitants, and 10-12 hours from anything that isn’t another camp. It’s smack in the middle of the Linyanti region, with no border between people and the local wildlife. We took our first game drive with our guide, Moses, between the airfield and the camp.
Rounding a corner, we came face to face with a big bull elephant. We stopped short. Our eyes locked. Suddenly, Moses hit reverse and backed off the path into the shrubbery, where another elephant also waited. The bull was dripping musk. Normally elephants are peaceful, but a bull looking to mate will crush anything in its path. Along with the non-musting elephant, we watched in silence as the giant strode by.
Later, we enjoyed the rare sight of a hippo out of water. This guy had left the river to load up his massive mouth with grasses, and was on his way back to the water to chew and digest. As we approached, he opened his jaws in a threat display, and we let him pass. Hippos are grouchy anywhere, but most dangerous to anything that stands between them and the water.
Another hippo wasn’t so lucky; we stumbled on its intact skull and, of course, became ridiculous.
The sun was low in the sky and the drive nearly over when suddenly, Moses pointed out a fresh lion track. He’d been showing us tracks here and there throughout the day, but only then did we realize he was actually tracking a single male lion the entire afternoon. “These are fresh,” he said, and we took off at great speed through the bush. We hung on, hearts pounding, as the jeep zigged and zagged. Suddenly, we jerked to a stop, and I gasped. Not five meters away, there stood a male lion, gleaming in the headlights.
Moses switched to a red light that would not damage any animals’ eyesight, and we barely dared to breathe as the Jeep slowly rumbled after the lion. He seemed unperturbed, though he kept an eye on us. By the time we made it to camp, I couldn’t believe how much we’d seen in just a few hours
More sights from today:
Vervet monkeys eating from African ebony trees.
Baboon colony! I love how the babies cling to their mothers like jockeys.
Greater blue-eared starlings. Check out those orange eyes! Dad compared them to chickpeas. Do you agree?
Funny-shaped “bush chickens,” aka helmeted guinea fowls. They remind me of cartoon nannies in big coats.
Kudu, a type of antelope with spiral horns. Also, there’s a world championship competition for spitting kudu poop. Wow.
Impalas. These Bambi-ish creatures travel in herds of one alpha male and many females.
Bachelor males also buddy up, and hone their fighting skills until they feel ready to challenge an alpha for his herd.
Impala are called “McDonalds of the bush” for three reasons. 1) They’re everywhere; 2) Because their hindquarters bear a distinctive marking shaped like the Golden Arches;
and 3) Because pretty much every meat-eating creature eats them.
We tried some in a lovely stew; it’s similar to lamb.