Time for…The Birds!

Well, just one bird tonight, but I think you’ll agree that this little gal (or guy) is spectacular enough to have a blog posting all to itself.

I give you the lilac-breasted roller, one of the more common birds you’ll encounter in southern Africa. (The roller family of birds are so-named because of the acrobatic rolls they perform while flying.) lilac_bird

Isn’t she gorgeous? They’re easy to spot because of their bright plumage and because they like to perch up high in trees like this. I have many photos of these birds from most every location we visited, but this is one of my favorites (even though – if you zoom in – you’ll see the bird is not in perfect focus). There’s a couple of reasons: 1) the soft gray cloudy sky gives it a solid background for contrast and 2) because of the different textures of the two tree branches in front combined with the way they’re blurred because they are not my focal point. I do violate the rule of thirds for photography by having the bird in the center of the photo, but the branches and their textures are in the left third, drawing your eyes that way, so maybe we’ll just think of those photography rules as being more like guidelines anyway.

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A leopard doesn’t change its spots…

…and we certainly wouldn’t want them to, would we? Because they are beautiful! This gal certainly is.leopard_drinking1 We encountered her on our last afternoon in the Okavango Delta, drinking from the river. She paused only briefly to check us out (look at that pink tongue!),leopard_tongue2

before sitting down to contemplate her dinner options, or where that handsome male leopard might be, or maybe even the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything [which we all know is 42].

We (our safari jeeps and a couple others) proceeded to follow her for almost a half hour as she leisurely strolled through the bush, apparently with no particular destination in mind or even any concern about us. You can see her pass between jeeps here, stopping only momentarily to look at us and continue on her way. I imagine this happens to this gorgeous gal a lot. (The guides who work the Okavango Delta are very good and know the animals, their habits, and their habitats. They might not be able to find every animal you wish to see, some are too rare or too shy, but they know where the big cats are hanging out!)

She decided she’d had enough of us shortly after this, walking a bit further away (I love this one picture – on the left – because I captured her in the act of lifting her foot and you can see her foot pad). She sat behind a tree for a few minutes and then disappeared into the bush.

It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the Delta.

 

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Botswana

I’ve already written about the hyena who visited us on our first night camping at the Okavango Delta, but there were a great many more animals who came wandering past. Most of them skirted the edges of the camp, but we were told that some would walk through in the dark when no people were out and about.

And every morning we would wake up to scenes like this behind our tent (in our backyard, as it were):

backyard

This was just one morning, a mixed herd of zebra and wildebeest.

To the other side, across the dirt road leading to the camp, the elephants would come to drink and eat, or bathe themselves. Some mornings there would be a lone bull or two, other mornings there would be whole families…with little ones!  (I’ll save those photos for next time.) For now, here’s this guy (or gal) stuffing himself full of the green stuff.

elephant

 

 

Why we changed Wendy’s name to Windy

It was day three. We were on our afternoon game drive, minus one person: Wendy. She was tired, so decided to stay behind in camp and take a nap in her tent. But camp director, Laura, had joined us in her place. wendy

The forecast for the afternoon was clear skies, or so we thought. The wind whipped itself into a frenzy as rain pelted us in the safari vehicles. (They do have a top, but are open-sided, which doesn’t offer much protection when the rain is aiming at you sideways.) We grabbed the rain ponchos from beneath the seats and, depending on one’s priorities, covered ourselves or our camera equipment. I wrapped up my Nikon DSLR real good. So there we were, hunkered down, waiting for the downpour to let up when a call came over Laura’s radio asking her to come back to camp. There was a mention of “a problem” and “wind” and a question of who was in tent 6 (or tent 5 – I forget which was which). Bobbie and I were in tent 7.

One of the jeeps took Laura, along with Pat and Mike (the occupants of the questioned tent number), back while the rest of us puzzled over the cryptic communication. But we were assured that everything was okay.

Yeah….the same wind and rain storm that hit us, hit the camp. We returned to the incredible story of the wind gust (or whatever it was) that carried away tents 5 and 6 – one of them with Wendy in it. She had been laying on her cot, sleeping, only to awaken as she was being rolled up with the tent and all its contents – kinda like a burrito. Pat & Mike’s tent just blew away – they never did find all of their stuff. (Here they are before their tent decided to visit Oz.) pat_mike

Thanks to the wonderful camp staff, Wendy was quickly rescued, or should we say “unwrapped.” Crazily, she was found underneath her cot but the cot was still upright; no one’s quite sure how that happened. She was shaken, but uninjured, so continued on with us on safari…minus her toothbrush. tent_debris

So, what’s it like camping in the African bush?

The safari companies treat you well, that’s for sure. Despite the relative roughness of our campsite in the Moremi Game Reserve, Okavango Delta, it was our favorite place of all the accommodations. bedsThe cots were very comfortable, the tents breezy, and fresh water drawn for you from the river every morning…all nice & warmed up to wash your face. They’d even heat up the afternoon shower water delivery but, trust me, in that heat and after a day’s activities, it was so much more refreshing to stand underneath a cool shower.shower (Those poor guys – carrying all those buckets back and forth from the river!)

Then, of course, there was our outhouse bathroom – attached to the back of the tent so we didn’t have to go outside at night.

Oh, and to show you just how warm it was, here’s a picture taken by our fellow traveler Xandra, of a thermometer her and her mom had up in their tent. This was late afternoon – after the “room” had been neatened up and the staff zipped up all the flaps. (We never figured out why they did that – we just unzipped everything when we got back to cool the tent back down.)

outhouse

temp

tents

 

Things That Go Bump In The Night…

Well, maybe not bump but roar or grunt or snuffle as they skitter and skulk.

Quick, all you amateur trackers, what animal made this print? (Yes, there’s a quiz at the end of this blog.)

hyena_print

Yeah…it’s not the best photo. I couldn’t identify what left this track either. So it’s a good thing we had expert guides at our mobile tented camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

But first we’ll rewind to the night before (our first night on safari). Exhausted, stuffed with the excellent food prepared by the camp chef, we collapsed on our cots inside our tents (I think I hadn’t bothered to undress)…but unable to fall asleep quickly because of the heat (November is late spring in the southern hemisphere). Well, I was unable to fall asleep. My friend, Bobbie, began softly snoring after a bit, almost unheard against the roars and grunts of the lions off in the distance. There were other animal sounds too, being that we were the middle of the African bush with all manner of wildlife surrounding us. But the lions were the loudest.

So it was rather startling, around 1 am, to hear something walk stealthily across our “porch” (the green fabric in front of the tent with chairs and water bucket) – something with four legs. tent_wbobbie

Then it left. I thought. The faintest of noises made me turn my head to the screened window at the head of my cot just as a four-legged shadow darted back around to the front of the tent again. A lion? It was maybe lion-size (a small lion), but I couldn’t tell, so I lay frozen wondering what it was doing, daring myself to turn my head toward the front screen. (Safari-goers are, of course, instructed to never leave their tents after dark for safety reasons.)

And then…”lap, lap, lap, lap, lap” (Ever have a large dog? You know that lapping sound they make as they’re slurping up water from their bowl? Yeah – that noise.) The animal, whatever it was, was drinking water from our bucket! It then slipped away into the night. waterbucket

So we had an interesting tale at breakfast the next morning and the guides came to see the tracks left around our tent.

So the answer to today’s quiz? Hyena! (Did you get the answer right?)

Of course, the real question of the day is: is Bobbie washing her face (in the middle photo) before or after we asked the camp staff if they could replace the water in the bucket?