Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pangolin, Leopards, Savuti Lodge...

Today was absolutely off the charts in terms of wildlife viewing.  We started out in search of the wild dogs just as the sun was rising.  We found them in a highly mobile hunting state as they ran through the underbrush at high speed.  It was huge adventure to follow them though the thick moose forest as our ride became very rough.  We were literally driving right over small mopane trees that bounced right back into position as we passed by.  We lost the dogs several times but at two points we rejoined the pack still in full speed hunt. 

One of my favorite images from this morning was the dogs traveling through high grass and jumping up to get a view of their surroundings...imagine how a deer jumps over an object and picture wild dogs emerging from the grass in a high spring then descending back down completely hidden from view.  Another was when a wild dog had a face to face with a very brave warthog who did not back down.  If the warthog had started running it would have been attacked for sure but he stood his ground and the dog backed off after a few minutes.  Later when we were in the thick bush again an impala came racing by with two wild dogs on its!  

We left the dogs to travel down the Savuti channel and soon we encountered one of the most rare animals that one can ever find in the bush - a pangolin.  Most of us have never heard of this prehistoric creature.  It looks like a small possum covered with artichoke spikes.  The pangolin was curled up in a protective ball because two lions had been trying to eat it.  It's defensive mechanism is very good, much like a porcupine.  This was an amazing find and our guide told me that many wilderness guides that have been in the bush all their lives have never seen one.  Incredible luck!!!  We waited patiently for him to uncurl and finally saw his cute little face and red nose.  He eats ants and has a long sticky tongue to probe into the ground.  He walks very slowly in a kind of shuffle...

Our goal that afternoon was to reach Savute Lodge and go out in a boat ride along the channel after a quick inspection of the property.  As we approached our guide, Ona, wanted to get me a good view of the lodge so he drive near the channel where I could shoot some photos.  As we turned a corner we encountered a male and female mating pair of leopards out it the open.  This was extraordinary fortune because leopards are usually nocturnal and very rarely come down from the trees in the day time - especially not in the middle of the day in the wide open.  It was another rare treat to sit within 10 feet of them as they sat in the grass sniffing into the air.  The female was quiet old but the male was in his prime with a beautiful body covered with spots.  We got some excellent photos and then left them in peace.  

After a wonderful brunch at Savute lodge we boarded a boat and headed down the very shallow Savute channel weaving our way between the reed islands and up channels that held numerous hippos and crocs.  Unlike the hippos in the Lower Zambezi that we encountered while canoeing these hippos were easily spooked and very aggressive at our approach.  It was really nice to get on the water and feel the cool breeze in our faces.  We eventually reached a viewing platform where Ona set up some nice drinks for us and we sat and soaked up the peace and quite along the river banks.  Some elephants came down to drink at the waters edge as we sat admiring the view.

After starting our drive back we encountered a new born baby elephant just one day old.  already he could walk and follow his mom around.  He was still covered in blood and birthing tiny and cute.  Wish I could bring him home as a pet for my boys.  We saw zebra, giraffe, kudu, warthog and many other creatures as we made our way home to Duma Tau camp to watch a spectacular Africa sunset.  What a day...has to rank in the top three days ever in my safari experiences over the past 25 years.  Tomorrow we will search out the lions and then fly to Jao camp in the Okavango Delta.  I feel really blessed to be here and share this with my brother and our very dear friends, Scooter, Ryan, and Nicki....

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