Africa, Part 2.

Let’s start today off with a baobab.

This is a very important baobab. It has a name and everything. (No, I can’t remember what it is. Something like Von Willebrand’s Baobab. Something Dutch.) Baobabs don’t grow that far south, so this guy is special. Baobabs can live to be 3,000 years old. The baby baobabs look totally different than full-grown ones, and a baobab, once dead, can completely decompose in a very short time, so the natives thought that they just fell out the sky and thumped into place, full-grown, and then disappeared in the same way. Fun baobab trivia.


This is a community spider nest. The nests are about the size of a pineapple, with all that webbing extending all around. Many teeny spiders live in the nest, and they work together getting food and maintaining the nest and all that would be lovely except every time I look at that thing I get a case of the heebie-jeebies and need to scratch non-existent itches. so moving on.


Oh my God, elephants. We saw a lot of elephants. And because elephants are the greatest things EVER, we had to take multiple pictures of every single one. Meaning I have about fifty elephant pictures. I picked out a few that I thought were pretty special. Now remember, if it looks like the elephant is right next to me, it’s because the elephant is right next to me.

Some solitary bull elephant shots:

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A bull elephant striding briskly past us and over to a cement water reservoir thing to have a drinkie-drink:

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An elephant nursery. Elephants are matriarchal, so all elephant herds are led by Big Grandmother, who has various aunties and daughters and babies with her. After a certain age, the males are booted from the group to go on their own solitary way, but the ladies stick together for their whole lives. I also learned that when you see baby elephants walking around flinging their trunk every which way, it means they are under six months old. Because the trunk is so complicated to use (40,000 muscles all braided together with two prehensile “fingers” at the end), it takes the little fella over six months to figure out how to use it.

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So let’s get to my second leopard sighting. Cricket and I went on a night drive, where you go in a special vehicle with special lights on the side. We saw a buffalo herd and then a hippo right next to the vehicle (they come out of the water at night when it’s cooler to feed on grasses) and a porcupine… and this adolescent leopard who was wandering around marking his territory with those chin glands cats have. It was the coolest thing. The rangers riding with us were freaking out as well. This never ever happens, so it was terribly exciting.

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A super-cute thing happened one afternoon coming back to our bungalow – there was someone waiting for us.

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Look at that! A little friend right by the door. So I had to go up to it and tell it how much I loved it.


It did not really care for that. It got up and, after chewing on some itchy bug in its fur, it walked away. I was sad to see it go.


Look how pretty the design is on its front legs.


There are a whole bunch of different antelope. These are called tsessebe (tseh – seh – BEE). Every time someone said “tsessebe”, I always said “DeMille” because it sounded like the famous costume designer director Cecil B. DeMille. Am I a theater and film nerd? Yes, yes I am.


This a warthog family. Warthogs are fun to watch, and when they run, their tails go straight up in the air like antennae. It’s so the other warthogs who are running can keep track of each other, but it really looks like they’re getting signals from radio towers or UFOs on which direction to trot.


This was cool – Cricket went out one morning on an early morning walk. If you sign up, two special rangers will take a small group of people out for a walk in the park, which is strictly forbidden otherwise. Cricket was out there at 5:00 in the morning (on foot, let’s not forget that part) when he saw the extremely rare (and notoriously aggressive) black rhino.

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See how he’s looking straight at Cricket? At that point I would have soiled my undergarments and ran. Pertaining to this, I finally found out what the significance of the “Big Five” are. For years I heard about the “Big Five” – lions, leopards, buffalo, rhino, and elephant. I couldn’t get the connection of all five. Some are carnivores, some are herbivores. Some are in groups, some are solitary. Some are rare, some are common. Some are big, some not very big. Finally, I learned on this trip. When people came to Africa to hunt game and they were on foot, these were the animals that were most likely to come up to you and kill you.

(BTW, I find it interesting that the hippo isn’t in the Big Five, since that animal kills more people than any other animal. The reason why is hippos live in the river where people come to bathe and wash clothes and gather water. When the hippo comes out to graze, people sometimes collect at the banks. Then the hippos come back, and if you’re in its path, you’re dead. That’s how they rack up that kind of death toll.)

On one of our drives, we passed an elephant skeleton in a dry area. I got a great picture of its skull with its jawbone lying next to it. I think you can see a bit of spinal column off to the side.


Tomorrow, I tackle all the birds we saw.

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