Africa 2011, Part 1.

I’ve been to Africa numerous times, but this trip was one of the best. We saw a ton of animals, ate a bunch of delicious food, and I even bought a couple pieces of beautiful art. Our first stop upon arriving in Johannesburg was to immediately hop on another flight to Kruger Park where Cricket and my mother (who from hereon shall be known as The Moomins) stayed for five days. The cool thing about Kruger is that every trip is different. On my last trip with Cricket in 2009 we saw a two leopards and two snakes, but only one hyena for a split-second and barely any warthogs. On this trip we saw a whole bunch of lions and hyenas and hippos, but no leopards or marabou storks or snakes. Every trip is different. A good rule of thumb is to go with high hopes and low expectations and be psyched about whatever happens to saunter into your path.

First, let’s start with the impala. Since there are over 100,000 in Kruger Park, you see them everywhere all the time. Which is great, because I think they’re so pretty. If I had been alone in the car, I would have stopped to say hello to each and every one, which would have taken forever and ever. Luckily, Cricket kept me from falling into a total impala spiral.

An interesting fact about impala: they always look so neat and tidy because they are always grooming themselves and each other. They have teeth like little combs that they rake through their fur all the time. They also have strategically-placed black spots on their bodies because ticks are attracted to dark skin, thinking that the blood is closer to the surface in those spots. Then the impala can easily pick the ticks off of those dark areas.

Impala drama! Males fake-battling with each other. I like to listen to the horns clatter together. Since it’s October, it’s spring there, so the males are practicing sparring. By the way, if you ever go to Africa, I highly recommend that you go in their spring because everything has babies. It was wonderful. “Do you like this full-size animal? Well, how about seeing a version standing next to it in half-size?” That never gets tired. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “Aww, look at the baby!” I would have a great many nickels.

We also saw a ton of guinea fowl, which made me so happy because they are a highly comical bird. They are prone to freaking out and running with this high-stepping gait that does not suit their body shape (the shape of a teapot cozy). Add in the spots, the bony crest and the dinosaur face and you have a winning creature.

Guinea fowl eating.

Guinea fowl roosting.

Guinea fowl napping on the ground.

Another cool thing is we got to get really up close and personal with warthogs. I will go into specifics about one in particular later, but for right now, here are a bunch of warthogs pretending to be lawnmowers. They are born with callouses on their front knees and they tend to just shnuffle forward on their knees eating grass like horribly unbalanced coffee tables.

I know I said this last time but I just want to reiterate it, if it looks like an animal is right next to the vehicle, it’s because it is. I took pictures to prove it.

An especially cool thing was seeing a whole lot of rhino. We saw only white rhino (Cricket saw an extremely rare black rhino while trekking through the bush by himself, I’ll see if I can get the photograph from him). White rhino and black rhino are named incorrectly. It’s a bad translation from Afrikaans. Instead of “white” they meant “wide” because the white rhino had a long flat horizontal lip, as opposed to the black rhino, who has a prehensile upper lip that comes to a point. Some other interesting facts: The white rhino’s head is so heavy, it can’t really lift it up. White rhinos are grazers, meaning they eat grass, and black rhinos are browsers, meaning they eat leaves off of trees, which is where they use that prehensile lip.

Here’s a picture of a mommy rhino and its baby (awwww).

Various other rhinos eating or resting or drinking.

And we saw kudu, which is a large antelope. I used to call it a deer until I got chastised by someone, because deer and antelope are different. Deer shed their horns antlers every year and antelope keep their head-protuberances for their whole lives. Kudus are big, y’all. Like 550 pounds big. The easiest way to identify kudus from other African antelopes is the male has big spiral horns, but something that both the males and females share is the hairy hump on their shoulders and what I call “bird-dropping-lines”. If you look on their sides, they have thin faint white lines trickling down which look like a dove landed on their spine and let it all out. The Moomins’ favorite kudu characteristic is the white goatee. I like the white line between their eyes. We agreed to disagree.

Tomorrow will delve into elephants and hyenas (warning: a whole lotta “awwws” and “look at the baby” coming up with that one, so prepare yourself).

2 Responses to “Africa 2011, Part 1.”

  1. morgan says:

    So AWESOME!

  2. Vanessa says:

    Next time you go to Africa….I AM COMING WITH YOU!

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