Africa 2011, Part 3.

More beasties! Pretty much everything I talk about pertaining to Africa will be beastie-related, so you should just prepare yourself right now. Okay, let’s check out some big birds that can claw your face off.

This is a bateleur. It’s big, it’s bright, it will kill you.

Fun side story: The indigenous African languages (like Swahili) don’t have the “r” sound. They just don’t have it. Due to that, when Africans who were brought up without European language influences try to speak English, interesting things happen. Either they roll the hell out of the “r”, or they ignore it entirely. My favorite phrase from this trip was when a guide took me on a night drive and informed us that the rangers perform “contrrrrolled bens”. I had no freaking clue what that meant and was lost for a while. A few minutes later he said, “We have contrrrrolled bens all in this arrrrea. We ben with fayah, and that makes new grrrroth.”And all was made clear.

So, when we were driving around and saw this bird with a French name, the guide said, “That is a batalee…uh”. You could see him hit a wall with that stupid tongue-curling French “leur” sound. Here’s what it sounds like:

Other eagle-type birds that I’m too lazy to research the names of:

Community spiders! Cricket is obsessed with these things. Quick recap: the fluffy white globs of web in trees are nests filled with hundreds and hundreds of tiny spiders. I have never seen these wee spiderettes, only the nests, and I am a-okay with that. These clots of Grandma’s hair are everywhere. Finally Cricket got a shot that made him happy.

Termite mounds! These things are so, so very big. I took a picture of one with an enormous tree on it to give you a sense of scale.

Billions and billions of termites live in it. Interesting facts I learned about these termites: They don’t eat plant matter or wood. They bring back plant matter and/or wood, and a special breed of mushroom that is only associated with them grows in their giant city, and they eat that, forming a perfect simbiotic relationship. Also, the worker-termites can control the temperature and humidity in the mound within 1 degree either up or down by opening or closing various holes, causing evaporation or a cross-breeze or whatever they need, which I think is so cool (no pun intended). Finally, if the queen dies (she’s a foot-long egg-laying machine), the termites will realize that their colony is dying out, and when the rainy season comes, they will just magically grow wings and fly to a new area to form a new colony. I love that. It sounds made up. “Oh, our society is going to end? Well, fine, I’ll just grow wings! Poof! Ya like that?! I’m the termite David Copperfield!”

Giraffes! I love giraffes. In Africaans, they are called “camel-horses”, because they look like a camel and run like a horse. Actually, their closest relative is the Okapi, which is a stripey-legged creature most common in the Congo. No camels, no horses. They have seven vertebrae in their neck just like us, and a special valve at the base of their neck to make sure the blood gets to their brain by increasing the blood pressure. It’s like their neck is a perpetual boner. The most common type of death for a giraffe is a heart attack because of that. Really. Once they become an adult, no one really eats them. They just stand there, and then they tip over and crumple to the ground and they’re done. My favorite thing about them is the 18-inch-long prehensile blue-black tongue that they use to delicately pull leaves off spikey trees. I tried desperately to get a shot of the thing, but it’s out then it’s in and by the time you pressed the button, my snakelike tongue nemesis was gone. Sadness.

Beautiful giraffes being tall:

Beautiful giraffe showing lustrous eyelashes:

(insert Lion King “Circle of Life” intro here) HAAAAANIMANNNNYAAAAA NAAAAPAAAATIII NAAAPAAATAAAAAA mmmmmmmmmm…..

The sunsets in Africa are very photogenic every day. Cricket and I took a bunch of photos.

Vultures! I don’t have to tell you about vultures. They eat the dead, they’re big, they’re bald. That’s it. Ironically, considering how freaky-freaky they look, they are extemely photogenic. Got some good shots of ’em.

Since there’s a river that goes through Kruger Park, there are water-oriented creatures. There are crocodiles doing their impressions of logs.

There are kingfishers. I saw two kinds of kingfishers on this trip, the regular and the giant, and both of them were staring at the water with an intensity I only wish I had. They were practically willing the fish to them. With the power of their minds.

And there are hippos. I saw hippos in a setting that looked like it had been staged. In this picture there are hippos (with an egret standing on one’s back), there’s a dead tree filled with stork nests (which are huge – a full-grown man can stand on one) and on the shore are a whole bunch of storks. It was great.

Tomorrow – carnivores! And some intense cuteness!

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