Africa 2011, Part 4.

Let’s bang through a bunch more herbivores before we hit some animals that would happily eat your feet. We saw some wildebeest just, you know, hanging out. The one in the middle is an adolescent, and I know this because he is smaller and browner.

Buffalo! They’re big, they’re ornery, they look like they’re nursing the worst hangover ever. The buffalo family structure is similar to the elephant family structure, in that the ladies n’ babies hang out together and the older males do their own thing. The Moomins and I saw three males right near us. One was even accompanied by a passenger cattle egret riding on its back.

And I saw a buffalo skull by the side of the road. I could not figure out what the little stick-like protuberances were coming out the horns, so I asked a ranger. He said there are these little worms that build these houses on stuff like trees and apparently dead buffalo horns. Question answered.

Woeful vervet monkey. He was sitting on the lawn looking mournful. When we arrived, instead of getting all Machiavellian and planning how to steal all our foodstuffs, this guy thought we were too loud and moved away from us to write emo poetry in his journal or whatever. I took a picture of him. Being woeful.

Normal evil monkeys full of plans and thoughts about how to simultaneously take your snack and give you rabies, thereby saving valuable monkey time.

In keeping with the theme of primates, we also saw baboons. Twice, actually. Once was at a neighboring camp where the baboons had (not surprisingly) figured how to open the baboon-proof garbage cans. How, you ask? They watched humans do it and then did it themselves. I’m starting to think the only baboon-proof garbage can is a garbage can with a pin code you type in.

The other time was a really cute interaction on the side of the road. There was a troop of baboons picking through the grass looking for tasty grubbins, and this mom baboon was sitting there with a wee baby in her lap. As we’re watching her, the baby decided he’s a big boy, he’s ready to go out on his own, so he started crawling over his mother in an attempt to take on this big bad world. “Peace, lady! Thanks for the boob juice but I’m out!” And she just looked down, took her hand and gently pushed the little feller back into her lap, like, noooo, you’re not going anywhere.

He tried this a bunch more times, all with the same result. Finally he got so frustrated he started sucking his thumb. It was precious. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the ladies within a two-mile radius started ovulating.

Ground hornbills! I call them Death Turkeys. They’re weird birds. They can fly, but they really don’t. They like to walk around. This group is all males, I believe.

• | • | • INTERMISSION  • | • | •

Saw a bone. Don’t know what it is. Don’t know what animal it belongs to. There ya go.

• | • | • INTERMISSION OVER  • | • | •

Yeah, so, lions! I saw a bunch of ’em. I saw two females walking in the bush.

I saw a male walking next to the road.

But the coolest one of all was just pure dumb luck. We were driving around and we saw four lions, two males and two females, walking away from us. We pulled up where they looked like they were heading but alas, they were gone. Apparently they had a kill right down at the bottom of this dip beyond our line of vision, which bummed us out. But then – magic! One of the females probably didn’t want to eat with the other lions, so she grabbed one of the carcass’ legs and brought it up by the side of the road and ate it for twenty minutes right in front of us. We rolled down the windows and heard the bones crunching and everything. It was so cool.

Um, you got a little something, uh, on the side of your…never mind.

And then after a while she turned her head around and faced towards us and we were like, HOORAY! Awesome photo! Cricket totally got this one. Thanks, boo.

While we were sitting there in our car, more and more people pulled up in cars and tour buses all around us, so getting out was a colossal pain. Here’s a picture of what was in front of the car. Imagine the same thing going on behind the car. Lions are a big deal.

Also, hyenas! Last time, we saw one hyena cross the road for a second and that’s it. This trip, way more betterer hyena sightings. Let me set the stage. The gates of the park are open to the public from 6a.m. to 6p.m. You can drive around all you want. If you want to go out for a night drive, you need to sign up for a night drive, which is taken on a tour vehicle with a ranger. You and the other tourists shine dim headlights into the bush looking for reflective eyes. You can see a lot of cool stuff on night drives. I saw two civets and a genet, but they moved too fast for me to get a shot. I did get a shot of an angry elephant mom. The glittering eyes really make this extra-intimidating.

Then a while later she started nursing (awwww).

We saw a scrub hare. I learned the difference between rabbits and hares. According to the ranger, rabbits are born blind and unable to move. Hares are born ready to run.

Oooh, we also giraffes sitting down, about fifteen of them. They looked like a forest. It was amazing to see because they almost never do that – it leaves them vulnerable.

I even saw an eagle owl far away. He hated the light and wouldn’t turn around, but I could feel his searing hate even through the back of his head.

But the most important thing we saw were two baby hyenas in the road. They like to lie in the road at night because the asphalt is warm. These two little guys were lying there all sad because their mom was out hunting.

And we were so psyched about seeing this. We figured that was it. But no! We went out for a morning drive the next day and would you believe it, they were still there! And the mom hyena was there with them! Totally awesome. We woke them up as we drove by, so the little ones started making squeaky giggling noises and the mom rolled over to feed them. Our minds were officially blown.

The little one on the right with his butt up the air is so cute.

Look how close they are to the car. Look at that.

The Moomins developed an unhealthy obsession with one of the baby hyenas. “Her” hyena. She named him Flower, because The Moomins thinks that the splootch pattern on his back looks like flowers.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about one of the cutest things that I have ever encountered.

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