My Favorite Night Game Drive
One of my favorite night game drives experiences took place in Zambia’s Kafue National Park on the Busanga Plains. After enjoying a lovely sundowner cocktail we were making our way back to camp for dinner. The night sky was brilliant with the stars twinkling above in the saturated black sky. It is such a pleasure to escape the light pollution of my everyday life and see the night sky.
The vehicles headlights were showing us the way as we cut our way through the still grasses that had grown up during the wet season even along the center of the dirt road. And then we came to a wonderful sighting. A large pride of lion feeding on a kill. The lion seemed restless and agitated by our presence and the fact they we had interrupted their feast. They were very vocal so we backed off to a safe distance and that’s when our guide did something a bit unexpected. Off went the engine, off went the headlights, off went the spotlight, ON went the NIGHT.
We sat in pitch darkness and listened, listened to the lion’s mealtime conversations and terrible table manners. The crunching of bones, the roaring argument over who got the last leg, not to mention the chorus of insects who provided that background music. It was probably only 30 seconds but it felt much longer – and I will never forget it.
One of several nicknames I was given as a 17 year old exchange student living in South Africa was (translated) “Giraffe Woman.” I would like to think that it was my graceful walk, relaxed demeanor or lovely eyes or lashes that earned me the name, but I suspect it was my height (6 foot tall).
Regardless, the giraffe is one of my favorite animals and one of my favorite sightings of a giraffe happened on what to that point had been a fairly uneventful game drive. I can’t recall the location, although it must have been southern Africa.
When we came around a bend in the road, the area was fairly heavily wooded and to our utter amazement and surprise (not very far from our location) witnessed the very last moments of the birth of a baby giraffe. What a privilege, I have photographic proof, only the memory of how it made me feel to see such a unique thing.
Moral of the story: YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT A DAY ON SAFARI MIGHT BRING.
Spending Time With Mountain Gorillas
Spending 1 hour with the Mountain Gorillas in Uganda and/or Rwanda ranks as one of my most profound animal encounters. Maybe it was the great effort and exertion it took to get to where they were located. It was not like a game drive where you just sat in a vehicle and drove around until you found something. I earned it by trekking through the rain, and mud, up the hills and into the valleys, through the vines, avoiding the nettles and biting ants. Thanks heavens for my porter who lugged all my water and camera gear and gave me a helping hand too!
But the reward was so unique. I found myself a few feet away from the King (and Queens) of the jungle. In retrospect the best thing that could have happened was when I ran out of space on my camera memory chip and put the machine away and looked at the individual gorillas and their family group as a whole and not through the tiny view on the camera. That was when I saw the tiny rain droplets on their fur and heard them chomping on their lunch of leaves and watched a young cheeky juvenile push another one of the hikers all while his mother watched in the distance. WOW!