What can a ranger and tracker do to top a start to an African safari like the one we had? I would think, almost nothing. However, I was wrong.
Brendan took us to see whether the mother hyena had stayed close to her den (an old termite mound turned home) with her new cubs. His hunch played out and we pulled up to within 10 feet of the female. She was relaxed with the vehicle and our presence. She did not budge as we began clicking away with our cameras trying to get a good shot of her and her 2 week old cubs. Hyenas have an undeserved reputation in the African bush. They are classified as scavengers, taking from other animals that have taken prey, but they are actually predators which hunt efficiently and find themselves the victims of stolen bounty from lion more often than visa versa.
This mother hyena also showed us the basic common trait that a maternal instinct performs as she gently picked up her young with the same jaws that are strong enough to crush the skull of any antelope she might bring down. She patiently moved the two cubs into position to suckle from her as they were so young that their sense of direction was off target. We left the mother and cubs to carry forward on their own.
We passed by small groups of impala along the way. These antelope species are so plentiful they are often overlooked in their beauty. My mother says that impala look regal and offer an appearance as if they are formally dressed. She is right in her assessments as these creatures’ coats look like formal evening wear for the four legged species.
The entire antelope species gets passed by too much in my assessment thus far. We have seen everything from a 750 lb. Kudu bull to a 10 lb. steenbok. The colors and horns represented on the klipspringer, grey duiker, impala, bushbuck, nyala and more are beautiful enough to come to Africa without seeing the Big 5.
After our morning drive, we took an afternoon siesta following another lunch on the deck overlooking the river. Elephants returned for their midday drink and 24 of them entertained us with their individual and group behaviors. Elephants live in strong family units with the matriarch of the herd leading the other mothers and their offspring on a daily basis. The males remain in the herd until about age 13 when they form bachelor herds, interacting with the females periodically and when they come into musk.
We started our afternoon/evening game drive with the goal of finding the adult male lion pride. Brendan spoke of hearing the male lions roaring a few nights prior and hoped we could be privy to enjoy the same call of the wild.