Day 5 (Zazu, Simba, and the Bastard Who Killed Mufasa)
Today was our first official day out on the game drive. Even though we had to get up at 6 and leave before sunrise it was worth it. We got to see some animals last night, and a few in the day time, but the early morning is supposed to be the best time to see all the creatures.
We started out the drive by seeing a yellow hornbill, more commonly known as a Zazu bird from the Lion King. I think it was a different type of hornbill though because this one was black and white stripped instead of bright blue like in the cartoon.
Sarah and I also found our new favorite animal called the “Go Away” bird. It has the whiniest little call that literally sounds like its saying “Go Awayyyyy.” They are everywhere in the bush. Every time we stopped we could here one calling.
A little while down the road we came across a couple of wildebeest (called Gnu here). And apparently you are indeed not allowed to scream, “YOU KILLED MUFASA!” or your guide will turn around and give you a stern look.
We saw tons of Kudu which are deer looking creatures with huge twisted horns. We saw a giraffe carcass, which was half decomposed…lovely. We saw a whole herd of zebras, more water buffalo, and some giraffes that were still alive. Termite hills were everywhere and at least 10 feet tall. Sometimes the termite would start building a little hill in the middle of the road and BAM we would run over it with our truck. I felt so sorry for them. Now they have to start all over.
We saw a fallen tree that I just figured was down due to rot, but the driver told us that it was pushed over by an elephant. He said that elephants will push down trees to help their young reach the leaves or even out of frustration and anger.
As we were sitting there staring at this broken tree, our tracker hopped off of his seat and began crouching by the dirt. He said that he found fresh lion prints, so we started the car and started the hunt. We got about half a mile down the road when we spotted a huge male lion and two female lions lounging off to the side of the dirt path.
Jimmy our driver went to pull in next to them (about 10 ft away) so we could get a really good look and literally in a split second the male lion jumped up and swatted his paw at us while growling rather loudly. In the two seconds that this happened Jimmy (our driver) had already bumped our jeep into reverse and was backing out of there at a pretty high speed. Kenny (the tracker sitting on the hood), who was the closest to the lion, literally did not even do so much as blink. Meanwhile I’m shouting “OH SHIT!!” Mom is gasping, Dad and Sarah are laughing, and here’s Kenny…not giving a shit.
We found out very quickly why the lion was feeling so testy. After slowly creeping the jeep back onto the side of the road where they were resting, we watched for about five minutes and then before we knew it the male was mounting one of the females. I totally got a video of them getting it on, like any good creep.
I was highly disappointed in their stamina because after about 45 seconds the female lion literally barrel rolled out from underneath him, and they both resumed sleeping. Jimmy told us that they will do this on and off all day. Two minutes of hanky panky and then about three hours of sleep and then DAMN LION…BACK AT IT AGAIN WITH THE HUMPING. (<–If you don’t get that reference I will be ashamed of you)
That was the highlight of the drive because the rest of the time we only saw more deer like creatures, birds, and little mongoose. Once we were back we all passed out for about two hours, because up until now we’ve been surviving off of about five hours of sleep a night and ten minute power naps in the car on the way to various locations.
After awakening, we were picked up and headed to the Jabulani Elephant Sanctuary. This facility is amazing. When we got there they brought an elephant close to the group, just by calling out for it (it was in the bush nearby). It came trotting up to the group and immediately stuck out its trunk asking one of the handlers for food and eventually we were all able to feed it some elephant chow. It would come directly up to you and then stick its trunk in your face. The end of the trunk can grasp kind of like a crab claw, so it would stick it in your face and then open and close it a couple of times to let you know it was ready. We would place the feed in its trunk and then it would shovel it in its mouth.
While this was happening the handlers were telling us all about their establishment. Apparently the whole sanctuary started when the elephant Jabulani got left behind in a mud pit by his herd. He fell in and got stuck, and even though the herd tried to help him out they were not successful and had to move on. Some mine workers found him later that day and called the Cheetah Rescue Project which is a company that rehabilitates animals and reintroduces them to the wild. After five years of rehabilitation they attempted to release him back into the wild, but every time he came back. They took him to herd after herd to try and assimilate him with his own kind, but each time he found his way back to the rescue center and refused to leave. They eventually gave up trying to reintroduce him, but needed somewhere where he could stay. So they founded the Jabulani Elephant Sanctuary in the same bush area as Kapama. Jabulani means “happiness” in English an it’s perfect for him. He is the sweetest Elephant.
The really cool thing about this sanctuary is they don’t ever put the elephants into cage, or stalls. They let them roam all over the reserve every day, and at night they just call them back to the sanctuary where they put them into a fenced off part of the bush that is still huge but protects them from poachers. They have one tracker assigned to each elephant who literally follows them around the bush all day making sure they don’t go too far or get hunted by poachers. I might just move to Africa and take up a new occupation.
They also told us that they never use any form of punishment with the elephants. They said that African elephants have a pretty nasty temper on them and the worst thing you can do is lose their trust. So the minute an elephant enters their facility they use strictly reward based training. Meaning every time the elephant listens and follows instructions they give them a treat. No hitting, no punishment, no confinement. And it really seemed to work because each elephant came when it was called, no matter how far away they were. They all opened their mouths when asked, and back up and moved forward when asked. It was great.
We were able to take pictures next to the elephants and feed them again. I was squealing as quietly as I could. I was so distracted by the fact that I was standing right next to an elephant that I didn’t even notice he was asking me for food. Apparently he was unhappy with how long I was taking to provide him with nourishment so he took his trunk and half wrapped it around me to kind of say, “um, hello?!” IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER!
That afternoon when we got back, we were all so exhausted that we decided to stay in instead of going on the evening drive. Plus we have to be up at 5 tomorrow so we can get back to the elephant sanctuary for our sunrise elephant ride through the bush. But apparently this was a HUGE mistake.
The ride that we skipped out on saw a freaking Leopard and chased after it through the bush for about fifteen minutes…
So hopefully when we move to the next camp we will be able to see one, but apparently they are super elusive. That’s fine. I’m not salty.
Anyway after everyone came back from the drive they met at the dinner bonfire location, which is about a five minute walk from our rooms. We were in our rooms when we heard some very loud drumming and Mom, Dad, and Sarah decided to check it out.
Dear God, here we go…Apparently the white owners of the camp had the black staff (still in their aprons and uniforms) drum and sing their native songs so the guests could watch….Um. Wtf?
I don’t know if it’s because I have a super liberal family that is hyper aware of race relations, or because I go to a super liberal school that make us very aware of how precious and revered cultural traditions are, but my god. How insulting to the black staff. Like, here, please perform your sacred dances and songs while not dressed traditionally so the white people can gawk at you.
Anyway after we saw what they were doing we immediately left, and now we are headed to bed so we can get up early in the morning.