Ruaha – day 4

Under the Southern Cross-January 7th 2016.
I can see the southern cross from my window as I lie in bed. It makes me feel connected to everyone at home, reminds me the world is not so big we can’t see the same stars.
I can also hear the animals making night calls. I heard a lion roar and fairly close. They’re still grunting to each other as I write. It’s nearly 6am and time to get up. Dawn soon.

We head out and it seems the birds are up first so I guess there’s truth in that old adage!
Guinea fowl beside a pool, as well as geese, starlings and doves. Fan says the villagers catch the guinea fowl by putting a bucket of alcohol out. They get drunk on the fumes alone and can be caught!! So funny. Also
White bellied bustards, all male.

I was privileged to see a family of bat eared foxes. I spotted them which is great, especially since Kathy hadn’t seen them before either.

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Next up were some amazing weaver nests in a dead acacia, with two Asha Starlings perched above.

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Nearby we found some Tunneller dung beetles and under the shade of a tree, some gorgeous pink flowers, possibly from the Ipomoea family, according to my walking encyclopedia!!
Soon after a big troop of baboons crossed the road in front of us. I saw a baby feeding.
We stopped for breakfast at a gorgeous spot. Ground squirrels came out in the hope of food – sorry guys – and we spotted ostrich over the river.
Fan pointed out the enormous nest of a hammer corp above us. He said they even have chambers in them and share with other species. Even snakes!! Fascinating.
I’ve seen many abandoned anthills and finally a live one close to the trail. Even about these, Fan’s knowledge is extensive. I now know, among other things, that if the anthill is high, the burrow beneath is probably shallow. And vice versa. It’s to do with the water table.
We just saw some Kudu, like big deer with stripey sides. I couldn’t get a pic in the thick bush. They have adorably massive ears.
Then a dikdik , the smallest antelope, jumped across the road. They only grow up to 30cm maximum. Super cute.
And then, voila, a herd of impala and Kudu grazing together.
Today has been focused more on the plants and smaller animals so far. The entire ecosystem has displayed for my wonder. I love
the amazing Baobab trees, hollow inside and it’s wood largely water, inviting the elephants to eat it.
One of my favourites is the impala.
The rock formations here are inspiring and beautiful too.

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Fan told me the real name for this lizard, adding he also called it Superman, so if course that’s all I can remember!! The female isn’t this brightly coloured.
It’s siesta time again. When I get back to WiFi and post these, I hope you don’t find me too long winded!! I promise I’m trying to be concise. I swear the things I’ve experienced here would fill a book. It’s a life changing place.

The afternoon safari was meant to be a river drive but we’d been out barely an hour, having dawdled to watch a Grey Crowned Crane poised amid a troop of cheeky monkeys and a giraffe who gazed distainfully at us, when the skies opened.
As the area we were in was low lying, Kathy turned the truck round and we headed back towards Park headquarters. Earlier we’d winched out another truck in what should’ve been an easy enough area to get through, and that was before the rain.
And, boy, does it rain!! It was almost impossible to see our way. Fan spotted a Hippo in a Creek with his head tucked under the bushes!!

We slowly headed back and as we approached the settlement another driver stopped to tell us a lion had been seen near the airstrip. We drive down the side of the airstrip and there she was, right ahead atop a mound, resting peacefully.

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Fan saw a second and I found a third, hiding behind bushes to her left, young males, probably her cubs.
We watched quietly and were rewarded with hearing an adult male calling, a series of grunts that she was pretty interested in.
Suddenly they all got up and headed up the road. Off for the evening hunt, Fan said.
In awe, we followed at a respectful distance, cameras going flat out. Kathy commented the rain had turned is back for a very good reason!!
A jackal crossed the road, saw the lions and decided to keep out of the way!!
A truck came round a corner from the other direction, the lions paused, then moved left a bit and kept going! King of the jungle, huh.
What happened next was AMAZING to see!! All 3 lions moved into the savannah, kind of smooched each other, then fanned out to hunt. But from our right, a herd of elephants had seen them and was approaching fast. The very young ones had been left with some adults but all the rest, both massive adults and younger elephants came charging at the lions. It was an incredible sight. Ears out, trunks and tusks thrust forward, trumpeting their displeasure, they charged. It was awesome in the very real sense of the word.
I can still barely believe I was privileged enough to see that. The lions took off in different directions, having for the message loud and clear.
It was almost pitch dark by then and we headed in for dinner, buzzing with excitement. What a way to end my last full day in Ruaha. I’ve had so many truly wonderful moments and am eternally grateful to Kathy and Fan. I really landed on my feet with them!! They’re so passionate about this place and all in it.
The final salute – to the elephants!!

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