What’s the one animal you want to see most? The one that would make today’s game drive a "win" for you?
This was the question, posed by my friend, I pondered over breakfast at the Kichaka Game Lodge on the morning of our last day. Having previously experienced mostly mud and rain (though it was a fun adventure) I knew that this was our last chance to see the wild animals. The weather was finally cooperating and so it was time to throw in my vote for the animal I really, really wanted to see in the wild.
Giraffe. It actually wasn’t all that tough a decision for me. The cats are cool (and we did see some of those, too), but giraffes are so incredibly strange to me that seeing one in the wild was the coolest option I could think of. It took all of three minutes for that desire to be satisfied.
We cleared the gates out of the lodge and started up the road to the reserve. About 500 meters in to the drive the road was blocked by a half dozen or so giraffes, calmly eating their breakfast from the brush alongside the road. Awesome.
Eventually they cleared the road (it is their land, not ours, so we just waited for them) and headed up into the main entrance of the reserve to see what other animals were around. A couple minutes later the CB radio crackled to life with the voice of one of the other guides indicating that they’d spotted cheetahs on the move. As it turns out, these cheetahs were hanging out at the same place we were the day prior as we were trying to rescue our truck out of the mud adjacent to an antelope carcass. Much as we had joked over drinks the night before about eyes in bush, staring at us as we worked to free the vehicle, it turns out they really were there. Good thing we didn’t try to eat the antelope, I suppose.
The cheetahs – a mother and two cubs – were on the move from that kill site. Their route took them down a hill, across a road and into the brush on the far side of that small valley. Fortunately for us that road just happened to be where we were stationed. These amazing, graceful, deadly animals pretty much walked directly in front of us. Beautiful.
Next up on our list of sightings was the elephant, a huge and surprisingly graceful animal. This was the "winner" animal of my friend and so, in the span of about an hour, we were both rather sated from a spotting perspective. Not that we were about to object to seeing any other animals, of course.
We left the elephant for a while as he headed into the woods and we drove on for our morning tea break. As we came back onto the main road the elephant had reappeared and was munching on some lunch. We were chatting with Geoff, our guide, about the behavior of the elephant and the animals in general and, before we knew what happened, the six ton beast was more or less next to our truck. It had approached in near silence and it moved on with similar stealth. More than anything, its ability to move so quietly was truly amazing.
With the elephant now gone back into the woods it was time to spot a few other species. Antelopes by the dozens, just waiting to be a meal for one of the larger beasts. Ostrich, too, though no heads buried. We saw some warthogs but they were skittish and didn’t pose for pictures.
In the end, the big missing beast was the lion. We saw tracks a number of times but they weren’t coming out to play and if they do not want to be found they almost certainly will not be. Just gives me an excuse to have to go back, I suppose.