August 3, 2013

Days 14-15 (for full digestion)

We did our first game drive today, in Etosha National Park, which (as I wrote at the time) "was rather anticlimactic compared to other drives I've done in Amboseli and Soysambu."  Which is really just a muted way of saying: It kind of sucked.  

Sure, we saw some elephants and giraffes, though those are hardly novel.  (Even the URL of this blog says I live in Kenya.  We have traffic jams caused by lions). 

To solve the controversy of whether pictures are better with or without safari vehicles.  Answer: WITH!  Look at how close we are!

Not to sound ungrateful, that is.  Usually game drives are amazing no matter if you see a liger or not.  Just being out in the great wild open, standing up in the truck and surfing the bumps with safari air blowing past.  Feeling unthethered.  But the feeling is a bit different on our huge truck with 25 other people.  No open roof.  No peace and quiet.  No feelings of comfortable anonymity, being adrift in the vast expanse, insignificant and invincible all wrapped into one.  

But I did learn that a group of zebra can either be called a "herd" (boring) or a "dazzle" (AMAZING!), which is definitely something worth knowing. (Fun Fact #1)

Part of a dazzle, watering themselves with some Springbok

But day 2 of game driving elevated everything to a whole other level- the superlative level.  Best day yet!

First thing in the morning, we saw three black rhinos (Big 5, check) out of only 4,000 left in the entire world.  

Black rhinos in Etosha

Fun fact #2: Black rhinos are not black, nor are white rhinos white.  Among some of the notable differences between them, black rhinos have prehensile lips for eating from trees (browsing), while white rhinos have square lips for grazing.  The two horns are closer in size on a black rhino than a white rhino.  Black rhino moms run in front of their children to clear the path, and white rhino moms run behind the children to prevent attacks from the rear.  None of which really matters when a rhino is charging at you.  But prehensile lips!  That's pretty fun.  Prehensile.

Two of the three rhinos (a mom and child) ran off when we pulled up, and then got so blustered and bothered by being followed that they turned a sharp right angle and mock-charged our truck.

Black rhinos charging us!

I also saw a Springbok pronking! (You should really watch this video with springbok pronking to music from The Nutcracker. Pronking starts at about 0:55, music starts at about 1:27, but it gets really good at 1:46).  It's a warning signal they send to the rest of the herd by bouncing vertically as though their hooves were fit with springs.  

Fun Fact #3 (learning is fun, y'all!): Springbok and other antelope with 4 chambers in their stomachs do something called "ruminating."  They consume food very quickly into their 1st chamber.  Evolutionarily, eating fast is a benefit because meal times are some of your most vulnerable.  So they wolf it down (colloquially) as fast as they can, as much food as they can muster.  Then, later in the day when they have more time without the threat of predators, they lie down to burp up the food and re-chew it before swallowing it down to the lower stomach chambers for full digestion.  That's ruminating.  Exactly as people do when they ruminate on ideas: re-visiting something in a preliminary chamber of the mind to re-chew it for full digestion.  

And that was all before lunch.  At lunch, we saw an amazing waterhole (Harare) where there were families of elephants with their babies who faced off with en earless black rhino for territory.  

And this is when I began to love rhinos.  In all honesty, rhinos were never much on my radar.  But seeing this poor guy trying to get a drink of water, but being intimidated away by an elephant family... it made my heart break for the unexpected underdog.  Such a profound loneliness played out on a real-life stage, and adorable baby elephants perceived as bullies.  

And I thought (with over-anthropomorphism), Rhino, you will suffer for being who you are. Who you will always be.  And there is no way around that.  

Trying to blend in

Finally here, tentatively

And then by evening, we sat by another swampy watering hole where we watched birds swooping up mosquitoes from sunset to dusk, then looked up to notice that first star, and just above it the crescent moon.  

(Fun Fact #4: A group of giraffes can be called a "tower" or a "journey."  Hooray!)  

N.B. Fun Facts come to you courtesy of Mat Dry, tour guide extraordinaire 

1 comment:

  1. Great information!!
    That's exactly what I want to see in my life, thanks!