Category: Ghana, Botswana 2018

Going to the (Wild) Dogs

April 12. We survive our first night in a tent in the bush. I’d be lying if I said I was giving serious thought to making this my permanent new life style, but for six nights it will be a great and fun experience.

We’re awakened at 6AM, have a light breakfast and are off in the jeep by seven. We’d been told by our travel agents that mornings would be cold and we needed to pack sweaters and a jacket. In fact, I was very comfortable in a short sleeve shirt and shorts, and did not use the blanket that had been put into the jeep for us. The jeep is designed for nine guests so, being only three, we have lots of room. We are able to charge iPhones, iPads and camera batteries in the jeep, but will have no internet access while we’re here.

Describing the safari experience is very difficult for folks who have not been on one, and unnecessary for those who have. I’ll give a brief explanation a shot, though.

Out on safari, you are in a world completely different from the one you’ve inhabited. Time is irrelevant and space is enormous and everywhere. The air is clear and clean. Dead trees appear as modern sculptures. Sunsets seem unreal, painted for your enjoyment. The sounds you hear could be a soundtrack for an African safari movie, played on an endless loop. Even the smells you encounter are new—fresh sage, basil and grasses of all sorts. In short, you are transported into an entirely new sphere.

It’s not an exaggeration, I think, to say that the safari experience would be wonderful if you never saw an animal. You’re not assaulted every minute by Donald Frigging Trump, and whether the Cubs won or lost last night doesn’t even seem that important. You pretty-much forget all of those things on your plate back at home; they just don’t exist. And you won’t have an email or a Facebook post for a week and a half. You’ve sorta forgotten how good those days were.

Of course, you do see animals and birds, and they are amazing. For those tempted to think, “big deal, I can go to the zoo,” I don’t mean to sound condescending, but you just don’t get it. It would be similar to saying, “I really don’t need to go to the Grand Canyon; I saw my sister-in-law’s snapshots.”

Part of the appeal of the safari is its total unpredictability. We set out hoping to see elephants, giraffes and, perhaps, lions this morning. We saw none of them. But we saw some of the most incredible birds—the little bee eaters, the lilac-breasted rollers and the pied kingfisher jump to mind as outstanding, but we probably saw at least forty different birds this morning. And, it’s not as if we didn’t see animals, hippos, zebras, red lechwe and wildebeests, to name a few. Roger is expert at finding and identifying birds and animals and has a delightful, easy manner and a good sense of humor.

We rolled back into camp at a bit after noon (five hours after leaving) and had an excellent cooked lunch . We have several hours to relax, blog, read, shower and nap before we set out once more at four this afternoon.

The clear highlight of the afternoon was running into a pack of twenty-two wild dogs who were on a hunt. Seeing any wild dogs is an unusual treat, but seeing so many and staying with them and watching their techniques, explained to us by Roger, for at least an hour was incredible. They were hunting impala and were not successful up to the point at which we could no longer follow them. Chances are, though, they eventually succeeded, because Roger said they were the best of all hunters, succeeding in over 90% of their hunts. To give you an idea of how unusual the experience is, Roger said that there are an estimated 2000 wild dogs in the world; so we saw more than one percent of them.

We returned to camp, where I took a hot bucket shower before another excellent dinner, then retired. The soups at dinner are terrific, but they’re put completely over the top by pouring into them a bit of sherry with chilis in it. (This becomes a nightly treat.)

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