Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lions and Leopards and Cheetahs, oh my!

Since we don’t have tigers or bears here in Africa, I had to alter the title slightly.  But I since lions, leopards and cheetahs are some of the most difficult animals to spot in Africa I consider myself very fortunate that I got to see all three in one day during my camping trip.

As I mentioned previously, I took last week off from blogging out of necessity.  I was camping in Namibia and didn’t have daily access to Internet during my trip, hence my temporary silence.  However, now that I am back online and took a record 2148 pictures during my 10-day camping trip, I will spend the next few days catching you up on my adventure.

I booked the camping trip with Wild Dog Safaris and they did ensure a wild ride.  Our tour guide and driver, George, along with our camp assistant, Manfred, took 7 of us (2 Germans, 1 Brit, 1 French girl, an American couple that is currently living in Bangladesh, and me) on a 3,000 kilometer trip around the northern half of the country.

I haven’t been camping in a few years but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it this time around.  We departed from Windhoek on Friday, December 20th and headed north to Etosha National Park.  Etosha is the largest national park in Namibia; it is three times the size of Holland.  It was given its name because the Etosha Pan is located almost entirely within the park.  The pan makes the park unique compared to many of the other national parks I’ve visited in Africa.  Most of the national parks I’ve seen have the brush and mopane and baobab trees, but because of the salt pans Etosha looked quite different.  Believe it or not the pelicans and flamingos are particularly attracted to the salt pans, but we saw plenty of other animals wondering around as well.  Here you can see one of the salt pans which seems to extend forever:
While on our way north we saw plenty of the typical animals which I’ve already mentioned before: baboons, monkeys, impala, kudu, eland, oryx, giraffe, elephants.  But there were a couple of animals I was VERY excited to see.  I’ve seen lions before, but we saw three females hunting a wildebeest.  I’ve never seen lions hunt before in real life and it was awesome.  In the end the wildebeest got away, but we spent about 20 minutes watching with baited breath:
Later that same evening we found two male lions roaring, calling the females over:
We also saw a leopard that had just made a kill.  It was interesting that he took the meat, jumped up into a tree nearby and then began to eat it.  Given the fact he is licking his lips here, I’m guessing it tasted pretty good:
The good thing about seeing a leopard and cheetahs in the same day is that I now can visually tell them apart.  Prior to seeing both of them almost back to back I couldn’t distinguish the difference.  But as you can see here, cheetahs have solid black spots (as opposed to the leopard’s multicolored spots) and black stripes down the front of their faces.  I’m sure there are many other differences that I don’t know yet, but at least now I will be able to tell what I am looking at, a leopard or a cheetah:
I have plenty of other fun pictures from Etosha, but I will save them for another day.

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