Still December 28, 2017
The Nat Geo expert, Bill Branch, gave a talk about Africa at noon today. He discussed its geology, both historical (as part of Gondwanaland) as well as current. Unlike many of the other continents, it has not drifted into any of the other continental plates. I was surprised to learn how much of Africa was desert, not just the Sahara, which is the newest and the largest in the world, but also the Namib, which is along the southwest coast of the continent. Perhaps only 1/3 of the continent is not arid. Africa is the largest of the seven recognized continents (Zealandia may be an eight continent, although most of it is submerged.) Africa’s aridness is due to the fact that warm winds blow west onto the eastern side, and cold winds blow north along the western side.
The Limpopo River was once comparable to South America’s Amazon. It still separates South Africa from Botswana and Zambia, areas we’ll be visiting in the next few days.
We got a little earlier start on tonight’s game drive. Almost immediately, we came upon a group of baboons near the river. There were several adults and juveniles eating the foliage between the river and the road.
We left them to their foraging, and next came upon another white rhinoceros. This one was not as agitated by our presence as the one we saw earlier, so we spent a little more time watching it dine. The white rhinoceros has a wide mouth and jaw which enables it to almost scoop up the grasses. This wide mouth distinguishes it from the black rhino which we haven’t seen yet. We were instructed by our ranger, Tim, not to take smart phone photos and post them on any social media because poachers can learn where the rhinos are from the location info on the photo. I had heard that some places are capturing rhinos and then shaving down their horns to make them less valuable. Tim said that it really doesn’t deter the poachers because there is still some horn left that can be harvested, and the prices that the poachers receive is astronomical. He thinks they will be extinct in the wild within the next ten years – tragic!
Next we saw several waterbucks, and a vervet monkey in a tree nearby. We got to watch some water buffalos grazing. This animal is considered to be one of the most dangerous to hunt. They can weigh nearly a ton and they tend to be belligerent. Even lions are hesitant to take one on unless it is ill or injured. There were several birds grooming the water buffalos. This bird is the only bird, other than the woodpecker, that move up and down. Some even hang on to the underbelly. The water buffalo is covered with thousands of ticks which the birds eat. Ticks are so prevalent that some animals actually become anemic. Sounds like northern Minnesota.
The sky tonight was truly stunning. Shortly before sunset, storm clouds began coming in and blocking the sun. The edges of the clouds were brilliant from the sun’s reflection. We stopped just before sunset for “sundowners,” snacks and beverages. While we were enjoying our repast, a small praying mantis landed on the arm of one of our fellow travelers. It couldn’t have been more than half an inch long, neon green in color with darker green spots. It looks like an alien creature from a sci-fi movie.
Back on the hunt, we found more baboons and elephants. At dusk, Tim learned that there was a leopard on a nearby bridge. We hurried over to watch this female. They are even more beautiful at night than in the daytime.
We had another delicious dinner back at the camp, and were again entertained by several of the staff there.