02 April 2008 | Aquila Game Reserve
March 31, 2008
"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
Aquila Game Preserve
We are just back from our first Safari; the dusk patrol followed by dinner, a shower and now a late evening blog update.
First off: Safari is a Zulu term meaning Journey. On this journey we saw Hippo's, Zebras, Springbok (similar to an Impala) White Rhino, Wildebeest, also known as a Gnu (but then you already Gnu that), Cape buffalo and Lions. The big 5 are the most dangerous animals to hunt and they are: Rhino, Lion, Elephant, Cape buffalo and Leopard.
Interesting animal information: Hippos have very short stubby legs and are very heavy, which is why they like the water which buoys them. They can stay underwater for up to 6 minutes at a time and are said to have no friends as they are ferocious and have very big teeth with which they attempt to impale you. There were two baby hippos that were cute but probably will still grow up friendless.
Zebras are particularly interesting as the reason for their stripes is threefold: the main reason is recognition, each stripe pattern is distinctive (like fingerprints), the second reason is control of body temperature as the white reflects heat and the black absorbs heat and they can utilize this to regulate body temperature and lastly the stripes are to camouflage so that they may better hide from predators. A herd of Zebra is called a Dazzle; it does catch your eye when you see a large herd of them. Zebras almost always gain too much weight when they are young, (like people) and never will get if off so they remain overweight their entire lives. You cannot ride a Zebra as you would a horse as their spine is very weak and in order to ride an animal you must form a bond with them; the problem is Zebras bond through biting. They are more like a donkey then a horse. The Afrikaan word for thank you is "dankie" so Donna thought everyone was calling us an "ass" for the first few days.
The Cape buffalo is also very dangerous and indeed at one point came close to attacking the Range Rover. The Zulu call them Niyadi; Black Death.
Donna's comment: How fun is this?? She was the only person hoping we didn't see anything. She opened the window at night (hot flash) and I told her I had seen a spider the size of a king crab. Now I had to shut the window and we both were awake the rest of the night. Our next ride out was at 0600..
We were up before sunrise because early morning is the time the lion cubs play which was great to watch. The early morning ride is so cold and we all were given blankets for the ride. It is nice that they stop and give us tea, coffee and the night before a glass of wine.
We moved on to revisit the Rhinos, and found two young elephants intent on stripping food off of a tree. Although unsuccessful, one of them was intense and tried every way he could to get the food.
We found two pride of lions one with two, one year old cubs. One of the cubs has a game he plays, attempting to bite the tires of the Range Rover. He was prancing around and took turns jumping on his brother and lunging at the truck. The Drivers are in on the game and will turn toward the lion at low speed and the cub will leap backwards into the air like a regular cat.
The second pride of lions had three month old cubs. They were playful and the mom would pick them up and carry them around. as well and we enjoyed watching them for about 20 minutes.
It was touching to see how much all of the workers caring for the animals feel towards the animals. They love them, but respect how wild and powerful the animals are. We were warned about leaving the lodge at night as the buffalo sometimes wandered into the camp area. After witnessing an aborted charge on one of the Range Rovers and seeing all of the dents from successful ones we also had a better idea of how beautiful, powerful and dangerous these wild animals are.