A nice day for a mud bath

We had visitors to the camp and to our house last night, Elephants were around, in the morning we surveyed the damage done to the trees as they broke down branches and stripped the bark. Their footprints were still visible in the soft sand where they had crossed the river from the park into the camp.

It is said that when Elephants start leaving the park it is because they can sense the wildebeest, you never see elephants together with wildebeest, they don’t like them. So maybe this is an indication of an early start to the migration, we shall see.

As soon as we enter the park, we encounter a peaceful scene with zebra and giraffe grazing in the early morning sun.

Then as we head out onto the plains we find 2 Jackals, as we get closer to them one of them starts to run, he has the top half of a baby tommi in his jaws. Jackals are not just scavengers getting the leftovers from a kill by one of the big cats, given the opportunity they can and often do make a kill themselves. While the one Jackal took his prize into the bush to eat in peace the other one stayed where he was, at least until a couple of crows flew with the intent of taking some scraps, this is when he also made the decision to run away and find somewhere a little quieter.

It has been pointed out to me that I haver never mentioned our driver by name! I didn’t realise that I always referred to him as ‘the driver’ So our drivers name is Ntimama, he has worked for us for several years, he lives local and so knows the area very well. During our game drives he has gotten us both into and out of more than a few scrapes.

Today we have no radio, so we must rely entirely on the skills of Alison and Ntimama to find the animals. Fortunately, they are very good at this, I would even say the best, and my opinion is borne out by the fact that Alison soon spots something in the distance but won’t say what it is yet. We have to drive quite a way, and as we approach, Alison keeps asking, “can you see it yet?” both me and Ken look in vain for anything. “It’s near that tree” he says pointing in the direction of a few trees. Still we can’t see it, not until we get up close, then right in front of us is a cheetah.

. It is our friend Olodupa, he is looking very hungry this morning as you can see from the photos. He is looking around, there are a few wildebeest in the area who start to snort when they see the cheetah, as a warning to others. There are also a few Topi and Hartebeest. Olodupa is looking intently at something, then we see what he is looking at. He has spotted a baby hartebeest, he tries to get closer, but the Hartebeest have spotted him, he starts to run but they are too far away even for a cheetah. 

So the baby Hartebeest has a reprieve, and its mother takes it far away from the danger. But Olodupa is still hungry. After a second look at the remaining antelopes, he decides they are too big for a single cheetah to take down and lays down to rest, to conserve his energy and wait for the next opportunity.

Shortly after we leave Olodupa we come upon a most tranquil setting. It is a small seasonal pool, currently occupied by a few Egyptian geese. The only sound is that of birds in the surrounding trees, as the geese glide silently and effortlessly through the water, dipping their heads every now and then to catch the insects just below the surface. Also not far away is the grey crowned crane who have a rather spectacular appearance in contrast to the rather plain looking geese. Although his crown looks more yellow than grey in the morning sun.

After a while as we are driving along a muddy track full of potholes filled with water, we are stopped by elephants that have just moved onto the track in front of us and have decided to use the muddy water to cool down, and for the young ones in the group to take a mud bath. There is no way to pass them, not that we want to, so we settle down to watch and take a few photos, and when I say a few, I really mean hundreds!

There are quite a few young ones in the group and a couple of small babies, in one of the photos two babies of the same size actually look like twins to me, however elephants rarely give birth to twins so it’s more likely that they are from two different mothers, born at around the same time. They all had a thoroughly nice time, throwing the mud over themselves with their trunks, laying down and rolling around in it, as much as an elephant can roll around. 

Eventually when all the water was gone, bath time was over, and they continued on their way across the open savannah.

The next animals we came across were also bathing in mud pools, this time it is a large herd of buffalo, taking it in turns to get into the few shallow pools that were around, and of course the oxpeckers were there as usual to remove any ticks and insects that were not dislodged by the mud. I think buffalo always look grumpy, the young males especially, they act all brave in the presence of the vehicle, staring at you and even in some cases performing a mock charge, until they get near, then they turn around and run away. The older ones have more sense.

It is now early afternoon and as yet we haven’t seen a single lion, which is unusual for our game drives, but that was about to change. First, we noticed a couple of Hyena, again next to a large pool of water. As we drove towards the pool, we could see there were more of them in the muddy water, taking a bath, in total around 14 or 15 Hyena. There were also a couple of Hyena cubs. As incredible as it may seem in all the years I have been here, and all the game drives I had taken, I have never seen Hyena cubs before, so this was a first for me.

We watched them for a while, then off to the right Alison pointed out a half-eaten buffalo carcass with a sub adult male still eating from it. I couldn’t believe that with all those Hyenas present they had not started to harass the lion, there was only one of him, surely no match for 15 Hyenas. Alison thought there must be other lions around and that was the reason they were leaving him alone. This turned out to be true, it was not long before the lion was joined by two female lions. 

The first thing a lion does when joining another lion or group of lions, even before they start eating is to greet each other. This is to strengthen their bonds within the pride.

Then a strange thing happened, one of the Hyenas started to screech and yell and run around nipping at the other Hyenas in the group, this had the effect of getting them all going and before long there is a loud chorus of whooping, screaming, and laughing, all around us. Some of the Hyenas started chasing and biting the instigator, he ended up with a wound on one of his back legs, but he didn’t give up. The lions I think were just looking on in confusion, they didn’t seem particularly worried, in fact when any of the Hyenas got too close to them, they were chased off.

This went on for a while, we didn’t know which way to look. And to add to all this mayhem and madness just then a loud rolling thunder started up, it was the most surreal scene I had ever witnessed. Finally, they calmed down and just sat around to wait. The lions came and sat next to the car, which was next to the carcass, for the shade. One of the female lions decided to crawl underneath the car on the side I was sitting, what I didn’t realize was that the sub adult male had also come round to my side of the car and was sitting just below my window. As I leaned out of the window to look for the female under the car, my head came to within inches of the lion’s head. To be fair I think the lion was just as surprised as I was.

Ntimama revved the engine a little so that the lions would move, and we returned to camp before the rains came. But what a strange day it had been.

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