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American Spirit II - Day 326; Another Great Day on Safari, Including Lions Again; Thursday, November 27, 2014

A little bit about the Lalibela Game Reserve. The game reserve spans 5 different eco-systems: valley bushveld, savannah grassland, fynbos, riverine forest and acacia woodland, resulting in a diversity of plants/trees, animals and birds. I have no idea what a 'valley bushveld,' 'fynbos,' 'riverine' forest and 'acacia' woodland are. However, the bottom line is, that with different types of topography you get a greater variety of animals.

Its Thanksgiving Day in the USA, but not in South Africa. No turkey here.

Up at 5:00 AM, with breakfast at 5:30 AM . My light breakfast consisted of toast, a banana and a glass of passion fruit juice.

Even before the light breakfast, Jack and Joel saw 3 elephants on the hill behind our compound.

The range ride started at 6:00 AM, with Joel and I seated in the front row and Vlado, Jack and Jeanine in the second row. Even though the vehicle can hold 10 people, with us its just five.

We saw another black millipede on the road, and like Brad the day before, Jason picked it up, showed it to us and then put it back down in a safer place. Like the one we saw yesterday, it was black and 6 inches long.

Next we saw a Long Tailed Widow Bird, black in color and with a long, long, long, dangling tail as long as its body. Like a long tail on a kite.

Next we came upon 7 Elephants, including one 3 month old baby which weighed 120 kilos or 264 pounds when born. According to our guide, an adult elephant can hold 12 liters of water in its trunk; and can run its entire body's blood thru its ears in 20 minutes. They eat 300 kilos or 660 pounds of food a day; and weigh up to 6 tons. If they eat too much wood or bark, they grind down their teeth and then starve to death; because if they don't have any teeth they can't eat.

An elephant has two charges it can make at you: a Mock Charge, and a real Charge. The former is a bluff, but when an elephant is 'mocking' you you can't move or that may provoke it into a real Charge. The goal of a mock charge is to influence your behavior. The goal of a real charge is to kill you. It the elephant's trunk is tucked in and its ears are flat against its body,its coming to kill you. In either case, you can't violate the number one rule in Africa: You can not ever run. You and your companions will have to get together and make yourself look big; and scream and shout at it. An elephant also has excellent hearing and is able to hear other elephants up to 18 kilometers away (?).

We then drove by 4 Common Waterbucks; and stopped along a road thru a forest where our guide showed us the 'tooth brush bush;' followed by the 'toilet paper tree.' The leaves on the toilet paper tree look like small ferns. The latter is a tree that sucks up too much ground water so they're always trying to get rid of them.

Of the antelope where the males and females both have horns, like the Blesbok Antelope, the male has horns to fight and the female for defense from predators. Females with horns, according to our guide, occur usually in animals that are migratory.

The 'Big 5' animals in Africa does not include the Hippopotamus, even thought its one of the largest animals in Africa, because the 'Big 5' only includes animals that are or were hunted in Africa: Elephant; lion; leopard; rhinoceros; and cape buffalo.

Next Jack spotted the lioness and 7 cubs again as we were driving by a forest. Good catch Jack! The cubs were playing with their mother until mom saw a Red Hartebeest Antelope. She then took off at a trot, then got into her hunting mode, approaching the prey from downwind. The cubs knew what was going on and that they had to stay where they were. However, after trying to sneak up on the Hartebeest for 10 minutes it took off. Another failed attempt. Our guide says that lions are successful 30% of the time. By comparison, a Cheetah is successful 60-70% of the time and a pack of Wild Dogs is successful 90% of the time when hunting prey.

We then drove by 3 Hippos, a herd of Impala, and then our guide started following Giraffe foot prints and dung piles. Then we saw a Warthog den. A large adult, probably a female, stuck its head out enough for us to see it. Our guide said that if you were to stand in front of the den the Warthog might run at you hard enough to break one of your legs. They will self-excavate their own den; or take over and modify a den from an aardvark or porcupine. We then drove by 2 Ostrich.

We had our morning coffee and tea break around 8:00 AM.

We saw our first Zebra, 3 of them, after our morning break but due to the land topography, we couldn't get close enough to them to get any pictures.

Returning to our compound around 9:15 AM, we had our full breakfast at 10:00 AM. Breakfast included Impala sausage, bacon, eggs, potato, toast and fruit.

After breakfast was 'free time,' where you could go to one of the two pools; rest in your room; read in the fireplace area; etc.

Lunch was at 2:30 PM and included burrito and steak on a stick.

We went out again at 4:30 PM and immediately saw 7 Zebra up close; followed by 5 running Warthogs; followed by the largest bull Elephant we've seen. Adult elephants, according to our guide, have 50,000 to 100,000 muscles in their trunk.

Next we saw 7 Giraffes, really close up. Then 2 Zebras and a herd of Impala Antelope. We also saw some Hyena 'scat.' Scat is poop from a predator; whereas 'dung' is poop from a non-predatory animal. Who knew?! Then 1 more Hippo, nostrils only visible in the pond next to our Giraffe viewing area. According to our guide, Hippos are responsible for more deaths in Africa each year than any other animal. 2,900 deaths per year. Next we saw a bull elephant up on a ridge top.

Finally, we saw the Lion pride again. Four Lions, 1 male with a large main; one young male; and two females. They were laying or sitting in the tall grass, making it hard to see them. One female then got up and started stalking two Red Hartebeest. She took off like a slow torpedo, followed by the other 3 lions.

We left the lions and had our sundowner at sunset, then returned to follow the lions again. After an hour it became apparent that it was going to take them a long time to make a run at the prey they were stalking, so we departed for the compound.

Dinner was at 8:15 PM and partially consisted of lamb and Springbok Antelope sausage.

We all were tired and called it a night early, in bed by 9:30 PM. That still doesn't allow for 8 hours of sleep as we're getting up at 5:00 AM.

Brian Fox

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