Second Game Drive, Morning of Day 2 at Londolozi
That 5AM wakeup call was brutal, but once we were dressed and drinking tea and coffee with everyone else, we were fine. The air was beautiful – fresh and cool, lots of birds, and in no time at all we were back in our now familiar Land Rover, barreling down a dirt road.
Our first stop was a large pond just outside of the camp, which looked dormant and still but was alive with activity. Hippos wallowed just below the surface, their ears and noses just above. And guess what? They don’t swim — they just walk along, and sometimes push off from, the bottom. A few crocs peeked out of the water as well. A Brown Snake Eagle stared down from a tall tree.
After yesterday’s spectacular drive, we wondered what Sean and Joy could come up with to top it. Chuck suggested rhinos, and we drove quite a ways to an area where they might be more likely to be found. Tall mountains – the Drakensberg or Drakens (Dragons) — rose in the distance across an expansive plain.
We entered a different kind of terrain from our first drive the day before. It was flatter, with fewer tall trees, and more green grasses. A beautiful land with contrasts that gleamed distinctly in the clear morning light.
Sean was fabulous at pointing out birds as we drove, spying even the smallest ones and catching their various calls as well. He even admitted that he used to think his grandmother was a bit daffy about birds (he said the word for bird-loving people like her was a Twitter), but that they were now one of his favorite things and whenever he was home he’d sit on the deck with his grandmother and birdwatch. Joy got out of the jeep at one point to ponder some lion tracks, and even though he said they were likely from the day before, they were still distinct in the grainy, sand-like dirt of the road.
Eventually, Joy slowed Sean down with a gesture of his hand; looking off to the left, we caught a glimpse of our first rhino. A “glimpse” of a rhino seems like a misnomer, for when you actually get close to one, it fills your frame of vision. They are massive, and prehistoric-looking. It was as if their dark, matte-gray skin, like rippled and creased armor, absorbed and flattened the rays of the sun. Despite the dark gray color, these are the white rhinoceros. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the name, which corroborates what Sean told us: The English word “white” is said to have been derived by mistranslation of the Dutch word “wijd”, which means “wide” in English. The word “wide” refers to the width of the rhinoceros’s mouth. So early English-speaking settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the “wijd” for “white” and the rhino with the wide mouth ended up being called the white rhino and the other one, with the narrow pointed mouth, was called the black rhinoceros.
Giving yesterday’s hippo butt a run for its money . . .
We adored the rhinos for a long period of time, then moved on – to the usual herds of zebra, impalas, a kudu here and there, perhaps a giraffe, wildebeest or warthog thrown in. These became like some kind of fantastical background scenery as we hunted for our next “first” sighting.
Note the giraffe lying down — Sean said you won’t see this too often because giraffes only lie down or sleep for about 5 minutes at a time, and only about 30 minutes out of every 24 hours, and mostly sleep standing up. They’re just too vulnerable since it’s so hard for them to stand up.
Around 9 AM, instead of returning to the camp for breakfast, Sean pulled over next to a couple of other rovers, and surprise! – Londolozi had set up an al fresco breakfast for all of us in a beautiful clearing near the river. At the entrance was a handwashing station where they squirted soap into our hands, poured water from pitchers into bowls for washing and rinsing, then handed us fresh cloth towels. Beyond this were white-linen-ed tables, several food stations, a juice-bar, and a wooden canoe filled with ice and drinks, all out in the middle of the bush — it was amazing. The juice bar featured a great green juice made of celery, apple, cukes, and ginger which was delicious and made Annie deliriously happy. One station had pastries, yogurt, berries, fruit, and cheese and another had three large wood-fired grills with women cooks behind each one – one of whom turned out to be Joy’s mother! There was one grill with bacon and scrambled eggs, one with sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, and potatoes, and one with grilled sausages (which we were told was venison, and when JC asked what animal, they said warthog!). There was also, of course, a coffee/tea bar. So delightful, and afterwards we walked to the edge of the clearing and looked down on the calm, brown, shaded waters of the river, with a couple of elephants grazing among the trees on the opposite shore.
Tracker Dave takes over the hot seat from Joy. Can’t remember — did he find anything?
When we returned to camp some of us opted for a yoga class (we’d done a lot of sitting over the previous two days, and the stretching wasn’t easy). The yoga deck was open air, and a friendly “Yoga Nyala” grazed peacefully while we twisted ourselves into pretzels.
We’d decided to check out one of the other camps, so had lunch at “Tree Camp,” where the dining deck was built around trees that shaded the tables. On the way over, another elephant peeked out at us, and then we spied a hungover-looking hippo crashed out in the little pool of water just outside camp. “Must’ve been the wine,” we surmised.
We saw elephants on the ridge in the distance as we ate.
The hippo was still listing when we returned, and we empathized.