Every new morning in the African bush is like opening a gift...we are always so excited to see what surprises God has in store for us!
With incredible Brooks guiding us and these two great Gray men beside me, adventure can't be far around the corner! And it wasn't!
We were barely out of camp when we came across a group of zebras and giraffe eating their bush breakfast.
Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the "spectacular" sightings and forget how remarkable it really is to just drive by zebras and giraffes as if they are nothing.
Seeing them is so commonplace, yet they are some of the most beautiful animals in Africa!
Never to be taken for granted.
Let me never say or think, "Oh, just another giraffe (or zebra or impala or ....)....
Same for these pretty little steenboks. I was fortunate they stood still long enough for me to snap a shot. They are usually leaping away, for good reason as they are a very popular snack in the bush.
Each animal has an important role to play in the bush ecosystem.
Even these ugly creatures.
When Brooks saw a tree of vultures in the distance, he knew we should get a little closer and check things out.
Had we arrived just a few minutes earlier, we would have witnessed the kill.
Wild dogs were in a feeding frenzy, devouring as quickly as possible the impala they had just taken down.
These wild dogs were part of a pack of 13 adults and 13 pups that roam this territory. As we had learned at Duma Tau, the adults don't waste any time devouring their fresh kill and they would soon leave to return to their pups and regurgitate the meat to feed them.
So we watched, and waited...
...until just a short time later there was very little left and the last dog ran off.
When the dogs were safely out of sight, a hungry jackal who had been waiting his turn moved in for his own impala breakfast.
The vultures got a little braver and when they creeped in too closely, the jackal chased them back again.
Jackals eat fast and furiously as well, and are very twitchy and watchful, very aware that their meal may be cut short at any time.
And it was! A jackal definitely is no match for a hyena!
The jackal kept his distance but kept circling, hoping for another opportunity...
...but the hyena made sure he didn't get too close!
The hyena decided to take his breakfast away from all the watching eyes...
...but apparently he left behind a leg for the jackal.
I love this photo! I can just hear the jackal thinking, "Na, na, na, na, na...I got some too!"
Hyenas are incredibly strong and dangerous animals.
Their jaws are the strongest in the bush...only they can crush bones and eat them. In fact, their diet has so much bone in it that their poop is white. Crazy!
The vultures know better than to mess with a hyena, but they hadn't given up on chasing the jackal away...
And watching from above is a very opportunistic kite, waiting to swoop down for his share of the spoils.
So exciting watching it all unfold within about a 15-minute span, a great lesson in bush hierarchy.
This poor fella got a life-ending lesson about bush hierarchy from some male lions a couple of months ago...
Later that morning, we encountered once again the same pride of lions that was feasting on the zebra yesterday.
The undisputed queen of the bush and her prince and princesses....
Goodness, how adorable is that sweet face?!
No, she wasn't angry. She was just yawning wide before settling down for her daytime nap. Lions sleep most of the days away. When they lay down and get comfy, no reason for us to stick around so we moved on.
As we hadn't yet seen any cheetahs on this trip, Brooks decided to follow the tip of another guide to see if we could spot two male cheetahs that had recently been seen.
I still don't see them...do you??? (I tell you, Brooks and the other guides have AMAZING eyesight!)
Okay...NOW I can see him!
Two males who are still a little skittish around the Land Cruiser as they were raised in a very remote area where they didn't see vehicles, so we kept our distance...
But still got some nice shots!
The cheetah on the right has a nasty cut on its back hindquarter...he must've learned his own lesson on bush hierarchy recently.
And we were soon to learn our own lesson in bush hierarchy before we headed back to camp later that morning.
We stopped to watch this elephant eating branches from the tree.
A very BIG BOY and Brooks could tell right away he was acting strange and in a bit of a bad mood.
Brooks immediately realized it was a male elephant in musth, a periodic condition that bull elephants go through when they are highly sexually stimulated, easily agitated, and very aggressive, characterized by strong-smelling urine continuously dripping.
One does not want to mess with a horny bull elephant!
And this one was in no mood to have his photo taken!
Brooks was well aware of the potential danger of the situation and had his plan of action ready if needed. He wanted us to experience this unusual behavior but of course realized that even a big strong Land Cruiser could be tossed around like a Matchbox car by this big boy.
Unfortunately, we had just heard the Chitabe Camp manager tell us a harrowing tale of his close call with an elephant several years ago, with the elephant ramming its tusks into the side of the vehicle a few times, so with that fresh in my mind I wasn't in much of a mood myself to stick around. Brooks is a very experienced and wise guide and we were never in any real danger (assuming, of course, that the Land Cruiser's engine wouldn't stall out!) but this old white gal is a little bit of a chicken when it comes to facing charging elephants!
So Brooks sensed my fear (I may or may not have "hinted" at it...) and acquiesced, changing directions and speeding away from the chasing elephant.
We had to pass by this tree to get back to the camp, but Brooks drove around in the wrong direction for a few minutes until he could see that the grumpy big fella had moved away from the road and we were able to turn around and drive by safely.
A wise one knows better than to mess with...
...the bush hierarchy.