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Chapter 9: A Charging Elephant? Take Away His Credit Card...



Really the only downside to safari camps is that you have to get up at a miserably early hour if you want to go on the morning game drive. It seemed like reveille got a half- hour earlier every time we moved to a new camp. Moremi sends a person around to make sure you're up at the appointed hour, and then you stumble, bleary-eyed down to the boma for coffee and a light breakfast, and it's off into the bush to harass the animals as they rouse themselves for the day. But the early rousing isn't just out of spite; the game drives are done in the early morning and late afternoon because even in winter, it can get a tad warm at mid-day and the animals are less active then and harder to find.

The skill and knowledge displayed by the safari guides was really remarkable. In Botswana, in order to get a guide's license, you must complete more than three years of training and apprenticeship, and must be able to identify hundreds of different birds and animals on sight, or by their tracks, droppings, calls, or bones. Several times during the trip, our guides spotted birds or animals by naked eye (and while driving) that we had trouble finding even with binoculars after they'd been pointed out to us.



On this morning, we once again got very close to lions, this time a whole pride, an entire Siegfried & Roy starter kit of lions. But they were all extremely busy catching up on their snoozing and laying around, so they didn't pay us much attention. It was times like this that we were glad that we were confident about the people in our vehicle. It was the five of us, and two or three others whom we had some degree of trust in. David later told us that the guides see an alarming number of people who have apparently been watching too much Steve Irwin or Dr. Dolittle, and are under the impression that they can "commune with the animals" or some such newagey horsehockey. So they actually get out of the jeep and attempt to approach the large, hungry carnivores. The end result is that they endanger everyone onboard, especially the guide who has to jump out and save their silly ass. This is one of several reasons why I would make a poor safari guide; I'd be tempted to let nature take its course in such a situation....you know, one of those "circle of life" things...

The swampy area around Moremi was teeming with animals. We saw elephants, giraffes, all manner of antelope-type critters, exotic birds, hippos, lions, cape buffalo...some of them began to get boring we saw so many. After the 500th impala, you just can't work up the same amount of enthusiasm.


Impala and baboons

But there were still some exciting moments. At one point, we watched as a small herd of elephants crossed the road in back of us. One of them, a cranky bull, glared at us, then charged, and we had to hastily depart down the road. Cal later said the elephant "wasn't serious," it was really more a case of "I want to cross the road now, and one of us has to move. Guess which one?"


The elephant family crosses the road...

But this guy decides he doesn't like our face...

And shoos us away

"And don't come back!"

Kudu

After a few hours, we headed back to camp, where there was a full breakfast waiting for us (and, of course, Charlotte with her towels). I'd been concerned that things could get boring between the morning and evening game drives, but that never seemed to be the case. Quite the opposite, in fact. I ended up wishing we had just a little more free time around camp. You weren't obligated to go on the game drives, of course (and one or two people on the tour did opt out on a few of them), but seeing the animals in the wild was one of the main reasons many of us came to Africa. About the only thing Moremi lacked that I could have wished for would be the option for wandering around outside on foot at your own leisure, but that would be quite dangerous, of course, even if you had a guide with you.



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