As we head off again into the bush, the tracker lights up a large spotlight, the light washing across the bush as we hunt for the nocturnal game. Occasionally, a zebra or a giraffe appears and the smaller animals scurry away from the light. When the light falls upon a herd of impala or other grazing creatures, the tracker immediately cuts the light so as not to blind them and leave them easy prey to the lions that are most assuredly stalking them out there in the darkness.
When we finally arrive back at the lodge, it’s time for dinner in the dining area and a selection of absolutely delicious fare, from game dishes such as impala, to the ever-present lamb and fresh fish. Both the food and presentation, along with the equally ever-present wine selection, tutored by a very knowledgeable sommelier, leaves you feeling a bit incredulous. We were just out traveling around literally in the middle of nowhere and here we are, dining sumptuously in a five-star restaurant environment. Ah, Africa—it’s an amazing place.
But we are out in the bush and you don’t have to go out on a game drive to spot game. One morning, sitting at the desk facing the patio, a beautiful monkey of some indeterminate species with a gorgeous cream-colored coat, saunters casually across the patio in front of the glass windows, clearly unimpressed by a human presence. As I pick up my camera, it hesitates a bit—clearly at odds with the idea of notoriety—and at the last minute shoots straight upward and disappears onto the roof. Ten minutes later, there’s this small furry head hanging upside down peering through the window. As soon as I reach for the camera—zip, it disappears again. This goes on intermittently for the next 30 minutes until both of us grow bored with the game and it finally disappears. One hour later, I think I see a brown furry thing shoot by, and all of a sudden, there’s a tremendous racket and banging and the windows are rattling because there’s a very large baboon pounding furiously on the thick glass shower door outside, obviously trying to get inside. It seems the baboons in the neighborhood come by frequently to see if anyone forgot to lock up or if security has lightened up any. The lodge was forced to install heavy-duty hook latches on the sliding glass doors and up the pressure on the magnetic locks from 50 pounds to 200 to keep them from breaking in and wrecking the place as they scrounge for food. I am now convinced my visitor earlier was clearly a scout for the big baboon that showed up later—never trust a cute monkey.
On the last nighttime game drive, we set off to find a group of about 11 lions that had been spotted earlier, most of whom are young males, along with two or three females and the plan is to see if they are going to be heading out for a hunt. En-route, we come across more elephants and their youngsters, giraffes and water bucks—all of which are carting around their new babies proudly and warily since the newborn are prime targets of predators.
Our guide decides to make one more stop before searching for the lions. We pull over to the river where a group of hippos are floating placidly in the water. Jared mentions hippos are the single most dangerous animals in the bush and kill more people each year than all the other predators put together, including lions, black mambas and cobras. They can move very fast, have nasty tempers and do not suffer any human fools dumb enough to come too close. As we get out of the safari truck to head down to the river, it’s the first time the guide pulls out the high-powered rifle and loads it, a clear enough sign he isn’t kidding about the potential ferocity of these huge animals. Apparently, the safest time to approach these grouchy gargantuans is during daylight hours when they spend most of their time in the water protecting their sensitive skins from the ravages of the sun. Even there, however, they do look dramatically sinister, with only their beady eyes and snouts protruding from the water. But it’s amazing how, despite their bulk, they can move gracefully through the water and submerge quickly with a lunge that would make an attack submarine proud.