A long weekend in February was the impetus for a jaunt to the nearest national park, Mikumi. The plan was to camp, which was a mildly frightening prospect in its own right. But, based on the assurances of those who've gone before, we went for it.
The wildlife was spectacular and offered up a completely different cast of characters than our last visit due to the change in seasons. This was supposed to be the period of short rains, while our previous visit took place at the height of the dry season. Then, the landscape was martian in appearance.
Camping was nothing short of wild. On our first night, we we awoke to the sounds of crunching twigs and hoofbeats. As quietly as I could, I peered through the mesh window out into the full moonlit night. Approaching us was an obviously startled giraff. It paused every few steps and surveyed the scene. It was walking straight towards us, and I started to think of what to do if it got close. When it got to within 50ft, Stace's movements in the tent startled it, and it bolted off into the distance.
The next day, I proposed to Stacy under an acacia tree. She said yes, thankfully, and we returned to the campsite for a romantic dinner of warm beer and peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches. It was already an unforgettable day, but what was to come our way that night would make it even more so.
Preparing a campfire that night, we heard what was probably buffalo snorting and belching in the middle distance. The prospect of the most dangerous animal on the plains walking up on us at night was enough to drive us into the safe confines of our truck.
We set up a bug net over the open rear windows and settled in to a movie on a laptop before drifting off to sleep. At about 9pm, we heard yet more rustling outside. We quickly shut the screen and peered through the windows to see what had come. The clouds obscured the moonlight and nothing was visible from the cockpit of the truck.
I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the outline of an elephant's head, with ears extended, peering in at us as if it was watching the movie as well! We spun around and noticed a family of perhaps a dozen animals that had walked into our camp. Their soft, padded feet allowed them to walk in silently, and they were in search of water.
As the clouds parted, we saw that a few adults had surrounded the large concrete cistern, and were slapping it with their trunks. They tried to twist off the hose and tear loose the faucet. They could smell the water.
We rolled our windows down and stared, awe struck, at the huge animals as they milled around us. They were close enough that we could smell them, and they would have reached out and touched the car with their trunks. We had nowhere to go, and couldn't start the truck in the risk of startling them. We just remained as quiet as we could and enjoyed the spectacle.
Losing interest in the cistern, they slowly meandered around and encircled us, stood for a few moments, then continued their journey off into the twilight.
It was one of the most awesome things we'd ever seen, and we feel very lucky to have gotten that close to such magnificent animals. The elephant encounter made that day even more unforgettable.
On the road and at the ready.
Marabou Stork - Strangely, this is where your tarpon toad materials come from.
This dude will steal your jars of peanut butter faster than you would imagine.
The pond guardian.
Passing the time...
Martial Eagle - fiercest bird in the skies. This thing will take out impala.
The Great White in its natural habitat.
Not gin-clear or spring-fed.
N. Carmine Bee-eater
African Fish Eagle
The elusive leopard, sans tail.
Scrawny juvenile, solo until he can fight his way to the top.