Your most memorable animal sighting

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Sep 9th, 2003, 04:50 AM
  #1
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Your most memorable animal sighting

Tracy's wonderful Mara Crossing report inspired me to think about all the animals I've been fortunate enough to view in the wild (or rather, in protected national parks, as is sadly necessary in so many places).
I'll never forget the spectacle in Kruger as we rounded a bend, after driving for hours along a dusty road in the midday heat with no sightings whatsoever, and coming across scores of zebra, gnu and at least 20 giraffes milling around a large clearing. Or seeing a pack of wild dogs lolling in the road, rolling on their backs and playing, totally oblivious to their audience. Or the huge crocodile that scuttled out from nowhere and zipped in front of our car.
And last, but not least, the humble dung beetles buzzing by like improbable helicopters before making light work of a pile of elephant poo...

What about your most memorable experiences?
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Sep 9th, 2003, 05:41 AM
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I'll put out my top 2 - 1 from Mara & 1 from Samburu -
1. morning drive from Mara where 3 cheetah's fresh from a kill stroll by majestically, then lay down to rest
(http://members.aol.com/zmaster724/tr...ya/cheetah.JPG)
2. afternoon sitting on my deck at Samburu where a group of monkeys were trying to teach 2 infants to climb, but another was there 'teasing' them (holding down the branch while the infants inched there way out, then jumping off to let the branch swing while terrified infants held on) after doing this a couple of times one of the older came over, scolded him, he walked away & sulked/watched. After a few more trys the infants were confident climing. (reminded me of when my parents were trying to teach my younger sisyer to swim at our cottage when we were kids).

Later,

Z
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Sep 9th, 2003, 06:17 AM
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Witnessing a pride of lions on the Serengeti make short work of a wildebeast. Must have been 12 to 15 lions (the adult males had already fed) working on the carcass (with one leg sticking up). Not only did I have an excellent view but was close enough to hear bones crunching and smell partially digested grass from the stomach and intestines! Thus, the benefit of three senses will keep that sight with me for a long, long time. Also, a road grader in the Ngorongoro Crater. Whats that you say--a memorable animal sighting? Sometimes during the drive between stops I often kept standing in the mini-van with the top raised. I enjoyed the panoramic view and air. Sometimes when I saw animals up ahead I would mention to wife and daughter (seated) something different was coming up. "Get ready Beth here is something different". Expecting to see a new species she jumped up as we pulled alongside a reddish-orange road grader parked in the grass. The look on her face was priceless and I also knew payback was forthcoming. Thank you hanl for taking me back to Tanzania even for a few minutes this morning. Dick
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Sep 9th, 2003, 06:59 AM
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I've had many involving the common animals (eg, elephants crossing the Chobe River, the wildebeast migration) but I have a few that standout because of the rarity of the animals:

1. Packs of wild dogs at Chitabe in the Okavango
2. Aardwolf and caracal on same drive in Savuti Camp in Linyanti
3. Mountain gorillas in Bwindi (Uganda) and Volcanoes NP (Rwanda) -- this was at the end of this August
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Sep 9th, 2003, 08:48 AM
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Watching from our vehicle for 4 hours as a mama giraffe was in labor and then gave birth. In the Masai Mara. No other vehicles came over the ridge and no children to spook her. Awesome sight.
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Sep 9th, 2003, 05:19 PM
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Ah, wonderful memories. Masai Mara: two male lions fighting over a freshly killed wildebeest. After they had their fill of fighting and eating, the "clean up" crews (hyena, jackals and vultures) came in. Watched the entire thing for a couple of hours. Again in the Mara, just after dawn while driving around, coming upon a magnificent leopard, which had just come down from a nearby tree. It walked around for a bit, then went back up - which is when we spotted the impala carcass draped over a branch. The leopard proceeded to eat its breakfast, and we ate ours in the vehicle no more than 40 feet away. Again in the Mara, hundreds of wildebeests crossing the Talek River. It was chaotic, loud and heart-wrenching, but everything I dreamed of seeing. In Tarangire, Tanzania, having leaves from an eating giraffe fall onto our heads. We were directly underneath the magnificent creature and he didn't care one bit. He was hungry and he was going to eat - no matter who was nearby. Two from Selous, Tanzania, the time we just came upon three lone lion cubs, who were as curious about our vehicle as we were about them. (We knew the pride was not far off) And while in the Rufiji River, having a male hippo give us a mock charge just a few seconds after two hippo heads came up no more than 20 feet from our little, rinky-dink boat. Talk about an adrenaline rush!!! Ah, Africa ... what a magical place.
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Sep 9th, 2003, 07:29 PM
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hanl - great topic. it's wonderful to read other people's awesome animal adventures and I'm flattered that I inspired you to solicit them. My wildebeest and zebra crossings definitely top the charts for me, and the sheer variety of wildlife in Kenya is incomparable to anything else I have experienced.
But on another continent, I was amazed to see kangaroos up close with babies in their pouches. Not nice and neat with a cute head poking out like you might envision, but more often gangly forelegs or hindlegs or a tail sticking out randomly from the mother's pouch!

rsnyder - loved the road grader story. Sometimes travel just produces those fabulously funny moments. At Mountain Lodge, all rooms look out on the water hole where animals come to feed, and some elephants were visiting. In my room, I zipped off the legs of my convertible pants to turn them into shorts and went to wash up. I returned to our balcony, overlooking the ellies, to find my sister and daughter holding the legs of my pants over their noses and saying, "Look we have trunks! We're elephants!"
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Sep 10th, 2003, 04:13 AM
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Walking from our tent to the dining tent one cold morning on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and encountering an elephant and getting a mock charge... and let me tell you, under the right conditions, I can still move pretty good for a 40 year old short fat man...
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Sep 11th, 2003, 05:43 PM
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What great moments to read about. Mine occurred on an ink-black night in the Sabi Sand. Our vehicle came upon a large pride of lion feeding on waterbuck. As we watched in rapt attention, there was rustling in the tall grasses on both sides of the vehicle. There, barely visible, were 5 or 6 pride members popping their heads up to see what we were up to. With only one spotlight, we spent the next hour with most of the pride shrouded in complete darkness surrounding our open vehicle. It was exhilirating, intoxicating Africa...now racing in my blood as I write this post.
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Sep 13th, 2003, 09:52 AM
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Oh I can't wait to add further replies to this thread but let me start with this one:

We knew that Mombo was highly regarded for game viewing but also that sightings of leopards were rare.

When we came to land at the air strip out pilot first buzzed the runway to encourage all the deer and warthog and baboons to move out of the way before he landed.

We were met by our guide, B.K., who advised us that he wouldn't be taking us straight to camp as another couple were arriving in just 15 minutes. Instead he proposed a 10 minute game drive. We were quite dubious - what could one see in 10 minutes and besides, we were tired.

Only minutes later he heard some bird calls and murmured that perhaps there was a big cat nearby. He didn't know which. We crashed through the bush rather alarmingly, and narrowly avoided being scratched by the thorn trees.

And there he was. Burnt Ebony. A huge male leopard in his prime. Right there infront of us. Within 10 feet of our open vehicule.

Of course, we started snapping a few pictures as we followed him.

Moments later we came across a large brown hyena but continued to follow the leopard.

We were mesmerised.

Before leaving to collect the other couple, B.k. radioed the other camp vehicule and gave instructions until he was able to find us and hence the leopard.

We relucantly left and went to collect the other passengers. We were taken to camp, welcomed by the manager and shown are room before being taken straight back out.

When we arrived the other vehicule left and again we were within feet of Burnt Ebony. We followed him and watched in fascination as he left scent markings on trees and bushes before sitting down in the fading afternoon light for a rest.

What a sight!

We had 4 nights at Little Mombo and were lucky enough to spend several hours with Bird Island, a female leopard, as well as a great deal of time in close proximity to Ngeenyana, a female cheetah. We also saw another female cheetah make a kill - a large male baboon.

But our first sighting of Burnt Ebony remains etched in memory.
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Sep 13th, 2003, 11:26 AM
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Most memorable and also most frightening. On my first trip to Kenya I tacked on a 5 night stay at Satao Camp in Tsavo East.

On arrival I unpacked all my clothing and put it away in my tent and went out for the afternoon game drive. My driver kept me out much later than usual and I didn't know what was up. Finally after dark we returned to camp and I hurried to my tent for a quick shower and then dinner. When I took some clean clothes into the bathroom I noted what smelled like kerosene or bug spray but I wasn't concerned. That is, until someone ran into the tent and told me i had to get out immediately because there was a cobra in the tent. Apparently when the steward had entered to prepared the bush shower a cobra spit at him. He immediately went for help and when help returned they found the cobra had managed to get down the drain and under the stone foundation. At this point I felt perhaps I should sleep in safari vehicle that night. I proceeded to the dining room where about an hour later the manager came and asked me to come a look at the dead cobra. I didn't really want to do it, but he felt I would be reassured. Indeed it was a dead spitting cobra about 5 feet long. It is something I will never forget. I have stayed at Satao Camp three times now since then and that is the only snake I have seen in Kenya.

Just lucky it ended up as it did. It made me aware very quickly though that we are in the animal's territory and it is up to us watch out for them and not visa versa.

Jan
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Sep 13th, 2003, 01:18 PM
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My goodness Jan, I bet that experience had your heart thumping!

The nearest we got to fear was when an elephant mock charged us during another drive at Little Mombo. Being novices we hadn't yet learned about the tell tale signs that differentiate a mock charge from a serious one. We were quite alarmed, and even more so when our guide, B.K., turned off the motor. Of course, the elephant stopped short and pawed the ground a little and once he appeared a little calmer, B.K. took us away from him.

The other experience that had me a tad worried was when we were out on a drive with Charles whilst staying at Damaraland Camp. I saw a colourful bug fly past after hovering around me for some time and asked what it was. Charles told me it's name (which I shamefully have forgotten) and told me that it's venom is not deadly but incredibly painful. It's so acidic that not only does it burn the skin but when the burned areas sweel up with pus and then burst the liquid from these burns skin that it comes in contact with. Now I think of it it may be the insects urine not venom, I can't quite recall.

Neither of those are as alarming as the idea of a cobra in one's tent.

And of course, one later learns that pretty much most safari tourists have experienced the mock charge of an elephant at one time or another!

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Sep 13th, 2003, 04:33 PM
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Kavey:

Try to think of what the name of that particular bug is. I would love to learn more about it. I know a little about the anopheles mosquito (malaria) and tsetse fly (sleeping sickness), but I haven't heard of the one you describe. Sounds as though it would certainly be a good one to stay away from!

Liz: When you get settled please tell me what your attraction to Botswana is. I have stayed clear of the southern African countries because of their stand on wildlife - wanting to sell their ivory and wanting to cull elephant herds. However, you must have fallen in love with Botswana so please tell me about it. Would I see as many elephants there as at Amboseli and Tsavo? Are the tourist facilities as good for a woman traveling alone, etc. Glad you got the air conditioning up and working. You can sleep extremely well tonight.

Jan
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Sep 14th, 2003, 02:00 AM
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What amazing and fascinating stories!
I've never come face to face with a poisonous snake... I think my most nervewracking experience was a boat trip in a tiny flat-bottomed canoe across a lake full of crocs and hippos. Although we steered clear of the hippos - our guide knew their habits and favourite bathing spots - on our way back we noticed they'd decided to come out of the water mid-afternoon and were grazing on the bank, just where we'd stopped shortly before. I was nervous because a woman had been killed by a hippo on that same lake just the week before...
Another favourite story happened when my mother and I were staying at Garonga safari camp in SA. My mother was in an open-sided hut having a foot massage when the masseuse told her to open her eyes and stay very quiet. She looked out of the hut (which was built on stilts on a hillside) and realised they were face to face with a huge bull elephant, staring into the hut!!
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Sep 14th, 2003, 02:36 AM
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JanGoss,

I do believe that your stance on elephant culling is a considered and researched opinion and I do not want to highjack this thread and turn it into a pro / anti culling debate.

I do, however, believe that your comments could be construed by newbie readers in the wrong way i.e. that the stance of the Southern African parks management is to kill elephants and thus profit from the ivory. The fact is that in South Africa and Botswana the conservation efforts have been TOO successful. The Kruger Park for example is over-populated by elephants by a thousand or more. As you well know, elephants are extremely destructive on their habitat - they *break* trees when feeding - and a given area of land can only support a given amount of these animals. The Kruger park does try to move these animals to under-populated parks; recently a family group of about 14 animals were donated to Mozambique. However, these operations are difficult, time consuming and EXPENSIVE. When the park is over-populated by 1000 or more animals and they move 14 at a time it isn't going to make a significant dent in reducing the elephant numbers to what the habitat can support. Pretty soon, sad though it is, they will have NO CHOICE but to shoot the ellies. It will be either that, or face destruction of the habitat with dire consequences, not only for the elephants themselves but also for all the other creatures in the park.

PS: The South African parks ARE being expanded to give more room for the animals. Both Kruger and Addo are at different stages of rehabilitating and incorporating vast tracts of adjoining lands into the existing parks.
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Sep 14th, 2003, 12:21 PM
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Jan
I did some internet searches and didnt come up with it. I think it was a beetle with a red or orange shell/ wings.

Province
Although I used to hold the opinion that culling of animals in the name of conservation was wrong, I have been persuaded by arguments such as the one you make and by images and descriptions of the distruction to habitats that overly dense populations of elephants can cause, this in turn leading to difficulties for other species.
However I don't agree with sales of ivory. I think that as long as there are legal sources for ivory that there continues to be a market and less effort expended on education in those parts of the world where people believe their need for (purported) medical/ sexual relief is greater than the need of the animal for it's body part. If all ivory trade is illegal under all circumstances it makes it harder for poached sources to be passed off as legitimate using fake papers and it means that markets for the products remain.

Anyway, that's just my opinion and I respect everyone's right to evaluate, decide and hold their own opinions.

Kavey
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Sep 15th, 2003, 01:31 AM
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Kavey,

I agree - the ivory should not be sold.

To get back to the main thread:

1. Watching two young bull elephants fight in the Kruger Park two weeks ago. They locked tusks - you could hear the ivory clashing - and then proceeded to push each other to and fro until the one had had enough and decided to get out of there.

2. Almost riding into a couple of mountain leopards while rounding a corner on my mountain bike in the Jonkershoek reserve. Needless to say I could feel the blood draining from my face in shock - luckily they were more shocked than me, gave one jump into the fynbos and were gone. I don't know if it was mating season or what, but there were two.

3. Once again in the Jonkershoek reserve, watching a falcon dive down a steep gorge from on high to strike a pigeon just above the tree canopy.
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Sep 15th, 2003, 04:05 AM
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On a nature program I saw recently they showed the old bleached bones of two elephants (or could have been woolly mammoths on a historical natural history program) who had locked tusks during a fight in such a way that they couldn't unlock from each other. Being unable to feed they died locked in each other's embrace - only their skeletons left to tell the story. Very moving, somehow.
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Sep 23rd, 2003, 06:43 AM
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Oh boy, oh boy! This thread is the travelers equivalent of a hard-on!

Fascinating stories!

We had the ole' elephant mock charge too, in Uda Walawe NP in Sri Lanka.

But my two most memorable experiences are from a trip to the Sinharaja rainforest, also on Sri Lanka.

At the beginning of the trip, the guide pointed out a spider to us. What a fine specimen! I immediately whipped out my cam and started taking macro shots (at less than 10cm from te spider). Then I noticed it was awfully silent around me. So I turned my head. The guide looked WHITE (quite special considering their tan, LOL!). I realized immediately this spider was not to be messed with. So I backed off reeaaaaaally slowly. Afterwards, the guide told me that the spider was extremely venomous, and that you had to get an antidote real quick to be able to survive. But it seemed the nearest hospital was too far away for me to have any chance of survival. Needless to say that was my first "wildlife" trip, and I learned a lot since then.

The second experience that will stick with me for the rest of my days happened on the same day: we were in de midst of the forest, while all of a sudden there was this insect (or beetle?) high up in the trees who started to make a really special noise. Kinda like a cricket, but also like a motorcicle getting into higher gears.

zzoom, zzzzzooooooommmm, zzzzzzoooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmm....

Strangely enough, all the other insects/beetles of the same kind started making the same noise as the first one, and all did so more or less in synchronisation with each other

ZZOOMM, ZZZZZOOOOOOMMMMM, ZZZZZZZZZZZOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Seemed the trees above us were full of those guys! The zooming went on for like 10 minutes, and in the end the noise was so loud we could not talk to each other. I got goose bumps again just writing this, LOL!

Anyway, I hope to get some more of those moments before they put me 6 feet under. Maybe it will happen on our next trip. We leave october 2nd for Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. We plan to see Matobo NP, Chobe NP, Vic falls (of course), Kruger NP, Hluluwe-Umfolozi NP, Natal NP and much more...

Ciao,

J.
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Sep 23rd, 2003, 07:06 AM
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Sounds like a great trip you have planned J...
Have you posted anywhere else on this forum about your plans? If not I'd love to see a (separate) thread about your trip to share the excitement with you.
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