Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Swaziland part 9 (the safari)

We were up and at 'em early for our drive to the Hlane Big Game Preserve. I was pretty excited to see a little more of Africa. As we made it out of the city and were heading into the country side, Kim and I were talking about how much we wanted to see what we call "the Lion King trees." You see them on all of the nature shows (and of course, in The Lion King.)You know, these bad boys:

This is a photo from the internet. I didn't take it.

As we approached the reserve, there were wild animals running along side the road. We saw a few wart hogs and smaller animals and also a giraffe up ahead in the distance.

Just inside the reserve.

In the jeep, ready to go!

Just as we were ready to head out into the reserve, a younger guy - all by himself (and who didn't speak Siswati or English) was added to our jeep. Of course, he was seated right next to me.

Our driver turned around to face us and went through the rules: Don't get out of the jeep, don't make loud noises, it's fine to take pictures, and my personal favorite - "If, don't scream."

We started out driving through an area that had impala (African antelope.) As soon as the driver said impala, that stupid song from the 90's (?) - you know the one: "I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller, I wish I had a girl that looked good I would call her, I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat, and a six-four Impala" - got stuck in my head. So that was pretty much the soundtrack for my safari.

We drove around for awhile looking for lions. The driver had told us that there would be a chance we wouldn't see any but he made a couple laps hoping we would spot one. Unfortunately we didn't see any. We did, however, get a good look at a family of elephants.

It was amazing to be so close to them without anything in between us. None of the elephants seemed to even care that we were driving so close. We were parked near the herd and the driver was telling us some interesting facts about elephants. Now, my ears still hadn't "popped" from the flight and I was having an issue hearing everything he said. When he would say something, someone from the seat in front of me would translate because of that. I caught a few words - "...elephant .... pennies off ....urinate." I whispered "What did he say about elephant pennies??" Kim (who was in front of me) started to laugh and said "He didn't say pennies... he said PENIS." We're still not sure if he was just making these facts up as we went, but he said that if you see an elephant's... uh, pennies.... it means he's either urinating or trying to cool off.

Anyway, when we were parked there, we watched them for several minutes. The driver was talking some more and I noticed one of the larger elephants had stopped eating and was walking towards us. I got excited and said "How cool is that? That elephant is wiggling it's ears and coming so close!" That's when someone from the seat in front of me said "The driver just said that you can tell an elephant is upset if it stops eating, moves it's ears and comes closer." We retreated pretty quickly.

This one was so close - it seemed like I could just reach out and touch it!

We also got a good look at some rhinos. We saw two standing together (a mom and baby?) near a crash of other rhinos that were laying down and taking it easy. Again, so cool to get such a close look!

We pulled away from this group and were driving when we met another rhino standing in the middle of the road. As we approached we noticed that he was standing there - pooping. As soon he was done he sauntered off of the road and walked away without giving us another look. My kids love this story.

One of my favorite parts of the reserve was when we were at a watering hole. We got to see a few elephants using their trunks to suck up the water and put it in their mouth.

Other creatures we saw - turtles, lizards, vultures, birds - this one was pretty cool:

After the trip around the reserve, we sat down in a covered eating area and had some lunch. It was a beautiful day with amazing scenery. There was even a rhino resting near where we ate - and there was only a small fence separating us!

The safari was awesome... but we were all anxious to get to our next stop: Bheveni.

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