Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cat Scratch Fever

Botswana is considered to be one of the top destinations in Africa for those wanting to go on safari and see wildlife. A big reason for this is that Botswana is only 1 of around 7 countries where the famed "Big Five" of Africa can be found in the wild. The Big Five was coined by early game hunters in Africa and is supposed to be the five hardest animals to hunt on foot. The Big Five animals are the lion, the leopard, the Cape buffalo, the elephant, and the rhinoceros. Most tourists consider the lion to be the "best" of the Big Five and want to see it on safari.

I have been lucky enough to see lions on two separate occasions. Seeing lions can be quite addictive. If I see one lion, I want to see two. If I have seen two lions, I want to see three. Now that I have seen a few, I want to see more out on game drives and it can be disappointing not to see lions on a game drive no matter how many other animals I have seen.

Over the weekend, I went to Moremi game reserve and saw 5 lions over the course of 2 days. It was incredible. On the first day in the park, we got there right at sunrise so we would be one of the first trucks in the park. The advantage to this is that you can still see the lion tracks in the road before the other cars obscure them.

The guide found a set of tracks right away and we followed them for a few kilometers. Then we suddenly came upon 3 giraffe that seemed to be intently staring at something. Most of the animals in the park will react to cars being close and at least glance at them briefly. These giraffe did not move and kept staring off into the distance. the guide explained the giraffe were particularly good at spotting cats because they are so tall, and they were indicating that a cat was nearby.

We turned down another path and sure enough, there were three female lions resting in the sun no more than 150 yards from the giraffe. We followed the lions for a little bit and watched them slink off into the bush to possibly hunt some impala.

We spent an hour or so just watching the lions and it was amazing being around such a beautiful and powerful animal. I tried really hard to be grateful for getting to see those three lions but I admit to spending the rest of the day scanning the shaded areas hoping to see more.