Our schedule for our stay at Lukimbi was a bit rigorous for people who had been lazily making their way around the world on a cruise ship but no one would have entertained the idea of skipping any part of it. We were awakened at 5:30 AM, on safari at 6, back for breakfast at 9, lunch at 2 and safari again at 4, then dinner at 8 PM.
Even as bad as I felt, I would not have passed up a chance to get into the Land Rover again and go out in search of whatever the bush would reveal. After lunch I loaded my pockets with tissues and tucked in a small jar of Vicks in the hope that I could keep breathing and with the hope that the Vicks wouldn’t be offensive to the African animals.
Our afternoon safari began with a spider and progressed to some more antelope and rhinos. I’m not sure what we were tracking but Thomas and Craig had something in mind. Then we discovered what it was. Lion cubs again only this time with their mothers.
Our Land Rovers went off the road to follow them for a while and then to just sit and watch them interact. Thomas never flinched as he sat on the front fender and the female lions passed within 20 feet of him.
We found ourselves holding our breath as we watched these amazing creatures—not good for me though. I was having a hard enough time breathing. Still, as we watched, I actually forgot how bad I felt. Next time I get a bad cold, I’m going on safari!
When the underbrush got too thick, Craig suggested we head back to the road. He didn’t want to damage the Land Rover. It was amazing what this vehicle could go through. Thomas would guide Craig through as best he could so that he wouldn’t end up stuck on top of something. Small bushes though bent beneath us as we wandered through.
Back on the road, Craig and Thomas got out and checked the vehicle, pulled out stuck branches, and checked the tires. All okay, we drove on down the road to see what else we could see.
A little later, Thomas gestured and Craig stopped. There off to the side of the road was a huge Cape Buffalo just wandering through the bush. He stopped and looked our direction a time or two. Curious or just posing? I was beginning to wonder about these animals. Craig said that the reason they didn’t run or seem to be bothered by the Land Rover or people was that they were used to it. Many of the animals like the lion cubs had grown up with the Land Rovers stopping near them and so they pretty much ignored the intrusion.
Once the Cape Buffalo was out of our sight, we sat back and sighed. We’d seen all of the big five. What now? How about an elephant close up? We began tracking. As we did, Craig pointed out some of the trees that had been stripped of bark and one that was totally pushed over by an elephant. They only do it to the male trees of a species that bears fruit. The female trees supply their sweet tooth. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how the elephants expected to get more fruit if they kept uprooting the male trees.
We passed a jackal and slowed to a stop for a couple of pictures. The sun was beginning to get lower in the sky and I feared that if we found an elephant now, we’d not get a good picture. No sooner thought than there was an elephant—fairly close up and personal. We snapped away and then teased Craig and Thomas that we’d have to think of something really hard for them to find.
When we’d had our fill of our elephant, Craig suggested we head for the sundowner gathering since we would have a good sunset this evening and we’d missed it the night before. The Land Rovers circled in a field with a beautiful view of the setting sun. Drinks and snacks were passed around and stories were already being shared. Our guides and trackers gathered for some fun pictures before we had to pack up and head off for the lodge.
The neat thing about the guides is that we didn’t all go to the same place at the same time unless there was a really good find that needed to be shared. So even though we were all headed back to the lodge, we all took a different route.
This night, Thomas had his spotlight working and he swept it back and forth as we drove along. Suddenly Craig stopped and we all took a deep breath. On the side of the road just behind a large bush an elephant was munching his evening snack. He loomed out of the darkness like a huge black/gray cloud, his ears stretched out making his head look even bigger.
Someone whispered, “I guess we can’t take a flash.”
“No,” said Craig. “Not a good idea.”
The rest of the trip to the lodge was very quiet. We were all in awe and wonder. What a night! What a day! And we still had one more safari to go.