June 17: MORNING Another early but beautiful morning game drive. It was rhino time! We first saw a lone bull who was heading to the water hole and spraying his territory. A bit later we pulled up to an empty river bed and watched a mother rhino with a baby. The baby was so cute! It danced and ran, it came close to the Land Rover to look at us, it scampered here and there. Sadly, all Rhinos are endangered. Poachers roam the bush, and actually use helicopters and sophisticated equipment to track and kill these animals.
The Rhino’s horn is coveted by many, for many different reasons. Of course, in Asia, it is believed that it has healing properties (science does not support this ancient belief). Men in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen, want the horns to use in making knives called Jambiya, which are given to young boys to celebrate manhood. The horn is made of keratin…like our fingernails. Pieter told us that in order to stop the extinction of these animals African preserves removed the horn so there would be no purpose in killing it. The poachers killed them anyway, for spite. These incredible creatures are on the brink. To learn more about the horrifying practice of poaching, watch Rhino Wars .
It is also interesting to watch the birds all over the animals…they serve much as the cleaner shrimps and fish in the ocean by cleaning the animal of parasites. At times they even go into the animal’s ears! Amazing to see how calm they remain with birds picking all over them! We enjoyed several bird species; then we saw six giraffes!
THEY are magical! So strange, so sweet looking…I love them! They appear so elegant in the bush. I cannot help but almost jump up and down in my seat when I spot one. Giraffes have quite an effect on me. Both male and female giraffes have “horns”, actually formed from ossified cartilage (cartilage that has turned into bone) and they are also called ossicones. You can tell the sex of a giraffe by looking at the Ossicones. Females have tufts of fluffy hair on the top of their horns while males usually have bare horns. The hair and skin are often worn away when males combat each other.
We have also enjoyed seeing herds of impala, and they really are so pretty. Pieter calls them “the McDonalds of the bush.” Huh? Well, they are the easiest and most frequent meal for the lions, leopards and cheetahs. They are even marked with the MacDonald’s M!
We went to the edge of Sabi Sabi today to the border of Kruger National Park and the Sabi River where we enjoyed coffee, tea, hot chocolate and biscuits. Our ranger, Pieter, and Pat, our tracker, are so hospitable…and make the best hot chocolate on earth. We are very spoiled at the Earth Lodge….everyone waits on us (though we try to take care of ourselves, well, sometimes….) and they express interest in our impressions of everything: Africa, the animals, the Earth Lodge, American politics…) One is completely pampered at this five star lodge. Ran and I had a massage this afternoon. The spa is open air, with a waterfall and the scents of the bush. Lovely, lovely, lovely!
Tonight we are searching for more giraffes, hyenas, and of course, more lions! Wes really wants to see hyena, so hopefully we will find some tonight. He deserves some hyena, he has kept us laughing with his Arnold Schwarzenegger imitations the entire trip….the bush is “fantastic!”. “Cally-for-nya” is “fantastic”! You have to hear him…he is a riot! More after tonight’s game drive!