We Saw Cheetahs! (And More Lions Too)

When we entered Etosha, there were two big cats we’d yet to see: cheetahs and leopards. Both are notoriously hard to spot. In fact, one guide at Etosha said that in eight years he had yet to see a cheetah. And leopards, while the most numerous cat in Africa, are hard to find because they are primarily nocturnal and spend their days in the top of trees. Well, remember how I said we were lucky? We were at Etosha. On our second morning, we went out in search of cats and spotted three cheetahs prowling across a field. We followed them a bit and saw them scratch up a tree before heading off where no road ran.

Then on our third and final morning, we were out and about, this time in search of leopards specifically, when we spotted two more cheetahs. We watched them prowl a field, and then we watched a bit incredulously as they were actually scared off by a herd of oryx.

Unfortunately, we never did find that leopard, but we did end up spotting four more lions in addition to the one we saw at the watering hole.

An Update on us

So you’ve been seeing these random pictures we’ve been putting on the site without much extra content to go with them. Great. But we’ve been chugging along on our trip this whole while, its just we find it very hard to get long enough and good enough internet to really share the experience with all of you. Don’t worry, we’ve got lots of posts in progress and plan to upload them when we can, but until then, you’ll just have to be patient.

So let’s bring you all up to speed on us. You may have noticed that in our last few posts we were in Etosha National Park in Northern Namibia. Physically, we’re pretty much across Africa from that now. From Cape Town, we headed north through Namibia, through Etosha, dipped down into the Okavango Delta, crossed back into Namibia to head across the Caprivi Strip. We then soaked ourselves and flew over Victoria Falls before driving the length of Botswana back to Johannesburg and the arduous task of giving up our car and catching a bus to Maputo, Mozambique, where we currently are. The lack of freedom these days is very noticable.

We’ve got great posts on all of these places (and pictures too!) that we’ll upload as we can. They may be out of order, but now that you know the official route you can piece it together yourselves. And cross your fingers for some good internet soon along the way!

Where to from here you ask? Excellent question. We’ve been wondering the same thing too for a little while now. As always seems to be the case in Africa, our brilliant plans laid out by our guidebook have failed miserably and we are in the process of piecing together buses to get up to Malawi, then north into Tanzania, across to Dar Es Salaam and then north to meet my parents in Kampala at the beginning of June. We’ll see if we make it.

Giraffe Porn

If you look closely, you’ll understand the title. We witnessed a whole lot of foreplay going on between these two giraffes. It amounted to rubbing necks, ramming heads into butts, and walking in a lot of circles. As far as the actual action goes, well, we didn’t see anything. A few times it seemed as if they were trying but couldn’t quite figure it out. And as the sun was setting, we couldn’t wait around forever but had to race on to camp to make it before the gates closed. Maybe in the end that’s all they were waiting for…a little privacy.

Etosha’s Watering Holes

Etosha is Namibia’s premier game park. Stretching along the edge of the enormous Etosha pan, a salt flat that occasionally fills with water after the rains, Etosha is spectacularly beautiful, with views seeming to stretch forever across broad plains. Morning and evening light are spectacular (though not long lasting because in open space like that the sun is up quickly and down just as fast). But the real highlight of Etosha is its camps. No, the sites aren’t as nice as those at Kruger (though plenty fine), and the amenities aren’t nearly as extensive as those at South African parks (though prices are certainly higher), but it’s all made up for by the watering holes situated at each camp.

The campsite watering holes are situated on the edge of the camps and are partially ringed by seating areas, from where campsite visitors can safely view the wildlife that gathers there. And with Etosha not having too many watering holes, those that do exist are usually pretty frequented. Best of all, however, is the fact that the waterholes are floodlit at night, meaning that campers get the rare opportunity to view nocturnal wildlife and their activities.

We had our greatest success on our first night at the watering hole at Okaukuejo, which we also found to be the nicest site. (When we get rich, we’re definitely going back and splurging on one of the chalets with private balconies overlooking the watering hole!). Settling in at the hole after dinner, we first spotted two rhinos hanging out on the edge of the light. We also saw a number of jackals, running all around the hole and yapping like crazy, as well as many owls and other large birds.

But the coolest sighting was that of a lioness hanging out at the hole and going down for a drink every now and then.

At one point, while she was resting under a bush, a lone zebra ventured down to the hole.

This peaked the lioness’s interest and she began to stalk toward the vulnerable zebra. But before she could get close enough to launch an attack, the zebra caught wind of her and quickly scuttled off, the lioness not following. It was pretty exciting to witness even though there wasn’t a kill.

Not too long after that the lioness retreated from the hole. It seems she went just out of sight, to an area where the rest of her pride was located as we could for the rest of the night hear them roaring, usually in response to the annoying barking of the jackals. We checked back a few more times hoping they would come out from their hiding spots to visit the hole again, but our luck wasn’t ever again as great as it was at first. But really, we can’t complain. I’d say that all in all we’re pretty darn lucky.

Boulder Beach Penguins

Though most people associate penguins with Antarctica and other cold, icy landscapes, our experiences with penguins have been in places that are not only not snowy but are, in fact, downright hot. Most recently we visited the penguins of Boulder Beach, South Africa, just down the peninsula from Cape Town. On this beach, thousands of African penguins, also known as jackass penguins for their characteristic braying sound, live. we were fortunate enough to visit during their molting and breeding season, which meant that the majority of the penguins were up on land rather than hunting for food out at sea. With boardwalks that lead right through their habitat and with a few of the penguins venturing out of protected territory and right onto the bathing beaches, we were able to get an up close look at penguin life.

Casting a shadow on the boulders for which the beach is named.

A little self admiration.

Contemplating life.

Venturing outside the bounds…and wondering how the heck to get back in.

Hoping that there is safety in numbers.

But sometimes losing the battle to the gulls.

Penguin father settling in to keep the eggs warm immediately after his partner laid them.

Sharing nest space with the kiddos.

Strutting their stuff on the white sands.

A Bit of Shameless Self Promotion

So as you may have noticed when checking out our comments, I have a publicist. No, unfortunately our blog hasn’t been “discovered.” We haven’t landed any sweet book or movie deals (though if you’re thinking of offering, we’re always listening). “My” publicist works for Moon, a guidebook company you may be familiar with and for whom I spent most of 2008 writing a hiking guide. That guide, Moon Take a Hike Washington DC, is now available in bookstores. (Or else, it will be very soon, as it’s official publication date is May 1, 2009.) So, what, why are you still reading? You should be on your way to your nearest bookstore, or simply typing Amazon.com into your browser, and buying my book right this stinking moment. If you live in or near DC and like to hike, buy the book. If someone you love, like, sort of kind of know, or may one day wish to meet, lives in or near DC, buy the book. If you have never been to DC but may one day go, buy the book. If you don’t think you’ll ever set foot in DC and/or hate the great outdoors, buy the book anyways. Why? Because I wrote it. Because it’s good. Because you know me (or at least know my blog). Because it has nice photos. Because I worked really, really hard on it. Because I spent practically every single weekend between March and August hiking hundreds and hundreds of miles, sleeping in campsites without showers, and eating a lot of peanut butter sandwiches. Because this is one of those rare guidebooks where the author actually walked every step she wrote about and didn’t just visit a site or two and call it good. And because, if lots (and lots and lots and lots) of them sell, I may see a penny or two in royalties, and hey, a girl’s got to eat (and preferably not just peanut butter!).