Hidden in Plain Sight/Mikumi National Park
I thought it would be hard to sneak up on animals with the rickety diesel engine under the hood of our guide Kelvin’s vintage Land Rover, but as the day passed it was apparent that in most cases the animals don’t seem to mind. Kelvin navigated his way over the gravel roads dodging the ruts and potholes as we made our way through the savanna. He took great care in making sure we weren’t jostled around too much while standing looking out the vehicle’s open roof. The climate lately has been dry so our chances of seeing animals near the watering holes were better than usual. It has been about three months since we have had a good rain here, the locals have said that the short rain season usually begins the 1st week of October….as I am writing this on the 22nd of October 2016, it has not rained more than a few drops. At the park, the strong dry breezes blew clouds of dust across the vast areas of the open flats that sometimes formed perfectly funneled dust devils.
Kathy, her friend Charli, Charli’s mom Janet, and I were on this safari. We decided to stay two days and one night in the park. The first day we went on three-3 hour drives and one night drive; the second day we went on an early morning drive. I would not recommend the night drive as you see way more animals during the day than at night. I am not very good at night photography so the few animals that I happened to capture on pictures were no more than a blur…you won’t see them here. If you do decide to do a night drive, you are required to stay in the park overnight and use one of the park’s lodges.
The first day we saw a leopard sleeping in a tree. There were four guide vehicles parked about 30 yards from the tree…everybody was talking in a whisper mode as to not bother the big cat’s slumber. I didn’t see the cat at first and when I made it known I didn’t see it, Kelvin, Kathy, Charli, and Janet all tried their best to guide my eyes to the beast…all I saw was a clump of leaves. I took many pictures of the clump hoping it was the right clump. When I finally did see the leopard, I was amazed that it was so well hidden in plain sight. We sat for a while and watched him and then we moved on. Later when I put the pictures on the computer I was surprised to see that the camera saw the Leopard that I had not first noticed.
Later on the drive, Kelvin pointed out some vultures perched in a distant tree. He told us to look across the flats for a fresh kill as the vultures were probably waiting for scraps. Kelvin was right! We came across a lone lioness guarding an Eland that had succumbed to her circle of life. Kelvin was disappointed in that the Elands are few in Mikumi and he would have rather the lioness feed on an impala. He said Elands are the largest of the antelope family and are very wary. He went on to say that it is uncommon to observe them close in the wild. We later saw two Elands at a watering hole and took some pictures.
We watched the sunset at the hippo pool. It was very peaceful with exception of two carloads of tourists that made a little ruckus and broke the silence for a few moments. One car on the other side of the hippo pool, about 50 yards away, laid on his horn and hung his head out the window and yelled to alert the group in the car on our side of the pool that they saw a crocodile. Kelvin later told us that other guides had phoned him earlier and told him that there was a group of two cars that beeped at the sleeping leopard we saw earlier until the leopard jumped out of the tree….he said there is a large fine for purposely harassing the animals. I wonder if this was the same group that scared the leopard. Anyway, they left and missed a great sunset.
We spotted many more animals, from a momma warthog and her piglets in our camp, to another leopard loafing in a tree. We saw two elephant calves playing in the mud followed by dusting themselves with the rest of their herd. There was a curious lone jackal that seemed like he wanted to be our friend from a distance, and Superb Starling with plumage so true blue that it radiated like a brilliant sapphire. The zebras were plentiful, as were the impalas and baboons.
To be frank, we saw many animals; it was a very good safari.