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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Hart

I stopped an old man along the way... (Part 4)

November 3, 2021

Mzungu Diaries, Part 4

Hungry, hungry lion...

The wake-up call for our first full day on safari was at 6am and I was fully recovered from the longest day of my life. Well, not really. But recovered enough to have a banana and tea for breakfast but not enough to do much talking. And by talking I mean asking the other guy with us on our drives, Tom, a million and one questions about his career as a US DA and our guide, Charity (#4 on Next Generation Guides) the same about the wildlife. I just sat in the back with hot water bottle, blanket and camera as we embarked on our first game drive.

Immediately upon leaving the property, we were amongst the giraffes and zebras before entering the park. As we passed the gates and headed into the park, I gradually began to realize I wasn't at the zoo or in a David Attenborough film, we were the film. With the giraffes and zebras, the impalas, hyenas and elephants began to fill the picture as we slowly made it down the road. Taking photos but mostly just soaking it all in, including the smell which was getting worse with every rotation of the wheels.

I have never experienced the pungent aroma of a dead carcass yet somehow knew that is exactly what I was smelling. It was awful. But as we got closer, it was incredible. Somehow, someway (hint: nature), a giant hippopotamus veered off course and died of a natural cause. Or by way of the lion because sleeping in the bush next to the dead hippo was a giant lion. We didn't get much action on the first pass but knew it was only a matter of time.

We continued the drive. It didn't take long before we encountered one of the difficult to find members of the "Big 5" - the leopard. Their camouflage game is on point and not sure if I would have spotted it without Charity's help. Just 5 minutes prior I was within 20 yards of a rotting hippo and a lion I could barely see sleeping in the bushes and now I was within 5 feet of a leopard in the grass that I could not see. Thankfully Charity made the spot before the leopard began walking toward me and I thought I was destined to be a TikTok star from some safari gone wrong clip. The leopard, however, had other plans and wanted to show off by giving us some incredible pics looking for his next meal.

In just the first 3 hours - giraffes, zebras, sleeping lions, dead hippo's, camouflaged leopard, elephant herds, hyenas, birds - the safari works. We returned to camp for our first breakfast. It was an incredible, fresh, healthy feast that included just about any fresh fruit you wanted, juice, yogurt, seeds, nuts, breads, tea, coffee and then after we got settle, they took a hot food order. We had 6 more game drives in front of us over the next two and a half days. If seeing the same animals over and over got old, the food certainly wouldn't!

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