Wake up to a Lion’s roar. That’s new. We all get showered up for the first time since Windhoek. Clean clothes for the first time since then too. Everyone so fresh and so clean. The ablutions here are really great (which is something I’ve never called the shower/shitter facilities at a camp ground before, but it’s how they’re all labeled here).
There are four random dogs around the camp this morning helping us get things together. They’re pretty chill and just hang out while we pack up and make breakfast. We seem to be getting good at breaking into pairs and getting out in the morning. Cooking, cleaning, packing up the truck, morning tunes, chirping each other, etc…
We put together a hearty morning meal of Moroccan lamb soup and eggs (much better than it looks).
When we’re done we walk over to the main building. We’d made an appointment with Freckled Lady to get a tour of the conservancy last night. The people hanging in the lounge tell us that the boys will be here soon. We take a look around while we wait. El Dorado ended up being a good find
A safari truck with stadium seating pulls up and two dudes jump down. “Good morning. Are you ready to see the Lions?”, “Yes!” We jump in the back and the rig rattles up the dirt road. I introduce us and ask their names. The guide says he’s Levi and the driver is Mr Hoodian. What a great combo, Levi and Mr Hoodian.
We don’t get very far before we’re at the first stop. Our guide motions for us to come with and he grabs a bucket from the back. He does the two finger whistle thing and four cheetahs come running out of the brush. Wow, they are gorgeous. And fast. And excited as he pulls out some raw meat from the bucket for breakfast and tosses it over the fence.
The cheetahs come right over and snack directly in front of us. I wanted to see a cheetah on this trip for sure. Didn’t realize it’d be this easy.
Levi says that they caught these cheetahs trying to kill their livestock. The government said they could manage them if they want but they are still government property. Now they just give them a protected space. “What are their names?”, “No names. These two are brothers. 8 years old. This one and the shy one are brother and sister. 4 years, 7 months.”
Three of them hang out near us but the other younger brother grabs some meat and wanders back to the cover of the brush by himself. They seen happy. How beautiful are these cats!
A little further up the road and Mr Hoodian stops in front of two separate gates, each has a hyena inside but they look totally different. Levi says one is a Brown Hyena and the other one is a Spotted Hyena.
This brown guy is so furry with fancy striped legs. When he opens his mouth in a little smile you can see his snaggle tooth.
The spotted hyena is skittish at first. Levi says they found it at 7 months and played with it like a dog until it became too strong for them. She warms up to us and comes right over to the gate to sniff and say hi. She acts like a dog. What the hell, I guess I like hyenas now. They just have a bad PR team.
Ok, I’m taking this one with me
I never thought of hyenas as cute before but these two sure are.
A little further away are three insanely adorable Caracals. The tuft of fur on the tips of their ears is simply too much. Ahhhhh jeeeez. “Two males and one female. They fight for the female but they cannot breed.”
Mini power cat stance
Ok, I’m taking one of these too. Way too cool
“I can’t believe we just stumbled on this place”, “It’s insanely great.”
Mr Hoodian drives us around the bend and down the other side of their large open property. There is a lot of space for each animal which is nice. We come to a stop and Levi gets out. I don’t see anything. He motions for us to follow him. We get down from the truck and walk after him. He points for us to go ahead. Ok, what are we looking at?
Suddenly there’s a blur of movement and a fierce growl. The shape rushes the fence and comes to a stop right in front of us with a cloud of dust. It’s shockingly fast and we all jump back in unison grabbing each others arms and stumbling backwards over our feet. Levi snickers at us. Oh shit it’s a Leopard! Holy fuck that was fast. It covered 20 yards in seconds. Insane. We would all be dead before knowing it was even there. Terrifying. So sleek and strong, what a beauty.
After scaring the bejeezus out of us the Leopard is instantly bored with us and walks away like a snarky bitch to go look majestic on a distant log. I’m in love.
Just posing at this point. Yeah, yeah you’re beautiful
“He gets 3.5 kg of meat a day. Male. Weighs about 45 kilos”, “He’s amazing”, “Yes. Truly.”
Up next are two white rhinos. A male and female that they’re hoping will mate. They’re trying to protect them from poachers. “They eat 7.5 kilograms of grass a day”
“How old are they?”, “These are three years. Shorter horn still isn’t coming out”, “How do you tell between white and black rhino?”, “These have hooked lips. Black has triangle lips. We bought these ones. There is lots of rhino crime.”
“Check it out. Rhino Symmetry”, “That’s the first two-headed rhino I’ve seen.”
Damn, what a great way to spend the morning. This place was a find. We’ve seen two types of rhino now. Check the Leopard off the big five, kind of saw a lion yesterday, only Buffalo to find now.
“You’ve probably heard these guys already”, Mr Hoodian pulls up next to the fence and Levi throws over the last of the meat. Two wonderful lions come over and snack it up in a split second.
Whaddya think, Narco? Pretty cool, eh?
“They are both male lions. They are brothers. Five years old.”
Oh, nice shot Peter!
Just before we take off, this breathtaking creature gets into the most vulnerable of poses and pops a potty squat.
The strain is on his face. King of the prairie dogs. Magnificent.
A totally unexpected tour of an animal conservancy. El Dorado is a winner. Still early and we have a whole day to drive through to the East side of Etosha. If it’s half as impressive as yesterday it will still be one of the best days of our lives.