Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mokolodi Game Reserve

Today we went to Mokolodi game reserve, which is just 20-30 minutes away, still really a part of Gaborone. It’s not nearly as wild as Tau, but it was still pretty fun. It’s probably about 1.5 times the size of center city in Philadelphia, and it’s a little more zoo-like than Tau. The animals are still wild, but they are tamer, and there aren’t as many predators. They don’t have any lions, and they only have 4 elephants. On our game drive, we of course saw tons of game, but our guide was not nearly as good as Hein from a week ago. She tended to blaze past the animals and recite memorized bits of trivia about the animals. I didn’t get the sense that she knew a whole lot about the animals other then the stuff the game reserve probably gave them to memorize. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool.

We saw tons of kudu and other deer-like animals, likely springbok and steembok. We also saw this baby rhino with its mother, which I took a million pictures of. I think Aaron and Jacob (Pete’s nephews) will love this picture – I can’t wait to email it to them! We also came upon this giraffe just by the side of the trail munching on a tree. This was very cool, since I’d never seen a giraffe so up close before. We also got to see their 4 elephants – they had one male and 3 females. The male one was definitely bigger than the rest, but was chained, and they had a staff of about 3 people watching over the elephants, I guess to make sure everything stayed okay as people came by in the safari vehicles to gawk at them. It was a little sad, actually. Although it was super impressive – they came within an arms reach away, and they (rather angrily, I thought) started ripping to shreds this massive tree right next to us. They were reaching above our heads to the branches and pulling them down! It was amazing! And we got close-up views of their tusks and their mouths, and just how strong their tusks and legs can be. Pretty scary, actually.

Finally, one of the highlights of the trip was that I got to pet a cheetah! There were two male cheetahs that were in this large fenced enclosure. Apparently their mother died when they were very young, and the only way they were able to survive was being bottle fed by humans. So they got used to humans at a young age – although they’re still somewhat
wild. So now, they feed them every day at 2pm, and around 3 or 4pm, they’ll bring a small group of tourists in to their fenced enclosure to pet them! I wasn’t going to do it at first. It was an extra P100 to pet the cheetah, and I was just going to watch other people do it. But in the end I figured, eh, it’s an extra $16 and I don’t want to walk away from this regretting not going to pet the cheetah, even if it is super touristy. :) However, I think Phil put it in a pretty funny way: “why would I pay an extra $16 to go get my hand bitten off?” I thought that was hilarious, but maybe you had to be there.

So it wasn’t quite as I expected. For some reason I had in my head the idea that we would be petting the cheetah through a fence, or that there would be a trainer there holding them or calming
them or something while we petted the cheetah. Not so. Our guide unlocked a gate to let us into the first fenced enclosure (sort of like a foyer), and then unlocked another gate to let us into the second fenced enclosure, which was large, and was where the cheetahs were. The cheetahs were prowling around, and eventually lay down in the shade of some bush. We went over to them, and the guide said to go up one by one, and avoid petting the paws and the tail. She went up first and petted the cheetah, and then we all did it. One cheetah was feeling feisty I guess and didn’t want to be petted, so we petted the other one.

There were these two Indian guys on our safari who I swear deserved to be eaten. They were so intent on taking pictures and everything that they seemed to forget that this was a CHEETAH. They were kinda like that the entire trip – almost jumping out of the jeep to take pictures, and being totally touristy. I mean, I know I’m also a tourist, but they were a little obnoxious. Anyways, during the cheetah petting, we were mostly petting one cheetah because the other one was a little grumpy. The two Indian guys kept on almost stepping on that cheetah’s tail because they were too busy taking pictures of them petting the other one. And the one that we were petting, they petted it too hard or something, because it took a swipe at one of the Indian guys. I’m sure it was just a little annoyed and doing the equivalent of batting a fly away (if he had really wanted to hurt the guy or attack him, I’m sure the cheetah would have), but the Indian guy didn’t seem to realize it! He dodged backwards, but then went back for more petting! Then the cheetah reared its head, and looked at the guy, who finally seemed to get the picture.

Anyways, it was a fun trip overall. We hung out in the Mokolodi restaurant for a while afterwards, drinking some beer. It’s supposed to be one of the best, or maybe the best, restaurant in Gabs. I think they changed chefs recently though, so I’m not sure how it’s supposed to be now. I know that some of the Caucasian doctors go there for special dinners. They also apparently have more exotic things on the menu, such as kudu, and their steaks are supposed to be amazing. I wanted to eat there for dinner, but I think some of the other people either didn’t want to eat out or wanted to go home. It’s expensive by Gabs standards, but definitely not by American standards – it’s probably about P80-120 for an entrée (which is about $15-$20), and drinks are relatively inexpensive. But that’s okay. I’ll try kudu eventually.

Speaking of kudu, while we were sitting out there on the restaurant terrace, they had set out some grass for animals to come and eat, and we saw a few warthogs and a lot of kudu. This family of kudu seemed to come up – one male
and several females. Then we saw another male kudu a hundred feet behind, who seemed a little hesistant to come forward, probably because of the first male already there feeding. Eventually he came up, and we thought they were going to fight! They lowered their heads and met horns softly several times, but didn’t end up fighting or anything. I think it was a way of greeting each other or making sure everything is okay. It was pretty impressive and I got a few good shots of them greeting each other with their horns.

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