After the quiet excitement of the silent retreat weekend, the last few days have been unexpectedly emotional and tricky at times, which I’m putting down to the usual backlash of having had a great time spiritually at the weekend. In any case, for my day off today I decided to hitch a lift with the pre-school run as one of the schools is right next to the zoo and to spend some quality time with some cuddly creatures!
And so it was that I found myself the first visitor into the zoo when it opened at 8.30am. This was great, although the temperature was already rising fast and the sun was blazing, I got to hear some animal noises that seemed to stop once more visitors were around. There were a few buff-cheeked gibbons who were making amazing alarm calls to each other, I think they were playing but it really sounded like emergency vehicles. I’ve uploaded a video I took (the video itself is a bit rubbish but it’s more for the sounds) so you can hear how amazing they are.
Several of the creatures today really interacted with me, as I seemed to be one of about 20 visitors they were probably glad of the company. The first one was a White-handed Gibbon who did lots of swinging around for me just the other side of the glass.
Even the elephants seemed to appreciate having a camera pointed in their direction. Later on in the day, after their third photo shoot from me, the male decided to head off into their building just as I moved away.
I was disappointed that the African leopard was nowhere to be seen, it seems I’m doomed never to see one on this continent, unless God is preparing a special sighting for me on safari that is. And also the fabled Honey Badger was also in hiding, the symbol of the zoo couldn’t be seen anywhere… A sad day 😦
Where you looking for ME?!
The crocodile walk was challenging for me, given that I had to negotiate my way around several peacock, and I’m not a fan of getting too close to flappy things! One of the crocodiles was resting so near to the fence that had I been lacking in croc knowledge I could have put my camera/finger through the wire and stroked his scaly back. Thankfully I had enough sense not to do that, as it would almost definitely not have ended well. I’ve seen the speed at which those critters react!
flappy things… everywhere!
that wire definitely doesn’t look thick enough to contain a croc!
When I reached the lion enclosures there were none to be seen. Having just come from the failed leopard spotting I was starting to think the animals knew something I didn’t. Then I heard a reassuring roar from somewhere deep within a building, and I realised they just hadn’t finished breakfast maybe. I was literally just praying that I might see some kind of big cat today when the doors beneath me opened and the lions strolled out. The best ones were the white lion, very rare and bred at Joburg Zoo, definitely the nicest lion I’ve seen up close and clearly the inspiration for Aslan!
Buoyed on from a positive lion encounter I headed to the tigers. They were harder to photograph as they were kind of annoyed that they’d been shut out of their night quarters, but no less majestic than their lion cousins, just more active!
Similarly I thought I might not see any cheetah, but there were two little sweeties having a sit down in the shade nicely close to me.
A brown bear came right up to the glass and gnashed his teeth at me. Cute and cuddly (but only behind the bullet-proof glass!). Sadly the spectacled bears were too far away to see properly and yet again I have failed to see more than a flash of red panda!
They had a good number of wild cats there: caracal, serval and margays, amongst others.
I also found the same ‘meerkats’ I thought I saw at the weekend. They were everywhere, but sadly it is indeed true that they are not meerkats at all but common African squirrels!
There were a few close encounters (through glass!) with a chimp and some black spider monkeys, who I think might have been a bit bored! And I managed a few other interesting photos too.
After a few hours I started to flag, although I’d had a great morning! It was time to bid farewell to all the creatures and I hope to see more of their friends in Pilanesberg on safari before I return to the UK! I’ll put some more pics up on facebook…