Wakeup came at at 5:30 am. There is no cell service here, but occasional alarming messages are coming through from Nanette, Lexi, or Doug about the coronavirus pandemic. It’s not clear if we’ll be allowed to return to the U.S. We embarked on a game drive to Makgadikgadi/Nxai Pan National Park, through the Xirexara Gate, making the usual observations of birds, including lilac-breasted rollers, korhaan, secretary birds, kori bustards, wattled cranes, white-backed vultures, ibis, etc.
We came to a watering hole augmented by a solar pump, where vast herds of zebra were coming in to drink, from several different directions – thousands of them, forming long lines. They would wade in, drink, and soon leave because it’s dangerous to hang around a watering hole if you’re a prey species.
We continued driving around the grasslands, spotting three spotted hyenas, two warthogs, two hartebeests, herds of wildebeests, a few elephants, loads of birds. It was cloudy and cool all morning.
Back for lunch. In the afternoon, the clouds thickened and the wind picked up; the staff closed the flaps on my tent. By the time we assembled in the lounge for high tea, the dust from the courtyard was blowing in. As we walked out to the safari vehicle, the first big raindrops began to fall. We donned ponchos while Bones closed the flaps on the truck as the rain intensified. We drove off, with the water collecting on the roof tarp and then spilling off, splashing me (who foolishly elected to sit in the front passenger seat) repeatedly. After a few hundred meters, Bones parked the truck facing downwind, as were all the zebra, to wait it out.
After the rain diminished a bit, we set off, with the rain in my face (Bones lowered the windscreen for visibility – no wipers) and the occasional splash from the roof. There weren’t many animals out in the weather, except a few birds. By the time we reached the brown hyena den, the rain had stopped, and the sun was setting; the roads were flooded. Nothing was happening. Bones asked whether we should go home or have our sundowner drinks there. I was thinking “go home,” being wet and worried about more rain, but Libby said “Let’s have a drink!” It became clear that was the right call. We greatly enjoyed our G&T’s, the conversation, and the sunset. Driving home through the dark with no rain, we startled numerous blacksmith lapwings who were settled on the ground near the track. As we approached, they startled, shrieking and flying straight up, glowing white in our headlights.