Once, while we were lounging around our camp in the middle of the afternoon, in-between rains, a couple of elephants meandered up past us. This was taken just a stones throw from where our tents were located. Notice the warthog running out in front of the elephant.
We also saw a number of giraffes and zebras, as well as thousands of buffalo. Can you see the elephants in the background, gathered around that fan palm?
Here's a couple of young waterbuck doing some sparring in a dry creek bed.
On the rocks by our camp lived a family of Rock Hyrax. They were plump, cute creatures, running and playing all over the big boulders, but when approached, they would dive into the cracks and holes. This guy, (or gal...not sure) was a bit bigger than an American football, and apparently felt very safe and comfortable, in a crack in the rock, not more than 18 inches from my camera.
We saw a wide variety of birds too...
The first night we were there, after we got our tents set up and finally got a chance to relax by the campfire, out of nowhere came a giant scorpion. This thing was probably about 4 inches long before his tail was curled up. Even though the size was imposing, the truth is, with scorpions, the smaller ones are usually the most deadly. And this certainly was not a small one! None-the-less I didn't feel like testing that theory, so I had Britt keep a close eye on him as I smooshed my face into the gravel so I could take his portrait, backlit by the campfire. He was extremely aggressive, constantly moving and flaunting his stinger and "claws". And I didn't want to be a victim of those weapons!
Speaking of victims, all over the grasslands there are signs of "victims" falling prey to the predators at the top of the food chain. Sun bleached skulls and bones can be seen lying here and there, picked totally clean by a wide variety of animals. When something is killed or dies of natural causes here, nothing goes to waste.
Well, I promised some pictures of the rains and the drama that unfolded as a result. Here is a scene that unfolded many times while we were there that weekend. The land was incredibly parched and dry. When the first rains arrived, signaling the end of the long dry season, out of nowhere the sky filled with millions of flying ants. And then, also seemingly out of nowhere, birds arrived, swooping and dancing as they gorged themselves on the winged feast. The whole thing--the silhouetted birds against the dramatic sky--had a very dark, theatrical feel. It was awesome to watch!
Here you can get an idea of the number of ants filling the sky.
But the action wasn't limited to just the sky. After flying around a bit, the ants would crash land back to earth, and then frantically eject their wings, find a mate, and scurry off to do their "thing" in the safety of a hole, or under a blade of grass, before being eaten by a myriad predators waiting to feast on them.
Everywhere we looked there were animals gorging themselves. This guy was nailing ants left and right, but was all-to-willing to prove his macho-ness to the camera when I approached.
I've never seen so many centipedes. You could stand in one place and easily spot a half dozen of them, then move a few meters and see at least that many again. Normally I would be very creeped out by these guys, as they can deliver a very painful and nasty sting. But they weren't interested in people--they, like like all the other predators, were filling themselves with the ants, one after another.
On a much less creepy note, we were fortunate enough to see a pangolin walking gingerly through the grass. We didn't realize it at the time, but apparently these are quite rare in the area. The park ranger said they only see about one per year up there. Sadly, people have illegally poached them to sell for the alleged medicinal value of their scales. This one was quite large, over a meter in length when walking. When they feel threatened they curl up into an armor-plated ball, like this.
Even the turtles seemed to come out of hiding for the festive occasion.
Within days there were flowers popping out of the ground, the grass was already turning green, and butterflies abounded. Its amazing how fast the landscape transforms with the arrival of the life-giving rains.
As the streams and ponds filled with water, those areas also became a swarm of activity. We stumbled across this bird just as it snagged a rather sizable fish from a pond and flew off to enjoy the meal. I wasn't set up for a fast-moving shot of a bird in flight, but shot anyway, and got lucky with this one.
As all of this was happening in the southern part of the park, in the far northeastern corner of the park, dry season continued. That remote section of the park is less-visited, as it's harder to get there and the dry, harsh land doesn't have the same high density of wildlife that the southern part of the park enjoys. However, we really wanted to see some wild ostrich, and that tends to be where they hang out, so we made the effort. At one point the road is just a few hundred meters from the border of South Sudan, so we took a quick hike up the dry, sandy, river bed to check it out. Here's Britt and me standing on the border between Uganda and S. Sudan.
The dry environment in that area suited this tortoise just fine.
Happily, we got to see our ostriches. In fact, we saw quite a few of them. The males are almost black, whereas the females are more of a brown in color. It was super cool to see them walking in a line through the dry bush. They're huge!
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the scenery and wildlife we enjoyed during our incredible weekend camping in Kidepo National Park.