The Warthog had got to be the ugliest creature on this planet. A good and witty friend commented that perhaps the warthog is the result of God not knowing what to do with all the left over pieces lying around. A few straggly nose hairs here, a small tusk there, a strange looking pair of knees and an over large snout and the jigsaw puzzle is complete; a warthog you have. They are not shy and spend their time munching the grass around campsites. When they eat they rest on their knees looking as ridiculous as possible.
The Zebra, on the other hand, is one of God’s great creatures. With a crafty hand Mother Nature took some black paint, a fine brush and worked her magic. The rings around their eyes give them a shy but gentle look and their short bushy manes make them at once adorable and mysterious. These animals are very special, holding dear to the mystique sent through story books and wall alphabets to young children all around the world. Seeing a family, with tiny one in tow prance through the sunlight across the road right in front of our car and through the savannah was like a scene out of a fairy tale.
Impala live in a veritable harem. One stud male, replete with majestic antlers watches over his brood of females and children. These beasts are barely timid nor scared of us; at times we had to wait for them to clear out of our path before we could drive. When they run they leap, jumping with a fabulous agility and their doe eyes give them a dose of shy character that adds to their charm. They are rarely found alone, preferring to live in groups. The male is stand offish, waiting and watching a small distance from the females that he guards with a beady eye.
The Waterbuck is large, grey and soft. It would be tempting to reach out a hand and stroke his back but this is a creature that is nervous and shy. Often found alone but at times in groups I hear that he is rather unappetizing to lions. Apparently they are not tasty. This is convenient for them and they are mainly left in peace with their large doleful eyes and their expression of gormless wonder. They look irritated when we stopped to watch them, with an expression that begged us to just leave him alone. “Can’t I just drink from this mud puddle in peace? I know I look ungainly as I bend over to drink but quite frankly I don’t give a damn.”
A Bush pig is very rare and it is quite fortunate to be able to see one. A large and painfully shy creature, he resembles a dark boar but his eyes are gentle and his snout has some sweetness about it. We were lucky enough to spy on one at our first lodge when the cooks threw some potatoes in front of some bushes. Out he came, slowly, to pick up the spuds only to turn and quickly scurry away, tiny tail dipped low, back into the bushes where he felt safe and dark.
A Bushbaby is a true rarity. There is no way that these nocturnal animals could ever be spotted in the wild. But at Mihingo they feed them bananas at 7.30 each evening and with a safe infrared light we could watch them merely inches away from us. With their huge eyes and bushy tails they resembled live teddy bears more than wild animals. What were most surprising were their five tiny and perfect fingers and toes. The little babies, as black as soot waited patiently on the branch of a tree for their mom to deliver bananas to them from between her perfect fingers but she was happy to come right up to us and take fruit from our hands. Then she would munch in one gulp, take a few steps, show off some of her swinging moves and come back for more. These creatures of the night were totally adorable and had dinner and cocktails not been waiting I could have watched for hours. This was a true treat. Photos were impossible as the flash would have hurt their highly sensitive eyes.
But the most vivacious creatures of all were the happy leaping children that moved swiftly from Camping Pros who wrestled with tents and poles, washing up in the lake, cooking eggs over a fire and telling scary ghost stories to water babes that leapt in and out of the infinity pool with the majesty of the park as their own personal back drop. And when they tired of rock climbing and pool jumps we headed to the stables where they hitched up some fine Ethiopian horses and ventured out for a hack through the grasses where the zebra roam free. What a life.