Our second full day at Mogothlo (Okavango) was spent in the famous Moremi Game Preserve. One of the great game viewing parks of southern Africa, Moremi boasts a dizzying array of animals, including 4 of the Big 5 (Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Cape Buffalo; Rhinos are missing having been poached to near extinction). We were forced to make a longer drive to the south gate as the north was inaccessible due to record rains in the delta this summer. So we didn't arrive until mid-morning but we still had great success.
The clear highlight of the day came almost right away. While bumping along Beaman spotted a big cat in the far distance. It was a cheetah! What luck! Beaman later told us he'd not seen a single cheetah last season. And we found one our first day in Moremi. Even more lucky, we were able to follow a small service track to approach the cat. We got within about 70-80 yards I'd guess, before she got up and sauntered slowly off with nary a backward glance. She reminded me greatly of our own cat Mango, who often ignores us in the same dismissive (disdainful?) way. An amazing "spot" and a beautiful compliment to our running cheetah family experienced in Namibia. A find like that energizes the group and all eyes are tuned to the environment for the next big sighting. Awesome!
As the game drive progressed we saw a number of elephants, a few Waddle Cranes and at least one Marshall Eagle. We also saw our first herd of Lechwe - smallish antelope with a distinctly red coat. Sometime after our picnic lunch we encountered our first small herd of Wildebeast. Boy are they ugly. Beaman joked that Africa has more than the Big Five, they also have the Ugly Five (Hyenas, Aardvarks, etc). Wildebeast easily make that infamous list. But still fun to photograph.
After the cheetah spotting, a second highlight was a group of 5 giraffe. We had seen lots of giraffe, but these performed a "synchronized" maneuver that we all appreciated. They were meandering across an open section of ground in their distinctive, oddly loping, but graceful gate. It just happened they were aligned by size, from largest to smallest.
They seemed to be meandering randomly across the plain when the biggest stopped walking. Nothing remarkable there, just a nice profile shot for us. But then the second pulled up immediately behind the first, matching exactly his posture. Sure enough, he was followed by the third, fourth, and remarkably the fifth giraffe. They looked exactly like a planned carving, each matching the other like pieces of an animal puzzle for children.
It was exceptional in its symmetry and simplicity. Nature's wonder! Best of all, one of our tour members got it recorded on video. With some creative and humorous voice-over, we could have a Youtube sensation! It was great fun. But the show wasn't quite finished. The two larger animals soon broke formation and the first reversed his position 180 degrees. The result was the two leaders with perfectly crossed necks, still in profile for us.
We finished out the game drive with more warthogs, hippos, zebras, and a huge crocodile. Unfortunately, the croc was quite far off and only observable with binoculars. Soon we were bumping along on Botswana's dusty roads back to Mogotlho Camp. But just before pulling into our long drive, we got our first look at a retreating heard of Cape Buffalo. We finished our day with another informal happy hour on the terrace and a hearty meal served by our friendly Mogothlo hosts, all the while being serenaded by the croaking hippos in the nearby river.