October 2 was a public holiday in Botswana, a day off for everyone, as Independence Day was on Saturday September 30. Botswana is 51 years old and I’m sure as beautiful today as she was when she gained independence in 1966.
We headed out to the Gaborone Game Reserve for a few hours to see what we could see. The reserve is right in town; in fact, you can see the University of Botswana teaching hospital just over the fence circling the reserve. We arrived at about 12:30 and stopped at the gate, where the woman on duty cheerfully admonished Steve for not having a reservation, which is apparently required on weekends and holidays. Given that there was no one else there, we paid our 30 pula (about $3 USD) and drove in.
It’s an interesting place. Lonely Planet says that the reserve “was established in 1988 by the Kalahari Conservation Society to give the Gaborone public an opportunity to view Botswana’s wildlife in a natural and accessible location.” It makes sense given that the majority of the country live in and around Gabs. My first impression is that it is sort of grim. The trees were pretty brown and the vegetation was sparse, even for Botswana. It certainly bears none of the wildness of Mokolodi, which isn’t even all that wild. It is also adjacent to the water treatment plant for Gaborone, which was. . . interesting for the senses.
But we enjoyed our drive. We logged two new animals – the eland and the rock hyrax. We’d been told that elands would blow us away with their size but, while definitely impressive, they weren’t nearly as astounding as the kudus, which amaze us every single time we come upon one.
As for the hyraxes, Steve has been bound and determined to see one, for reasons I have yet to have adequately explained to me. We found them lounging on rocks (surprise!) not too far from the visitor’s center.
Steve peered out the window at them. “Huh,” he mused, “that is not what I expected them to look like.” I couldn’t tell if he was disappointed or not, though I think I made some crack about him being so excited to see an animal he wouldn’t have recognized if he’d tripped over it. They’re basically big guinea pigs, sort of capybara-like. I find them absolutely hilarious, mainly because of the set of their mouths. No matter which angle you see them from, or what their actual inner states might be, they look stern, judgmental and disapproving, as if they’ve sized you up and found you sorely lacking.
A huge bonus were the ostriches or, as I like to call them, “those crazy fuckers.” They’re just the weirdest things – big, stupid, walking dinosaurs. They’re impossible for me to photograph – their heads are too small (poor suckers lost in the brain-to-body ratio department) and they’re usually too far away for me to get a good focus on them. But here they were fairly close to the car, so I managed to get a few good shots in.
We had a nice couple of hours. I don’t think we’d take any visitors here, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend a day off.