Saturday, October 10, 2009

High-Style Picnic in Botswana

DSC08195 Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (Tockus leucomelas)

After spending the morning with Douglas Groves and his elephants, we arrived at our lunch spot  to find this elegantly set picnic table with a crisp white tablecloth and napkins. If you look closely, or click on the photo, you can see the elephants in the background.

DSC08189 Picnic table in the bush

While we waited for the elephants to catch up with us, I used the opportunity to photograph the birds that shared their space with us. I think they tolerated us knowing that crumbs were on their way.

Even though Zazu of "The Lion King" is a red-billed hornbill and the one we saw was yellow-billed (opening photo), the similarity was so striking that I couldn't help but expect a Morning Report à la Zazu:

I think this Red-billed Francolin is a prime candidate to become a Disney character because the yellow ring around the eye makes this bird look like he has a perpetually perplexed look on his face.

DSC08217 redbilled francolin (francolinus adspersus)
Red-billed Francolin (Francolinus adspersus)

I heard the rapid "rat-tat-tat" long before I located this Cardinal Woodpecker at the top of a very tall tree stump.

DSC08200 Cardinal Woodpecker
Cardinal Woodpecker (Dendropicos fuscescens)

When Douglas Groves arrived, he placed some exotic African fruits on the table:

DSC08202 Picnic with the elephants

and he even showed us some elephant teeth:

DSC08204 elephant teeth

We enjoyed a delicious lunch while the elephants enjoyed more special treats of fruits and vegetables, their reward for patiently posing for photographs with every party at the picnic table.

DSC08206 Picnic with elephants

After lunch, the elephants continued their ambassadorship by giving each and every one of us a great big elephant trunk kiss on our cheeks. It was impossible not to flinch. The trunk was wetter, slimier, and hairier than I imagined.

DSC08233 elephant smooch cropped

Slimy or not, it was one of the most memorable send-offs I have ever received.


Vagabonde said...

I have not seen the Southern Yellow-bill Hornbill before – it is a lovely bird. It must have really been something to be able to watch all these birds and elephants flying and walking free next to you – what a thrill.

LoisW said...

Wonderful! I love the picnic table all set up waiting for tasty food, delightful conversation and friendship. An amazing setting!

A Cuban In London said...

I have just been catching up with your blog and, my God! What a fantastic adventure! So much detail in your previous post and this one. The elephants look handsome. To be honest with you I don't know if I had been able to stomach any food with so many of them in the vicinity. You're a brave woman :-).

Greetings from London.

Relyn Lawson said...

Oh, D. You will know just how sincere I am when I tell you that I cried reading this post. How beautiful. How incredible. What a blessing you've given your family. I dream of elephant hugs. Hugs would be better than kisses, apparently. Oh, this is truly lovely. I am happy for you.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Vagabonde,
It was indeed a thrill to see so many exotic animals in such a small space.

Dear Middle Aged,
Even though they used simple camping chairs, they managed to make it quite elegant. We also loved conversing with other travelers who love wildlife.

Dear Cuban,
These elephants were quite tame and not a concern at all. Stay tuned for future posts of wild elephants.

Dear Relyn,
It was truly special to be able to touch and feel these domesticated elephants in a wild setting.

kath said...

This is amazing. I have always loved elephants and at one point had amassed a huge collection of them ... a klepto roommate stole the box from me. I would have given them all though to be as close as you were to these elephants.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear kath,
I can totally understand why someone might collect elephants. They are so inspiring. I'm so sorry to hear about your collection :-(.

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