There has not been one single day of this trip when I haven't been amazed at the ability of this place to be breathtakingly beautiful and incredible. During the afternoon, we drove to a safari lodge about 30 minutes away to get drinking water for the camp. As we drove along, Skeist suddenly started saying "Woah. Woah. Woah!" We looked up to see four lions walking along, headed for the road. We stopped, and about 10 yards in front of us, 3 female lions crossed the road, followed about 20 or 30 feet back by an adolescent male lion. Had we left even a minute earlier or later, we wouldn't have seen them; they were out of sight almost the moment they crossed the road.
The morning obs session was eventful in terms of hyenas; we saw more of the West clan than we had all week (about 25 hyenas all told). When we returned, Skeist and I assisted Tracy in doing the inventory of the camp supplies (pulling our weight around camp, at least a bit!) and then went on a bird walk with Benson, one of the chefs/ general camp assisant. He has been studying birds and trees, and is hoping to be a safari guide. My favorite bird we had seen up until today was the lilac-breasted roller, which has beautiful blue-green iridescent wings (and a lilac-colored breast). But on the walk, I saw a pygmy kingfisher- bright red head, bright blue iridescent body. Didn't get any good pics (he's quite speedy and shy) but it's worth looking up a photo. (Benson also demonstrated how to make fire using a stick and another piece of wood. Impressive).
The real gem of the day, however, was evening obs. We decided to go out to look for the Fig Tree clan again; last time we did this, we saw the elephants and ostrich. While we didn't find them, we did see quite a few remarkable things.
First was 2 adult male lions. As we drove along, suddenly I saw out of the corner of my right eye something bright and orange-brown, lit up by the setting sun. Lion! We swung around, and sat watching him. He was utterly uninterested in us, going to sleep after about 10 minutes (and 150 pictures) . Then, as we drove deeper into the bushes, we came across another one, already dozing (or "sacked out" as the hyena researchers say). We pulled up close to it, and as Tracy leaned out of her window (we were maybe 10-15 feet from it), the lion suddenly flipped around and jumped to its feet. Tracy and I on that side of the car quickly ducked our heads back into the car, and rolled up our windows a bit for good measure. (There was also some shouting and swearing). But it wasn't attacking- I think we had just startled it. We watched it look around lazily for a bit before we decided that 10 feet was too close to be to a lion that wasn't sleeping, and drove off.
Next up: hippos! It's been quite dry here, but we came to a part of the Talek River that was still a bit deep; 10-12 hippos were submerged there. They're quite funny; of aquatic mammals, they seem the least likely. It's as though they were standing on land, and then simply didn't move when water filled up the area they were in. They look quite cute (especially the baby one) with just the tops of their heads above water, periodically submerging (I assume to eat), but we knew to keep our distance on the raised shore- they're big and dangerous animals.
Nothing that unusual the rest of the night; just drove around until it got dark and headed back to camp. They had made ugali for dinner, along with a cabbage and carrot dish that they've made before and butternut squash soup. Ugali is apparently a very common and popular dish made from cornmeal; it reminded me of polenta. A bit bland by itself, but delicious with cheese or as a base for other dishes.