Today was a day of much needed rest and relaxation after our long day of burning yesterday. We woke up to a lovely late breakfast (7:30, woohoo!) and spent the morning doing homework, reading, and enjoying the savanna singing it’s beautiful songs to us. To contrast our experience at the rustic river camp, we spent the rest of late morning plugged in to our respective electronics at the research center – typing up long, informative, and heartfelt emails to our parents to let them know we haven’t been trampled by an elephant yet, and dutifully looking up all the unknown species we’ve discovered (okay, and maybe we peeked at our facebook notifications and snapchats…).
In the afternoon we took a group trip to the hippo pool, adding another mammal to our species list! Seeing just how large these creatures can be was incredible and we were able to get quite close to them since they were in the water. We also got to see some very cute and social vervet monkeys, and saw our first fish eagle! From there, we drove up to the airstrip to watch the sunset and look for some more wildlife. On the way up, we saw a hyena run across the road right in front of our vehicles. Many of us had yet to see one so this was an exciting find. Driving up the escarpment offered some great landscape views, and there were many people snapping photos as we slowly climbed higher. Once we reached our destination, we got out of the trucks to take a group photo and stretch our legs a bit before peeling our eyes during the rest of our dusk game drive. I was the “spotter” (riding shotgun but not really because the trucks are British style), and I practically gave myself a headache squinting out into the horizon greedily trying to spot a cat of some kind- we have yet to see any yet! No such luck, but we did come across a small herd of kudu. We got within 20 feet of them! We returned to camp feeling refreshed and ready for our next day out in the field.
Before heading off to bed, many of the students spent some time star gazing. We were able to see a few planets (Mars and what we think was Jupiter or Saturn), the southern cross constellation only visible in the Southern Hemisphere, and enjoyed the way nearly every visible star twinkled different colors, something not many of us had seen or noticed before (of course we thought of our childhood nursery rhymes and books like Goodnight Moon). What a great way to end yet another incredible day in Mpala, we are looking forward to another jam-packed week full of more adventures and discoveries.
– Hannah Barg, Environmental Science – GC 2016