Tuesday, August 4, 2015

On Safari With Karen

31 July 2015

This safari we started from a different direction as we are overnighting at a beautiful lodge overlooking the Crocodile River in the south. The guests' first activity was a sundowner drive from Malalane Gate. They came across their first animals of the South African savannah: impalas. They would see more during this drive (and every day after too, I am sure). 

Highlights were seeing five lions close to the road, many hyenas, a nightjar, a giraffe, a zebra and kudus. 

1 August 2015

We set off to Malalane Gate once again this morning, after having enjoyed our breakfast while spotting a bushbuck by the river. Vervet monkeys were raiding the papaya plantations when we passed, so lots of animal activity before we even reached the Kruger Park!

Our highlight of today was one of our last sightings of the day. A family of hyenas had woken up and was using the last rays of the sun to warm up before the night. The babysitter was watching two baby hyenas and three young ones just a couple months older. They were still so cute! The babies were most adventurous and came close to the road to look at some cars while the others decided to lay behind. And at some point one baby was suckling with mum, while a young one climbed over it. But it was a great sighting all around!

Second highlight of today was a white rhino duo. It had all the makings of the youngster refusing to take one more step and nap right there where it stood: in the middle of the road. No matter how it happened, when we arrived, that was exactly what we saw: this young rhino lying stretched out on the warm tar snoozing with mum standing next to him or her watching the approaching cars. All cars present behaved well and gave the youngster space and time so we sat and waited. Then mum started to get hungry and walked to the side of the road to start grazing. That was the cue for the youngster to stretch out and then get up to follow mum. As the cars then started to come closer and moving the mum steered her calf away from the road and back into the bush. 

Other animals seen: steenboks, waterbuck, nyala bulls, more white rhinos, impalas, zebras, buffalos, kudus, warthogs, wildebeest, vervet monkeys (inside the park this time), a slender mongoose crossing the road and plenty of elephants. 

Birds we have seen: magpie shrikes, yellow-billed hornbills, forktailed drongos, crested francolins run across the road, bateleur eagles flying over, brown headed parrots, Cape turtle doves and two separate sightings of the rare ground hornbills
2 August 2015

As we entered Malelane Gate this morning we played a game "which animal do we see first", not counting the animals we had seen prior to entering (buffalos and elephants while having breakfast and a crocodile while driving over the bridge over the Crocodile River), which we all lost. It was a family of warthogs! 

As we bumbled along we came across an eagle chick in a nest on top of a tree without parental supervision. Or at least none that we could see. The chick was flapping its wings trying to fly, but no air movement yet. However when another bird of prey flew over the nest it ducked down completely out of sight. When the bird was gone he went back to his efforts of spreading its wings and flap. 

We encountered a large herd of buffalo this morning that was getting thirsty. At a waterhole they stopped to drink and some even lied down for a nap. We couldn't count them really well, as they kept moving around, but it was a large herd for more than 100 buffalos for sure. What made it extra special was the herd of elephants on the opposite side of the road standing in the shade of a tree all huddled together around their young that were taking a nap lying down. 

Another highlight was seeing elephants up close. Yesterday we saw many elephants and today as well, but being eye to eye with an elephant up close is different. First we watched this small herd feeding next to the road when they started to cross. There was no trouble as they all gently crossed and didn't even look at us. But just before the last one moved off the road, this big bull comes marching down the hill. As he comes to the tar he gives us an evil stare as if we were planning to get it on with one of the ladies that he obviously had planned for himself. But when we didn't move, and the ladies walked away, he chose to follow them rather than to mess with us. It was a cool meet and greet!

Other interesting sightings: waterbucks, quite some duos of white rhinos, steenbok, warthogs, just 4 zebras, baboons, dwarf mongooses, very cheeky vervet monkeys at Berg and Dal raiding our (empty) car while we had not even got out of the vehicle properly, lots of giraffes in the middle of the road, kudus, a hippo in the Biyamiti weir that was at eye level and lots of impalas. 

Birds we added to the list were lilac breasted rollers, once again a couple of ground hornbills, woolly necked storks, Egyptian geese, brown snake eagle, chinspot batises, blue waxbills and a green woodhoopoe. 

3 August 2015

Today was our last morning drive of this safari, so we braved the cold and left at sunrise! During the day we encountered many species: white rhinos, elephants, buffalos, steenboks, kudus, giraffes, vervet monkeys, impalas, zebras, wildebeests, bushbucks, and a new one of this safari: a klipspringer that sat as still as a statue. 

But our highlight was a sighting of the rare wild dogs just before we left the park! They were relaxing all bundled together. We occasionally saw a head raise or a tail flick. Only one wild dog was kind enough to stand up briefly so we could have a good look. And one of the pack of wild dogs rolled over. But it was a great sighting of this rare carnivore nonetheless. 

We also added some new birds: a little bee-eater and a white-backed vulture. And once again we saw some ground hornbills, so the guests stopped believing they are rare...

Then it was time to say goodbye to Sanjana, Pralad and Vicky, who would travel on to Johannesburg and end their holiday in Cape Town. Enjoy the last days in South Africa guys, and may the pictures be a happy memory after all the trouble of getting here!

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