Greetings from L’Agulhas the southern most point of Africa. Let’s see if I can attempt to catch up. Or at least post once ;p
The drive back to Kruger and the Orpen Gate was far too quick. The heat descended at first light and everything was far too hot. The herds looked forlorn under trees. Even the birds had had enough. The drive to Skukuza would take most of the day at my ambling pace. Quick stop at Satara for an iced coffee and away we go. It’s really good. A spoil. Not soon after, this poor beastie was up in a tree trying to get any semblance of a breeze. That full gut did not help.
The following morning I opted for a rare sunrise drive. Usually, I’m out the gate as soon as possible but this is a chance to get out there before the gate is officially open. The humidity and heat of the day prior cast a haze upon the savannah. A quiet morning until, up ahead, the guide spots a leopard ducked in the grass. Gorgeous young female leopard with just her head showing in the dew covered grass. Poised for the ultimate shot when someone jumped right in front of the lens. So not only did that rapid movement scare the leopard off, I know had a fuzzy picture of a human shoulder. It happens, enthusiasm for ones first leopard, it’s allowed. Although had the enthusiasm gone forward it’d have been even better, lol!
And so the day of butts began. Again an unbelievable hot day scorched the land and every leopard that could be found was up a tree. Two in particular, in addition to the morning leopardess. The first was wedged in the fork of a tree. The abundance of safari vehicles made it difficult to get a pic. Once the clear shot was possible the leopard repositioned with a booty shot being the only view. Ok, how about we drive up the road to the other leopard. This one had been scared off by an over zealous viewer. Luckily a kind passerby mentioned a pack of wild dogs under a large Marula tree taking a siesta not to far off. Love those wild dogs. But yet again too many viewers and the nature of wild dogs to run and yet again a butt shot. And that’s pretty much how the day went.
Bird hide seemed like the best option given the proclivity of the quadrupeds to show their derrieres. Plus it was refuge from the sun. A nice breeze blew through the hide. Few people came and went but the birds eventually appeared. The hippos serenaded off to the east. The odd contact call from the Black Crake, Cuckoo’s and a hungry Great Heron all made an appearance with a shy Green-Head Pigeon. Sometimes sitting still is the best answer.
It was time for a night drive. By far my favourite, being out after dark. Alas, many had the same idea. Our number no longer fit into a safari vehicle we now had a safari bus. It rumbles and makes all sorts of noise sure to scare off anything it comes upon. Except the scrub hares they are drawn to the lights like a moth. Well the butts continued. Civet scurried off as did well everything else. Luckily, the guide knew the location of a Hyena den. Yay! These spotted monsters are too much fun and at this age they are far too curious about the vehicle.
Once the tire chewing commenced it was time for us to scuttle off. And we came upon a single male lion not too long after. Meandering young male that ran off far to quickly and showing, yes, his heine. As we headed back down the road I spotted something cross the road ahead in the dark. I recognized the shape but thought no, it can’t be, could it? The guide quickly came to the same conclusion as the speed increased. In some hysterics we careened towards it. We were the only two to spot it, eventually we were able to get the spot lights on it and yes PANGOLIN. This was the guides first in her career. And of course mine as well. Midst the frantic chaos the camera kept shooting, how anything came out in focus is a mystery. I had climbed as high as I could on the bus to get a shot through the tall grass. No apologies needed as long as I shared the photos. Not a problem. Everyone was able to see and few even managed cell phone pics. The bush doled out its balance, nothing but butts equals an epic sighting. Next mission, photograph the whole thing, lol!
The next morning I headed to lower Sabie and the heat persisted.
Then there was the tired and somewhat suicidal Nightjar. It had parked itself in the middle of the road. Very well blended in, almost missed it which means those traveling faster will hit it. It was too tired to care. Eyes closed, whatever man. And that’s when I broke Kruger rules. Never leave the car. I think this one was warranted. Feeling like the utter criminal I checked the surroundings for beasties, hopped out and shooed it into the brush. There you go, law breaker, lol! Couple thumbs up from the local guides made it seem legit. And as the night prior the bush balances.
Around the corner a small herd of elephants with a wee little one still wobbly. Mum came right close, as they were next to the road. I felt very protective of this herd and made sure the cars coming around the corner slowed down as not to startle the young mum and her kin. Peacefully eating, young one trying desperately to get his trunk to pick up a Marula fruit, only to throw grass on his head. I sat until they had finished, matriarchs deep rumble resonated and off into the thicket they went. Nice! A drive to the local large watering hole for an elephant pool party far off in the distance, was next. And with a hurried retreat to Lower Sabie I came across the behemoths of the savannah.
All was great until two young bulls, had to have a tussle and scared one of the Rhino into a straight line charge for Springbok and I. Right down the road, hurdling towards us and no possibility for a reversal as a safari vehicle had me blocked. And then skid stop, about 2 meters away, and back to grazing. Underwear change needed! Teenage boys, whether man or beast, always causing a ruckus. That was close.
The following morning cooler weather started to make its way into the Kruger. Not much but a nice relief. The bush had other ideas that morning, I travelled barely 10 km in over an hour. It was the elephant crossing day. From the across the river, up the banks and across the road. Droves of them, one row after another, giving a start stop approach. Slow slow morning. And then a musth bull showing of his prowess. He did something I hadn’t seen before, he kneeled down to pull a branch off. It was unusual. Then ripping it off to show his power. He had plenty space from me but the other vehicles, at least in my opinion, where being a little to risky with the likes of an unpredictable musth bull. Plenty videos, once I’ve glued and cut etc. I will post. In reality once I’m home, if I’m being honest. Finally, the road was clear only to screech again for a crossing tortoise. The vehicles behind were just as happy to get going only to be flagged as not to crush the tortoise.
Road crossed in one piece and off again we go. Wait what’s that, is that, no, increase speed do not stall do not stall, clutch dammit girl, clutch. And YES!!! Two leopards, bush balance, safe a Leopard Tortoise get mating Leopards. Love it! They were walking straight down the road and quickly to the side bush, mated and off behind the bush. Try as I might I never got sight of them again and only managed to get one in the shot. Driving and camera-ing not the best combo. But so epic!
I repeated the process the following morning, but no luck. Lovely dwarf mongoose as a consolation prize.
The drive yielded not just birds but these two as well. Note the size difference.
And it wouldn’t be a hot day without these lazy guys doing what they do best.
The day continued to dispense with wonderful sightings and continued into the night drive. This was probably the best I’ve had, all those things that scuttle off just sat and showed off endlessly.
And on to the last camp in Kruger, Crocodile Bridge. Now I’m going to show some pictures I don’t often post but given what’s happened lately in Thula Thula, I think a reminder of how amazing theses creatures are is in order. So prepare for Rhino-thon.
Crocodile Bridge is a small basic camp, but it has sooo many Bush Babies. And they taunted me. They’d pop out in the evening and pose right in front until the camera came up and off they went. Testing the theory, the camera stayed in primed position and they were nowhere to be found. Lower the camera and look a whole family. Cheeky buggers.
Crocodile Bridge brought on many sighting but also my allergies. I’ve had a sneeze or two through out but there was something in the dirt roads here that brought on the machine gun firing of sneezing I haven’t had since I was a kid. Pause long enough to catch my breath and to unleash again and the eyes tearing it made photography difficult. The night drive really did me in, but it was my last, and I toughed it out to be rewarded right outside camp.
Kruger lived upto its acclaim, no Cheetah but a Pangolin. Fair trade I think. Off to Swaziland and beyond.