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Published: June 18th 2019
We did get a shadowy glimpse at dusk yesterday of a lioness and then she was gone. No photo and no video. We just have to do the morning drive this morning and then this afternoon if we are unlucky this morning.
So here it is again,5.15am and we get ourselves dressed for the wind chill factor that you can’t avoid in the open sided Toyota land cruiser whistling along at 40kph towards the park entrance.
This morning our guide is Odey and in the front passenger seat is a young woman from the capital Gaborone who is studying tourism hospitality. Our fellow passengers are a couple of Aussies from Wollongong who we met yesterday and found them to be enjoyable company. Sometimes one of the things you miss when there is just the two of you travelling together is the chance to talk to someone else. Not of course that we have got bored with ourselves, after all how could we after 47 years of marriage, but it can be just to get other peoples perspective on what is going on around you.
With a bit of cloud cover this morning it doesn’t seem nearly as cold
as any of our previous morning drives but it was still good to have the thermals on and keeping us snug.
The sun rose at 6.50am as we were making our way into the park. It is remarkable that we have only had one very brief period of light drizzle on a morning drive in Kruger that lasted no more than 20 minutes in nearly 4 weeks. Africa is living up to its reputation as this is the dry season and that is exactly what is happening.
Odey took us down onto the river bank track, possibly because of the huge number of animals that were down in that vicinity of the park yesterday when we had a bumper feast of sightings, including the shadowy figure of the lioness.
However, how things in nature change just in such a relatively short space of time because except for the pod of hippos still in the water and a couple on land there was virtually no other large animals to be seen.
For the second day in succession we did get a great view of two rhinos, mother and teenager resolutely heading towards the water but in our
direction so at least we got to view them front on instead of their rear ends which has seemed to be the case every other time.
Without the abundance of large animals to view Odey resorted to finding us small creatures as we drove on along the river bank.
For the first time we were close enough to a marabou stalk to get a good look at this large bird who feeds on the left over carcasses of a lion or hyena kill. They are quite large in size with a plume on the top of their head that gives them an air of distinction despite the fact that they are scavengers.
We were heading back to the coffee stop we took yesterday besides a large tree when Odey took a diversion on a track that ran through tall stiff looking grasses to take in a large herd of buffalo that had materialised as we got closer. We say this because you really couldn’t see them from a distance and as Odey explained this was prime territory for a predator such as a lion to make a kill. Perhaps here was where we might make that clear
sighting that we have so looked forward to. Then again, perhaps this space was a bit too open despite the tall grasses and we too might be part of a lion kill !
The buffalo didn’t look disturbed by us watching them slowly troop by and we decided that a lion attack wasn’t about to happen. As we had observed previously it is the old and the weak or injured that bring up the rear of such a large herd. We guess someone has to be expendable in the herd to alert and save the others from the circle of life.
Odey didn’t have to take the circle of the tree to ensure there weren’t any leopards up the tree watching us at the coffee stop as another land cruiser was already parked there.
In all the morning drives and the afternoon drives for that matter we haven’t had to head off to the bush or behind a tree to use as a toilet which must say something for our constitutions on the BBA V4.
The coffee break is always good to be able to stretch the legs even if it means you have to extricate
yourself from the vehicle using tiny steps that are part of the welded frame to get down to terra firma.From the second and third tier this extraction must look quite hilarious to onlookers. Getting back on board is much easier but can still be a challenge as you heave one leg over the frame to make your seat.
With such a dearth of animals we headed back towards the park gate and then onto the hotel through part of the small town of Kasene which we have done on each trip. The town was coming to life with people getting about their business for the day. Kasene is very much like all of the small towns outside of South Africa with a tar sealed Main Street and then often well formed dirt streets running off them where very basic houses are. Many of the homes appear to be one or two room in size and of concrete block construction that we are sure wouldn’t meet NZ standards of the building code.
School starts early morning,7am, in all of the places we have passed through and finishes at around midday so because we have either been on a game
drive or back at our accommodation resting we haven’t seen children on their way to or home from school except for the times we were being transferred between the private game reserves in the Kruger area when we were impressed by how well the children are turned out to go to school and how happy they appear.
For the afternoon drive our guide/driver was going to be John who was driving the vehicle that scared off the elephant we surprised as we headed back to the gate yesterday afternoon. And this afternoon it was just us in the vehicle.
He seemed to be aware that we didn’t get a great look at the lioness on the rock yesterday and said he would see what nature might bring to us in this afternoons drive.
After entering the park he took a slightly different route higher up what had been the old river bank many years ago when the Chobe River had a different course to that it has today.
Because of this different track we were a bit far away to make out in detail the large number of African eagles and marabou stalks down closer to
the river. It might have been nice to have been closer but if John thought we had a better chance of a lion sighting taking this track then so be it.
Taking this track we did get another great close up of an elephant emerging from the bush and a couple of male impala who would usually not hang around long when sightseers get this close as we did.
Then there was the giraffe with a stately pose and soon thereafter a kudu male and female. The male having a very grand set of antlers still in good condition. We have seen animals with part of their antlers or tusks missing which has usually been the result of fighting.
Still driving well above the river bank we met a solitary elephant of medium size that was grazing on a bush. For some reason, even though we were a safe distance from him and not taking up his space, he took exception to us and started to take an aggressive stance towards us. Then he trumpeted and threw his ears forward which we had been told previously is the time to move on. John obviously believed all was
OK but Gretchen thought it was time to move on and gave John a bit of a prod to start up the engine. He did so when the elephant did start to head our way crashing through the bush adjacent to the track we were on, still trumpeting and he wasn’t going to give up on chasing us well away. Another vehicle approached him from behind and his advance on us moving along at about 20kph decreased and we were relieved that he would now take an interest in the other vehicle and not us.
We think John was just out to give us a close experience with the elephant but his next stop was one of a pedestrian manner. A colony of ants were crossing the track and he expertly avoided running through them and then stopped to give us a chance to observe their community making tracks for the water below.
We had reached as far as was possible and he needed to turn back towards the park entrance to get us back in time for dinner.
On the way we came across another large elephant that initially looked agitated as he swung his truck
into the air and exposed his tusks before calmly walking on unlike the one an hour or so earlier.
As the sun was starting to set and throwing that red glow across the land and bushes we saw an event that is quite rare to capture and that was of two giraffes fighting by using their necks to knock each other with the effect that contact made a dull thud which was quite audible to us about 50 metres away.
Our last sighting for the day was quite special. A monkey was sitting on the truck of a fallen tree getting the last warmth from the setting sun when suddenly out of the remaining branches and leaves of the fallen trunk out popped its baby who danced over to mum and immediately suckled onto her breast.
We left the park in the dark. John had given it his best shot but we will now have to accept that the best we got of a lion sighting was the shadowy figure we saw yesterday briefly at dusk.
We said to each other at dinner that night, after 15 game drives on land and 1 water game cruise,
we had got to see the big five and all but the lion, each of them on multiple occasions and some extremely close up, and that our experiences amongst these wild animals, will live with us forever.
Tomorrow we head for Jo’burg to prepare for the flight’s home but there is still a bit more adventure to come we are sure. But at least we can sleep in !
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