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Published: March 2nd 2015
A view of the bush at Addo
this is what the landscape of Addo is like, 6,000 ha of rolling scrubland
It is true that everyone is captivated by the spell of the chance of seeing a lion. The ellies are to be seen everywhere but not the lions. Lions hold that extra thrill of danger, ellies not. Lions can pounce and eat you. Ellies can't! So there's the imaginary thrill of the chase.
There are only 6 adults which were introduced to the park about 10 years ago and they roam freely. However not long ago the park separated (temporarily I think) two lionesses which are roaming behind a new fenced area (the fences are electrified) just beside the Main Camp. And the males will come to look for them when they are ready to mate. So the possibility of knowing where to look with success is higher.
The Sunset Drive leaves camp at 530 just as night is approaching. This time I got there early and was seated in the front row.... Ringside again yaaaay! In fact I had both seats to myself, right behind our driver guide who was Mpuni (I think). This trip was a bit more touristy in that it included a sunset stop for a drink and snacks at one of the waterholes. But
The electrified perimeter fence at Addo
With Rough dirt road and close thorny scrub bush
that did not diminish the experience at all. Far from it, this was awesome!
The skies were brilliant, African sunset orange, and the atmosphere was excited, eager to go. We saw all our "old friends" lingering with each of the groups for just a short while. Our guide suggested we would spend more time looking for the more elusive species, which to us meant the Lion, and we all agreed. The notice board showed four sightings for that day.
We stopped at Gwarrie waterhole as the skies turned dark and orange. One lonely elephant bull stood at the waters edge. A flock of Egyptian geese waddled across. Mpuni set up a table with snacks and our pre ordered drinks, and we stood around taking in the nightfall, the sounds and the changing skyline. At this time of day after the gates had closed, ours would be the only vehicle on the road. We drove off the beaten roads along the perimeter fence and would return that way at the end of the drive. This was very rugged terrain, a car couldn't make it there.
We had two awesome experiences.
Driving in the fading light suddenly Mpuluni
Two female Kudu
a large elegant species of antelope. Here the females. The males have distinctive twisted horns.
stopped the engine and with a hushed voice turned and pointed to the higher slopes.
"There! A Rhinoceros! Can you see it? You must be very quiet! They have poor eyesight but exceptional hearing!"
At first I could see nothing but a large hillside of bush.... Then I noticed way off in the distance a light grey spot that had just made a movement. Binoculars into action, and there it was, two big eyes and a horn above its quite ugly mouth, and a round light grey body. I was actually looking at one of the most endangered and highly protected species on the planet. A black rhino. It looked so vulnerable, trying to hide there, behind a wall of bush for protection. I felt extremely privileged, a witness to the reason to be part of a global movement to defend these creatures from man's ignorance and greed.
Now We were sworn to secrecy. We must not share the sighting and its location with ANYONE else at the park. Such is the state of endangerment of the rhino. Two years ago two had been spotted at Addo on a game drive like ours, someone on the tour
A herd of ellies
the raison d'être for the park, established to protect elephants years ago when they were relentlessly hunted for their tusks.
reported seeing it to other dinner guests... That night two helicopters flew in, shot the rhinos with tranquilizer drugs, lowered men with power saws who removed their tusks and left them to die. The park rangers simply had no chance to even protect them following the sighting. Such is their value... rhino horn is worth as much as gold and cocaine. And it shows the trade is NOT being done by poor farmers or local peasants, but by veterinarians, monied people with access to helicopters etc. It's not a poor farmer who wakes up one day and says I'm going to get rich by poaching a rhino.
Our group sat in somewhat of a daze, we had not expected this! We were moved and somewhat subdued having come face to face with the horrors of man on wildlife.
But on we drove, it was nearing the end of our two hour drive when we would be back at camp.
Mpuni headed back to the perimeter fence, near where the lion had been sighted today. We bounded along the rough dirt track, seeing only darkness so close to the bush that we had to pull our hands in
Night falls at the waterhole
and gathered around it, a flock of Egyptian wild geese, a warthog and a solitary bull elephant
at some points. We rounded a sharp corner and a shout rang out from our bus "LION," and there it was..... ahead of us in the full glare of our headlamp.
As nonchalantly as you please. King Lion, nose to the ground, approaching us, sniffing the road way, then eventually strolling by. He ignored us absolutely! He took no interest in us whatsoever as he stalked off into the bushes, into the dark. We were contemptuously ignored. BUT FOR US! WE HAD SEEN A LION! The movie star had made our journey, made our day and it had topped off the cake for me.
A ride in which I'd seen a Rhino and a Lion. What a day!
Meeting the rest of girls at the restaurant.... They too had seen the lion lol. It had come right up to the waterhole near the restaurant a short while earlier. A lion with a black mane.... It must have been the same one! Everyone was happy and excited but I did feel I had trumped their experience with the rhino.
What a day.
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