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Published: November 28th 2019
Today started out at 5:30am which is quite normal for us now. We had a quick coffee and headed out for the morning game drive. Gary stopped the cruiser just down the road and Sully got out to give us a lesson in tracking animal prints. We learned the difference between and cat and a dog print, and I don’t mean a kitty cat and a poodle either. I mean the difference between jackal or African wild dog and a leopard, lion or cheetah. Dogs have two lobes at the back of their paw and cats have three (cheetahs will also leave claw marks). This print was from a female leopard because of the size and no claw mark. We then proceeded down the road and came to a river crossing. Again, Sully and Gary had us all get out of the cruiser and examine another print. We all expertly concurred that this was indeed a lion print. We ventured on a little further until Gary pulled the cruiser into a grassy meadow. There we saw two lions enjoying the cool morning breeze. The one on the left had a big mane, was a brownish color and had brown eyes. The
lion on the right was a blonde color with a blonde mane and blue gray eyes. Gary asked us why we though these lions looked differently. I replied by saying that the lighter one on the right was a female. Wrong. Younger? Wrong. The lion on the right was one of only three white lions in the world (except for a few in captivity that don’t count) and the two cats are brothers. The white lion, much to Gary’s chagrin, was named “Casper” by the public and carries a recessive gene for a form of albinism. National Geographic is currently here doing a film on him. Some people book at our lodge just to see him but never do. Jonty has never seen him and I bet he‘ll be jealous. He is very famous and we were so lucky to see him but I won’t mention him by name again because none of us like his public name. We watched the two of them for a while and they eventually walked over to a shaded area as the sun got higher in the sky. The days have been reaching a high of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
In case I haven’t
mentioned it before, the guides converse via radio and tell each other of their sightings but we never hear the voice on the other end as Gary wears an earpiece. When he learns the location of something exciting, he doesn’t say anything. We do know when something is up though when Sully gets off his tracking chair at the front of the vehicle and moves up to the top row at the back. This means that we are nearing a predator. So we drove a little further and sure enough, Sully jumps off the front and moves to the back. We continue driving and come upon the four cheetah brothers again, this time laying under a shady tree. We watched them for a while but they looked pretty comfortable and content so we continued on.
Next we came upon a matriarchal family of elephants with a few young males on the outskirts. Male offspring are gradually pushed out of the family and forced to go out on their own but the girls don’t make them leave cold turkey. They start making them stay further and further away from the herd until eventually they push them out. These lady elephants
and about three youngsters were all standing, touching each other, with the babies lying down sleeping underneath them where it was shady. Some were resting their trunks on each other. Elephants eat and walk, eat and walk, repeat ... only pausing to sleep about 4 to 6 hours per day. These girls were sleeping although they were fanning their ears to stay cool and most of them were standing up.
We drove a little further and once again, Sully moved to the back. We came upon two white rhinos grazing. They completely ignored us as we drove up pretty darn close. In the past 10 years, 8,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa all because of the demand from the Asian market for rhino horn which they consider a medicine or aphrodesiac. We sat there for about 30 minutes until it was time to head back to the lodge for breakfast.
At noon today, we visited the Lebombo Cooking School where Singita trains local kids aged 17 to 26 to be chefs and finds them good jobs in local restaurants. The certification from this school changes their lives. The students take a 5 hour round trip bus
ride every day to and from the school with some walking up to two hours to and from the bus stop. We assisted the students in making some traditional South African dishes and ate them with all the students. The Chef/Instructor, Chef Thuys, was an assistant chef for Nelson Mandela in his younger days. I have all the recipes and Kevin and I plan on having a dinner for friends when we get back home.
On our afternoon drive, we observed a herd of over 100 Cape Buffalo, one of the Big Five. They moved across the grassland, eating and ruminating and occasionally glaring at us as if to say “Give me all your money or else”. On the way home, we saw some interesting birds and the original version of our common house cat, the African wild cat. We ended the day with another Boma Brai, an African barbecue, complete with traditional dancing by the Singita employees.
Something did happen as we were laying in bed. We heard a lion roaring right below our balcony. We also heard him in the early morning hours. Pretty cool!
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