Hunting for the Big Five

Published: April 18th 2010
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Huge elephant keeping cool by flapping his earsHuge elephant keeping cool by flapping his earsHuge elephant keeping cool by flapping his ears

Mixed signals because they do the same thing if they are about to charge. Time to go.
We have now had three days in Kruger Park and we are getting desparate. We still haven't nailed the big five.

The big five are Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rhino and Buffalo. Yet we weren,t more than 20 metres inside the Phabeni Gate when Mitchell spotted the first animal - a group of impalas grazing by a river. We have seen hundreds and hundreds of impalas now, they are so "old hat". But the first ones got their picture taken, it was very exciting, for us anyway.

It wasn't long before Ryan spotted a huge elephant and then shortly after that we came across a big white rhino with a baby rhino. Mum was getting a bit agitated because we weren't that very far away. So we made a prudent decision to just move on a little bit.

We also saw a couple of buffalo that first morning. Considering that buffalo are highly dangerous, because they are known to sneak around behind you and charge from the west (when you're looking east), they looked placid just sitting in the sand.

Over the course of the three days so far we have seen lots of game - you name
Rhinos Looking Our WayRhinos Looking Our WayRhinos Looking Our Way

Again. Time to go, we feel.
it - giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, crocs and hippos in the Sabie River, all sorts of antelopes, and lots of other lesser known beasties. There have been a couple of notable happenings amongst all of this:

At Crocodile Bridge camp Seth's liking for monkeys came to an end when three of them surrounded him at close range. No harm done but he was a bit worried for a minute there.

At Lower Sabie we went on an organised night drive and saw a few things you don't get to see during daylight. Nocturnals like porcupine. Puff adder. Robert the guide was a fountain of interesting information too. Did you know that male rhino's stake out their territory by defacating and urinating in great big piles on all four corners of their territory. Interesting eh. And if another male rhino comes along and relieves himself on the wrong pile the home rhino wants to get him and kill him. I'm glad people aren't like that. In most rugby changing rooms I've been in there are usually only one or two dunnys so it would make for interesting pre-match build ups. You'd want to be there early.

For a while
Stunning Image of ImpalaStunning Image of ImpalaStunning Image of Impala

He posed beautifully here. There are thousands of impala in Kruger.
I thought the animals might have gone to bed early that night or at least had sent a message around saying to keep your eyes closed if a green truck comes along. With the spotlights it was hard to see them unless they looked at the spotlight. But in the end we scouted out a lot of them including more elephants, rhinos and buffalos. At one point we turned off the truck's engine and all the spotlights, and just listended. It was a warm clear night and the bush was just alive with the constant buzz of circadas, birds chirping and singing all around us. It was amazing really.

The next day driving on a dirt road to Skukuza camp we had a funny experience. To put it in context I had been slinging off to my sister in law Cornel because she had run over a warthog last time they were up at Kruger. You are only suposed to go 50km an hour max (40 on dirt roads) so I wondered how the hell she managed to bump into a warthog at that speed. Surely you'd see it and stop. Well I was driving along and nearly ran
Striped HorseStriped HorseStriped Horse

Zebra at close range
over a giraffe, rather it nearly ran over us. It was grazing on the top branches of a tree right by the road and it was on the road. I must have been looking out the other side searching for lions. Whatever, suddenly I am driving along and this big gangly thing is loping along right outside the driver's window. It was like a big slow motion movie. All I could see was its legs. Ryan and Seth were upstairs in the campervan on upstairs spotting duty and they were sort of looking it straight in the eye. It got the pulse racing a bit faster I can tell you.

We also had a real highlight on day three late in the afternoon when we were driving along and Mitchy spotted a leopard crossing the road up ahead. This was a big moment because leopards are known to be very hard to spot. Susan had just finished telling us about the book she'd read where the game ranger's guide lived in the park for ten years knowing that there was a resident leopard right by her house. But in ten years she'd never sen it at all. Just dumbing
View towards Lower Sabie campView towards Lower Sabie campView towards Lower Sabie camp

See the hippos in the river in foreground
down our expectations a bit because it wasn't looking good. Then suddenly, bingo, Mitchy starts jumping about. That made it number four of the big five. By the way it snuck into the bush before we could get a good photo of it (yeah right, you say). True story.

Now we are all very focused on the missing link - the king of the jungle, the cat who claims top spot in the food chain here - Leo the lion. We've looked everywhere! We've got two days to find him.

Additional photos below
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Skukuza Camp - Braai timeSkukuza Camp - Braai time
Skukuza Camp - Braai time

The boys clowning around at dinner time back at camp. We had a braai (bbq) every night.

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