Game Drives

Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: -25.2174, 27.0071

Woke early - overcast and cold. Breakfasted, then clambered aboard - with about six other people - an open jeep for a game drive, our first of the trip. Our ranger was fine, and we were provided with blankets, which helped make the morning a tad warmer.

The drive was fine as well - saw a lot of animals, mostly from a distance, as we had to stay on the road and could only see what approached us. The animals, and what we learned about each:

·Ostrich. Male has dark colouring because it sits on the egg at night
·Wildebeest. Parks are allowed either the blue or black variety. Otherwise, they interbreed and produce weak offspring.
·Zebra. We were told that the zebra's stripes , in addition to confusing predators, can be used for thermal regulation.
·Impala. The males travel together in a bachelor group, taking turns every couple of weeks as the breeding male with the group of females. They fight for the position, but the lead male grows weak because he's always on the lookout, doesn't eat right, doesn't sleep - so loses his position.
·Tsessebe. A rare and endangered antelope. Pronounced like "chess-a-bee".
·White rhino. Saw it from a great distance this morning. Confirmed it has poor eyesight and uses its sense of sound and smell.
·Elephant. Saw a group from the distance. Know that will change. Babies take up to six months to learn how to use their trunk properly.
·Jackal. They mate for life and are usually found in pairs.
·Springbok. Introduced here, to see how they will fare. Really prefer the wide open spaces, such as the low grasslands of Namibia.
·Steenbok. Small, naked antelope.
·Lions. A great distance off - two males, each guarding a carcass. The one with a zebra carcass had to run back constantly to chase away the birds.
·Warthog. The high-held tail acts as a flag to keep the group together.
·Giraffe. Close by. Moves frequently between trees because the trees, when stressed, give off a pheromone, a tannin, that eventually can poison the giraffe.
·Hippos. Sitting in the sun by the water's edge. Was told they are most dangerous when you get between them and the water.

So - it was a good day driving about. Pilanesburg is set in an old caldera - which one might not realize without reading about it. Some lovely red rock outcroppings, a lake or two (formed by dams). We stopped, towards the end of the drive, at Pilanesburg Centre, for a toilet break and refreshments. They had a fire in an outdoor pit, and it was nice to warm ourselves. We left the park through a different gate than we had used to enter, then drove through Sun City. The four of us looked at the architecture, the layout, the monorail, and immediately said to each other, "Disney World!" I can't believe they charge an entrance fee - otherwise, it might be amusing to come and walk around.

Relaxed a bit, then had lunch outdoors in the bar area. Surrounded by yet another secondary school rugby team. Talk about your wild animals. The sun had emerged, so it was a nice, reasonably warm day.

In the afternoon, we went out for another game drive. We saw fewer animals (Paul suspected that many were already asleep - and, indeed, we saw four rhinos laying down together, looking quite out of it), but we did see some new ones: a beautiful lilac-breasted roller, a hyena, kudus, and a caracal or lynx.

We had some excitement as well. The hyena was spotted approaching the zebra carcass, and we couldn't see the lions anywhere. The hyena circled around the carcass, creating a wide arc, and coming in from the opposite side of where we had seen the lions in the morning. Suddenly, a lion's head popped up and seemed to sense the hyena (rather like Mysti sensing Callie-cat nearby). The hyena attacked the carcass, eating as much as it could. Then, we saw the lion stand upon and, at first, slowly stalk the carcass. As it grew near, it began to lope - the hyena sensed it coming and took off. The lion then marked its territory by peeing all over the carcass.

Our other bit of excitement involved some elephants, eating right on the side of the road. We parked to watch them and let them cross. There were about 16 of them, including tow very small ones. We watched them munch on thorn bushes - ouch - and begin to cross the road. Some idiots, playing very loud music in their car, came from the other direction, and the elephants grew nervous. After threatening the other car, the elephants started down the road, towards us. They seemed like they were going to leave the road and walk past us through the bushes - but then the baby male charged us! He was actually very cute, wagging his ears and his trunk, and facing us down. The ranger said, "Are you going to come after me? You won't get very far." But then Mama saw what was going on and decided to get involved. Suddenly, we had 16 elephants approaching us rapidly. The ranger backed up the jeep, paused, and when the elephants continued to come, backed up some more, moving off to the very side of the road. The elephants stopped, and the baby decided nursing was more interesting than us. We sat very still as the elephants approached us. They paused again, and the baby male looked at us, stamped the ground, and shook his head ... but he remained with Mama this time. Eventually, the elephants did leave the road, so we started our engine and headed for home.

It was dark when we arrived back at the lodge - and we were all quite chilled. No blankets this time. We rested for about an hour, then went to dinner. Had a nice pinotage. All exhausted - though we were the last ones there - so early to bed.

Might dream of elephants tonight.

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