Thank you, Anri, LS, Pumbaa, hilda, kallis1786, Cape of Storms and MM. Yes, I saw some nice birds. Someone once said to me that if you sit in the bush and there are no animals you will usually see birds. And yes, the impies are so cute and photogenic. I never get bored with them.
I had never been on a night drive before. I’ve been on sunset drives, but going out at 8 pm was new to me. I thought it might be cold and took a jacket and a blanket, but I didn’t need either, although some folk did put jackets on. It can be cold, and sometimes freezing, up on the truck, and in winter you need hats and scarves too.
Driver Sam drove the almost-full big truck and headed south on the H 1-1 / S114 route. Night drives always have the excitement of being out of the camp, and in the open air, with all the sounds and smells which are different from daytime.
There was a lot of ground water around, ephemeral pools and springs after the deluge of only two weeks before, and each time we came near to water the frog calls got louder, and then diminished when we had passed the pool and driven on. We saw a couple of impala, and then a single hyaena.
As we drove through a more open area with shorter grass, I saw giraffe. There were four, including a small one, and three were sitting down and resting, with one standing, although they all got up when the spotlights were on them.
Then came the answer to Shirl’s question of the day before about the relatively long gestation periods of ungulates against a very much shorter time for predators. Sam explained that those animals whose babies must be well developed at birth – all the antelopes, giraffe, elephants, rhino, zebra, wildes and buffalo – have long gestation periods so that the babies are ready to run just after they are born, and be able to keep up with the herd. Predators, on the other hand, give birth to helpless babies which need to be cared for, as the mothers would not be able to hunt if they had long preganancies. Obvious when someone tells you.
We saw more impala, a scrub hare running in front for a while, a couple of thick-knees and then an owl in the road at the turning onto the S22. We didn’t travel very far before we came to one of the dips in the road which still had a large pool across the road, left over from the recent rains. As we went up the other side an elephant emerged from the bush on the right. Sam stopped the truck and we sat and watched as a few other ellies also became visible in the lights.
Then they started to show their dislike of having us there and we could hear quite a few of their ‘rumbling’ ‘grumbling’ sounds and also a bit of trumpeting as they made their feelings known. We were also treated to a couple of short mock charges,
just like the ones you’ve seen on tv,
although Sam assured us that none of the ellies would initiate a real charge without permission from the matriarch. There were at least two small babies, and quite a few young animals, and ellies are well known for their protectiveness of their young ones. We could hear feeding sounds alongside us too. They must have been in water recently because some of them had ‘tide marks’ high up on their bodies.
The truck reversed short distances three or four times, but they still slowly approached us and eventually Sam reversed through the water and up the other side, thinking that they were perhaps headed for the water. But they still pushed us backwards, and Sam then turned the vehicle as it was obvious we would not get past them. At this point, one of the ladies sitting at the back became very unhappy about now being ‘on the front line’ and came and sat next to me behind the driver, to be further from them, as they were still slowly following us.
As we had been with the ellies for over half an hour, Sam decided that we should head for home. We saw another scrub hare and another owl, the same giraffe were still where we had seen them, a couple more hares and back to Skukuza at 10.15.
What an exhilarating time we had with those ellies. That was one worthwhile drive.
Thank you, Sam.
Apologies for the night pics. There was one gorgeous one of the hyaena – if only it had been in focus.