My mother and I arrived at Phabeni gate terribly impressed with ourselves: not only had we found our way to Cape Town International Airport, but had also made our way to Kruger, with only one wrong turn!
After being helped by a very friendly lady at reception, we were on our way.
The first sighting was of an Impala killing a tree. Ok, that’s what it looked like it was doing! After watching with some amusement we pulled up next to it, and I asked him what he was doing? With an indignant snort and kicking of heels, he galloped over the road, clearly unimpressed that we weren’t in awe of his macho display.
We also spotted some kudu, including a beautiful male and of course lots more impala. A Lilac Breasted Roller dived in front of the car, a brilliant flash of rainbow colours, before flying off with something caught in its beak. My mother said it was an apt greeting for someone who had not been to Kruger for some 10 years.
Our first night was in Skukuza in a safari tent. I have not stayed in one before, and what a treat, camping with none of the hassles! We scooted off to the deli to get dinner and then back to our tent, which situated was next to the fence. I suppose I had better admit to driving in little circles before finding the tent.
Just as the sun sank below the horizon, I saw something skulk past the gap in the reeds along the fence. It came back a little later and looked me square in the eye: a very large hyena. I politely informed her I was not braaing, but that the guys round the corner were. Not entirely sure if it was me or cooked meat she was after. I saw her again later that night and then it was off to bed.
I woke long before sunrise and lay listening to the hyenas and jackals calling. Eventually I woke my mom and after a quick cup of tea we set off for an early morning drive. We had an appointment outside of Kruger at 10am, so we headed along the H4-1 for a while. Not far along the road, we were stopped and told of a lion sighting “after the next S-bend, turn left onto the sand road, then left again.” So we set off, found and s-bend turned left ….but found no other turn before we were back on the tar road again. Hmmm…. the wrong turn. But we did now come cross 3 ground hornbills, one of which stalked across the road stopped in front of the car, did a slow turn and walked back into the grass. An aspiring ramp model we presumed. Ok, so looked for an s-bend again, took a left…hmmm, no other turn before we were back on the road again?! But we did see a family of piggies on the road. Ok, so found another s-bend, took the left, and…. well need I go on? Yup, we were going in circles…that same dead tree we had spotted appeared again.
So, now we found the s-bend, skipped the next turn and then turned left after, and left again and WOW…. A male and female lion lay right next to the road... and we had the sighting all to ourselves! The male looked rather pooped; the female was doing a thorough grooming session, before her interest was piqued by some impala passing, but she decided it required too much effort and went back to grooming. Eventually we had to leave for our meeting. But not before succumbing to the temptation of seeing the Lake Panic bird hide. Awesome! A mommy and baby hippo surfaced, a darter preened on a tree and just as we got up to leave, I spotted a croc that had being eyeing all the delicious people sitting in the wooden box. He was awfully close and quickly drifted away once he was spotted. Tic tock tic tock…..
After the meeting we drove back into Kruger and headed for Lower Sabie, where we would be spending the second night. We stopped to admire the bushes which were literally “flowering” with butterflies! And my mom spotted a striped cuckoo, a first for me, cool!
Just after my mom commented on whether there were any terrapins around, I spotted a few lounging on a rock in a terribly green pool. Big as dinner plates, they were!
Ah, and then for the fun…we approach quite a few gathered cars…ellies….eish, looooots of ellies appearing out the bush everywhere!! But our attention is grabbed by two young bulls strutting their stuff; chasing one another across the veld. But by this time we are literally surrounded by ellies and we decide its time to get out of there. So I say “go now” as an opening emerges between all the cars, mom puts foot just as the two young males chase one another up the embankment: we meet, ears flapping, trumpeting and a full on adolescent tantrum was thrown! Fortunately we were doing about 55km/hr by then, yes I know above the limit, but hey, we were being chased! I watched out the back window as the one flippin’ naughty young male chased another vehicle, before packing up laughing. It all happened so quickly! We decide it was time to get to camp for a much deserved cup of tea. Not before spotting lots more ellies on the side of the road opposite Sunset Dam… and the cutest thing I have ever seen….a big mommy ellie crosses the road with her tiny little one, who stops in the middle of the road and does a dog stretch, just like in The Jungle Book! Man, that was sooooo cute!
At Lower Sabie we are once again in a safari tent, yeah. But a toasted cheese sandwich beckons and we sit on the deck at the restaurant admiring the awesome view. Then it’s back to the tent to gather warm clothes and camera gear for the sunset drive.