Nossob sunset drive
CB was too young for the activities - a three-hour drive would have been just too much for him - but my SO graciously offered to stay behind while I went on a sunset drive. They waved goodbye to me (CB a bit sad that he couldn't come too).
Our guide was called Alistair, and he was very well-informed about the area. I asked him lots of questions!
Our first sighting was four white-faced Scops owls in a tree right near Rooikop. If you look closely at the photo below, then you can see all four owls:
It was another stormy evening, and the wind was blowing the branches of the tree around. I tried to take a close-up of one of the owls, but he kept jumping out the frame. Plus the digital camera seemed to have a very long time-delay between the button-press and the image-capture. (Well, probably that's something I was doing wrong.) In the event, I quite liked one of the out-of-frame pictures. It looks as if the owl is peering out.
Further on, we spotted a lion and lioness, quite far from the road. Then we stopped to admire the sunset and have a drink.
Despite the storm, it was still hot. This is the only night drive I have ever been on where I wore a t-shirt and shorts from beginning to end. Usually you get quite chilly when the sun goes down, even in summer.
Soon after we got back on the vehicle, it was time for the spotlights to come out. There weren't many people on the drive, and none of them seemed to want to hold a spot, despite my regular offers, so I had one for the whole trip. It suited me perfectly - I love being the spot-lighter.
As I had expected, we saw lots of eagle owls (spotted and giant), jackal, wildebeest and springbok. There were scrub hares, lolloping along. A pair of African Wild Cats on Marie se Draai. Bat-eared foxes searching for insects. And a tree rat's bright eyes shining back from a far-off tree.
Then there were the unexpected sightings...
A springbok lamb, lying right next to the road. Instead of freezing, and trusting its camouflage, it startled and ran.
Roosting raptors, resting for the night, had their sleep interrupted by our bright lights. We woke up a few PCGs, a tawny eagle and a black-breasted snake eagle.
Springhares hopped up and down, transfixed by the lights, in their typical aimless, brainless fashion. Our guide said there were many species of predators, including lions, that ate springhares. I had expected to see these "meals on wheels."
What I didn't expect was to see so many springhares. Everywhere I shone the light, it struck a glittering eye bouncing. We saw more than fifty springhares. Their population has also exploded with the good rains.
The electrical storm was truly magnificent, and the rosy lightning flashes were brilliant and beautiful. As I said in an earlier post, KTP lightning is pink, because the clouds reflect the red dunes.
As we drove back towards camp, we had what was for me the best sighting of the whole trip: a big, shaggy brown hyena, right in the road. He looked right at us. I was spellbound! Then he trotted off into the night. I have been going to KTP regularly for more than 30 years, and this was my second brown hyena sighting. And to have such a wonderfully clear view of one - it was a dream come true. I only wish that I could have taken a photo to show you all.
We drove back to camp along the fence line. As we passed the campsite, our spotlights found more lions. Five of them - a lioness and four sub-adults. They were in poor condition, and looked hungry. They were lying right up against the Nossob camp fence, gazing meaningfully at the braaiing campers. Our guide clucked his tongue at their bad behaviour.
The campers came over to see what we'd found. A startled British accent floated out on the still, warm night air. "Oh my @%&#$, Harry, we've been hearing the lions calling all this time, and we knew they were close. But not THIS close!"
"I'm sleeping in my car tonight," muttered one of the Dutch tourists on the night drive vehicle.
When I got home, my SO had cooked me delicious tomato pasta. I asked him excitedly if he'd seen the lions.
"Oh yes," he said. Earlier that evening, CB and his dad went to the hide. Once again, there were lions underneath the hide. Other people visiting the hide fled, but my SO wasn't too concerned - the hide is stoutly built from wood. Access to the hide is via a long walkway with sturdy poles on either side, and even poles making a roof overhead. There are lots of gaps in the construction, but not big enough for a lion to fit through.
My SO laughed wryly. "Some of the people who were too scared to stay in the hide went and stood at the gate and shone their torches at the lions. That looked much more dangerous! The gate would be an easy jump for a lion."
"Wasn't CB scared?" I asked? Remember, this is the child who skriks for geckos and grasshoppers.
"No," he said. "On the way out of the hide we walked right past the lions. They were on the other side of the fence - so close I could have put my hand out and touched them. Even then, CB wasn't scared. I was a bit nervous!"
Of course, now that we're back in Cape Town, CB is regaling his doting grandparents with terrifying tales of how his parents nearly let the lions eat him...