Time to move to a new lodge. We were up again before the sun and packed all of our things into our mighty Opel Zafira. Sunrise is an amazing time for photography and we were ready to capture some images. Unfortunately few, if any, of our mornings were clear enough to take advantage of sunrise.
Within five minutes of leaving the front gate we came across a very rare black rhino. Black rhino are smaller than white rhino and there are far fewer in the world. They are also far more aggressive. We didn’t know this. Fortunately they have very poor eyesight, but as he approached the road he smelled us and started to snort and eventually jumped up in the air a swung his head around. Scary. We got it all on the camera. But it was still before sunrise and the pictures did not come out. We have our memories for that one however.
We pressed on, heading south to Shingwedzi, our next resort about four hours south. By 7:30 it was time for breakfast and we pulled into yet another unprotected but very beautiful picnic area. We jumped out like old pros and didn’t think twice about becoming breakfast in the food chain ourselves. The birds here were wonderful.
Now none of us have ever been bird people. The thought of shooting hundreds of pictures of birds and waiting hours for the perfect bird shot never entered our minds, but that is exactly what happened this week. The birds of Africa are so beautiful. Colors, shapes and habits are enthralling. At our picnic area there were yellow and red-billed horn bills. With patience we got some very special pictures of them.
Moving right along we continued our strike south. Though we did see many antelope we had a long dry spell in our animal viewing luck. While driving a very out of the way dirt road, talking and not looking too hard, I spotted a leopard. It was 20 yards or more into the bush, very difficult to see even if you knew he was there. How I found it, I don’t know, most certainly luck. To top off the find, there was a small Klipspringer (small dog sized antelope) near our car. The leopard was stalking it! We sat for twenty minutes in awe as the leopard moved ever so slowly and stealthily towards our car (and the unsuspecting prey). We held our breath as he drew closer, knowing that we were about to see a kill. At the very last second, the leopards lunch saw him and darted. Mr. Leopard stepped forward towards us acting like he never meant to eat the Klipspringer and meant to be spotted all along. As he stepped out a female Kudu saw him and instead of running herself she started yelling at him as if to say I see you! The sound was spine chilling. We had no idea this animal could make such a deep guttural sound. What an amazing and fortunate find to stumble across.
The rest of the day was great but didn’t compare to this. We rolled into our new camp and had about four times the room we had the two previous nights in Punda Maria. Similar buildings but we had two complete buildings this time, and both with kitchens. Our places were right along the fence, and just before bed we headed out to the wires with a flashlight to see what we could find. Nothing, but the completeness of the dark night made my skin crawl. I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of that fence lost and in the dark. You could easily let your mind get the best of you and go mad even if there were no animals threatening you.
We slept to 7am the next morning and left Shingwedzi for our next lodge a few more hours south, Letaba.
This day was full of baboon, elephant, giraffe and our first hippos and ostrich. We spent a full day driving and arrived in Letaba in the middle of the afternoon after a very long 50 mile stretch in a remote part of the park near the Mozambique border. The land started to flatten out and the trees gave way to hundreds of square miles of vast savanna. Tired from a long drive we found our round hut-type lodge and collapsed. Debbie decided to check on the details of a guided game drive, which she found out was leaving in less than an hour after our arrival for the sunset and evening drive. Up to this point, we had not seen a lion and we were starting to feel the clock ticking on getting some great lion shots with our camera. So we shook off the tired feeling and hoped into the back of the large safari truck with the game ranger to see what had been avoiding us.
The drive lasted for three hours. We were all fried. It was interesting nevertheless. We learned a lot of animals and trees but we did not see any lions. There is always tomorrow. We passed out in our beds.
With a new day and some rest, we packed up yet again and headed to our third lodge in as many days. Another long drive would finally see us enter the southern portion of the park. But only just. This is a huge park. Tonight has us at a bushveld camp. We were not sure what that meant except we had beds waiting for us. Talamati Bushveld camp was a gem. There were no concessions here. We had to bring all of our own food and drink. There were only fourteen cottages and it was on a private dirt road. But before we got there we had some animals to find. Namely, lion.
We drove all morning from Letaba and came across what was becoming the same animals we had seen every day. (See our game viewing habits re:impala etc. from our earlier post). We stopped at Olifants Lodge for lunch. This lodge (which had no room for us to stay at) is perched three hundred feet up on the side of a mountain looking straight down onto the Olifants river valley below. The landscape stretches out before you to the extent you feel you could see the east coast of the USofA on a clear day. We sat and watched awhile but knew we had to move on.
Fifteen minutes outside of Olifants, down an asphalt road, driving fast and not looking very hard brought us to a traffic jam and our first lions!
They were a male and two lionesses. It is mating season and that is exactly what they were doing. We spent two hours watching them sleep in the shade. Every twenty minutes or so, one of the females would get up, prance in front of the male, which would quickly result in him mounting the latest offering. This lasted only about twenty seconds before she would turn and start to fight him. Very violent and great stuff for pictures. Thereafter, they would snuggle for a few minutes and all would fall back to sleep. All this was definitely worth waiting four days for. We sat with these lions until the latest possible moment. Remembering we had to be inside the Talamati gate before 6pm we finally left at 4:30. We still had almost fifty miles to go. We pulled in with 8 minutes to spare. Phew.
We got right to work cooking dinner so we could get to sleep. We were however, interrupted by one of the staff to let us know that a white rhino was just outside the fence line and we should drop what we were doing and go see. Now I don’t know if your dinner has ever been interrupted by a rhino but mine never has been. Pretty cool stuff.
Our building at Talamati was the nicest by far. It was a four room cottage. Full kitchen, sitting room with couches that converted to beds, bedroom with two twin beds and full large bathroom. The roof was reed grass, as all are and though the furnishings and design was simple, somewhat colonial, it was very clean and in good order. This was generally true about all of the places we stayed and we were very impressed with the South African National Parks Services and how they took care of the park and it’s many lodges.
Hating to leave, we were up at 4:45 and sitting at the gate at 6am when they let us out. New day, more animals to see.
Tags: Kruger, Photography, Safari, South Africa, Travel