South Africa > Kruger National Park

13-15 May 2013

Daybreak and what we do at Africa on Foot Lodge is a 3-hour morning walk in the bush. Wake up before the sun is up, have some bread with coffee or tea, and we are ready. Proper breakfast is only served when we return at 9am.

A walk in the habitat of the wild animals always requires some sort of protocols, apart from the obvious firepower carried by Matt and Enoch. Basically we have to obey the rangers’ instructions at all times, pay attention to them, walk in single file, do not talk, do not make any noise, only take pictures without flash, and most importantly, whatever the circumstances NEVER EVER RUN, but must be ready to climb a tree at any time … how reassuring!

The sun rises through the bush as we start our walk in the pleasantly cool weather.

Matt and Enoch are at the head of the single file, while I bring the rear. In emergency one of them would dash to the rear of the line to lead us to safety … or maybe to some trees to climb? ­čśÇ

But in any case, it is quite an interesting walk — the pace is moderate, so you need to be reasonably fit, the terrain rather flat and there are numerous walk paths to tread on. Only occasionally we need to walk through the undergrowth, so good boots are ┬áhandy. Matt would stop at any interesting flora or fauna to describe what we are seeing — very educational in a fun way.

Lotsa of this stuff all over the place which shows how rich the fauna is in this reserve.

Almost walked into this bugger’s home, phew!

Walking along the jeep path is harmless — it also provides an easy way to observe footprints of the creatures.

This belongs to a leopard, a couple of days old perhaps.

Good-looking berries just beside the path, and we are told these are edible.

So I take a chomp …. not bad, a bit sour, but I like it.

Once in a while we bump into a jeep on a morning drive. These folks are from a neighbouring lodge. That’s one mean machine — a Land Rover Defender just like ours.

They built dams across the reserve to collect water during the wet summer season. It’s now early winter, so it’s a bit dry, but dams like this provide valuable water for the animals, though there’s none here now.

Elephant droppings everywhere and these do not look that old, so they could have been around here last night.

Impalas are everywhere — graceful animals but there are just too many of them. We call them the McDonald’s of the bush, since they provide fast food for everybody else, sort of. ­čÖé

The southern yellow-billed hornbill is also ubiquitous in Kruger.

More fresh tracks to interpret for sure. These are elephant’s — quite recent.

Really damning (fresh) clues — those elephants must have passed this way just a few hours ago. By the way, their droppings do not seem to smell at all, which is good. Matt pokes his forefinger into it, invites me to do the same, but I decline — need to operate the camera, sir.

That’s one great single file. I’m at the end of the line, always left behind because too busy taking pictures.

Suddenly we are told to crouch and remain silent — Enoch spots a herd of elephants, maybe the ones which left the above poo.

We can surely hear them in the bush and spot the odd trunks and ears, ┬ábut we are not going any closer. Enoch moves to the back of the line while Matt discreetly leads us away. Without the safety of the jeep, I really feel exposed for the first time … and there are no friggin’ trees nearby in case we need to activate Plan B!

Safely away from the elephants, we take a breather, and walk back to the lodge for a well-deserved breakfast. The sun is high and it’s getting warm, so we look forward to the journey home. We must have walked 7 to 8km.

After breakfast, we take a rest till noon when we do a light lunch. At 3.30pm we go on our afternoon/evening drive. We will only return to the lodge just before dinner at 8pm. That’s one long outing.

Enoch spots something interesting — the fresh tracks of an African python — by the look of it, it’s quite a large critter. Unfortunately we couldn’t find it anywhere nearby.

More female impalas — more food for the lions and the leopards. Mobile McDonald’s indeed.

We bump into our neighbours again. Such a huge reserve and keep running into them!

Nearby a handsome male impala eyeballs us. Soon he dashes off to join the ladies.

The communication radio suddenly becomes lively and Matt drives offroad into the bush. Something must be cooking!

Ah well, what can I say … a crash of rhinos! Well five of them white rhinos.

Not the biggest guy in the herd, but still huge and intimidating.

This is the chief, I think. Bad eyesight, so probably can’t notice us, but look at those ears — they are for super-hearing.

They graze just like cows, but are more active. They would chase each other, make noise, do mock fights by jousting with their horns, but would always return to grazing.

Another African species is the black rhino — main difference is black rhinos eat tree leaves not grass.┬áRhinos have bad eyesight but excellent hearing and smelling capabilities.

Regardless of what is around us, Enoch always looks comfy on his spotter’s seat at the front of the jeep’s bonnet.

The whole crash (or herd) keeps moving as they search for better stuff to eat — how could people kill these magnificent creatures for their horns? We feel so privileged to be able to see them now, in their habitat.

Rhinos done, we resume with our drive.

The rangers spot some fresh leopard tracks, so we are hopeful.

No luck with the leopards, the sun is almost gone, as we find a nice spot for our sundowner.

Truly a magnificent machine — this modified Land Rover Defender can go virtually anywhere.

And I just can’t resist the spotter’s seat which I have seen for so many times on telly. Sit on safari tracker’s seat — DONE!

Suddenly Enoch senses leopards nearby so he sets off trying to track them. Amazing man!

The sun finally gives a fiery grand show over the South African bush, Enoch comes back empty-handed, but we soon we get to stalk our prized query — the leopards (read HERE)!




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