South Africa > Kruger National Park
13 May 2013
Check-in formality at Africa on Foot done, and lunch too, so we head out for our first ever safari outing — a late afternoon drive, sundowner (coke for us) and an evening drive before dinner. We just don’t know what to expect.
Even in death, it is majestically gnarled.
My first ever vulture sighting — an African white-backed — looking forlorn in the low sun.
We push further into the bush, as the communication radio crackles with messages from other jeeps — the rangers share information on animal sightings, so it’s really a collective effort nailing these elusive creatures.
Suddenly a brief stop — apparently a pride of lions has been spotted at a nearby dam, and we have to wait for our turn to approach them — it’s not good to have too many visitors around.
Just around the bend, through some bush, here we are — the so-called Ross Pride — the two adult brothers, called Good and Bad, lazing in the late afternoon sun.
To our left across the water, two females of the pride.
And a few metres just next to our jeep, another female. Huge cats these are, fancy a tummy rub?
There’s another jeep too, which soon reverses and leaves. Everybody is told to be quiet, and to sit still — no standing up, no talking, no noise, no flashes — very important not to spook these lions. In fact the same rules apply when observing other wild animals as well.
The other jeep gone, we move closer to the males, as Matt kills the engine. It’s quite fascinating — awesome wild predators just metres away, while we are ‘safe’ in our jeep. It is so calm and serene, just the sound of birds.
This must be Bad (since I’m told he has a scar on the face) — he just opens his eyes to look at us, obviously disturbed by the pesky diesel engine.
I guess we are more impressed of him than he of us. He stares at us for while and then shuts the eyes to continue napping. Maybe they need to rest for tonight’s hunt? Anyway it’s very fascinating to observe these creatures so close, in their natural habitat.
Meanwhile brother Good does not bother to acknowledge us at all. This pride has been around in this area for a while, and there’re virtually daily reports of their whereabouts and what they are up to, so no surprise they are used to humans gawking at them. But it’s still amazing to see them so inert now knowing full well they can become vicious predators elsewhere.
We let the pride go since we have another agendum before it gets too dark.
One of my favourites — Pumbaa the warthog — suddenly appears in the middle of the path, stares at us, then struts off into the bush. I love the upright tail — just like a car radio antenna — so easily spotted in the bush. As cute as I thought!
The sun is pretty low in the clear African sky now, and I hope there’s still enough light for photography.
The sun almost hidden among the trees and we spot another jeep — there must be action nearby.
Further into the bush, and there’s yet another jeep — stalking a herd of elephants … awesome!
One of the males in the herd …
… which doesn’t look too old yet.
Nice profile — much larger than Asian elephants, and the ears are bigger too.
There’s a bigger male there, probably the boss, and a youngster. They don’t make much noise, just rustling sounds as they grab the branches to chomp on the leaves.
We observe the animals at close range, as Matt maneuvres the jeep whenever the whole herd moves.
It’s quite spectacular to be able to do this — the stuff we used to see only on NatGeo or Discovery!
From time to time, the cheeky youngster raises his ears and pretends to charge at us …
… but always turns away at the last minute. Great entertainment for us, the adults couldn’t care less but continue feasting on the leaves.
One final shot of this family of gentle giants — what an experience. They are free to roam and are protected in this reserve.
We head for a nice spot for our sundowner, but not before bumping into a lonely kudu — potential dinner for the lions. 🙂
And indeed we get ourself a spectacular sunset, which deserves a memorable leap!
> THE END