A Summers Safari in Winter
Clambering up onto the jeep, bedecked in multiple shades of khaki, the anticipation was running high. We had done our reading, we had listened to everyone's advice, and finally, here we were. South Africa is famous for its abundance of wildlife and we had travelled from the first chills of winter, across the equator, to the sunny climate of the southern hemisphere to find some.
As we enter the game reserve, the first thing we notice is that the dry heat causing havoc on the landscape. The park is dry and bare. Trees lay on their sides, which we just couldn't work out. Had a wind storm passed this way? Happily, we were not doing a self-guided drive and our guide and tracker filled us in.
Once the trees are picked bare by the animals, hungry elephants push them over. They then enjoy the roots which are full of nutrients. We encounter one hungry male doing just that and the power of the creature is immense. We have another encounter with a single bull elephant doing the same thing the following day. As we drive by, along the dusty track, he follows us. He's a grumpy chap. Turns out, he isn't hungry (or hangry). This poor guy is just in search of a lady friend. He harrumphs quite close to us, and the guide decides to take evasive action. We career into some bushes on the side of the track. It was the closest we got to a close call.
Spots, Stripes and Wings
And so to slightly less threatening animals. Along the way, we meet some of Africa's most famous residents. Such as majestic Giraffes. On our second morning, we spot some long necks reaching for leaves in the distance. As the jeep approaches we notice that there were also zebras winding their way through the area as well. These two sets of species like to co-exist as it gives them a little extra protection from the predators of the area. Plus, as they feast on different parts of the tree, they are not competing for food. Speaking of predators. We next stop to look at some vultures, perched ominously in a tree by the road. As we try to snap a photo (very difficult against the bright blue sky) our tracker, was using his amazing eyesight to spot something a little more exciting nearby. What none of us saw, was a pride of lion twenty meters into the bushes.
The jeep crunches through the branches to bring us just three metres from the group of big cats. There are about 6 lions and their cubs. Some bask in the sun, whilst others were finish the last remnants of a recent kill. It is thrilling to be so close. They aren't interested in us at all. Bellies full and the heat of the day leaves them lazy. We could have watched them all day, but had to make tracks. As we leave the scene, we see the hyenas beginning to prowl the edges of the area.
We had an even better hyena sighting when we visited their den. Until the cubs are grown, their families live in underground dens. It was our good luck that everyone was out and about when we drove past. The cubs were incredibly inquisitive. The cubs wander around the jeep by themselves while mum rests nearby. One little guy even has a little chew on the tire to find out what it was all about.
Over our five game drives, we saw so much beautiful fauna. Springboks, impalas and tiny little deer darted in front of the jeep. We met a beautiful leopard tortoise. Birds and butterflies flitted past. However, the things that we were most excited about, we a little duller. Meet the chubby guys, the ones that you don't want charging you, whose center of gravity trump yours every time. The hippos. We hear them before we get to the waterhole. They grunt and snort surprisingly loudly. Now, don't be fooled by there dainty swimming, or chilled out demeanor. If a hippo takes a disliking to you, you are in trouble. They kill more people than any other large creature in Africa. With this in mind, we don't get that close.
Back on dry land, we're lucky enough to see, rhinos; black and white. You'll notice that this black rhino still has its horn. Some paces resort to de-horning their rhinos to protect them. These big guys have around the clock poacher patrols instead. Did you know that when the locals describe white rhinos, they say "wide rhinos"? If you look closely at the two species, the black rhino has quite a pointy mouth, where the white is...well...wider!
Getting up early, and hammering around in a jeep is exhausting but so rewarding. To get up close and personal with such interesting animals is such a privilege. I couldn't recommend taking a safari strongly enough. Even if you don't manage to spot your favorite animals, you are still greeted with gorgeous skies.
Footnotes: Photographs and Words fromRosie from Flying Fluskey Blog.
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