Day Two – Tuesday, April 8, 2014: Wake-up call was indeed at 5:30 am. I avoided early morning coffee/tea and instead had a shower to truly wake myself up without stimulants but I did have a snack bar for sustenance. I felt that I could handhold the 80-400 VR lens better than sitting it on a pole, so I left the monopod in the tent.
Morning/Sunrise Game Drive
So eager was I to catch the sunrise, that with five minutes to go, I was climbing into our covered vehicle. We were going to Kruger National Park!
Unfortunately, sunrise was a drive-by at best and I barely managed to catch it on the fly.
Elephants were up and about early and some Helmeted Guineafowl flittered and flapped past us. And just like last night, Impala were everywhere. It was rutting season for the Impala and we soon saw an overabundance of them – usually a slew of females and one lone male – that we stopped photographing them.
We came across a Leopard kill – a reasonably fresh Impala carcass – up in a tree! We waited for a while in hopes that the Leopard would return but that did not happen.
We then circled around this strange rock formation called a Koppie (which is an isolated rock hill) and found a Klipsringer standing gloriously still on a lower rock and minding its own business. I had never heard of this type of antelope, let alone seen one.
Jacques, our guide, said to shoot fast because they are skittish and it would be gone soon. I did and it was.
Later, a Cape Vulture made such a ruckus in a far off tree that we had to stop and see if we could find it. We did but we could not see any other menace nearby. We circled back around that Koppie and either the Klipspringer had moved or another one of its family members had climbed to the highest section of the hill. So high that I could not get a clear shot of it.
Two Mongoose came out of their termite hill to find food; one ran off quickly while the other stood stock still like a statue until we passed by.
A Zebra taught its baby how to rub the parasites off its nose using a tree stump and a young Elephant wanted to show off his trumpeting.
Basically, it was a quiet morning.
We were back at camp by 10:00 am. Breakfast was ready and so was I. The traditional English/American breakfast was there: eggs, bacon, pancakes (crepes), tomatoes, toast, and potatoes. There was also fruit (mangoes!), yogurt, cereal, and all the other accoutrements for a hardy and filling meal.
The engaged couple from Eugene, Oregon chose to go back to Sabi Sands for their last morning; they were actually honeymooning before their wedding in July. An interesting concept, yes, but she was a teacher and would be teaching summer school. They left right after their game drive.
I walked around the camp taking pictures of the boma, the buildings and the swimming pool. However, the temperature had risen quickly so I ducked into my tent and slept until lunch. Strangely enough I was slightly hungry when I awoke and a good thing it was too. A light lunch of fruits and salads, and whatever they marinated the avocadoes in was simply sublime. Bobotie – a tasty authentic concoction of minced meat, curry, and some kind of fruit (raisins, sultanas, or chutney) – filled Crepes to top it all off. I spent the time in between lunch and the evening/sunset drive going through images and video on my new Nikon Coolpix AW110 and making notes of the day so far.
Evening/Sunset Game Drive
The evening safari was extraordinary!
This time a father and son from Perth, Australia, joined me, the Lancaster, Pennsylvania family, and of course, Jacques our fantastic guide/driver. It was a full-house in the covered vehicle but we managed well enough. We had just driven back into Kruger National Park when the call came in on the CB radio; three Lion brothers chilling out in an open plain.
They were one-year old cubs whose mother was dying of tuberculosis (apparently from eating a Cape Buffalo), so basically they were on their own for food and protection. The mother taught them well because they were not starving. And every vehicle within a mile was jockeying for position; waiting for one or all of them to stalk the wildebeests that were less than half a mile up the road.
They didn’t budge but we did. We went to a nearby watering hole and found some Hippopotamus that refused to come out of the water and an Elephant family taking a drink there as well.
Up the road a bit, we came across a large troop of Baboons. The females in heat are showing their swollen backsides to the males in the group.
One female with a baby in her arms scrabbled around us so quickly and hid in a tree that I barely got a shot of them. It’s a little blurry but, hey, I captured a memory. And sometimes that’s the important part of a journey.
The “pièce de résistance“, however, came about an hour later – another CB radio call – that the Leopard had returned to its kill in the tree we saw earlier that morning! We got there in a flash and got our position before too many of the other vehicles crowded us out. First, the Leopard jumped down from the tree when he saw that he had an audience but we held our ground; others left. A guide from the other side called on the CB radio to say that a Hyena was lurking about. And, according to Jacques, if there’s one thing a Leopard can’t stand, it’s a Hyena watching and waiting for any little morsel to drop into its greedy little hands. Our guide was correct, the Leopard wasn’t far from his food and leapt back up into the tree to ferociously feast… and perhaps rub it in the Hyena’s face.
We stayed for an hour and I made as many images as I wanted before the light started fading into twilight.
There are no open-space sundowners allowed in Kruger NP; just as open vehicles and driving off-road are also not allowed there.
As we drove back to the camp, we saw a Wild Dog in the distance and Elephants grabbing dinner from trees and bushes and two young Giraffe rough-housing a bit. It was a great game drive; we all agreed.
Dinner was fabulous; the baked pumpkin, green beans and caramelized sweet potatoes were divine. I do not like dark meat but the chicken (over rice) was so tender and juicy it slid off the bone and I devoured it like our Leopard friend in the tree. I had another glass of that wonderful South African semi-dry as well. And just like the previous night, after being zipped up tight and writing up my notes – I had yet to see a Rhino – I was dreaming before I fell asleep.
Continued in Day Three…