South Africa - Spring 2006 travel blog

our first lion

baboons viewing cars

great birds

peek-a-boo

reach high

impala herd

nyala

reedboek

a beautiful face


A cool front came through during the night bringing much welcomed breezes, clouds, and relief from the scorching heat of yesterday. We were up at 5:30am - I know, it's hard to believe - so we could hit the road shortly after they unlocked the gate to the campground and let the people out. A few feet from the entrance a white rhino calmly stood chewing on its breakfast grass. It was most accommodating and stayed still as a number of us jockeyed for position.

Then came the dilemma; which road to take. There were three choices and we let the folks ahead of us decide. It doesn't seem wise to view animals in a long parade, so when one went left, and two went straight, we went right. Although this is Easter weekend and the campgrounds are crowded, one you head into the park, you can easily feel all alone. However, when you do come across a knot of cars, you know something worthwhile is in view. That's how we came upon a lioness loping across the road and her consort, the king, reclined in the tall grass. He kept his head up long enough for Ken to get a few shots, but once he lay down to sleep, he disappeared in the tall grass. As cat nuts we hope to see more, but were delighted that we have seen 4 of the Big 5 before we have even gone to the private game park that promises the best viewing of all.

We went out again in the afternoon and ran into a traffic jam that rivals a Chicago rush hour. A giant tour bus was part of the mix. Everyone was trying to see two lion cubs high on a pile of boulders. I saw them with my binoculars, but they were too far away to photograph. If I were a mama lion, I would choose a spot like that, too. Very few animals could get up that high and the cubs will not be able to come down until they are larger and better able to handle themselves.

We have begun to formulate animal viewing advice for anyone who plans to follow in our footsteps: Don't bother to drive slowly and peer deep into the bush. This will only tire out your eyes. (Let me digress. The bush consists of grass about two feet tall, shrubs, spindly trees, and a few good sized trees, all growing in sandy soil.) The bush is so thick you can only see about ten feet into it. Even a large animal like an elephant or giraffe can disappear behind the vegetation he is eating at a moment's notice. You should pay attention when a bush or tree is waving, because there is probably a large animal trying to consume it. Most larger animals like to use the road just as we do, because the bush is hard for them to get through, too. Most of our best animal viewings started with the animal sharing the road with us. Drive as fast as the road allows; you can spot an animal face as long as it is right next to the road even when you are going 30mph on paved road. The animals are so used to people driving around looking at them, they don't pay any attention to us. We are just another part of the environment. Pay attention to knots of cars. Everyone is stopped for a reason. If you are lucky that reason will still be there when it is your turn to occupy that prime viewing spot.

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