Another early start to our safari! We woke up about 5 and I prepared our early AM meat-riffic breakfast. (South Africa has meat 24/7… we fell in love with their tasty biltong snacks!)
After cleaning up, I went to grab my shoes and out jumped more wildlife! A mouse! It scared me so much I screamed which brought John a-running from around the corner- perhaps a kudu had snuck into our accommodations?? When he realized it was a little mouse, he corralled it into the bathroom, and I helped by shrieking and jumping around on the bed.
And thus began our very early start!
We saw many more animals!
Later in the day, it came time for the highly anticipated sunset drive safari! This was exciting because you were taken under the wing by a knowledgeable tour guide with a plethora of all kinds of interesting facts about the animals. It was like you were living out your very own Animal Planet program!
We were taken out in the classic safari vehicle: cloth-covered and fatigue-green.
And off we went! Louie, our guide, wanted to know what we were hoping to see. Most everyone was in agreement: Leopards! Cheetahs! Lions! That’s what I was hoping for as we had not yet seen those (besides a leopard, but not really as he lounging on a rock so very far away from us, we needed the telephoto lens, AND then needed to zoom in.) John, ever the individual, shouted ‘pangolin!’ which elicited a chuckle from Louie.
“Oh, if we see that, it will be a VERY special day”, he said in a wistful way that brought you in a little closer to his strange world. We wouldn’t see one, but we still held onto a piece of hope we knew would likely go unfulfilled.
On the first part of our guide we saw rhinos, zebras, impala and the like.
As we were nearing sunset, he drove us out to some unmarked roads. He told us he would let us experience the peace the bush had to offer.
“But first, please wait for me to ready my rifle.”
That is not a statement to be trifled with.
And so he prepared the only thing to stand in between us, and any untamed wildlife that rarely sees another ‘animal’ walk only upon 2 legs. John teased that I would be tastier of the two of us, so he wasn’t nervous at all. And after the ‘all clear’, we were allowed to experience this taboo of being outside of a vehicle in Kruger.
As you strolled around the vehicle, every bit of nature you saw, but you also felt.
The sun- you saw the mango orange glow, but you felt it in your eyes even when they were closed.
The fields- you saw the naturally charred remains of bush fires, but you felt the small vibrations of the creeping things making their way through the tender grass firstlings inching to start anew.
And everything smelled so sweet. So warm. It was a feeling I wanted to hold onto forever.
But the luxury of an unrestrained few minutes were over and we were off to look for the night dwelling animals. We were given spotlights and looked for the glow of eyes in the distance. Louie instructed us about bush hares, bush babies, wild dogs, and a small cat-like animal (forgot the name!) that was a special and unusual sighting.
As we drove back to our camp it got so cold, the fleece blankets they provided came in handy. John and I cuddled in closer, and we wished we had packed some brandy to warm the insides as well!
But what a surprise awaited us as we were within 3 minutes of our camp’s gate! Two male lions! What a sight! Louie explained they have a natural border of which they patrol together, ensuring no other lions have breeched the invisible, yet palpable border.
It was a very exciting and photo-worthy time for all of us! There were several other Americans on board and they were yelping and jostling around to get the best shot. Of course this was blocking everyone else’s shot. They were asked by the others to sit down to allow the rest to capture the moment. Undeterred, they snapped on. Americans! Like a famous essayist, David Sedaris, has said: an American will find no harsher critic than another American. But even those knuckleheads finally got the hint, and sat down to give the rest of us a chance.
Just a short drive and we were back at our home away from home. Another braai, another glass of wine, another early sleep.
Tomorrow we are leaving the countryside and headed for the big city, Cape Town! 5 days of city life awaited us! With mixed emotions we packed up and bid adieu to the lovely Kruger.