Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Kruger part 2

Day 3 got off to a charging start again. At around 3am, the first Woodlands Kingfishers begin their shrill calling to one another. It is such a fantastic sound, the perfect sound of summer, and when it wakes me, I just lie in bed and listen to them, a smile on my face and a slight flutter of excitement in my heart. Inevitably I fall asleep again, and struggle to find my phone to switch the alarm off when it begins to ring at 4am. Once the coffee is ready, it’s off to the gate, spotlights at hand.

After driving an hour or so, I spotted a huge herd of sleepy buffalo at a dam. It was overcast, so I gave them an obligatory look, before driving on. Not 20 metres later, out of the corner of my eye I saw a tail flick, and there lay a cheetah - unbelievable the 5th of the trip, in only 3 days! This was a serious surprise; if it wasn’t for the photos I would think I dreamt it. Almost at once said cheetah raised his lanky form up from the ground and walked over to a small rock, which he climbed on to get a better view of the area. There were some impala rams grazing infront of him, and a small herd of females behind. He just sat, biding his time, with the patience of a cat. When he deemed the moment
right, he began to stalk them. After about 10 minutes, the ones on the road behind spotted him, which gave rise to a cacophony of snorts as they all alarm called as one.  This didn’t seem to disturb him, and he continued on his way towards the bachelor herd until he was within about 20 metres and each impala in the vicinity had his or her eye trained firmly on the cheetah, emitting a deep snort every couple of seconds. It was quite an experience to be in the middle of all the snorting impala, and, but for the safety of the car doors, I may have felt just like one.

Claws with a purpose

With the excitement over, the cheetah cut his losses and trotted off down the road. All this time, we had been alone at the sighting, over half an hour of private game viewing in Kruger…  A while later we were joined by a few other cars, but had a great position at the front when the cheetah came upon a broken tree, and climbed it to scent mark and scan through the trees.

Fantastic Vantage point

We did virtually a full day in the park, having a breakfasty lunch at Nkhulu Picnic site. Nkhulu is known for its ‘buffalo pies’, but I can inform you of a far better kept secret on the menu: Chicken burgers. We discovered them last year, and to this date I have eaten no equal. I don’t know whether it’s the sauce, the onions, or the basting, but they are incredible! We drove all the way there from Pretoriuskop just to enjoy one, and it did not disappoint.

On the way back, we had a pleasant surprise in the form of a leopard lying completely relaxed in an open tree rising above the bushes below. There was no ‘light’ to speak of, but it was great viewing, with hardly any other cars for company. This meant we had seen the ‘Super Seven’! (My big 5, plus Cheetah and Wild dog).  Not a bad start at all, with 39 nights still to go…

Day 4 dawned overcast, to match my mood. I had just found out that our Exam marks were out, and I was certain I had failed. In fact, I had resigned myself to some serious failure, and was not looking forward to finding them out. That aside, from this evening I was to be alone, as Dan was flying back to Cape Town. Poor Bart was also due at Landrover Nelspruit, to have his new handbrake lining fitted, and I was concerned.

My day improved relatively quickly when we found a few hyena pups playing outside their den. If you know me, you will know I have quite a thing for hyena, I think they are powerful and strong, and the pups are just gorgeous. If you have seen a small one, you will understand. They behave just like puppies, with naughty eyes that melt your heart. They have not yet developed the patchiness of their parents, nor do they have missing ears or scars all over. They are just plain cute. These 2 came right up to the car, sniffing around out of curiosity.  It was very difficult to restrain myself from reaching out and ruffling the hair on one's head, as he was in easy reaching distance. They then began to chew on the tyres, and we spoke to them just as you would a badly trained puppy, with phrases like ‘I told you not to do that’ and ‘next time you’ll get quite a smack’. Each time they would jump a few feet backwards, as if they knew they had done something wrong. When the talking failed to work, a gentle tap on Bart’s side did the trick.

Cubs at play

In your face cuteness!

Going for the tyre!

The duo then decided to chase each other around in circles, and try and inflict some of those scars I previously spoke of. The best part was that the whole time they appeared to be looking at us, almost as though they were making sure we were paying them attention! About two hours later, the mother wandered off and the kids disappeared down into their den. We said goodbye, and began the long trek to Nelspruit where Bart was fixed in record time…

Before I knew it, I was back in the park, alone. I may sound crazy, but I was a little sad, and already a little lonely. I have never done something like this before! A few kilometers from Pretoriuskop I got the call I had been dreading all day… “You passed!” I’ll admit that I cried and laughed, and screamed a little bit, all at once, and anyone who had seen me would have thought me insane. I was just happy beyond belief. And there is nothing like 2 minutes noodles followed by jelly to celebrate. That bottle of wine in the corner is eyeing me suspiciously as I type…

Hyena cub at densite


  1. Wow, what can I say? I have never stayed at Pretorius Kop, seems I have missed some.
    Your Leopard in the tree, reminds me once at Elephant Plains where Greg du Toit gave us the good tips flash photography difficult overcast conditions.
    Like the low angle shots with the cubs.
    Wish I could be there …
    Thanks for sharing

  2. So happy you passed. Good for you for trying out a stretch of being alone. You will develop as a person through this.
    Your photos as always are entrancing.