Friday, 9 December 2011

I lost my heart to a hyena: Kruger part 6

As part of my blog today I thought I would mention a bit about why Kruger is so special to me. Four years ago, almost exactly, I came here for the first time independently with Dan and Romy, two of my best friends. We had 13 days in the park, and 3 days in the Sabie Sands with my dad, brother and his girlfriend for my dad's birthday. I got given, as a Christmas present an H9 camera, which is a Sony Advanced Digital Camera, with a 15 times zoom. I got the gift early, so that I could capture my memories in Kruger for the first time.

We had an incredible trip, with 9 leopards in the park, and 4 in the Sands. We also saw incredible sightings of Wild Dogs, mating lions and virtually everything I had hoped for, even a Rock Python squeezing an impala to death, and swallowing it slowly. I took home a wonderful collection of memories, and photo's I thought were pretty great. I then posted my first ever shot on Outdoorphoto, a great website for anyone wanting to learn about photography, and get crit on images. While browsing the site, I began to fall in love with the photos and the community as a whole, and 6 months later decided to buy my first SLR for a trip to the Kalahari.

Adorable Rhino calf yawning after a nap

Between those two trips, the sightings we had and the joy of capturing an image, I was hooked, and wildlife became my absolute passion, above all else. Photography became the other, and I slowly improved, getting more hooked with each click of the shutter. It's too late for me now, nothing in my life will ever be the same, and I am so happy about that. My whole world has been changed completely, and I will never look back! There is no greater joy than looking through the lens, at a beautiful leopard as it moves silently through the grass, or a baby impala, as it springs about of stick-like legs. Even a bird, each one so beautiful and unique, their colours transformed by magical light into poetry in motion.  So I have a lot to be grateful to the Kruger Park for!

A very proud bird with a rather little fish!

Crocodile tail

I have had some good sightings the past two days, I have seen 4 leopards, 2 which were a very shy mating pair, who I could only hear as they did the deed in the river bed. The third was a male with a kill not far from Sunset Dam, but he couldn't access his tree'd kill as the tree was surrounded by hyenas, so he was sulking underneath a nearby bush. The fourth was hunting a herd of impala. The leopard must have been within 50 meters of them, moving at a painstakingly slow pace toward them in the baking sun. It is quite something to watch the patience of a cat, each step deliberate and calculated. Over about 2 hours the leopard barely moved 5 meters, often slinking low into the grass, or doing a very slow leopard crawl. In the end, there was no kill, and although I felt like I had been baked in an oven afterwards, it was exciting to watch.

Rhino bums

I have had a few lion sightings, one even produced a short buffalo chase, but it was quite far off. The birds have been active, with many a woodland Kingfisher calling as he flits from tree to tree.

Charging into the water in the midday heat!

Young Males sparring

Yesterday I moved to Berg-en-Dal, just for a night, as my dad is arriving today for a short stay over his birthday. I therefore spent my last proper morning with the hyenas at the den, and felt like I was leaving some friends behind! They were in fine form, with a new and very interesting bone to play with, which caused absolute havoc amongst the cubs. It is great to see the signs of aggression and dominance that they display even at such a young age. Tails would be raised, and low calls or excited giggles let out as they chased and bit one another for the prize.

The adorable 'Teenager' having a nap

The hyena I refer to as 'Teenager' because he or she is taller and far lankier than all the others, with legs that seem not quite to fit the body, won the prize quite frequently. I presume it is a she, as she behaved quite dominantly when she joined in the games. Each time she got the bone, she would come racing up to the car and put it down a meter from me before trying to chew it. It was quite sweet, and I felt slightly included in the game...

One of the other pups decided that he wanted a bit of my beanbag, as the one strap was dangling down, and raised himself onto his hind legs to grab it. He nearly earned himself a pat on the head for being so cute, although I thought better of this. At one point, an adult arrived covered in blood, and was licked by nearly every cub, I presume due to some excitement over the smell. One cub looked rather silly, with his face covered in green stomach contents, and was very smelly. In fact, the whole den site smelt quite a bit more, and I imagine that a carcass had possibly been dragged there in fact the previous night. I have spent so much time at this den, which has been such a highlight in the trip!

I slept extremely soundly last night, my last night alone for four whole days... So looking forward to my first ever stay at Biyamiti! I will update if possible, depending on Internet availability... For now, it's off to the airport I go!


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