Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Kruger: The final chapter

It was with some great sadness that I found myself enjoying the last few days of my Kruger stay. It's always a surprise how quickly time seems to have gone when you get to the end of a trip, although looking back, some of the memories feel so far away. What a trip it has been! Not only because I was alone for the most part, but because I could relax as I drove, appreciating smaller things without the rush of knowing you only have a few days to find your photographic targets.

The two images below are of a Yellow Billed hornbill whose nest I found. Hornbill females are coaxed into the hollowed out tree trunk, and they pull out their feathers to make a soft lining for the eggs. The male then seals the female and eggs inside, so that no predators can get to them, and he becomes responsible for feeding them until he unseals the nest chamber. This means that he is constantly flying back and forth carrying food to his new family!

One of my last three nights was spent with a friend's parents who were also staying at Satara. We braaied and chatted well into the night, and I only fell asleep somewhere around 12.30am. Being that there were only two full days left, we woke at 4am, tired, slightly hungover and yet not wanting to miss a moment out in the park. Shortly after leaving camp we came across a pride of lions in the road, 1 male, 4 females and 2 cubs. Being first on the scene we were able to set the 'stopping distance' a respectable way off, and watched them for nearly half an hour before someone decided they should push forward, eventually forcing the lions off the road into the bushes. Our last morning the same lions were again seen, but this time the cars who arrived first drove straight up onto them, causing the male to panic and run wildly away, the cubs in hot pursuit. We left then.

We had some beautiful light, some very good lion sightings, and even a leopard. While watching one pride of lions, a male and female walked up to the only small car in sight, which had just arrived on the scene, and began to peer through the back window of it. I could not believe my eyes! I think I would have been pleased to have it happen to me, but the person in the little car did not look very impressed when we drove past him afterwards.

We were also fortunate enough to come across a new born Wildbeest calf. It was still wet, with afterbirth on it and the mother, and we must have missed the birth by about 5 minutes, as the baby was still learning to stand. It was quite exciting though, watching it taking its tentative first steps, trying to suckle and learning that it could run (even if not in the direction it intended)

My final day in the park, I wished for a leopard in a tree. Not having been specific enough in my wish, Kruger provided a leopard in a tree, just not the right tree for photography :) lesson learnt!

When we did leave the park, I felt sad, tired and excited for sushi and a duvet, and to see my dog. Sushi is one of those things I cannot help but crave, given a week without it. And there is nothing better than a soft duvet on a bed, even if it is wet from a certain Golden Retriever who likes to dry himself off on it after a swim.

I think that the six weeks in the park were the best thing I could have done, as it gave me time to think, time to relax, time to try and improve my photography. Hopefully one day I will be able to call some great wilderness area home, but until then at least I have my travels!

Two young waterbuck testing their strength at sunset

Dwarf Mongoose at home

Vulture at sunrise

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