We’ve been in a kind of denial about Kruger National Park having cats — lions, leopards, cheetah, etc. We’d been a couple of times and never seen any hint of them. Yeah, we’d seen other people’s photos, but it was just hard to believe. But, we finally had our opportunity — and it was grand! (Some pictures below!)
Our trip to Kruger was on 2-4 November . The girls did a splendid job and really enjoyed it.
We got to see two young male lions laying right next to the road not too far into the park. The first one we watched for about 10 minutes, he would pop his head up when he heard a noise but was lying on his back/side. As we decided to move on since he wasn’t too entertaining, we were passing the other car stopped with us and then could see there was another sitting under a bush beside him (but we couldn’t see that before). He was sitting up so we watched them for a while before they got up and walked away. We would have assumed they were lionesses until they got up to walk away — their mane was still very light and short. It’s hard to imagine them getting much bigger, but they are young and I guess they do!
We had great accommodations at our camp right next to the river! The vegetation prevented seeing much from the actual cottage, but we had breakfast on our patio which was situated next to the fence where we could see and hear everything. We went for an early (5a) drive on Saturday in hopes of seeing something. The first two hours we saw a couple of elephants. And that’s all.
But as we were heading back to the camp and topped a hill, something little walked out into the road a distance away. I said, “What is that?” The girls thought it was a baboon or monkey (it was that small), but it was walking like a four-legged animal. It sat down in the middle of the road and as we got closer, the mother lion walked out from the other side of the road next to it. Wow! Then two other cubs came out following the mother. They sat there in the middle of the road for a while in front of us. Another car drove up behind us. Then the mother started to walk away. That first cub we saw was very, very slow and the mom lion just left him lagging behind — eventually leaving him completely! We followed her up the road and eventually she walked off the side with the two cubs.
We drove on up the hill (less than 100 meters) and there was another lioness and her four cubs — and a tour truck and other cars around them. This one carried one in her mouth and sat around for another minute. Then we followed (second in line) this lioness and her cubs down the road until she walked off the road with the cubs following. Definitely a great lion morning! We were then surrounded by a whole bunch of baboons and made our way back to the camp and had breakfast and packed up to go out again. The lions definitely made our early morning worth it.
On Saturday, we saw lots of elephants — including following about 15 (including babies) to a waterhole where they played and cooled off for about 20 minutes. It was cool and overcast on Friday (which was nice) but began to warm up on Saturday (though it was overcast until mid-afternoon). We saw a few giraffe and we also found another lioness and cubs down by the Sabie river — we didn’t have a great view but were able to see them down there. We saw the other usual things: mongoose, hippos everywhere, rhinos (and a young rhino, but from far off) and a couple of cape buffalo (not many and on the far side of the Sabie river). We had a large monitor lizard surprise us while we ate lunch at a picnic site. We saw a mother hyena and her cubs as well.
Just before getting to our Saturday night camp, there were a couple of cars stopped. Only one seemed to know what it was looking at — through binoculars. After listening to them try to explain it to the other car I looked at one lonely tree that was over the horizon of the ground (it was about sunset time) and sure enough, a leopard stood up on the branch and then laid back down. We sat there for quite a while trying to help the girls see the leopard through the binoculars. It was pretty much impossible to see without but was certainly a leopard when we got the sights on it. Way, way, way far off (check out the picture with the arrow in the gallery), but we saw it.
When we got to the camp, they upgraded us to a family house instead of our cottage. We wished we had friends and family with us! We had a big place on the Rhino Trail next to the Dam with three patios, three bedrooms, a large living room (with a TV that had no good shows on), kitchen, garage, etc. It was a nice treat — we wished we had arrived a little earlier to enjoy it! We got up at 4a the next morning to go on a sunrise drive (since we learned that 5a is way after sunrise here!). We saw a hyena run across the road, two sleeping rhinos hidden in the bush, some lovely birds, and that’s it. Really. It was two hours of absolute nothing again — with a grumpy little one. We went back to the house, had breakfast, and stayed around there for a couple of hours. Ellianna, Caroline and I went for a walk on the trail by the dam at the camp. We saw a Rhino, squirrel, and a hippo loaded with turtles.
Then we made a much longer than expected drive out of the park — after the guy at camp wouldn’t sell us gas without cash — and he also wanted South African cash, not Swaziland! — and we didn’t think about using the ATM). It was a nervous drive toward the end.
We were backed up down the road by a very, very large elephant bull (with the longest tusks we’ve seen), saw several large journeys of giraffe, and were completely surrounded at one point by a large herd (30+) of elephant passing through. The girls were very excited to see something they had been looking for — a hippo walking because my mom said she had never seen a hippo walking. So, we did spot one walking through the bush beside road up from Crocodile River as we drove along.
Sunday was very, very hot but we finished seeing a mixture of zebra, giraffe, and wildebeest together just before the exit and about six warthoglets with a mom and dad warthog at the camp gate.
Last Wednesday, we went to Hlane Royal National Park here in Swaziland with a visiting lecturer, Floyd Vidler, and met up with our third year students were celebrating with the Allisons. We had a great time seeing more elephants and rhinos (including a baby rhino). We ended the day getting stuck in a mud hole. Oops! After being stuck for about 45 minutes, the park staff came and pulled us out, thankfully. We were a little worried about getting out in the mud after seeing some strange things in the water. 🙂