Hakuna Matata - Day 309
Hakuna Matata - Our Safari has started. Oh My! What a fabulous experience! So many amazing sightings of so many of the Big 5 animals.
We met our guide Chris and our fellow safari travellers nice and early and snuggled in the back of the jeep. The wind was strong and cold, so I was glad we were given blankets and that I had the sense to wear my puffer jacket, unlike Tim. I kept him warm though. We drove the short distance to the Game Park and within a few minutes Chris stopped the jeep, reversed and pointed to two large objects hiding in the bush: mother and child White Rhinos. The daughter was about 2.5 years old and kept near to her Mum. Chris informed us about the issues with poachers in Africa and how recently a large gang, including police, had been caught smuggling rhino horn to SE Asia. Even this park has experience problems with poachers in the past, however, they were caught and prosecuted. After a while, giving us time to click away on our cameras, we drove on, turned right up a slight incline to be greeted by three female elephants. Wow! One started coming straight for the jeep, Chris slowly reversed and said that the elephant was just curious, there was no aggression in its behaviour. What a delight sitting watching these large 6-ton gentle giants. Chris was so enthusiastic which spread infectiously amongst us. It is wonderful to see someone passionate about their job. Next on the list was a few zebras with three giraffes wandering around. The zebras seem rather nervous, however, the giraffes were very relaxed, gliding across the track near to us, offering us some great photo opportunities. Suddenly Chris heard on the radio a sighting of the cheetah. There is only 1 left in the park, one recently died and the other disappeared which sounded rather ominous! It was not long until we came across it, lying down against a large bush on the north side to keep out of the cold wind. Chris reckoned it had eaten recently, nothing too big, so by Sunday, it may be out hunting again. I wonder how he could tell. Time was getting on, people were feeling cold and hungry and so we turned back ready for breakfast. Our next trip was at 2pm so just a few hours spare, writing and reading. This time, we dressed warmly, and despite the cold was surprised how many animals we saw. First up was Wildebeest, then Chris stopped the jeep and got out to show us a white looking rock. It turned out to be Hyena poo. As this scavenger eats the whole of the animal, the calcium in the bones causes the dung to be white. He didn’t pick it up as it’s very acidic plus with lots of bacteria, he did later pick up a dung beetle ball though.
Moving to a different area to this morning, we came across more Giraffe. I do love these creatures, so elegant. Later we saw a small herd of female water buffalo and their young. There were no males amongst them, our guide reckoned they were somewhere else having a 'boys jolly'. He explained that despite them looking like cows, don’t underestimate them. These animals, together with the Black Rhino and Hippo are those that he is most wary of when tracking by foot. We came across quite a few Warthogs this afternoon, perhaps they are late risers as we didn’t see any this morning. One of our fellow guests, Jody, started singing the warthog song from the Lion King and Chris joined in. Our group are all American, LaTasha and Kevin from Georgia, Jody and his wife Jennifer from LA, Larry and Barb from Indiana, Eve from Washington with her old school friend Diane now live in Alaska. Next stop was a waterhole where a pair of large nostrils appeared in the middle of the lake. Then some more. Seven Hippos were wallowing in the water. One started to rise as if it was going to charge. Chris quickly reversed the jeep, and it settled down luckily. Later we met two new white rhinos right by the track. Despite their long horns, which could kill you, these animals are very placid, unlike their black cousins. It is so sad that they are poached – all due to such greed. If China band the use of rhino horn, the poaching would stop. Come on China, get your act together. A jackal trotted past us into the bush and a while later our three female Elephant friends were hogging the road. We sat enjoying taking photos and watching them powerfully pull up thick barbed bushes using their foot and truck. During the afternoon Chris was trying to track a black rhino. He, at last, spotted the beast on the far hill, so we sped across, but to no avail. Radio messages were zooming across the other jeeps checking if anyone else had sighted it. We saw the three elephants again in the bush and they seemed agitated. It transpired that the elephants had also seen the rhino and were not happy. Unbelievably, Chris got out of the jeep and walked into the bush. Suddenly we heard a roar…of one of the elephants and Chris legging it out of the bush. Someone had panicked and shut his car door – I’m not sure why, but this was quickly opened and he jumped back in. Oh, the excitement. We raced off to follow the elephants but sadly after a big chase, the score was Chris 0 Rhino 1. Time to head back and have a hot bath to warm up. Where is this hot South African sun? Apparently, it will appear tomorrow.