Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tour Day 2

Our first day in the Kruger National Park
View photos for this entry.

We traveled into the Kruger National Park where we hoped to spot the Big Five. I warned Joe that I didn't remember seeing all the Big Five as a child and that we'd be really lucky to see just a few. With that, we started driving through the park.

Note: I was really hoping to see an African wild dog, but was under the same warning: they're very rare, most people don't see them, they're very shy, etc.

The Big Five: Rhino, Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Cape Buffalo

The first thing we saw was a kudu. Then some baboons playing on top of a huge rock group. Pictures of the baboons were a little difficult to get as they were quite a distance off. I won't bore you with a long list of animals we saw, but will do my best to wow you with all the pictures.

So, we're driving along, slowly, towards our evening destination: a rest camp called Skukuza. When I booked the trip, I was told we'd be staying at Pretoriuskop, so was surprised to find they had moved us. I was told that the park was full and the only place to stay was at a 2 bedroom "house" which we'd share with our guide. When we got to Skukuza, we were told that there had been a mixup and that we were in fact staying at Pretoriuskop. No problem. Back in the car for the long drive back the way we'd just come.

Our tour guide, being park savvy, took a different road back and when we were halfway back, we spotted a group of cars up ahead. (You learn to look out for wildlife AND parked cars, as that's usually an indicator that someone has spotted something in the bush.) I peered through the front window (Joe and I were backseat drivers) and practically freaked out! A wild dog! He was walking down the road, just trotting along. He walked right past our car before disappearing into the bush. To see just one of these beautiful animals was worth the entire trip! I was so happy! I had really wanted to see one, but had resolved myself to the fact that I probably wouldn't, to be happy with what I did see. After that sighting, I was on cloud nine! And yes, I think they're beautiful and I think the babies are terribly cute, although some folks think they're not so cute.

At this point in the day, we'd seen the one of the Big Five… and elephant. Better luck tomorrow.

So, we're about 5 minutes from the gate of our rest camp and Joe's peering through the bush and suddenly asks Pierre to back the car up a bit. We see a leopard, walking right towards us through the grass. We only got one picture of him as he was a fast walker and wasn't out of the bush for very long. Once he walked back into the grass, he was gone.

So, two of the Big Five in one day: definitely not too shabby, especially considering one of our sightings was of a leopard, which I had never seen on any of my trips as a child! Before dinner, Joe and I took a guided night drive in an open-air vehicle. It was freezing outside, so we were thankful for the blankets they provided.

As for our night sightings... a leopard hiding in some brush, one lion and a small group of buffalo, bringing out final count of the Big Five to four!

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