Saturday 30th July 2011
As we booked a morning walk for today, we had to get out of our bed early to be on time. It was our last night in this Safari Tent. To keep within our budget (we never manage to do that), we had booked a hut for the remaining three nights. On the parking place we met the guides, Irvin and Bridgeman. Together with some people who did an Kruger trip excursion, a guy from India and an other girl from SA, we drove into the wild. I believe we started walking somewhere on the S29. We had to wait a bit for the sun to come up, and as Irving was explaining some do’s and don’ts, we heard a Leopard not far away from us. The grass was a bit dry and high and the wind wasn’t in our favor. On the other side from where we stood, we heard a Lion. Hmmm, difficult choice. What I liked about Irvin is that he explains his choices. A Leopard is very cunning and so the chance to spot him is about 10%. But the Lion instead, who kept on roaring, was a better chance to put our effort into. We went on walking on the open field, and later on the bushes became thicker. We heard the Lion very close, but couldn’t see it. Next to some water, with the male Lion in front of us, we hold on to listen to the animals. At the other side of the stream, we heard a Lioness calling to the male Lion. But again, we couldn’t see it. We did see a Jackal walking very close to us. Irvin decided that our chance of seeing that Lion was the highest if we worked together as a team. So stay close together in one single line. Don’t stand up high if he says to crouch. We continued our hunt and our guides became more enthusiastic. They even started to jog a bit to keep up with that walking Lion. Unfortunately some people in our group didn’t applied to the rules and even started talking within the line. They also didn’t keep up with us. Unless the hitch within the team, we caught up with the big Lion. Irvin let us waiting with Bridgeman when he took a snapshot from behind a bush. He waved at us that he saw the Lion walking about 50 meters away. We came to him and again we started to jog a bit as the normal walking speed for a Lion is faster than ours. Again those tourists didn’t stick to the rules and we had to wait again. Irvin was getting a bit annoyed with them, but he had no time to explain it another time again. In our final try to see the Lion, we lost track and he didn’t even roared anymore. Irvin and Bridgeman positioned us so that we could scan the area, but no signs of that Lion anymore. I went for a quick pee, because the Lion hunt is pretty exited. To bad we missed that Lion. Also the Lionesses were down in the grass somewhere keeping an eye on us, but we didn’t see them. On a rocky area we took a brake and had some breakfast which Bridgeman took with him. On a walk it’s not about what you see, but what you feel. Being out into the wild is an amazing thing. On that place, I would love to make a small and modest hut to spent the rest of my life there. Just enjoying nature, no mater what to day brings. The feeling to be out there would be the only thing necessary to survive. Ok, and sometimes a bit of Cathy too…
After the breakfast, we continued our walk. Irvin told a lot about the spoor we saw underway. Soon Bridgeman spotted an Elephant in the distance. We took our binocular and indeed, a big male with broken tusked walked some km’s away. Irvin found back his animal enthusiasm and made a plane to encounter that big massive bull. Soon when we came there, he saw that it was an old big bull with big broken tusks. In that area, there are a few like this one. One of them is the world famous Duke. Too bad it wasn’t Duke, but that doesn’t mean that his size was inferior to that of Duke. Very slowly we encountered the Ellie and took some pictures. I could hear my heartbeat in my throat. But the experience to be with an five ton wild animal is indescribable.
After a slowly and quit sneak out, we went back to our truck. Back in Lower Sabie, we were about 30 minutes late for our check out, but the walk took longer than expected. At the reception we got our hut key so that we immediately could go there. We loved it to have a hut already, because now we could relax in the afternoon. We made some early dinner our self again and went on a sunset drive with our belonging Marti. She did remembered us and also knew that we were friends from Gregor and Yvonne (Gregor is also a forumite). We loved it to be with her in the truck again, she’s simply the best guide we ever had. She knows a lot about everything around us and a drive with her is always a big party. We drove towards sunset dam where our first Big5 animal from that drive, some Buffalo, were drinking and scared away by a big fat crocodile.
We were not even finished at the sunset dam with spotting some birds as Marti pumped down the gas to spot the breading herd of Elephants who were crossing the road. They did just drink some water at the river and now went on feeding themselves in the bush.
Only three minutes later, the next Big5-er showed up. Wow, with those three Rhino’s at the other side of the river, this must be a tremendous interesting drive.
Fifteen minutes later we had this amazing sunset. A romantic moment, as Marti asked everyone to be silent and just enjoy the beautiful sighting. You can imagine that Cathy took this best picture of the day award winning image.
On our way to the S21, we heard that some other people saw a Buffalo kill by Lions somewhere down the H4-1. Also a Lion would have been killed on the hunt. Then also Hyenas popped up the scene, stole the carcass and took the head of the dead Lioness. Till so far the story, these are the spoor we found:
After a quick leg stretch on the S79, we went down the S21, where we saw a Giraffe and a Genet. The sun was gone already and we need our spotlights to find the night animals, at least, we thought we needed those spotlights. Marti suddenly parked the car and rustled everyone to keep the mouth shut. The amazing thing about Marti is that she can actually speak with the animals. She made a sound which we recognized as a Leopard. And yes, the sound echoed back to us. So there could be two possible explanations for that. Either she knew that there would be a Leopard, or she heard it from a driving truck. Both are unbelievable, but it’s a fact that it was there. Unfortunately for us, the Leopard didn’t want any company that night, so stopped answering the call. But now an other animal made a sound, very close to us. Marti made another sound. In October we saw on that same road a Black Rhino and she also made that sound then. But also the Rhino didn’t want to stand into the spotlights tonight, so bad luck for us. On our way back to the H4-1, we did see some Scrub Hares, but as we didn’t had spotlight this drive, our luck depends on the other spotters. It’s ok that some people just don’t know how to handle a spotlight, but if you tell them how to use it and they still don’t do it correctly and they also don’t want to hand over the spotlight, you are just ruining an other ones drive. But thanks to Marti we had an other great experience. Thanks Marti, if you read this.
Three out of five a day is almost regular, but the walking experience to be that close to a Lion made this day a bit more special. And also Marti’s skills to entertain us time and time again delivered us an other great day in Kruger.