Monday, July 18, 2011

Kruger National Park - The Big Five in one day

It doesn't happen every day that one sees the Big Five on the same day, let alone in under 5 hours. Today the 115km drive from Mopani Camp to Satara really made my trip to the Kruger Park not only worthwhile, but also very exciting. We left Mopani at 7 this morning. The one Big Five member that any visitor to the Kruger is about a 100% sure to see was the first on my list. The Elephant is not only abundant in the Kruger, but they are also very easy to spot due to their size. Sometimes you find a loner strolling around and when you are lucky you might find a herd of over 20 or more together. Really an amazing sight.

Second in line were the Buffaloes. To me they are nothing more than cattle on steroids, but I wouldn't climb out of the car when one is near. It is quite an amazing feeling when a herd of over a thousand crosses the road in front of you car. You are also very likely to come across Buffalo on your first day in the Park.

The third on the list is the Rhinoceros. If you are in the southern parts of the park, your chances of seeing them are also good, but they are much less in numbers than the Elephants. You don't normally find them in in the northern parts and they usually walk alone. It does occasionally happen that they are three or four together, that is considered a good "sight". There are two types, the more common white rhinoceros that eats grass, and the very scarce black rhinoceros that eats leaves.

The last two on the Big Five List is the highlight of any visitor to the Kruger Park. Your chances of seeing lions are relatively good, because everyone is looking out for them. Getting a close-up picture of them is not always that easy. I actually had a very close encounter today, but I would admit that it was a foolish encounter. We stopped at three lions that was lying in the grass next to the road. Because they were on the other side, I lifted myself through the window to get a better picture not thinking what might be behind me. In The Kruger you are not supposed to do something as foolish as that, and I was not thinking. All of a sudden someone hooted and when I looked behind me there was a female in the grass behind me, staring at me like I was nothing more than a dumb tourist. I jumped back and still tried to get a picture, but my camera that has been giving me trouble since the beginning of the day froze on me. The lion walked around the car and joined the other 3 on the other side of the road. In total we saw about 16 lions today, in three different places. It is always nice to see lions, but they are very hard to spot in the grass.

If you get to see the fifth member of the Big Five, call yourself lucky, extremely lucky. The shy leopard is not only very hard to spot, but is also not keen on standing around for a photo session. Last night we saw one lying between the Mopani trees. I was driving and couldn't get a picture, so when we ran into another one this morning, I was really glad. Two leopards in two days is fantastic. Unfortunately when we came around the corner the leopard got a fright and quickly walked out of sight. By the time I got hold of my camera it was too late to focus. At least I have some proof that I saw it. We waited a while but the leopard lied down just behind an ant hill where we eventually left him.

What an amazing day seeing so many amazing animals. I am here for another day, I hope I get to see at least more of the last two again.

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