Tuesday morning started out beautiful and clear. The mornings and early evenings have been pretty chilly, especially when driving around in the open vehicle. I was very happy I had brought a down vest, several scarves and enough long sleeved tops to keep me warm. But this morning was clear and windless and by 7:00 a.m we could see it was going to be a brilliant, sunny day.
Our first sighting was a leopard! This was a different leopard from the male we had previously encountered. This was a beautiful female with a white tail and very different markings from the male. She was slightly smaller too. Milton spotted her lying in the long, tall grass as dawn was breaking. But soon she was on the move. She walked right up to our jeep and directly under it and out the other side. Take a look at this video so you can get a perspective on how close we really were to this amazing animal.
We continued along, spotting myriad impala, wildebeest and water buck and then came upon this giraffe languidly grazing the tree tops.
Continuing, we found the Sparta girls lolling about in the grass. We watched them for a bit but quickly moved on. On our left were a group of elephants including youngsters. They were moving fairly swiftly but I was able to get a few good pictures.
Far away in the distance Milton pointed out a rhino. Even with binoculars we couldn’t really see him. Once again Milton amazed. Melvin wended his way off road through the rocky terrain and sidled right up to this group of five rhinos! They were all very curious about us surveying us with their typical sideways glances – the only way they can check something out as their eyes are on the side of their head. We were so close we could have reached out and touched them! They showed nothing more than idle curiosity towards us though they did come right up to the vehicle, but then turned away.
We watched these incredible creatures for some time as they moved around, grazing and then we pulled a few yards away for our morning coffee break before heading back to camp for breakfast.
Today we said goodbye to our new friends from Boston, Andy and Leslie and Danny and Barbara. We were together for all of our game drives and many of our meals. When you’re paired with other people for such long stretches for days in a row, you never know what the dynamic will be like and if it’s not good, it can really ruin your experience. We were so lucky to have been grouped with these two wonderful couples. We shared a lot of laughs, great quips, and our collective wonder and amazement, and by the time they had to leave for the next leg of their journey, they had adopted us!
Sadly our evening drive would be on our own and we felt a bit bereft, but we soldiered on, and enjoyed the luxury of having Milton and Melvin to ourselves. As we headed out of camp we saw more wildebeests and rhino and then we spotted this huge boy.
We stopped and watched him eat for quite awhile, only 8-10 feet from our truck. He was definitely aware of our presence and watchful as he ate, sometimes moving closer, but he didn’t seem too concerned or threatened, though Michael was a bit leery. Melvin explained they could tell that the elephant was at the end of being in must because of the minimal drippings around his eyes and the mostly dried up urine on his back legs. If he was in must we would never have been able to be as close, as these guys get very aggressive during this time, right before they mate.
For my younger readers, M, S and G, take a close look and what do you see?
Woah, pretty big huh? Well it has to be to enable the male elephant to impregnate the female elephant. Mom and Dad will fill you in on how this works.
After we said goodbye to the ellie, it was time to stop and stretch our legs for the traditional sundowner, the time of day when cocktails and snacks are served on the hood of the jeep. As we enjoyed our refreshments, we watched the sky turn pink and the beautiful African landscape fall under shadows, a chill in the air.
But before heading back to camp, Milton and Melvin headed off road, back to where we’d seen the Sparta pride earlier in the day. They had moved a bit but there they were, with the male keeping a watchful eye. Night was falling and the cats were ready to hunt. The cubs frolicked and the adults started to move.
There was a good size herd of impala fairly close by and Melvin drove behind them, knowing the cats would move in that direction to begin their hunt. We sat and waited and in only a few minutes the female lions had stealthily encircled the impalas, working cooperatively, making a very wide radius to surround them before they pounced. Slowly the lions began to move inwards. We waited, thinking we were going to see a kill. The impalas shifted, all turning in one direction. The lions waited, hidden by the tall grasses, for just the right moment. Then suddenly in a flurry of activity, all the impalas bolted, getting away just in time. A lost opportunity for the Sparta girls. But it was very early evening and the impalas hadn’t moved too far, and the lions had yet to give up. Sadly it was time for us to head back to camp, our very last game drive now over. How we would miss these exciting sights.
We returned back to a candlelit camp where we freshened up and convened for a quiet dinner with two guys, the only other remaining guests. One of the men is originally Australian, but living in Indonesia, and has quite the passion for photography. He travels to Africa several times a year and this trip brought him to Londolozi specifically to photograph their famous leopards. But the really cool thing is that he hired Greg du Toit, one of the world’s foremost wildlife photographers to accompany him for two weeks! They have their own tracker and ranger and spend hours and hours in their vehicle, loaded with unbelievable camera equipment that is fixed to mounts. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see their shots but Greg has a book coming out soon and we look forward to purchasing it and seeing his work.
We made it an early night and headed off to a good night’s sleep so we’re rested for the next leg of our adventure.