After a nice self-catered breakfast on the backpacker’s patio, we motored to the gate and collected our maps of the park, complete with a checklist of the animals we hoped to see. No more than a few minutes passed before we started to spot the wildlife.
Tons of Warthogs were munching on vegetation, while a Black-backed Jackal was simply chilling out. My old friend, the Ostrich, was soon seen, as were the pretty yellow Weaver birds when we stopped at the first watering hole. John was very adept at identifying each animal or bird and sharing a quick fact about them.
When you’re in a park with wild Lions, Leopards, Black Rhinos, Cape Buffalo, and hundreds of African Elephants (The Big 5), it makes sense that you don’t get out of your car except for a few signposted occasions. The skeletal remains of male Kudus (antelope-type animal with long twisted horns) below us near the watering hole were a good reminder of why exiting your car is also at your own risk!
As we continued onward, John navigating his way through the loops and criss-crossing paved and dirt roads of the park’s northern territory, we spotted Jackal Buzzards perched atop bushes and Vervet Monkeys running around on the ground. A little after 8am, we spotted a bunch of Cape Buffalo, our first of the big five animals.
We also began to see lots of similar animals to the Kudu, including Red Hartebeests, Bushbucks, and Elands. Same same, but different. By late morning, we were getting anxious to see some elephants, although any one of us would have passed on the pachyderms for the chance to see lions or leopards.
Yvonne spotted the first elephant of the day, off on a distant hill. To the naked eye, it appeared as a grey outline against the green and dark browns of the landscape. Using the binoculars I picked up in Hermanus, you could see more detail, including the tusks. We were all excited to have seen a wild elephant, our second of the big five animals. And John assured us they start to pop up everywhere once you see one.
Sure enough, we drove a little further to another watering hole and saw tons of elephants, and what appeared to be a small parking lot of cars and safari trucks quite close to the action. Now we were REALLY excited! John maneuvered us into a good spot and turned off the engine. We sat and watched the behavior for about 15 minutes.
Males tested males,