June 16 Our first morning game drive! They woke us at 6a.m., and by 630p we were in our open Land Rover and on the bushveld watching the sun come up over the African horizon. Our first stop was at the local watering hole to see two hippos chilling out. They were enormous! Hippos can be quite dangerous, but these two were happily submerged. We had an awesome morning, we hung out by a leopard for about 40 minutes…it was atop an old termite mound, resting, bathing, watching. Our more experienced companions, two South Africans Willem and Leon, said that it was an exceptional sighting as leopards are generally extremely shy animals and most sightings involve a few spots glimpsed through the veld. The leopard was a large male known as the SandRiver leopard. This animal is pure muscle, absolutely gorgeous. As close as we were, he didn’t seem to have much interest in us, in the distance he was lazily keeping an eye on zebra and impala. I cannot believe I was within 8 to 10 feet of a wild leopard in Africa!
After we left the leopard we came upon a white rhino and her baby, with two males feeding nearby. They were wary, but we were still quite quite close to them. It is amazing that we get within 10 to 20 feet of these animals. The baby White Rhino is cute beyond words…he would come close then dance away, with momma keeping an eye on us.
We saw a Fish Eagle somewhat similar to our bald eagle….a very majestic bird. Bird species abound….we saw a Goshawk eating a snake today! We had coffee in the bush, they pull the Land Rover over and pop open a table on the back with cookies, pastry, coffee and hot chocolate. On our return to the lodge Ally said, “just watch us go round that bend and find elephants!”…..and yes, we ran across several elephants feeding around the bend. She is our elephant whisperer. We also saw a lone warthog and a lone water buffalo. The lone water buffalo is a very dangerous animal, they disappear into the bush and if you disturb them they will charge. We have seen the Big Five in our first 12 hours: lion, leopard, water buffalo, rhino and elephant. The Big Five is so called because of the old game hunting trophies, these animals were the most valuable. I cannot imagine wanting to shoot and kill one of them, we are happy to shoot with a camera. Alexandra and Randy are taking a million photographs. Can’t wait for our afternoon/evening game drive!
The afternoon and evening game drive was incredible. We sat in our vehicle watching
a pride of 16 lions wake up. 16 LIONS!
There was our roaring male from the night before with all of his females and cubs. They are incredibly beautiful, obviously well fed (they had had a wildebeest the night before), and feline. Watching them was so similar to watching Boo Radley, Strider, and especially Buddha (our cats)…stretching, bathing, playing, lying on their backs…the male never did get up while we sat watching them for an hour! The lion pride was beyond words. ….what an experience to see these animals in the wild! Don’t forget to check out more photos on the Africa page!