11th June, 2017
Our first night in Kruger was a sleep full of curiosity. We were excited to see what the African Jungle had in store for us the next day! We woke up to our 5 am wake-up call. It was pitch dark outside. We could barely open our eyes but the excitement of the morning safari couldn’t hold us back. After freshening up, we made it to the morning tea at around 5:30 am.
Our ranger “Joel” took a few minutes to explain us what our strategy was going to be and then we headed to our safari vehicle.
MIRINDA fun facts: All the rangers of the Safari lodge have a joint meeting before every safari, detailing out the reported sightings in the area and preferred path for each vehicle as per their respective guests choices.
Joel took us straight away to the last known location of the wild dogs. It was our first morning inside the jungle and what a lovely morning it was!! The sun was still rising and the morning dew was fresh on the leaves as well as our car seats! The birds were chirping their morning tunes (we could even hear the cockaa-doodle do!) and we could also see some impalas sipping water from the moist grass. Everything and everyone just seemed to be at peace with nature. Then suddenly out of a dense bush, came out one of the wild dogs. It had a collar on its neck which meant he was the alpha dog of the pack. Slowly, the other members of the pack made their way out and we had the entire pack of 13 in front of us to greet us good morning!!!
A couple of them were playing with a leg bone of an Impala, which meant that they must have had a successful hunt last evening. We followed them around for quite some time. It was just unbelievable that we got to see such an endangered species twice on our two game drives. Adding to that, we spent a considerable amount of time following them. They were playing, strolling and hunting right next to our vehicle, as if we were oblivious to them. In fact, one of them even urinated right in front of us. Joel kept mentioning how lucky we were to witness this.
MIRINDA fun facts: With wild dogs listed as endangered, all alpha dogs have of the respective packs are marked with collars. It serves as a method of tracking them and conserving them.
Finally, the wild dogs went back into the bush and we decided to move on to other animals. We wanted to see the king of the jungle i.e. the African Lion. So our ranger “Joel” and trekker “Robert” started looking out for lion tracks. They also took the help of the radio to learn about the last known lion sightings in the area. It was a game of patience. We were in our vehicles and the ranger and trekker were eagerly looking out for any signs of lion being around. Every road we passed, all of us in the vehicle would scout like hawks looking at any sign, even from a huge distance, for a lion. Anything that looked even close to yellow/orange would turn our heads. There were moments that me and our fellow guests thought we saw something far away. Joel would stop the car, take out his long range binoculars, and check out what it was. Amusingly, almost 90% of the time it was a rock or a tree!! Even Joel knew this, but he kept on saying that we just have to wait for the other 10%. We kept roaming around for 45 mins just looking for any signs of lion tracks. But we were not lucky enough that morning to spot one.
But in the process we spotted lots of other animals like Kudu, Impalas, Giraffes, Zebras, Warthogs, etc.
For me that was the beauty of the safari. It’s was the entire process of tracking, coordinating on the radio, listening to alarm calls, double checking with the binoculars etc. It was just so thrilling!!
MIRINDA suggests: Even in the summers, it can get a little cold in the morning. But most lodges provide blankets in the vehicle. At Kirksman Camp, we didn’t have to worry about the cold, as the vehicles were always well equipped with fresh blankets. We recommended you check out with the lodge for provision of blankets and make arrangements of warm clothes accordingly.
While we were busy looking around for signs of lion, Joel and Robert found a good spot for having our morning coffee. It was very similar to the evening sundowner in the bush amidst the animals, except the drinks are replaced by coffee and biscuits. Our trekker “Robert” insisted we try his special coffee “Robertocchino”. It was a yummy combination of Hot Mocha with a shot of Amarula. Just the perfectly yummy start to boost our energies in the morning!
MIRINDA fun facts: The trekkers and rangers do a good job of finding ideal spots for toilet during safaris. They do a quick scan of the area to check there is nothing dangerous around, and then the guests can let them loose in the open jungle.
Post our morning Robertocchino, we received a radio message that a rhino has been spotted near the river. Immediately we were off to the location and there it was – The African White Rhino. It was our first sighting of the Rhino. It was a full grown Male Rhino relaxing in the sand, trying to cool down its body. Its horn was sharp and scary. It was actually so relaxed that we could even hear it fart!!!! It was amusing but still a wonderful sight. It’s sad to know that rhinos are still a target of poachers in Africa – the Rhino horn is very valuable in black markets around the world.
MIRINDA fun facts: There are two types of Rhinos in Africa – The White Rhino and the Black Rhino. Don’t let the name fool you, rhinos are grey in colour, not black or white as their names suggest. Both species look similar to one another, but the major difference is the shape of their mouths. Black rhinos developed a pointed lip which they use to pick fruit from branches and select leaves from twigs; white rhinos have a flat, wide lip to graze on grasses. Although they are nearing extinction, Black Rhinos are often spotted in Ngorongoro Crater or the Serengeti.
It was around 9:30 am and today (1st March, 2017) we had a pleasant surprise from Kirksman Camp staff. The breakfast setting was in the jungle itself. The lodge staff had found a safe quiet spot by the Sabie River and had arranged an outdoor breakfast for all guests. Last evening the sundowner, this morning the “Robertocchino”, and now breakfast – all of this in the middle of the jungle surrounded by wild animals. It was something we had never imagined in our wildest dreams.!! The cold breakfast was ready, while the rangers and trekkers were cooking the hot breakfast. Add to this, they had also arranged Champagne for everyone. Wow – So much pampering; we were getting spoilt by the minute!
We started off with the cold breakfast which had fresh fruits, muesli-milk, freshly baked croissants and a cheese platter while the rangers and trekkers cooked our hot breakfast which consisted of grilled ham and scrambled eggs (just imagine eating this right in the middle of the jungle with animal noises around you)
We exchanged our morning safari experience with other guests over the breakfast. Sadly, it was also the last game drive for the South African couple sharing our safari vehicle. We had one final drink with them before saying goodbye to them. After a lovely morning, at around 10:30 am we were back to the lodge.
We did not have much time to rest today as we had opted for a complimentary bush walk in Sabi Sands today.
Bush Walk in the Sabi Jungle
Bush Walk, as the name suggest, was basically a walk in the jungle. This was a trilling experience created for the guests by the lodges to where one can experience the jungle on foot along with the Ranger.
Before leaving for the bush walk, we were explained some strict rules to be followed.
- Always follow what the ranger is saying. If he says stay still, then stay still, if he says run, then run.
- Walk in a single line and never break the formation as animals are used to this formation.
- Follow the hand directions explained by the ranger
MIRINDA suggests: We were asked by the Ranger to wear full pants and clothes which camouflaged with the jungle. We suggest you also carry all necessary mosquito repellents, sun glasses, camera and binoculars.
We spent around an hour on our bush walk. We saw different animals including kudus, warthog and elephants. We were also lucky to witness some birds & local plants. A large part of the bush walk comprised of walking through the high bushes of the jungle rather than the actual roads used for the safari. At every step, we were skeptical of stepping on a spider or a snake. We were very scared. Joel explained to us different types of trees in the jungle, which fruits they bear and how they survive the harsh weather.
MIRINDA fun facts: The Marula fruit, which is the favorite of the elephants, grows on the Marula trees. Elephants are not always able to digest the fruits and some fruits are execrated by them. Joel found out an elephant dung and plucked out a wholly maintained Marula fruit from it. He used a rock to break it open and inside it were small almond like nuts.They are a rich source of proteins to the animals. In fact, the same Marula fruit found in the elephants dung work as seed for the fresh Marula trees. This is an amusing way of elephants repaying back to the jungle for feeding on the Marula Trees.
After an hour in the bush, we were back to the lodge at around 12 pm. We headed straight to the restaurant for a quick lunch as we wanted to rest a bit before our evening safari. Today the lunch menu consisted of Game meat (Springbok) along with the usual spread. We tried the Springbok, but I didn’t quite enjoy the game meat as it was too chewy for my liking. Post a heavy lunch, we dozed off for a bit in our room. And at around 4 pm we were back to the restaurant for hi-tea before our evening safari.
This evening we had a new couple with us in our vehicle. They had come all the way from Virgin Islands – Maria and Larry. At around 4:30 pm, we were en-route our evening game drive.
The Leopard from the last evening was spotted on the same tree and we headed right there.This time we actually saw it feeding on the impala. The way it was tearing out the bones and skin of the impala, it seemed very hungry. As it was trying to balance itself appropriately on the tree in order to digest the meal, the entire tree shook with its movements. This gave us an idea of how massive its weight must be. We went a little closer to the tree and we could actually hear the crunching of the bones. It was nerve wrecking.
We then made way to the river bank in hope to spot hippos or crocodiles. On the way, we again encountered zebras, giraffes, impalas and elephants – they were becoming a common sight now. We also saw some new bird species. Just as we made our way to the river, we saw a hippo bathing in the water. Wow!!
MIRINDA fun facts: Although Hippo seems like a cute animal, they are highly dangerous. In fact, hippos are known to kill approx. 2500-3000 people every year in Africa, which is more than by any other predator.
It was lovely to see such a magnanimous animal in its natural habitat. The hippo then disappeared underwater and we moved on.
We then resumed our search for the lions. Joel learnt on the radio that they a lioness and two young cubs have been spotted nearby and we didn’t want to miss our chance. We started our morning exercise again, looking for tracks, listening to alarm calls etc. We were very optimistic of seeing them today. We looked around for quite some time, but again we were unlucky. It was frustrating but that’s how safaris are. At times, we got extremely lucky like with the wild dogs and at times, we just miss the lions by a small margin.
During our game drive, we spotted this beautiful Fig tree which was more than 600 years old. Joel year marked this as our Sundowner spot for the next evening Game drive.
At around 7:00 pm, we made our way back to the lodge. The ranger avoided the call of having the evening sundowner in the jungle as it was getting dark. Just as we were entering the entrance of the lodge, we saw something moving in the bush. It was the stripped hyena. And it was right outside our property. Scary but exciting. It was just strolling around in the bush, looking for some leftovers.
We returned to the lodge and headed to the bar for a few drinks before dinner. After a few talks with the fellow guests about their game drive experiences, we made way to the dinner table. Today we had a candle light dinner. Moses, our butler made sure that our dinner experience was upto the mark. We started off with freshly baked bread with various dips, followed by cold soup for appetizers and roast duck for dinner and ended with a decadent crème brûlé for dessert.
Even while having dinner, our eyes were still looking for any signs of animals near the restaurant. Thankfully, we didn’t spot any during dinner, but such is the Safari experience. We were in that zone.
Finally, after another thrilling day, we headed back to our room (with an escort) and called it a day. We slept hoping to see the Lions & the Wild Buffalos tomorrow.
Coming up next…. Day 03 : Our last day of Safari Experience at Sabi Sands, Kruger
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