30th June, 2017
As I spent my last 2 days in the jungle surrounded by a variety of animals, roaming freely, adapting to the natural surroundings, I remembered the famous poem by the Indian lyricist- Javed Akhtar.
“Panchhi nadiya pawan ke jhonke,
koi sarhad na inhe roke
Sarhad insano ke liye hain,
Socho tumne aur maine..
Kya paaya insaan hoke”
“Birds, rivers, gusts of wind,
No border inhibits them.
Think about it, what have you and I..
Obtained by being born as humans?”
The time in the jungle was truly a time of introspection. Never before had I been so disconnected from the outside world as I was in Kruger. Limited cell phone range, no internet, no-emails, nothing…. It was just me, my husband and mother nature.
Beautiful, romantic and peaceful!!
Today was the same routine as the previous day. It was just that today we were mentally prepared for another long day in the jungle. We woke up to the 5 am wake-up call, had our morning coffee and were in the car by 5:30 am – all set for our morning safari.
Morning Game Drive
We had already seen the Leopard, Elephant and the Rhino out of the Big 5. But we were yet to witness the African Lion and the Wild Buffalo. We started out in search of both of them.
Of course the morning pleasantries were greeted by a small herd of Zebras and Giraffes just outside our Camp. On a short distance were the Elephants feeding on the Marula fruits. And the birds were as usual chirping away in the background. This had become our morning routine.
While the rest of the hotel cars had gone looking for the leopard and the rhino, we were the only car in search of the buffalos. Hence, the radio was of little help. Both Joel and Robert were 200% alert to any signs of tracks, any alarms calls or any signals which would lead us to the buffalos. Buffalos are known to be extremely shy creatures who move along in herds. And we were extremely eager to spot them. In the eagerness, we had taken out our binoculars, looking for any signs of them. We looked around for almost an hour. There were patches when for quite some distance we couldn’t see a single animal. We were driving through difficult terrain and through the bushes. It was both scary and frustrating.
Finally, Joel parked the vehicle near the dry riverbed. He sensed that something will show up if we patiently waited there. And he wasn’t wrong!! Out came the pack of Wild Dogs. One after the other, the entire pack made an appearance. This was the same pack we saw the previous morning. It was as if they had developed a liking towards us. To top it up, they were followed by two Hyenas.
MIRINDA fun facts: Hyenas are known to follow predators such as lions, leopards and wild dogs frequently. They are extremely smart at irritating and scavenging the kill of other predators.
The pack was trying to chase off the hyenas, but the hyenas were persistent. The Hyena are much stronger and heavier than a Wild Dog. An individual Wild dog stood no chance against a hyena. Even an entire pack found it difficult to get rid of them. It was like a game of cat and mouse. The Hyenas were irritating the wild dogs with their constant presence and the wild dogs were trying all sorts of bluffs to chase them off. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were. 3 times in 3 days we spotted the endangered wild dogs. And this time they were in virtual combat with the hyenas. Wow. It was truly amazing.!! After spending a good amount of time with the wild dogs, we moved back to our plan of spotting the buffalos and the lions.
We finally came to a road where Robert spotted fresh tracks of the buffalos. We followed them, however after a short distance the tracks were going in the opposite directions. It was giving mixed signals to their destination. Joel and Robert decided to follow them on foot and explore the nearby bushes. Joel took his gun with himself and handed us the radio. He instructed us to stay in the car and nothing will happen to us. We were panicking. We were in the middle of jungle, with no guide and tracker to protect us. My mind was racing with all sorts of thoughts. What if a lion appears, what if a leopard charges us!!! And suddenly we heard a loud sound. It sounded like a lion’s roar. All four of us in the car were shivering with fear.
Finally, after about half an hour, Joel and Robert were back and so was the all-important gun. When we asked about the loud sound, Joel told us that it was just a kudu alarm call. All of us breathed a sigh of relief. With their short expedition on foot, Joel and Robert had superbly narrowed down the location of the buffalos. We had to off-road the vehicle for a bit, and there in front of us was an entire herd of buffalos, grazing peacefully on the forest grasslands. We were super impressed by Joel’s and Robert’s tracking skills and their adventurous attitude. If not for their awareness, we would have surely missed the buffalos by a small margin today.
As we were enjoying the wonderful sighting of the buffalos, Joel got a radio feed that an entire pride of lions had been spotted outside the Lion Sands Property (another lodge in Sabi Sands). We were super excited on hearing this. We would finally get to see the Lions. However, there was a catch! The pride was sleeping in a bush and also one of the vehicles had gotten stuck just in front of the entire pride. Hence, the view would not be so great. But still, we would not miss any chance of lion sighting. We quickly made our way to the location of the lions. We again had to off-road a bit and finally after 2 days of wait, we saw the Lions!!! And it was an entire pride. The only one missing was the alpha male. They were resting under the shade, probably tired after a night of hunting.
Today was a great day for us. We had finally seen all of the big 5. This was a dream come true for us. We couldn’t have asked for more. The tracking of the lions and the buffaloes had made our morning game drive a really long one, a five-hour drive. We even had to skip our morning coffee in the jungle. We were totally satisfied but extremely hungry. As we were making our way back to the lodge, we spotted a lone Wildebeest, strolling around with the Zebras. It was a perfect ending to our morning game drive. We had earned all the bragging rights for today’s breakfast.
Post a nice heavy breakfast, we headed straight to our room to relax a bit before the lunch break. Even in our rooms, we couldn’t control the adrenaline rush from the morning safari. We took out our binoculars and the camera, sat out in the balcony with our champagne and tried our luck to see some animals near the river. Although we couldn’t spot any of the Big 5, we did manage to see an impala.
After a lovely lunch, we slept off for a bit before our evening game drive.
Evening Game Drive
The amazing sightings in the morning game drive had upped our expectations for our last 2 safaris. As we had seen all the big 5, we now wanted to see “the kill”. Joel mentioned that it is extremely difficult to sight “the kill” and required a lot of patience, but he would try his best. After a quick hi-tea, we started our evening safari at around 4:00 pm.
We straight away made way to the last known location of the wild dogs, in the hope we could see them one last time and hopefully this time making a kill. They had been sighted near the river bed. Joel managed to spot a couple of them but they were all in the bush. We tried chasing them but they are quite agile and very difficult to track if they were not on the road. It seemed the wild dogs had said their final goodbye to us.
While we were on the river bed, from a fair distance we could see four Rhinos strolling on the other side of the river. As we were making our way to the small bridge, we were surprised to see a small herd of buffalos right in front of us. They panicked and quickly ran away. We tried to follow them, but the buffaloes being extremely shy, our efforts went in vain. In the meanwhile even the rhinos had disappeared. After such good sightings in the morning, it was as if nature was balancing itself.
After missing the previous evening sundowner and today’s morning coffee, we were eager to try the sundowner under the 600 year old fig tree which Joel had earmarked. The climate was quite cool today and the sun was just about setting down. It was a wonderful spot for a sundowner. While, we were sipping out Amarula, we suddenly realized that today is our last evening in this jungle. We are so going to miss this pampering. !! We clicked some pictures with Joel, Robert, Larry and Maria as souvenirs of Kruger.
After a nice sundowner, we resumed our search for a kill. We tried to look again for the lions, hoping we could see them in the hunt, but we were not lucky this time around. We saw various species of birds. They were looking beautiful in the background of the sunset. We even saw a bee-eater eating a grasshopper, which actually falls under the definition of ‘the kill’ – So yay our wish is fulfilled. (Although it can’t be compared to a lion hunt).
At around 7 pm, we made our way back to the lodge.
Today also like the first day, the staff had arranged for a Boma Dinner with our ranger Joel…there was singing, dancing, barbeque and the staff had also arranged special performances for us today.
Both of us were pretty nostalgic today as this was our last night in Kruger…
Day 11 : Our last game drive in Sabi Sands.. coming up next
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