Friday, January 31, 2014

Lions, leopards and hippos, oh my!

Our last night drive in Kruger National Park was another private affair. Just the two of us and our driver/guide, Chandrak. The drive started out without much hope as Chandrak had been informed by another park ranger that little was stirring. But we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best... And we were in luck!

First, we spied a hippo in the bush just a few year from the road. Hooray! Something was out. Then we spotted a second hippo. Double our luck.

Next up was a fluffy Verreaux's Eagle-Owl just chilling in the middle of the road only a km or so from camp. Standing more than a foot tall and puffed out, it was a sight to enjoy. Mostly gray and brown, this owl sported bright orange eyelids. Very cool!


Then, a third hippo. As our driver was informing us that they they can get disoriented under the spotlights, the hippo moved quickly towards us, seemingly charging the truck while spinning in a circle like a dog chasing its tail and nearly hitting the truck. But Chandrak was speedy and turned off the headlights, urging us to do the same with our spotlights. That did the trick and hippo avoided our rig and hustled off into the bush. We heaved a collective sigh of relief.

On the road again, we spotted impala and buffalo and the night-night birds that like to chase insects by flying in front of the truck. And then, off to the right, just lounging in a meadow I spotted a lion! A male lion which promptly got up and walked back into the brush. We reversed the truck in hopes of tracking him but we were too slow. We did, however, get a huge whiff of the lion's rotting kill. According to Chandrak, the lions must of been snacking on it, stirring up the rotting odor and making us want to gag. After a few more minutes of unsuccessfully hunting, we bid the lion adieu and headed back on our way.


Not to long thereafter, Chandrak alerted us to a leopard walking in the dirt road. Woohoo! A second leopard sighting and this one at night and on the move. We were positively delighted and followed the leopard as it walked quickly across the savana into the bush. We got a nice view of the leopard and what a beauty it was.


On the way back to camp, we checked out the night sky. More stars than I've ever seen before! Plus, the southern cross, pointer stars and Milky Way were on display. Another incredible day.


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