Ranger Report - Kruger National park February 2016
The rain started falling, and having been in a drought season I knew that the animal activity in the Kruger Park would be abundant. On the 27th of January I relished the opportunity to take out four very eager guest from the United Kingdom on a full day Kruger National Park game drive. I greeted the guests at 05:30am with a hot coffee and we departed for the Crocodile Gate Bridge.
As we entered the gate at around 06:10am, our attention was immediately brought to two Wild Dogs who crossed the road maybe 10 meters in front of the vehicle. The Wild dogs yapped cheerfully and played before laying down under a Flaky Thorn Acacia tree. We moved on after 5 minutes and travelled 1000 meters up the road. A Spotted Hyena decided to greet us, coming out of her den not even 5 meters away, and “This was going to be a good day!”
We then passed the S-25 towards Vurhami Bridge. We took the loop over the river and laying on the sand bank about 400 meters away lay the Kings themselves, two black manned huge Lions resting on the sandbanks, tails flicking about in a mesmerizing fashion. While watching the Lions doze, two magnificent grey beasts, came wondering up the riverbank. The elephants passed close by the lions (2 of the BIG 5 in close proximity). The Lions didn’t even bat an eyelid as the Elephants walked by them disappearing into the distance.
We decided to drive on, as we crossed the bridge, eight “dagga boy” Buffaloes were coming down to quench their thirst. Finding a “suitable” watering hole they lowered their heads, horns polished in the sun and began to drink the fresh rain water. Closing their eyes, washing down the dust from their throats, they were suddenly frightened by a pod of six hippos who had decided to pop up right in front to them! This sent the scurrying into the nearby bush.
Having already seen 3 of the BIG 5 + the Wild Dogs & Hyena, we left taking the gravel road S-28, this all by 07:00am. As we proceeded down the road, we were entertained by all the small & large plain game. Zebra & Wildebeest browsing, Warthogs running with their piglets en-tow tails in the air & Impala grazing and seemingly dancing in the new green shoots growing through the newly moistured ground. Through the Knob Thorn Acacia trees we saw the elegant Giraffe browsing on the leafy dew leaves.
At about 08:00am a bulky form caught my attention just off the road. As the heavy figures turned, I saw the unmistakable silhouette of two Rhino horns, the hair from the horns glinting in the sunlight. They were not fazed with our approach, browsing and giving us a grunt as we passed, seemingly saying “Good Morning,” and what a good morning it had been so far.
We came around a bend into a clearing and close by, under the shade of a Rusted Bush Willow, we sighted two Cheetahs. The Cheetahs were very inquisitive as is their nature, sitting straight up to see who had come to interrupt their snooze. A wonderful sighting, long legs covered in black spots with a “tear shaped” mark running from the eyes, golden fur shimmering. We passed by, through a massive heard of breeding buffalo (maybe a 200 – 400) crossing the road & proceeded to Lower Sabie at 09:00am for a much deserved breakfast. Hoping to see the elusive Leopard afterwards.
As we left the rest camp, having only gone about 500 meters at Sunset Dam, we were alerted by another Ranger that there was a Leopard at the Restaurant in Lower Sabie. We immediately turned the vehicle around. As we walked down to the Deck at the Restaurant, we could see the Leopard stalking Impalas. Creeping silently closer, under the cover of the reeds, we were sure we might see a kill. Unfortunately, unbeknown to the Leopard, three Kudu’s were keeping an eye on him. They grunted and ran, alerting the Impalas who then also took flight. The Leopard, I think feeling “embarrassed” in front of the crowd, gave-up the hunt and went to rest under a big Cyclamen Fig tree. A few Crocodiles were sunning themselves, mouths open as if “smiling” upon us.
We had departed driving about 10km, took a causeway gravel road. As we drove down the road, my eye was caught by a dead hanging Impala in a Lead Wood tree. We decided to investigate, perhaps the Leopard was still nearby. Unfortunately we did not see the great Cat. Thanking the Mother Bush for such a great adventure, we set off for lunch at about 13:00pm not seeing much more.
adventure, we set off for lunch at about 13:00pm not seeing much more.
On our return to the Lodge, a herd of 35 Elephants crossed the road in front of us, looking after the new born calves who were nestled in between them. As if in a final good-bye, the Matriarch let out a trumpet as she led them to water. Our day had come to an end, and what a memorable day it was! We returned to our accommodation at about 15:30pm, the guests were overwhelmed & I was humbled. As the sun set spraying colour’s of purples, yellows & oranges through the clouds, everyone sat around the fire before dinner reminiscing about the day’s events with an ice-cold beer. January has indeed presented me with a new high, having seen the Magnificent 7 in one day. Let’s hope the rain keeps falling. Until next time….
Albert "Killer "