Monday, September 19, 2016

SOUTH AFRICA

September 15th - the day is finally here. We said goodbye to Jordan's brother Tory, then Gramma Judy (Jordan's mom), Jordan, and I headed to the airport. Our first flight was from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur, both in Malaysia. Next was from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong, and finally Hong Kong to Johannesburg in South Africa. We were so pleased when no comment was made regarding the lack of pages left in Jordan's passport. We made it!

After many hours travelling and arriving midday the following day, we just spent the rest of the day relaxing in our Johannesburg hotel.

We had pre-booked our safari to Kruger National Park which included a pick-up at the hotel for scenic 5-hour ride east to the Park. We were staying for 4 days and 3 nights at camp Pretorius Kop within Kruger.

At the gates of adventure (courtesy of Gramma Judy)

We could have chosen to stay in different styles of huts...


...but we preferred the more basic tent life...


We were soon informed that after dinner provided by the camp's chefs we would be going on what is called a night drive to spot game from 18:00 till 21:00. Many night drives are very successful for observing game but the animals were elusive for ours.

From here on, the routine for the each day was typical. It started with a very early coffee/tea and biscuits with the group of participants that we would be sharing our drive with, and then off we all went in search of the wild beasts in the open-air-vehicle from 06:00 to 09:00. Then it was a late breakfast and some rest and relaxation. The afternoon drive was from 15:00 to 18:00 followed by dinner and excited exchanges of our sightings.

This time of year can be quite chilly and I luckily brought my winter jacket. Jordan piled on extra clothing and Gramma Judy was lucky enough to ride in the front seat with the guide and a heater! The rest of the party was in the back subjected to the chilly wind - but which is great for snapshots.

All bundled up

On our drives, the guides were excellent at spotting game and educating us on the habits and life in the wild. The photo ops were great and we got up close to many of the animals. Of the Big Five, we spotted four: elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard. For us, the lion was skillful at eluding our view.

The Big Five are determined by being the most dangerous and the most difficult to hunt on foot. Thankfully today, they are now hunted mainly by photographers.

We came across many giant elephants which are destructive to the environment, eating an abundance of field grasses and pushing over large trees to eat the roots and the lower bark, consuming as much as 135 kg (300 pounds) of food per day.

Push harder...

Big and small crossing the road

Beastly beauty

There are white rhinocerous and black rhinocerous. The white is NOT white but is identified by its broad lips. The early Dutch referred to its wide lips as wyd which was later misinterpreted as white. Rhinos leave huge yucky heaps of dung along the roadside to mark their territory. These 2 started walking threateningly towards our jeep and our guide slowly backed up...no guessing who the boss is!

Horny white rhinos

We came across a massive herd of Cape buffalo, at least 400, chomping long grass in a field and leisurely crossing the road in front of us. An impressive sight.

Moody, magnificent, and dangerous

Yep, a long tiring day

The leopard is the least seen of the Big Five. Even though it barely turned sideways, we at least saw it! It's a very beautiful and charismatic animal with amazing markings.

Perfect camouflage

Solitary and stealthy

As well as the above, our guides found several other animals in Kruger National Park...

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