Intrepid – Day 2 – Oliphant’s river morning cruise / Kruger Game Park night drive

Kruger National Park Travel Blog

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Laura takes her life in our hands ;) stretching near the danger sign

After a good night’s sleep by the Oliphant’sriver, we awoke to our first experience of “breakfast surprise” by the side of the Intrepid truck.  In actual fact this is just where the little portable table is removed from the truck with various cereals and hot beverages laid out across it, but doesn’t it sound good when you call it “breakfast surprise”!  Laura had a quick stretch in front of the warning sign cautioning of crocodiles, hippos, elephants and crocodiles, that’s one dangerous morning stretch!

As promised by Bennie, he had lined us up on a morning cruise along the river on a twin deck boat that could seat about 15 people on each level fairly comfortably, we were very excited about seeing what Africa’s wildlife were doing first thing in the morning J  This was our first hippo experience of the trip, so we must have clocked up a lot of hippo photos, first from really far away, then from slightly closer, then a bit closer….

The rest of Intrepid group, Pete, Maddie and Nick, settling in to a morning cruise
you get the idea ;) It was great to see hippos in the wild though, and hear their snorting noises sounding out across the water.  We were a little sad when we came across a dead hippo that was just floating on the surface L, the guide said it must have just happened since crocodiles had not yet claimed the poor hippo.

The crocodiles were quite incredible, we saw some giant ones sunning themselves on the banks and the boat would slowly drift towards them with varying reactions.  One of them made Nick jump back from his photo position on the stairs, as it spun around and snapped towards the boat!  However a different one didn’t have a care in the world, letting the boat drift to literally within an inch of him, without moving.  It was actually a bit freaky since if he did decide to move he could just launch himself on to the boat, best to keep close to the stairs on this one ;)

Without doubt we were most excited about the giraffes that we saw on the cruise.

Crocodiles were scattered along the banks
  There was a little group of 4 or 5 of them that had congregated on the river bank and it was so good to see these funny looking creatures in the wild.  Even though they aren’t in the big 5 (lions, buffalo, rhino, elephant, leopard…from memory), they made our unofficial Intrepid big 5 because they are just so cool looking J  Apparently families of giraffes don’t always congregate together so these ones weren’t necessarily family. Incredible!

The other highlight was more audio than visual, we could hear an almighty sound along the bank of the river which the guide explained (and we briefly saw) was a baboon, most likely fighting with another baboon.  It was an incredible racket that they make, all the other animals just took off!   This, along with several other tour moments where we borrowed binoculars, made us realise just how much we love them and wished we’d brought them.

We probably took 20 photos of each hippo pod as we got progressively closer. Ah the digital camera age....
  We’d taken a half-hearted approach and bought a little monocular, but it’s definitely worth investing in a decent set of binoculars before coming to Africa in my opinion.

Back to shore, in to the truck and we were on our way to the famous Kruger National Park, which is one of the best known game parks in South Africa.  I believe there has been a recent ruling that means Kruger now also goes over the border in to Mozambique so their tourist industry might start increasing soon too. 

As we drove we were able to begin seeing some of the wildlife from the truck, elephants, giraffe, zebra, it was great!! After not too long we arrived at a dusty little campground in the middle of the game reserve which has an electric fence around it, but you could have animals a couple of metres from your tent while you’re sleeping! 

After a quick dinner by the truck,  we were greeted by a few  “Zazu” - the hornbills from the lion king which scavenge for leftovers.

How can you not like hippos ?
Next we piled in to an open air vehicle with about 20 others to go on a Kruger night game drive starting just as the sun was setting.  Before we lost the sun, the very cool guide Andre was very excited to see a caracal with a bird in its mouth right next to the truck.  Now don’t get me wrong, this was very cool, kind of like a big house cat with pointy ears, but I didn’t know what a caracal was.  Still the guides loved it, apparently it’s a tough one to see, cool…we guess… J

There was a brief interlude as one of the tourists asked Andre whether there would be any toilet breaks along the way, to which Andre replied "there are toilets everywhere in Kruger" :) Andre suggested she get out and go behind a bush, so the pressure was on here now as she was holding up the tour.

Our first giraffe sighting, we think giraffes deserve to be part of the Big 5, they're just so cool!
  Eventually she agreed to the bush toilet, but couldn’t go with everyone watching and waiting, so I guess /hope she held on!

Before we had gone too far we came across an elephant by the roadside and this was just breath-taking to see up close. African elephants are much more impressive than their Asian counter-parts, just much bigger and more daunting.  This one was particularly daunting as he almost stuck his trunk into the truck!

 Until you try this, I don’t think you quite realise just how hard it is to do the spotting on these drives.  Alongside the vehicle there are 2 or 3 spotlights set up, and there’s a bit of pressure on the tourists in these spots because if they don’t shine the light well, the whole group misses out.  Unfortunately for Laura she was in one of these spots so the pressure was on.

She did well with her spotting duty though, we eased in things with a badger/mongoose looking thing which I think is called a honey-beggar.

We were mesmerised
  Essentially you just fan the spotlight across the bush looking for glimpses of eyes, it gets tough in a lot of the area we were in because the brush comes right up to the road, so you were constantly changing your eye’s focus to look around the vegetation to try to see further away, it’s very tiring on the eyes!

The highlight of the night was our leopard Laura managed to spot (no pun intended) J  These creatures are incredible, but he didn’t hang around long.  The pressure of the spotlight was apparent when another tourist (possibly French?) snatched the spotlight from Laura’s hands to try and do a “better” job, it was incredibly rude really, and all he did was shine the light exactly as Laura already had been.  Despite this negative, we were very excited to have ticked off two of the Big 5 on the drive J

It was back to camp where we fell asleep listening to an elephant munching away on vegetation just over the fence somewhere J

 

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Laura takes her life in our hands …
Laura takes her life in our hands…
The rest of Intrepid group, Pete, …
The rest of Intrepid group, Pete,…
Crocodiles were scattered along th…
Crocodiles were scattered along t…
We probably took 20 photos of each…
We probably took 20 photos of eac…
How can you not like hippos ?
How can you not like hippos ?
Our first giraffe sighting, we thi…
Our first giraffe sighting, we th…
We were mesmerised
We were mesmerised
I think this was baboons going cra…
I think this was baboons going cr…
More giraffes, what can I say, we …
More giraffes, what can I say, we…
And another giraffe :)
And another giraffe :)
Watch out Laura, a crocodile!
Watch out Laura, a crocodile!
Buffalo and his birds, sounds like…
Buffalo and his birds, sounds lik…
Theyre friends!
They're friends!
Watch out Laura, another crocodile!
Watch out Laura, another crocodile!
I bravely have my photo taken :)
I bravely have my photo taken :)
This croc didnt actually move, ev…
This croc didn't actually move, e…
Second camp site in Kruger, animal…
Second camp site in Kruger, anima…
Incredible how close the elephants…
Incredible how close the elephant…
Need I say more!
Need I say more!
This guy almost stuck his trunk in…
This guy almost stuck his trunk i…
Pete and Maddie say hello to the e…
Pete and Maddie say hello to the …
This is a caracal, apparently that…
This is a caracal, apparently tha…
We like Africa!
We like Africa!
Africa makes Laura smile :)
Africa makes Laura smile :)
Thats the sun
That's the sun
Nice photo of Pete :)
Nice photo of Pete :)
Elephant night spotting!
Elephant night spotting!
Kruger National Park
photo by: tersia