Second Safari in the Early Morning

Limpopo Travel Blog

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Day 6 - Morning Safari

Did I say morning?  I meant oh dark thirty.  We all asked if we knew we were willingly (somewhat) doing this to ourselves.  We had to be there by sun up.  Ok, into the van, making sure we didn't forget anyone.  Off we go into the wild, black morning to paraphrase a song.

One long drive, one long washboard road and here we are.  Here is a gazelle standing there looking at us because we woke her up.  Hey don't blame us we're just following directions.  Only problem was she was the only company we had.  Nobody else was there.  Oh, oh!  Did I blow the instructions?  Just as I'm getting ready to use the satellite phone, up comes the trucks.  Wow, we're going to have it all to ourselves because nobody else was here.  Wrong.  They weren't there because they were running fashionably late, 45 minutes is well, not fashionably and the guide made sure they know it.  We did get the best seats and they were split up between the vehicles.

Same roads(?) different driver and guide.  This man is the undisputed Lion Tracker.  Funny, the animals we see almost immediately look like they could use a cup of coffee also, buffalo, kudu, gazelle, warthogs (looking like me before coffee), springboks, some hippos having their morning bath, predator snacks of all kinds and rhinos.  All of a sudden we have a road block.  Seems the Buffalo and Rhino answer the question of why did they cross the road?  To get in our way and very leisurely walk to the other side.

Off we go but sightings are getting scarce.  All of a sudden the driver, who, by the way, keeps in touch with all other vehicles by radio, suddenly speeds up.  He said we have a lion located.  Remember I mentioned that safari indicates cross country driving?  This was a safari.  Thorny bushes?  Hakuna Matada!  Small trees?  Hakuna Matada!  Guide on the front fender?  Hakuna Matada! 

We see a tan form emerging from the brush.  A male lion.  A big male lion.  A big male lion about 8 feet away from us in an open vehicle.  The guide knows him and tells us he is one of two brothers that have come down from the north.  The lion is walking a straight lion towards something and we're all holding our breath thinking there is a kill coming up.  Nope, remember he is a male and he is headed for a female.  We learn that they will mate every 10 minutes or so for the next 2 to 3 days.  The will not eat and, as men do in these situations, they have tunnel vision.  I turn to my wife, Youvonda, and she just looks.  I feel I am being compared to the lion and his performance.  Must be my imagination (I hope).  We're all sitting there speaking in very hushed tones and the only noise is the machine gun sound of camera shutters.  We noticed that the smaller animals were walking closely around the lions.  The assumption is that they know when the lions are in that "mode" and know they are safe.  Guess the jungle telegraph was working overtime.

The guide backs out of the viewing (voyeur) area and heads out towards a cheetah sighting.  Here we are with mom and the kids again.  She moved about 2 km from where we saw here the night before.  It is still an amazing site though.  She looks so peaceful and nonchalant but one of the cubs runs behind the tree and makes a sound and she was up like a shot.  After about 10 minutes the drivers is itching to go somewhere else and we're so enthralled by the site we hadn't realized so much time had passed.

Now we're really going cross country.  A leopard has been sited and we're heading for it.  Even the guide is having to pull trees and thorns out of the radiator.  Soon we're at the head of a draw and there he is.  A young leopard stretched out giving himself a bath.  We're about 10 yards away and dead silence, save for the shutter sounds.  Unfortunately there is room for one vehicle and another is inbound so  we have to vacate.  Off we go only to find the lion's brother doing the same thing.  Must be a family thing.  More photos, more remarks.

Time is coming to an end as it is well past 10 AM.  We're headed back to the entrance and use the driving time to fully register what we have seen and how close we have been.  People speak of the Big Five in awe and we have, in two days, seen all of them, up close and personal.  This is what South Africa and nature are all about.
As we are leaving we decide to head for an animal rescue not too distant called Moholoholo Animal Rehab,  Now this was an experience.  Being here we hadn't given much thought to what happens to animals unable to survive in the wild.  Or, as we found out here, animals rescued from humans.  A MUST DO!

The "driveway" is quite long and rough and the entrance isn't well marked.  After parking in the open area and paying for entrance, about $3 USD we received a very thorough presentation of what they do and what they are trying to do.  The stories of some of the rescues really bring home some of man's inhumanity towards animals. 
After the presentation we were guided past numerous enclosures housing various birds unable to be released into the wild.  All looked very health and well cared for though.  At the end of the enclosures were vultures.  The brave ones were offered the opportunity to hold one, on a very heavy glove.  That was an experience.

Outside of that were some small mounds of gray.  The mounds moved.  The mounds had eyes, ears and a horn.  They were baby white rhinos.  They had arrived about 3 weeks earlier after being abandoned by their mother.  Both were premature.  We were warned not to touch their heads but petting their backs was permitted.  Permitted?  How about demanded?  They had the run of the place so they were following people around looking for more attention.  I saw my wife eyeing them up to see if they would fit in a suitcase. 

Further on we saw a lion that some person tried to sell to the circus and a cheetah that was kept in a small house as a pet.  Disgusting.  We did get to see some wild dogs.  These were cool.  They are quite rare in the wild and these were being raised for eventual release.  Finally we saw a honey bear.  We were informed he was an escape artist and the enclosure had so many fail safes in it to prevent that.

We did stop at a "sports bar" on the way back but when the server came out licking food off of her hands we opted not to nominate it for 5 stars and left.  Tomorrow, another day, another adventure.
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