Thursday, 23 June 2011

Lions, Rhinos, Impala, Oh My!

On June 11th our full time job was searching the plains for animals.  Beginning at 5 AM, we all piled into a South African National Parks open air vehicle, complete with BRIGHT spotlights and blankets for the early morning chill, and headed into the Park.  Let me just let some photos speak for themselves...

Oh, there are many more (and that's two rhinos in #3 - so rarely do the pictures do the experience justice)!  I couldn't even get a good elephant shot, but one trumpeted our arrival into the park at about 5:12 AM...with the number of cameras we had trained on him, I'll bet someone did.  Please see our Picasa site at _________________ for more.

After the early morning drive, we had a full breakfast and checked out of Rio Vista, piling back into a Park Vehicle for transport to our accommodation for the second night - Skukuzu Camp.  This drive took a few hours, and being midday, sightings were sparser, but the scenery was beautiful and the day sunny and warm.  We were in the Students' Quarters of the camp - a large dorm facility with a swimming pool next door, so a few brave souls dove into the chilly wateer after lunch, while some of the rest of us napped...

With our late arrival the day before, we packed it in today, so Round 3 began at 5 PM and included a dramatic sunset.  Lions and leopards were missing from our viewings of the Big 5 (water buffalo, rhino, elephant, the other 3.  How did hippos and giraffes not make the list?  They were also so fun to were kudu, baboons, waterbuck...), so they were the focus of our efforts.  Several herds of impala and one majestic (and very close) elephant bull later, I admit I was losing hope that we would see any of the elusive cats.  But heading back to camp, sure enough, there were FIVE lions napping by the side of the road...soaking up the warmth of the pavement as the evening cooled after sunset.  Amazing.  At one point one of them sneezed and we ALL gasped and jumped back - he was that close.  He could have been deciding to eat us...
A truly memorable finale to an ambitious day!

Another very South African Braai for dinner (consensus was that this one was better than Thursday's) in the Camp's dining hall, and time for bed before we head on to Cape Town!  Wow, Cape Town, here we come.

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