This week’s Fun Photo Challenge from Cee calls for photos that begin with R and have at least six letters. Here is my contribution.
31 March 2012 – SKUKUZA
It continued to storm during the night and when I woke up at 4:30 it was still raining. We decided not to wake the kids till 5:30 and by 6 the sky was beginning to clear. We managed to get away by 6:15. In summer this would be quite late but from 1 April the gate only opens at 6 as it is getting light later and later. Today would really have been the last day one could have made a very early start.
It turned out to be quite a long day and we only got back to Skukuza at 3 p.m. We did, however, make a few stops at hides and look out points to stretch legs and get rid of wriggles etc. As you can imagine four children cooped up together in a small space can become somewhat noisy when there’s a lull in the sightings. We try to keep them entertained and interested but usually its they who keep us in fits of laughter with their sayings and antics.
“I want to see a cheetah,” declares Shannon. “I can see one right now,” says Jay touching her on the shoulder. “Hey – you’re not supposed to touch the animals,” comes her quick retort.
We stop at to see a beautiful Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl and take many photographs. “He looks cross,” says Jay – “probably sick of the paparazzi hassling. Don’t tell the next car where he is – he needs some privacy.”
We self-cater all our meals except brunch and find the service at picnic spot and rest camp restaurant varies from time to time and place to place. But Lower Sabie is consistently bad and today we made the mistake of arriving there at midday when they’re at their busiest. We put in our order, waited an age and were then told that they’d run out of pizza. Another long wait before our meal finally arrived. A small price to pay for being in a beautiful setting where hippo and buffalo lazed on the river bank.
We have not seen large herds of plains animals so when we see zebra, wildebeest and giraffe we get quite excited. Today we found them in patches. The giraffe in particular have been difficult to photograph as they hide behind tall trees or keep their distance from the road. “Droff’ yelled Jay when he saw a small journey of them this afternoon. “What the heck is ‘droff’ ? “A quick way of saying giraffe, silly.” I’ll never call them anything else again!
Some other highlights of the day.
Sadly there are people both tourists and tradesmen who visit the park who do not take enough care on the roads and animals and birds get knocked down. Our little group of kids get mad when they see speeding or careless behaviour on the part of others and today Shannon was close to tears when we found a bateleur on the body of a very young monkey that had been run over. We explained that the bateleur had found an easy meal and soon it had competition from a white-headed vulture. The former had already flown up into a nearby tree to keep watch on his potential meal when the latter appeared on the scene. Neither of them attempted to eat the monkey while we watched.
The kids have been looking at things on offer in the park shops and Simon finally decided to get himself a monkey. Here he is at Lower Sabie with his new friend.
THURSDAY 29 March 2012 BERG EN DAL TO SKUKUZA
The phone alarm disturbed my peaceful dreams and got me out of bed at 4:30 a.m. Once everything was ready for packing, we woke the kids, gave them breakfast, made sure nothing was left behind and got them into the car. The weather was warm but overcast and it had rained in the night. We had some drizzle during the day but it was still hot!
Our first interesting bird sighting was of a pair of crested francolin.
Crossing a low-level bridge we found a common sandpiper and a water thick-knee.
Dwarf mongoose often take over abandoned anthills and our cutest sighting got everyone going – ooh – how sweet!
Things were becoming a little boring as we passed bush after bush and strained our eyes searching into the long glass for some sort of creature to appear. Then I saw across the river a load of elephants storming down to drink and swim. We watched them through the trees then realised that they were going to cross the river and come up onto the road in front of us. It was an enormous herd of about 60 jumbos and they raised their trunks and trumpeted as they came stumbling up the bank towards us. Simon was suddenly frozen into silence on my lap. Shannon beseeched them – please don’t hurt us – we just want to look at you! They just stared at us, waved their trunks and then trundled past in front and behind the car. The children were awed and when they were gone, Simon said, “That really freaked me out!” It was awesome to see such a big herd with ellies of all ages from tiny babies to great big mommies.
The excitement of that awesome sighting stayed with us for a while. Then Joshua spotted and Shannon identified an immature bateleur. (The competition for being the first to spot and name the birds is great!)
After the recent flooding in the Kruger National Park, some bridges were damaged and to our horror we found the one we wanted to cross still not repaired. Our choice was to retrace our route or take a road that is only open to visitors to Biyamati Bush Lodge. Another car was in the same predicament so jointly we decided to take the out of bounds road. We would not usually do this but there were not warnings that the road was closed so this would be our excuse if caught. (We weren’t)
On the way we found buffalo, rhino, kudu, impala, some birds but nothing else.
We stopped at Afsaal for brunch and then continued to Skukuza. We found warthog, giraffe and zebra, more kudu and impala, a kori bustard – but not good enough for a photograph and of course many birds.
We checked into family cottage 229 which consisted of two en suite bedrooms and a spacious living area. We moved the extra bed in our room to the second bedroom so the cousins could all be together.
After settling in, lunch and a nap we took a walk next to the river and found a few birds, then went to the shop.
Simon said the best part of his day was having an ice-cream and moving into the cottage!
Wednesday 28 March 2012
Last night we were all exhausted. We unpacked the entire car so we could get sorted for comfortable travelling in the park. Lauren had cooked us two meals and froze them so as nobody felt like waiting for a braai we quickly cooked the savoury mince and had it with rice. Earl was so tired that he couldn’t even eat! Shannon mislaid her asthma pump which caused a bit of an upset but after turning everything upside down and searching under the seats of the car she found it where she’d put it in the first place.
This morning we were up and out of the cottage by 5:45. We arranged seating in the caravelle so that nobody sat at the back where the windows don’t open. So I had Simon up front with me and Shannon and Josh shared a seat. It worked very well and after brunch Shannon and Simon swapped places.
Each child has his/her own binoculars. Simon has my very first digital camera – a 3.1 mega pixel, 3x optical zoom which when it was bought 10 years ago cost R7000! Josh has my first super zoon – a 12x optical zoom Canon Powershot, Jay has the 20x optical zoom Canon and Shannon has her dad’s superzoom Nikon.
I usually make careful notes when we travel in the park but with four children to supervise it was quite impossible and I must admit it was great to just relax and enjoy them enjoying themselves. They loved having cameras and once the novelty of clicking wore off they became more selective about when they would and would not capture a moment.
Our first bird shoot gave us a red-backed shrike.
All the children were dying to see elephant – but I don’t think they were quite prepared for their first encounter – a young bull came towards us, felt threatened and began to ‘charge’ us while resting his trunk on his tusks! Lauren had just phoned to check on her children when this little incident began and I relayed to her what was happening – “Tell Grandpa to reverse quickly,” she demanded. But we were in no danger and once he found a safe place to escape us the elephant went into the bush and started browsing on the juicy leaves of a roadside tree.
Another great sighting was a lone rhino lying next to a muddy puddle. Clearly he had just had a ‘refreshing’ bath and was enjoying a well-earned rest.
Warthogs appeared and gave the kids a giggle, they delighted over being the first to spot birds and we were pleased to see that although they were dying to see the big stuff they appreciated all the little things too. Simon at seven did ask, “when will we see a lion?” but when we saw buffalo he was back with the programme again.
We stopped at a hide which provided an opportunity to stretch legs and get rid of some wriggles.
Our brunch stop was at Afsaal where we had toasted sandwiches, looked at the resident scops owl and enjoyed an encounter with at friendly bushbuck. Simon used his pocket money to buy a photographic book on Kruger and then we were back on the road again.
Earlier this morning we caught a brief glimpse of a leopard as it walked off into the bush – basically it was its tail and a distant back view. Shannon remembering this said, “I really want to see a leopard properly – not in a tree but walking along the road close to the car.” Grandpa said, “Well – put in your order then!” Not five minutes later what should we see but a young leopard walking toward us followed closely by a single motor car.
We could not believe our luck and Shan was thrilled that she got her ‘order.’ We turned around to follow the creature and soon other cars were behind and ahead reversing as it approached. Some impala on the left barked a warning. A wildebeest appeared on the right and the leopard crouched down on the road as it leapt across in front of it – but it did not give chase. We found that the most exciting moment. After a few minutes we decided to let the cars behind us get ahead and then turned around to continue our journey. Wow – what a wonderful sighting.
We continued to have some lovely bird and animal encounters and then returned to camp at 1 o’clock. The kids went to the pool and Earl and I had a nap. At 4 o’clock Earl and Jay went out for a brief drive and saw lovely game – rhino, buffalo and other things. The younger ones did not want to go again but found a parrot and a purple crested turacco in the trees
We braaied for supper and everyone was in bed by 8:30.