The Big Five in One Drive
27.06.2010 - 27.06.2010 65 °F
Today was our first full day on safari, and we basically saw in one day what many people do not get to see in a whole week! Our rangers name is Lucky, which is very fitting for how are day went.
After an early breakfast, we headed into the bush at 7:30am local time. Initially, there was not much to see because it was so cold, and the animals were not very active. However, about an hour in, we heard that other rangers had found two female cheetahs, which are very rare to see. We sped over to the area and tracked the cheetahs for about 30 minutes, when we realized that they were stalking a herd of impalas. We actually got to see the larger of the two cheetahs attack and chase the impalas but she missed the kill. It was extremely exciting to see how fast the cheetah could accelerate! After the failed attempt, the cheetah was so tired that she simply laid down to rest for a few hours.
After the cheetah, we moved to a different area and saw a full herd of buffalo. There must have been 200 buffalo in the herd. Interestingly, there are small birds that move with the herd and land on their backs to eat the ticks and flies that are attracted to the buffalo.
While driving back to the camp for lunch, we also ran into a pair of young warthogs, more impalas and a couple of water monitors (lizards). It was a great morning!
However, it got even better in the afternoon! We managed to see the Big 5 game: elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion in one afternoon drive. First, we tracked and found two female leopards. They were not together but we found out that they are siblings. They are spectacularly beautiful. We found out later that the second one was hunting and eventually found a hare that she took back to her cubs (more on that later).
Second, we traveled about 5 minutes to find a full herd of approximately a dozen elephants. There was even one very small baby elephant. The alpha female elephant gave us a dirty look that made our ranger a bit nervous, and he moved us a bit further away because elephant can be very dangerous if they charge.
After the elephants, we saw a pride of nine lions. They had fed very recently and were, therefore, extremely lazy. They were all lying around asleep. We sat and watched them for a long time. After a while, a kudo (large antelope) walked near by and many of the lions woke up and thought about going after it, but it never got near enough. However, that got them up and they started moving around and grooming each other. At one point, one of the females came within about 3 feet of the vehicle. We were all a bit frightened and Lucky told us not to make any sudden movements. We were all relieved to find out that she just came over to relieve herself (she peed)! We literally could have touch her head had we reached out of the jeep.
We left the lions and were joking with Lucky that the only thing we needed to see to get the Big 5 in one day was a rhino. Sure enough, as we were driving back, we rounded a corner and ran into a small group of four rhinos! The rhinos were a bit more skittish and moved away, but we were able to chase them for a while and get a few good photos.
At this point, we were extremely excited to have see the Big 5 game animals in one day when many people do not see them in a full week. As an added bonus, we stopped by the female leopard's den and were able to see one of her two young cubs. He seemed to come out for a few minutes just so we could get some photos! He was extremely cute, and we hope to go back tomorrow to see if we can see more of them.
As we were headed back to camp, we saw another lone buffalo on the road, which meant that we had seen the Big 5 animals all in one afternoon!
As an added bonus to our already amazing day, we met the owners of the camp in the bar before dinner, and they asked us to join them. We learned lots about the history of the area, the camps and South Africa. It was really fun and was the perfect ending to a spectacular day. We have no idea how they can top it tomorrow, but we are sure that they will find a way!