For years now it’s four out of the Big Five we see when visiting the Kruger National Park. Why is this? What are we doing wrong?
The alarm goes off at 5am. If it wasn’t for the glaring security lights in the camp it would still be pitch black. By 5:30 the rooftop tent is closed up. The breakfast snacks are ready. Layered clothing is on. Entrance money is counted. Binoculars pulled out and camera batteries charged.
We’re at the Malalane Gate, along with several others, before it opens at 6am. By first light we’ve mapped out our path and are driving towards Skukuza. Eyes scanning the dusty, dry bush for wildlife. What will we see today? [Watch the video below]
Four of the Big Five
Paths with fresh tracks cross the road. Large dung plops and freshly broken trees, but no elephants. Then to our surprise its rhino we spot first. Quite far distant two graze peacefully, totally unaware of the price on their nose. Not much further we come across another, and another. Such a privilege to see them living as they should without a care in the world, at least right now. Big Five #1.
Then silhouetted against the morning sky, a lone elephant bull. He’s feeding and pays us no mind. Big Five #2.
Waterhole! Always the best place to see a variety of wildlife species. Today is no exception. A hippo keeps an eye on vehicles passing by. A crocodile appears to be watching the impala coming in to drink. On the far side a herd of water buck drink deeply. An Egyptian goose gets awfully close to the crocodile. Oddly enough the crocodile climbs out of the water to sunbathe… must have had breakfast! Two young impala buck clash horns and the hippo submerges. They can stay underwater for around 20 minutes supposedly. [Watch the video below]
Oh look! Lying next to what seems a dry concrete waterhole is a lioness. She gets up and lays down right in the waterhole (thus the assumption that it’s dry.) A warthog with several riders (oxpeckers) enters the scene stage right. She slows down when she spots the lioness. Center stage a few noisy guinea fowls join the scene. They seemingly reprimand the lioness who watches them closely. The warthog decides it best to leave and exits stage right. Big Five #3. [Watch the video below]
Number Two Again
Slow down! In the bush to our right an elephant herd is on the move. We stop to watch, keeping the engine running. Always a good idea when close to elephants. As they near the road they bunch up. The young ones are kept close. The herd is much larger than we anticipate. They go through the river bed and in single file march up the opposite embankment.
Suddenly Russ backs up. He’s spotted a couple more elephants heading straight for us. The youngster flaps his ears and hurries across to catch up with the herd. The other follows. We’re okay. Why the caution? Elephants can be unpredictable and if provoked can turn over a vehicle and stomp on it.
After that amazing sighting we see kudu, Russ’ favorite, zebra and of course more impala. We come across a rest stop. This is an official picnic area where getting out of the car is allowed. Its lunch time. So we open up our fridge and decide to make breakfast; yogurt, fruit nuts etc. A starling in the tree watches for a morsel.
Next we come across a small herd of buffalo. They’re just standing around on the road blocking traffic. With horns like these chaps nobody tries to hurry them along. After a bit one makes an executive decision and they move off into the bush. Big Five #4.
Number Four and a Half
It’s getting hot and besides impala we see little along the Sabie River road. Then on a straight stretch several cars are stopped. Ah! A sighting! We pull up slowly so as not to disturb whatever it is everyone is looking at. We see nothing and ask the woman in the first car. A leopard! Well, he just disappeared in the culvert under the road. Oh no! Not again! We’ve seen leopard paws and tails and the flash of one chasing across the road after two warthogs. But to see a leopard in a tree or walking along… never. All we see are tracks. Big Five #4 ½.
And so it was how once again after an amazing day in the Kruger we saw Four out of the Big Five.