Kruger National Park – South Africa

posted Dec 11, 2010, 9:26 PM by Darren Cannell   [ updated Dec 15, 2010, 10:54 PM ]
What an incredible day we had at the biggest game reserve in the world.  We set our alarms for 4:30 am to take advantage of the 6 am gate opening.  We piled into one car and were off.  We paid our 180 Rand per person which is less than 30 CDN and spent more than 8 hours driving around the 600 km long park.  We were not expecting to see as much as we did, we either were incredibly lucky or the stars were all aligned for us because we saw so much and almost everything we could possibly want to see.  We stuck to the paved road for a while.  We wanted to get off of this because for some reason we thought that we would see more wildlife on the grid roads.  But animals don’t care really, we found this out very quickly.  The first hour was so exciting and I will try and explain to you what we saw.  The first animal was the guinea hen, which was really no big deal and I was thinking to myself if this is all we see, then I am going to be so disappointed.  Then we saw deer like creatures and I am not sure of there name and over the 8 hours we probably saw 400 of them or more.  Then we saw deer like thinks with horns and about 300 of them over the day.  Then an eagle like thing but bigger flew over our car so we watched that for a while.  Then the zebras were spotted and a baby zebra which was so cute and we were focused on that by the side of the road and then Chelsea screams there’s a lion and I am thinking it is probably a rock but sure enough there were several female lions in the brush.
The best part was that they were stocking the zebras.  Then the zebras quickly went across the road after ascertaining that they were in jeopardy and waited and watched the lions as they moved towards the zebras.  I had to go to the bathroom so badly at this point, I asked Darren to drive forward up a mile or so for me to go and then we could drive back.  So we moved forward a bit and there in front of us so close to the road was a lone male bull elephant munching away on something.
We were awestruck and then two giraffes popped their heads up directly behind the elephant.  It was amazing and so much to watch at once.  I have to pee so bad that it is becoming painful but no one wants to miss this.  Meanwhile the same pride of lions is moving in the trees and we see that there is a different grouping of zebras that they are now stocking.  There is so much to watch that it is impossible to leave.  After another 10 minutes of watching, I made my apologies to the group and begged Darren to pull forward somewhere safer for me to have some relief.  It was very hard to leave Animal Kingdom behind but we pulled forward to safety which was only about 400 yards ahead.  I bailed out of the car and I have never been so scared to pee in my life.  I was probably being stocked by a hyena at the time, who knows if they like cougar flesh or not?  Anyways I finally get back into the car and my heart was pounding and it took 5 years off of my life to pee outside of the safety of the car, but when you got to go you got to go.  We quickly drove back to watch the whole scene play out again.

We kept driving and this time we moved to a different grid road and eventually saw hyenas and they were stocking different zebras, the hyenas were too far to get a good picture and they kept dodging behind trees.  Darren then stopped for a tortoise crossing the road.  We saw more deers and antler type deer’s and then we had to stop as this very large elk sized thing with a bristle of fur standing up along his spine and he had odd stripes and antlers and was very peculiar looking walked across the road.  We stared at him for quite some time.  We drove along and Dan yells there is a giraffe.  We cruised along and I spotted a ton of buzzards eating and fighting over a carcass that was spread around into 4 piles.  It looked to be a giraffe carcass.  The buzzards were creepy to watch but interesting.  Then Dan yells again stop back up there is the ugliest bird thing with a read head.  So we did and what an incredibly ugly and awkward bird that was about 3 feet tall with bright intense red on the sides of his head.  He walked in this prehistoric manner and was uggggly.  He was alone and had some sort of fetus baby animal in his mouth which he was obviously going to eat.  None of us had ever seen anything like this before not even on the Animal Planet channel.

We stopped at a rest stop to eat lunch and it was only 10:30 am but we were famished.  We had packed a lunch and we devoured it.  There was this cool magnetized poster that people could move color coordinated magnets to parts of Kruger where they had spotted certain animals.  Someone had put a leopard coloured magnet close to the gate that we came in and that made sense because Chelsea said that she saw something as soon as we came in and she thought it was a cat.  We stuck around but could not see anything, so she probably did see a leopard.

We moved on and chose a different back road to see if we could experience anything different and very quickly we saw a troupe of monkeys and their babies walking along the road and in the ditch.  We watched these guys for quite some time they were even interested in us and when they came near we closed our windows.  Moving along we saw what we thought were very large rodents moving across the road in the distance and when we got closer we saw that they were meerkats and they did not stick around for long, they had a purpose and they were off.  We saw some more odd SA elk like things with the bristly back along their spine.  We checked out a few watering holes and saw tons of hippos.  We drove along and noticed that there were four safari jeeps full of people in the distance and at Kruger everyone stops where anyone has already stopped because that means that there is something to see.  We were going to drive past the 4 safari jeeps and pull up on the end to watch then Chelsea screams there is a lion.  Darren had his arm literally hanging out of the window which you are not supposed to do at any time.  It turns out that there was a male and a female lion directly on the side of the road and when we actually noticed them was when we were literally 2 feet away and I gasped and Darren yanked his arm in and did the window up quickly and stopped.  I was in shock I think, because I could not even pull up my camera to take a shot.  We realized that this is what everyone had stopped for and we were blocking there view.  We did not know what to do, so we backed up.  If you can imagine about 25 people giving us the most dirty looks on the planet well that was what it was like.  They were waving at us to turn our car off and blah blah blah.  We were about 10 feet away from the lions now and we had a great view.  I piped up with “where are the rest of them?”  Because they usually travel in a pride and then I figured out that they were alone to mate and sure enough after watching for about 10 minutes while these lions slept; the male got up and mounted the female and was making this ungodly growling sound as he was biting down on her ears and neck and he literally mated with her for under one minute.  Personally I was not impressed but it was a sight to see, that I will never forget.  We were all not even breathing the whole time because how often are you two feet away from wild lions and get to watch a lion love scene 10 feet away through your front car window?  We realized that this was literally the climax of the whole trip, it was so exciting to watch these beautiful creatures performing with not a care in the world that they had an audience.  The male eventually got off of her and she rolled on her back and tried to get playful with him and he was having nothing to do with this.  He yawned and looked like he was going to go back to sleep when she got up and walked away with not even a glance back at her mate.  He got up and walked after her after stretching and panted after her a few minutes later.  I still can’t believe that we were blessed with such a show. 
We did not even want to leave but the show was over, so we drove away.  Within minutes Darren had stopped again and we watched a dung beetle roll a softball sized ball of dung across the road and Daxtin videotaped it and made it into a movie right away.  It was cute to watch even though it was on a much smaller scale than the ‘lion lovin’.

We decided to follow a safari jeep full of people because they had more eyes than us to spot things.  We stopped whenever they did and we saw a multitude of deer type things and then a wildebeest comes out of nowhere and stomps across the road.  He stops and stares us down and I was just about to say to Darren back up quick and then the wildebeest strode off into the trees.  Wow he was big.  Then Darren stopped again because he spotted a bright florescent green chameleon crossing the road, so watched and waited for him to do this and they are not quick but no one had seen one quite so big, he was beautiful as far as lizard type things go.  Then Dax spotted a ferret which I did not even think they lived in SA.  We watched him for a while, he was cute.  Then we turned onto another road and right away we were greeted with about 20-30 baboons walking around all of the cars that had stopped.  These creatures have such attitude and they aren’t scared of us and they would come toward us and we would quickly close the windows, I do not trust those things at all.  They had babies clinging to them and they were kind of cute and all of them were interesting to watch but they were bored with us and eventually they moved on.  We spotted another safari jeep that had stopped and it was for a whole bunch of these prehistoric red headed huge walking birds that we had seen one of before.  We watched these ugly things for a while and then drove off because they gave everyone the creeps even more so than buzzards.  We turned onto the paved road to start our journey back home and we saw repeats of the animals, like giraffes and zebras and deers by the dozens etc.  We had not seen anything interesting for about an hour and had come across a rather open savannah dotted with trees and I spotted two rhinosores and I was pumped because the black rhino is a rare sighting.  We watched these guys in the distance and they move quite quickly.
We drove on after a long day and I then spotted a lone elephant up on a savannah hill and it looked so cool because he was so huge.  We drove out the gate still excited by what we had seen in the space of 8 hours.  It was definitely one of the most incredible things that I have ever done.  Our seven year old was bouncing off the walls by this time and if there was not a million things that could have killed him in Kruger I would have said go for a run.  We were all exhausted watching and searching for this long and so we headed home which took less than a half hour.  I wanted a brief stop at the grocery store to pick up some great South African wine which I thought would be a great way to wrap up an absolutely perfect day.  We did not expect to see as much as we did, it was utterly amazing and everyone if given the opportunity should experience a once in a lifetime joy like we just did.