Africa on Foot
We woke up eagerly anticipating a long bushwalk. On previous bushwalks, many of the guests got up close and personal to elephants and rhinos, and since no two days in the bush are the same, we could have as well. We went out with both Mike and Jacques, Jacques taking the lead for the first time. The six of us followed closely behind him (after the safety instructions), and we would rotate positions (the person at the front stepping to the side to bring up the rear every 10-15 minutes). Cameras were allowed on the walk, but if the guides said not to take photos as it might spook the animals, we would have to listen or pay the consequences.
We saw a lot of impala on the walk, and several smaller bird species. We stopped to examine tracks and try our luck at guessing which way an animal might be traveling and how long ago it had been there. With the walk nearly over and camp within sight, a group of impala to our right started making a lot of noise. They were joined by some birds and both Mike and Jacques were in like minds that something other than us had gotten their attention. We reversed our tracks to try and get closer to see what might be going on. We stumbled across the tracks of a cat – a leopard, and they were quite fresh (you can tell by how prominent the ridges are between the pads of the feet). We circled around, pausing every few steps to survey our situation and to listen. The impala were still kicking up a fuss. Thirty minutes we were no closer to finding anything and the impala had silenced and started to move off. Whatever it was that was there at one point, it was either lying in wait too long or decided to move off. Even though we didn’t see anything during our stalking of the stalker, it was very exciting to creep along inch by inch, taking it all in. I had goosebumps at one point when they said they recognized leopard tracks.
A big breakfast of French toast with bacon and bananas was followed by quiche for lunch before our last evening game drive of the holiday. We would have another game drive in the morning before heading for Johannesburg, but this would be the last chance to see those epic Kruger sunsets I’m so fond of.
Mike and Jacques funneled us into the jeep and we set off. The radio was abuzz early, and soon we were driving down an embankment and parked only 10 foot from a dead Kudu, its belly open, tongue hanging from its mouth. Across a little gully, only 15 foot from us, laid the two female lions we had grown so accustomed to seeing. They had just eaten so were in no mood to challenge us. The heavy breathing that often follows their gorging was incredible. We sat there with them for a few minutes. Mike was pleased that they had managed to take down such a big kudu as it would feed them for a couple of days. And the more food the mother lion ate, the healthier milk she would have for her cubs, which were too young for meat at this stage.
Seeing as though this was the last night at the lodge for Kim and I and the English guests who had been at Africa on Foot for 4 days, Mike decided to take us to a patch of privately owned land on the reserve that only the vehicles of Africa on Foot are allowed to travel on. We passed the vehicle driven by the other guide as they stopped on the road and were focused on a tree. In the crook, up high, once we were told where to look, were the tails of a couple of genets (pronounced with a soft G like a J). Yes, there were genet tails (say that fast – I dare you). Normally nocturnal, these genets were waiting for the sun to go down before they started their daily activities.
We arrived at a huge watering hole where a pod of hippos were enjoying the water. Mike and Jacques set up the table for our sundowners as the sun crawled towards the horizon. On the far banks of the water, near the start of the dam, a group of 7 buffaloes journeyed from the bushes to have a drink. While it was awesome, Mike was a little disappointed as all 7 looked to be teenage males, or Dagga boys as they are called. The original 7 were soon joined by more, and then more, and soon dozens of buffalo bundled through the bushes towards the water. They lined the top of the dam, they crowded around the water, and they inched closer towards the hippos who were none too happy to see them there. Hippos and buffaloes like to spar, but on this occasion they were all grunts and no action. As the sun left its final purple hue across the water and darkness fell, there was no other way this trip could end. Yes, there was another game drive in the morning; but this was the perfect way to cap the final night drive.
On the final return to the lodge we passed giraffe, some zebra, and a stubborn nightjar who just didn’t want to get off the road. Eventually we just drove right over top him, knowing the wheels were nowhere near him and the clearance was too high to trouble him. We sat around the outdoor fire for dinner of chicken, sweet potato and salad. The lodge was visited by a honey badger, which is apparently normal, and he scurried around untroubled. Sadly, I did not have my camera with me. The next day, we would be leaving for Johannesburg and on to Cape Town.