The trip to the Kruger Park was not only filled with feathered beasties. We also were lucky enough to have wonderful sighting of creatures covered in fur, scales, or with tusks! I also managed to blind a Bush-baby in a tree much to it’s horror and my delight at tracking it down with my torch in the tree tops. There is something exciting and wondrous about stalking creatures, or watching them interact in their natural environment. I’m sure much of my love of nature is inherited from my mom who is an avid botanist, geologist and always had interesting facts to tell us when we made trips to the KNP in the past when I used to live in Nelspruit, one of the cities nearby. Often my illustrations are filled with the creatures I have encountered in South Africa, and you can be sure many of these will feature in new illos soon.
We had two experiences on this trip that stood out. The first was when we stopped to spy on some hippos who were grazing on a river bank. We could only see one or two at first, but then something disturbed them, and about 20 came lumbering out from behind a bush, creating a huge dust cloud that hovered over their grunts as they splashed and dived into the river. I wonder what creature disturbed them, in any event it was quite exciting to watch them throw themselves into the river in a hurry and I can easily understand why these huge creatures are regarded as one of the most dangerous in Africa.
The second is a combination when on two occasions I spotted lion. I have never seen lion like this in the KNP as usually you drive up to a long queue of cars with everyone avidly training their binoculars on some distant lion tuft that is really impossible to see. This time however, we were the first to see the lions. As we were driving up a dip in the road, my eye caught a flash of tail, and we proceeded cautiously and were rewarded with two lionesses relatively close to the road. The second sighting was even more impressive and exciting.
I was driving, and after about an hour of nothing, just hot dry bush, we almost drove into two lions relaxing in the shade on the side of the road. I was amazed by the size of their heads, they really are large animals, and I got quite a fright, as I’m not familiar with lion etiquette. I screeched on the brakes, waking everyone in the car up and we were treated to an old moth eaten male lion roaring at us, while his wife looked on. He had obviously seen a few fights, as he was blind in one eye and his head was covered in old scars. He was still impressive to me, and it was the first time i had seen lion so close like this in the park. Quite an experience! I was sad to leave and I hope to visit the park again soon!