The 5am knock on our door came early. Given (our butler) knocked until he got a response from us…smart man to know that we are a snooze button hut. Tea, coffee, juice & biscuits are served at 5:30 & we head to the landy (Land Rover) as soon as the whole group is ready. It was full daylight out when we hit the road & a little chilly (I had to use the wool blanket they provide everyone in the landy).
We saw a giraffe almost right out of the gate. But JP was heading toward where the wild dogs were spotted the night before. You probably wouldn’t think it but wild dogs are the 2nd most endangered (don’t ask me what’s first) animal in the Kruger. There are only about 200 of them in total. The group we saw was 19, almost 10% of the estimated population – 8 adults & 11 pups. Wild dog packs have an alpha male & an alpha female & they are the only ones that mate. The rest of the pack is responsible for helping look after the pups. You can see in the pictures that one pup is blind in one eye – look for the glassed over/cloudy eye in the picture. You’ll also see in the picture that these guys are feasting on an impala. They also are one of the only animals in the bush that cares for the sick and/or injured.
After the wild dog sighting we made a stop for coffee. I should take a minute to explain what this entails. JP & Sam set up a table complete with a table cloth & offer everyone hot chocolate, coffee or tea & granola type bars. There were two hipos hanging out in the waterhole we were stopped in front of. There was also millipedes almost the size of my foot.
Shortly after leaving the local Starbucks (lol) Sam stopped us because he could smell something (the trackers are truly amazing in that they know all the tracks, calls, smells & sounds animals are making). Sam has been working at the reserve for over 20 years! Turns out there was a duiker hanging the tree. Leopards kill their prey then drag it up a tree to eat it so nothing else can get to it. JP guessed that since the wild dogs were around the leopard pulled this guy up but then bolted because of the dogs. Usually it’s very unlikely that they would leave a kill only partially eaten & judging by the smell this guy had been there for a couple of days.
We encountered a couple of zebras then had our first “real” giraffe sighting; the first one counted but we were really in a rush to see the dogs & didn’t get to spend much time with it. This sighting was of a large male, small male & a female. Giraffe Society is one dominated by males. Giraffe females & youngsters usually travel together. Males travel alone; going from one group of females to the next seeing if anyone is ready to mate. JP said this large male like weighed in at 1.5 tons. The giraffes in Kruger are Southern giraffes – there are 7 different species (I think in the world but maybe he meant in Africa).
After the giraffes we got our first hyena sighting. This was a very lazy female hyena. You might be able to tell in the pictures that she is kind of sitting in front of a hole dug in the side of this once termite hill. JP thought there was a good chance there were pups in there. Unlike the giraffes, hyena society is dominated by female. There is a single “queen” hyena that runs the pack. Even the lowest ranked female hyena is ranked higher than the highest ranked male. This little lady was the last animal we saw on our morning game drive.
When we got back to the lodge they served breakfast. They have a buffet spread for breakfast & if you want you can also order from a menu. All the food has been amazing. We got back from the game drive at 9:30 then went on the nature walk at 10:30. I really enjoyed the nature walk even though it was quite hot. We got to first take a little walk & learn more about the trees, grass, insects & flowers.
Everywhere we go we see these HUGE termite mounds. On our walk we learned what to look for to know if a mound is active. Basically, any mound that has any exterior holes means it’s not an active mound. Apparently termites can’t eat grass & have to grow this special fungi from the grass that they can eat. It takes a very special climate to grow the fungi which is what they use the mounds to cultivate. It makes the ground very fertile so you see many trees growing out of abandoned mounds.
Although I don’t have a picture we also learned about the Marula tree which elephants & humans love to eat. Unfortunately, the elephants often times rip all the bark (ringbarking it) off the tree which kills it. The bark is the life blood of the tree. If it’s ripped circularly off the tree, the tree is a goner; but if there is even just a little bit connecting the bottom of the tree to the top it’s enough for the roots to send nutrition to the leaves. Very interesting.
The guide also showed us many varieties of dung (apparently you can smoke elephant dung & it will have have the effect of an antibiotic because elephants eat a lot of something that has an antibiotic in it) & many little flowers. He also taught us this survival tactic which works anywhere in the world….if you find something you think might be food first break open the seed (whether it’s a nut, pod, skin, etc.) then rub the insides/seeds on the inner part of your upper arm (the sensitive skin). Wait a couple of hours. If the skin didn’t have a reaction, ingest a small bite of the seed. Again wait a couple of hours. If your body doesn’t react to what you just ingested, it’s likely safe to eat.
Ahh!! It’s 10:30 & I have to go to bed. Even though I’m taking notes, I’m desperately trying not to get more than one drive behind so I don’t forget everything.