Kruger National Park: Day 5 – Part 1 (23-Nov)

We couldn’t have asked for a better last day. We started with a plan to look for the male leopard in the river bed. His prints had been spotted around & we thought we’d have a good chance of finding him. We were working with another landy that was also on the hunt for leopard. Pete had been joking with their ranger all week about whose turn it was to spot the exciting game – he found leopard & “we” found lions & rinos for him.

We started off by watching these funny birds, I forgot the name of them..and I think we missed getting a video. They are hysterical. In order to mark his territory the male flies straight up in the air, then essentially falls backwards kicking his legs in the air, then dive bombs to the ground. Is seriously the funniest thing I’ve ever seen a bird too. The three of us were laughing hysterically watching this guy.

We got to & started checking out the riverbed. We drove up it with no signs of the leopard. We did run into a large group of elephants. They were coming down & passing through the riverbed. It was pretty funny to watch these HUGE animals climb down a very steep riverbed. I kept thinking they might fall or at least stumble but they didn’t. You can see by the pictures that there are a lot of little guys in this herd. One way to gage the age of an elephant is to see if they fit underneath their mom’s belly; if they are under 1 year of age, they’re still small enough to fit under the belly. Also worth noting, elephants are pregnant for 22 months…yup almost 2 whole years!! Crazy!!

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JP was telling us that there are approximately 14,000 elephants in Kruger which is 5000 more than the land can support. So what does that mean? Well I guess it’s a huge debate. No one wants elephants, so it’s very hard to move them off the property. The other option is to kill them – population control. As you can imagine, this is extremely controversial. They’ve had to do it before & had to bring in helicopters & pretty much gun down the whole herd simultaneously. Not the best image but it’s reality. If they decide to kill one, they have to kill the whole herd. Why? Because elephants are one of the few animals that mourn the lost of others. Also, if they just killed the older ones the younger ones wouldn’t have an example & pretty much wouldn’t know how to be an elephant. I know that sounds kind of silly but it makes sense if you think about it. I guess we’ll see what they end up doing…

While in the riverbed JP & Sam heard monkeys “alarming”, meaning that they were yelling to one another that there was a predator in the area. It’s funny to hear when you know what you’re listening to; it really does sound like they are screaming back & forth to one another. Sam & JP thought this might mean they could see the leopard. I was actually the one that spotted the monkeys in the tree (well at least Sam let me think I did) & we quickly drove around to where they were on the road. Sam figured out where the monkeys were looking & we headed that way…no leopard but we did see two lions chowing down on a baby zebra. We literally JUST missed the kill. Not sure if I would have actually liked to see it but this is nature at its very best.

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As you can see in the pictures, the lions (male & female) were destroying this guy. In the 10 minutes or so we were watching, they ate almost the entire hind half. Because this guy was a baby, they’ll eat almost the entire thing. Whereas older animals, lions won’t be able to eat the bones – their teeth aren’t strong enough. Hyenas on the other hand, will eat bones. Their jaws/teeth are strong enough. JP radioed the other landys to come check out our finding. Meanwhile, we started to hear the monkeys alarming again, in a different direction. So we were off in hopes of finding the leopard. I have to say my favorite parts of the safari was when we were on the hunt. Lots of adrenaline. Unfortunately, the monkeys were just alarming at some buffalo…not the leopard so we headed back to the lions. When we got back, all that was left were the front legs – this was probably 1/2 hour at most that they devoured the zebra…crazy.

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We didn’t up finding the leopard but nonetheless had a very exciting last drive. After stopping for coffee we made our way back to the lodge & who did we run in to? The injured zebra & a few giraffes!! He was still hanging in there, although still limping badly. The trip was coming full circle!

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Not one part of me was ready to go home. We got back to the lodge, had breakfast, settled our bill, & finished packing. JP & Sam came to send us off. We really had such an amazing trip. I’m hoping we’ll be able to return some day…

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