"The bush veld is a place that grips you and subdues you and makes you one with yourself" - Jan Smuts
How true those words are. All the woes of the world are forgotten when you surrender your soul to the wild open space of Kruger National Park. No wonder we love to take this journey every year and if possible more than once.
Like all people who adore wildlife, we are interested in the big cats as well as everything else including rocks, trees, flowers and birds. So let's begin with the King.
This picture of a male lion is made up entirely of glass beads. Every bead had to be carefully placed before glueing it into position. The artist is a lady and I have met her. When she showed me photos of her work I made a special effort to see the various animal portraits hanging in the reception areas of every camp.
Yes, absolutely. The artist Mrs. Da Silva, said she first sketched each animal from a picture, then proceeded with the bead work. I should imagine it was pasted to a piece of board first as the backing. It takes her 3 months to complete one bead-photo. She donated her bead-animals to each camp. The one she did for Shingwedzi Camp was washed away in the January floods as the water got as high as the ridge of the thatched roof.
So when we saw this lone elephant high on an outcrop of rocks, we were very surprised. "
During a picnic lunch at Pafuri picnic site we were urgently called away to the Luvuhu river bank to see a large herd of elephants coming down to cool off in the water. What an interesting sight it was! [img src="imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/xq90/24/ihgi.jpg" src=""
The spring rains had only just begun and it was dry and hot, especially at midday. We spotted this little group seeking shad under a Marula tree. The little babies were sleeping on their sides.
This short video showed they were alive An ear moved!
It is always a thrill when a large herd of elephants approaches and either walk alongside the road and usually cross over it to reach a river. Note how the younger "teenage" elephants give us a sniff and raise their trunks, signalling they are well aware of our close proximity.
More bead portraits - This one of a crocodile is titled "Mr. Sabie" and hangs in the reception at Lower Sabie Camp. I thought it should really be on display at our first camp of the trip, Crocodile Bridge. Croc Bridge camp is usually our first stop because it is only just inside the very southern region of Kruger, off the main road to Maputo and Swaziland and easily reached within a day.
The camp is small by comparison to Satara, and Skukuza standards but that is why we like it so much. This is a little remembrance garden as you drive to the rondawels overlooking the Crocodile River.
This a Snuff-box tree growing in the camp.- (Oncoba spinosa) Never grows more than 3-5m in height
The flowers are referred to as "the Fried Egg Flower" and are rather beautiful.
The fruit resembles a cricket ball and is about the same size.
Tourists rush over to the boundary fence to catch a glimpse of the resident hyena. He has been there on the last three times we have stayed in Croc Bridge camp. Not fazed at all by the attention he goes to lie down for a snooze.
This Beaded Leopard hangs in the reception of Crocodile Bridge Camp. He has a rather challenging gaze.
I've showed you the lurking hyena at the Croc Bridge camp so here are the rest of the hyena's we saw during our holiday.
Single hyena feeding off an old kill.
Two hyenas ran towards us on the side of the road clearly sniffing and hunting something tasty.
We discovered a den (actually in a culvert going under the road) of two young pups. We visited them several times but never once saw the mother. The were so lovable.....just ready to bite your hand off!
Straying away from the animals for the time being, it is an advantage to know something about the geological history of Kruger Park which predates the arrival of humans, or that of the dinosaurs......plants and even bacteria are a recent phenomena by comparison. In fact one has to cast ones mind back three and a half billion years to fully appreciate the park's earliest history. During the cooling of the rocks and tectonic movement, volcanoes smothered the landscape with lava, capping existing geological formations, much like chocolate sauce poured over ice-cream cones. Outpourings such as these resulted in the basalt and rhyolite formations of Kruger today.
In the northern half of Kruger the land is flat and because there had been a tremendous amount of controlled burns, the horizon was clearer than ever. In the distance a pair of pyramids appeared. What! Were the Egyptians here too? Not likely;y - these pyramids are Syrenite intrusions that protrude from the landscape at Masorini Archaeological Site.
The rocky outline becomes apparent the closer you get and disappointingly realize it's not a 'real' pyramid...but maybe even a better one made from nature alone.
Well, who knows?? After all Egypt is in Africa....not only that, Kruger Park is only a stones throw away from the east coast and straight up through the Red Sea if you wanted to come by ship.
Continuing with a bit of history - Kruger has numerous places where incidents have occurred over it's history. The names will mean little if anything to most people but I would like to show you how one comes across these places which are marked usually by a stone pillar.
The landscape with the semi-charred vegetation is beautiful, having not yet reached the "dusty" phase.
I'm trying to imagine what it must be like to go to school in South Africa and learn about all of these events that the rest of the world mostly ignored, if only because the country was so far away from us. I imagine that South Africa and Australia have a lot in common in that department. Then again, in both countries, the history books have been revised so much in the last 50 years that the younger and older populations have probably learned wildly different things and might even have difficulty discussing a number of historical matters.
I can't even begin to imagine what they are learning. If it's anything like in my day, I spent three years learning every aspect of the Voortrekkers. Ask me what they ate, what they used as medicine, how they reacted in times of attack, and right down to the toys children played with and the clothes they wore and why. That was because Germany had just been beaten in WWII and a lot of Afrikaners were German sympathizers. I was at a very pro-Afrikaans school. Today I should imagine it's all about the "Kings" and Chiefs of African cultures. To be honest, nobody knew a thing about them except historians and then it was up to the education department to decide what and what not to include.
I remember my father going to the school and almost ringing the principals neck because a remark was passed against 'the English'. Even my class teacher was highly critical of anything English. Maybe we were not so dumb as to notice - we conveyed it all back to our parents!
Thanks for checking in to my story htmb! A bit more to come.
Not a single person feels they have had their money's worth until they have spotted a leopard. An extremely difficult task as these magnificent creatures are loners, secretive, and a bit skittish. It is no wonder then that we were over the moon to be able to photograph this beauty.
This is the bead leopard hanging in the Pretoriuskop camp - our third camp for a few days.
During the day it is wise to stop around noon and get some sustenance - and also use a very welcome toilet stop. This is the public picnic area and toilets at Satara Camp - the camp only second to Skukuza in size. Being right in the middle of the park, halfway between the north and the south, it is extremely popular. We are not fond of the bigger camps, preferring to be left to wander around the camp taking photos without the interruption of too many humans. The art looked like it was still a work in progress in some places.
We moved camps from Croc Bridge to Pretoriuskop but in between we had to spend one night at our favourite 'little' camp - Malelane. It is so small ( only 5 rondawels) that it doesn't even have a reception. This check-in facility has to be done at the next door camp, Berg-en-dal. For such a one-nighter you don't even unpack a thing. There is no cooking in the huts except for a very nice covered BBQ area, or a communal kitchen. I have roasted a deboned shoulder of lamb in their large gas cooker! Not this time however.
On kruger maps - along the H1-3 near the Kumana Dam, you will see a baobab marked as the most southern tree of that variety. NOT true! In Malelane camp are several young baobabs.
The few beds that have the daily linen change can have the sheets and towels transported by wheelbarrow!
In the morning we heard millions of bees buzzing around the blossoms on this large tree.
Pretoriuskop Camp has been offering visitors accommodation since the late 1920's. I like staying there for a few days because it's close to all the attractions around Skukuza without having to book into that giant. There are two special things about Pretoriuskop. No, three things... First it has virtually no mosquitos because of it's elevation. Secondly it has a natural rockpool which has been made into a clean and refreshing large swimming pool. Thirdly, the massive spreading Natal Mahogany tree, called the "Indaba Tree". This is where Harry Wolhuter, the original ranger of the camp, used to hold staff meetings or discuss business matters with the leaders of the local people. This is the same man who whilst returning from a patrol in 1903, was attacked by a lion as he rode through the long grass. Not only did he kill the lion with a pocket knife ( I'm thinking Crocodile Dundee sized pocket knife...)but survived the ordeal. One can organise to follow his trail in the southwest of the park with a guide. The skin of the lion and his knife are on view in the Stevenson-Hamilton Memorial Library and Museum. We wanted to visit it but it was undergoing major renovations.
Bird Hides are wonderful places for sitting quietly and munching on a sandwich, knocking back a cold drink or just paying attention to what may not be so obvious at first. We had been sitting in the Gardenia Hide for some time with a few birds darting around and one or two hippos grunting in the pool further along. Out the corner of my eye I noticed a movement. Not sure I stared at the tree right next to the hide. Yes!, It moved again. Then, as it slowly and gingerly appeared I realized it was a Spotted Green Bush Snake - quite harmless.
You never drive, walk or even sit around for very long before there is some animal or bird attraction. These are some of them including fish and strange looking birds: The harmless Bush snake.
Mom - a Black Crake with her red legs and luminous beak.
Her little chick pecking nearby.
A Blacksmith - Plover stands guard near her newly hatched chick.
Striding confidently along is a very rare Longlegged Buzzard.
What a wonderful report -yet again Tod . Of course I love the elephant pics and videos. But ... how lucky are we are to see your leopard pics - wow!! Most of all love the holistic views - geology, flora and fauna ... all covered so well. Pretoriuskop looks such a great place to stay ... maybe one day ?
Found all over the park are warthogs. Most are shy and very wary of visitors who stop to photograph them and soon run off into the bush with their tails stuck high in the air. They are an ugly animal according to humans but I bet there is a lot more to them than just fearsome looks! Here are some we managed to photograph.
What did I hear you say?! I'm such a pretty lady?
Oh, that's OK then, you may take my picture...
This is my cousin - a fine figure of a warthog in anyone's book...
And this is granfer Walter Warthog - responsible for all these little runts around here...
School busload scares the warthogs we were filming......grrrrr
When I went on safari in Kenya, there was a tame warthog near the shop where the van stopped. Even when animals are not especially attractive (I'm being kind), when you can get right close to them, you don't feel the same way as when you just see a picture. I took a picture of that warthog too, although I didn't pet it. But it did come right up to say hello.
I realize too that it may have been because there were few visitors -- the "War on Terror" was on and the parks were quite empty of tourists.
bjd - tame warthogs are known in Kruger too! Well, lets say not as tame as coming to say 'hello' but not afraid of humans and don't run off. These are found on the Skukuza Golf course where they munch the short green grass on their front knees. I never saw any that had very large tusks.
Questa - I'm still going to send in a few more photos.