Today was our last day in the Kruger Park but not in a game park. We left Pretoriouskop at 6:30am and headed south to the Malelane Gate (the same one we had entered at). We took the same route as when we arrived. On route we were hoping for a sighting of a leopard. Unfortunately we never saw one but we did get to see a Sable Antelope right on the side of the road. They are incredibly rare with only 90 found in the Kruger Park. Being a lover of statistics I wondered what the probability of seeing a Sable Antelope is in the Kruger Park and while it clearly depends on how long you stay, where you drive, how much you drive etc, the answer is a staggeringly low 0.1% probability. It is on the endangered species list. It has seen such a rapid decline that in 80’s the probability of seeing one would have been 1.2% (which is still pretty low but more than 10 times what it is today). Not a bad start to the day.
Once we left the park we headed back to the airport to collect two special friends (John & Pam) who are spending the next 2 days with us in a private game park in the Sabi Sands reserve. They had flown in from Durban and had landed just after 8am. We arrived at the airport at about 9:30am (they knew they would have to wait for us to collect them in case you’re wondering). By this stage the two scavengers in the car were hungry and so they ordered a take away second breakfast.
We then had a 2 hour journey to our lodge for the next 2 nights being Kirkman’s Camp in the Sabi Sands reserve. We arrived just before lunch and the temperature was 37.5 degrees. The only place to be in temperatures like that is indoors with the air-conditioner on. After lunch we had about 2 hours to relax before our game drive at 4pm. The lodge is situated on the Sand River and so we headed down to the river to see what we could find and very soon we saw a lionness on the other side of the river. Unfortunately that is Mala Mala territory and our lodge cannot cross the river so we had to view it from our side only. The sighting was not much better than what we had seen already in the Kruger Park. However, not long after the radio call came in that another one of our lodge rangers had found 2 lionness and this time in an area of the river that was on Kirkman’s land and so we headed off to see them.
When we arrived they were drinking from the river and so we couldn’t cross the river to see them as they were drinking right at the crossing point. We eventually decided to cross further down and come back up again and while we did that they radioed to say that they had found the whole pride and they were eating a Buffalo which had most likely been killed that afternoon. So we abandoned the two lionesses and headed for the pride eating rather. The sighting was incredible. The sun had just set and so the lighting was not great but I managed to get a few photos before dark. It was an amazing sighting. In my lifetime I can only count 4 times that I have watched lions feeding and this was probably the most spectacular by some distance. The dominant male fed the whole time we watched. The buzzing of the flies was incredibly loud. The one lioness had her whole head inside the carcass at one stage. The stench from the carcass was overwhelming when we were down wind (our ranger quickly changed our position because it was overpowering). We watched the lions feeding for about 40 minutes and by this time it was totally dark. Evening drinks were forgotten and we headed back to the lodge for dinner. (Tried to upload a photo but taking too long and I am now exhausted so will try tomorrow again.
It really is hard to explain how amazing the sighting was. This was Pam’s first game park experience ever and she has no idea how fortunate she was to see this. I have probably been to game parks coming up to 100 times (or maybe more) and it was without a doubt the best sighting I have ever seen. Our game ranger (named Daniel by the way) has a tough act to follow on the next 3 drives we do with him. Fortunately his birding skills are pretty good and so I am hoping to get significantly more birds added to the list for the trip and maybe even 1 or 2 lifers.
Daniel is still trying to explain to Helen why he thinks his Helen should be compared to a Hippo (we saw one this afternoon in the river which started the discussion again). It seems he is a slow learner …
P, H, M, J, P & D (how could he not remain at the end)