Our last day and our last game run. We were up at 5 a.m. again and realized it would be another misty and cold morning. Apparently many of the others decided not to go on this last drive, but we were glad we did – in spite of the cold. We wrapped up in the blanket and put the poncho over us as well – not for the rain, but to keep out the wind. And off we went.
Today we saw more birds than before. I need to identify them before I post most of them As we crossed a river bed, we saw this white spot high up in a distant tree. With binoculars and our guide, we saw what it truly was – the African Fish-Eagle. It looks similar to our American Bald Eagle. When we returned this way an hour or so later, there was another one up in the tree with the original one we saw. This picture was taken with Doug’s super telephoto powered lens. Later in the morning, I took this picture of the same kind of bird in another location. Here you can see the front of him.
We seemed to drive for a long time without seeing much. So, we were stunned when our guide, who was driving about 40 mph down the road suddenly stopped and backed up to show us this animal far off on a rock outcropping. With binoculars, we were trying hard to find it. How he could spot it was truly amazing. It is a Klipspringer -an animal I had never heard of. While we were parked watching it, it never moved, until suddenly it turned and did a “spring” to another rock – so we then understood how he might have gotten at least part of his name. And it was amazing Doug was able to get a shot of his jump.
While we were driving, another truck radioed Gideon to tell him about a herd of “breeding buffalo” in a certain section on the lodge’s reserve. So, off we went – but had just missed them. We could see them in the distance going over the hill. We only saw their tracks. But we also saw a lone, limping buffalo near the road. Our guide told us he was probably hurt trying to get a female. Now that he was injured, he would be easy prey for a lion or leopard.
It was a bit disappointing to have missed the buffalo herd because not much earlier we stopped when we saw a group of Land Rovers (not from our group) gathered along side of the road. Apparently, one of them had spotted a leopard, but only the first truck there saw it. So, it seems we were off by just a matter of minutes from seeing two really spectacular sights. But that is the way of the bush – it’s about timing and being in the right place.
As we were heading back, we crossed a river on what is called “Crocodile Bridge.” I always wondered why they would call it that since we hadn’t seen a single one (and we had crossed it many times) – until this time. Here is a baby croc trying to get warm on this rock in the river.
The scenery was beautiful as we drove all three days. These mountains in the background are the Lebombo Mountains and are along the eastern border of Kruger, but not actually part of the park itself. They were a great backdrop for many of my pictures.
Close to the lodge, we saw lots of vultures in the trees, so we knew a killing of some kind was imminent or had just occurred. But we also saw an endangered bird called the Southern Ground Hornbill. He has a distinctive red throat. I also have a picture of him on the ground walking – never realized it until I was going back over my pictures! According to the guides, we were lucky to have seen it.
Our game drive was at an end, and so we said good-bye to our Gideon and Michael after thanking them for showing us so much of the wildlife in Kruger Park. We had our final big breakfast knowing we wouldn’t eat until we were back on the ship tonight. We also heard that the same group who had seen the mother leopard and her cub yesterday also saw the male leopard this morning! Our ship’s escort, Leslie, who had been on 15 safaris and had never seen a leopard, was part of this group. We were delighted for him.
We had about an hour to get cleaned up and packed before boarding the vans to take us to the Kruger International Airport. So, I got to enjoy my 2nd outdoor shower before leaving. Even in the cold, it was a fun experience.
It took almost two hours to get from our Lodge to the airport, but we saw more game along the way in our “unoffical game drive!” We suddenly stopped because a large group of vehicles were all stopped in the middle of the road. Turns out a group of rhino were blocking the road and no one could move forward. By the time we started up again, I saw the “culprits” along side the road – these hefty rhino! On a prettier note, I also spotted this Black Stork with its distinctive long red beak and legs.
Back out on the main roads, we passed the same beautiful scenery we did coming in. And back at the gate to Kruger where we had checked in three days earlier, we saw some warthogs just roaming around. We stayed in our vehicles this time, and headed out toward the airport.
The airport was really nice and larger than we had expected. I liked the way they used a large soccer ball décor on top of their road signs. I had seen that before and was able to get a picture this time. I thought all the soccer fans in my family would enjoy seeing this. We boarded a Brazilian airline and had an uneventful hour’s flight to Durbin where we caught up with our ship.
From the plane, I took these pictures as we flew over Durbin. This is along the beautiful coastline where the major resorts are. The green fields are well groomed sugar cane fields. It was a pretty “fly in.”
We had no problems claiming our bags and getting on the charter bus that took us to our ship. We even had a mini tour by the guide on the bus. We learned that there are more people from India living in Durbin than any other place in the world outside India itself. That was a surprise. We had been to Durbin before and never learned that.
We boarded the ship and went up to the poolside in the Lido for their special African BBQ, called the Braai BBQ. There was a variety of foods and different wild game, including zebra which I had never tried. It was actually rather tough and not all that tasty. My favorite was the impala – very tender and good. And having seen so many impala every where we looked in the past three days, I didn’t feel so badly eating it.
We didn’t stay up there long because we wanted to get unpacked and get our pictures downloaded. We were also very tired after so many early mornings and long days. So, we went to bed early – before the ship ever left Durbin. When we woke up in the night, we were sailing in the Indian Ocean.
In summary, we were very pleased with our excursion to Kruger. It was a great tour that was planned well. We enjoyed every minute of it and made us eager for another safari somewhere else in Africa. We missed three ports – Maputo, Mozambique; Richards Bay, S. Africa; and Durbin, S. Africa. We felt the overland excursion was a better trade for those three ports, good as they were. We highly recommend it.