The Thrill of the Hunt in Klaserie, Timbavati, and Sabi Sands
When we arrived at Gomo Gomo Safari Lodge in the middle of October of 2013, we were handed a cold drink and invited to walk out on a wooden deck overlooking a large waterhole. We took a seat under a century-old Weeping Boer Bean tree and listened to birds singing songs we had never heard before. Weaver birds were tending to nests in a dead tree out front. A herd of impalas walked down to the waterhole to get a drink. Then the elephants came.
Yes, we were in Africa, in the bush. Of this we had no doubt as we watched this mother elephant and her baby making their way toward us through the trees. The joy I felt about overwhelmed me. Tears filled my eyes; yes, Africa, we were actually in Africa!
Until that moment it hadn’t seemed real, Africa for so long was only a dream, a dream we had for a few weeks back fifteen years ago. Then we put the dream away until the summer of 2012 when our parental care responsibilities ended and we could start to think about a trip to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary in 2013. My husband suggested, “Let’s go to Africa on safari”. And I seconded it.
My previous sightings of live elephants were limited to a few at zoos or at a circus when I was a kid, and I never realized until I saw this mother elephant at the waterhole where her mammary glands were located. I had assumed elephants had udders positioned like the domesticated cows I grew up around. The mother’s short right tusk allowed us to recognize her in the days to come.
When we were in the planning stages for this, ‘our trip of a lifetime”, we realized what we wanted to focus on was not scenery, not culture, but the maximum number of quality sightings of animals. We wanted animals accustomed to vehicles, and we didn’t want to share sightings with multiple vehicles.
After a couple of months of studying on the internet we settled on four nights at Gomo Gomo Game Lodge in the Klaserie Reserve, four nights at Kambaku Safari Lodge in the Timbavati Reserve and four nights at Arathusa Safari Lodge in Sabi Sands Reserve, all in the Greater Kruger National Park and chosen for their location by a waterhole and within the limitations of a retired educator’s budget.
We picked October because it seemed to be the “not” season, not too cold, not too hot, not too wet, not too many mosquitoes, and not much new growth to hide the animals in the bushes. We then contacted the Sun Safari Company in Cape Town to book the trip including transfers to and from the airport in Hoedspruit and between lodges.
We were met at the airport in Hoedspruit by HJ, a ranger at Gomo Gomo. In addition to waking us up in the morning and walking us back to our room after dark to ensure we wouldn’t run, he was our guide for the game drives. Between us and the waterhole was a high electric fence to keep the elephants out, but everything else could go underneath and that allowed a leopard one night to make tracks around the porch of the chalet next to us.
Our game drives started out with a cloud of dust when HJ spotted a honey badger disappearing into a tunnel in a termite mound and that was our one and only chance for bagging a honey badger on this safari. On the other side of the mound a dwarf mongoose peeked shyly out his tunnel.
HJ stopped briefly at a herd of impalas saying, “Before your trip is over, I promise you that you will literally see over a thousand impalas” and then went on barely gave me enough time to snap this one picture. Leopards we learned love the McDonalds as advertised on the impala bum; the “Fast Food on the Hoof” is true convenience food for them.
Then our sightings jumped in size starting off with a male giraffe with deep claw marks on his side.
Cape Buffalos were all over the road and HJ drove slowly right in the middle of the herd.
“Though they give milk like the water buffalo, never try to domestic them”, he advised, “They will kill you”. No, I was not tempted, they looked too intimidating. Those huge horns and massive necks were nothing that I would want in my barn – if I had one.
This elephant was a young male who seemed huge, but he was still with his herd and under the age of eighteen. He will get kicked out when he reaches sexual maturity. “A lot of people are intimidated by the sheer size of elephants, but it is important not to run from them”, HJ told us. “This is what goes wrong in Kruger, elephants have learned to chase cars because the people drive away from them”.
The next stop was a small waterhole where seven members of the Ross pride, five lionesses and two sub-adult males, just waking up from sleeping away the day.
Edited by Terry, 24 January 2014 - 04:43 AM.