It was thursday, august 6th 2015, our second to last night in South Africa, close to four weeks in the KTP, in Pilanesberg and in Marakele laid behind us, earlier that week my daughter and I had entered Kruger, the final park on our list, at Crocodile Bridge.
Based on a nine year long experience with perhaps 100+ nights spent in Kruger, I am a big fan of the park, not only of its self-drive opportunities but also of the morning, sunset and night drives conducted by their staff. We've always had excellent sightings, especially after dark, genets and civets galore, often lions and leopards, too and every once in a while rarer species like side-striped jackals, white tailed mongooses or servals. Also, these drives come rather cheap, usually costing us 220 R per adult. Lots of good reasons to book a sunset or a night drive for pretty much every day of our visits, this year was no exception. However, although my memory may play a trick on my mind, looking back at these past nine years I couldn't help but feel that the quality and the quantity of our night drive sightings has slowly but constantly declined, especially when it comes to the big predators. And yet, "hope dies last" is a famous native proverb and since there is hardly anything else to do after darkness has fallen over Kruger, I had once again booked two seats for a night drive.
Satara is perhaps the most popular camp in Kruger (and rightly so) and so are bookings for its sunset and night drives. Our truck was filled to the very last spot, only the very seat next to me remained empty - after a little argument my daughter and I had decided it might be best if we spent a few hours for ourselves, so she stayed in our hut while I climbed onto the truck. After our previous two 2015 night drives from Lower Sabie had been slow (for Kruger standards) she did not expect to miss much - and neither did I. I even left my tripod behind in the bungalow, something I had never done before.
Our driver and guide for the night was Matwell. Matwell and I go back a long time, when I first met him in 2009 he was just a rookie, learning his skills; today he is (I believe) Satara's head field guide. I was sitting in the middle of the truck, right behind its door, in my personal opinion the best seat in the house. The row right behind Matwell was occupied by an Italianman couple (male and male). Right from the start of the drive it was obvious that these two had never been in Africa before. Matwell showed his good sense of humor, joking about "Bunga bunga" and Berlusconi. And why not? He had more than enough time, a civet here and there, two hyeanas, a few genets and that was it. Not once had I taken my video camera out of my backpack. It must have been 10:15 pm when we were back at the corner of the H7 and the H1-3. I was really hoping that Matwell would make a left turn towards the camp, to finish another uneventful night drive. Instead he chose to turn right, south. I sighed silently but mightily. After another ten fruitless minutes Matwell finally turned the truck a last time around, heading back north towards camp when all of a sudden three huge male lions started to use the tar road for their nightly adventures. Well, if you have been to Kruger yourself, you will know that lions are a rather common sighting, for me common enough that I still kept my camera inside the bag. However, a lot of other guests became rather excited so Matwell tried to shoo the cats off the road, next to the vehicle, so that everybody would have a good view and not just the front row passengers. Me, I did not even get excited when I started to hear fighting noises from the grass, I thought the lions were mock-charging each other. Little did I now...
I know this is a long video (at least for you youtubers out there) and yet I advise you to stay with me until its end, especially if you want to find out the meaning behind its title.