June 12, 2004

When it Rains it Purrs

Guide Andy’s stated goal this AM was to complete the big 5 sightings by snagging King Leo. Another ranger radioed that there had been a sighting but by the time we arrived the only evidence of their presence was one seriously freaked out baboon. The fact that he eluded us again did not detract from more great game viewing. I’d liken the experience to diving with the overland “divemaster” guiding you to areas where you’re likely to spot certain animals.

I’m not sure why the safari experience is so thrilling. I suppose it’s a combination of seeing these creatures in a natural (and gorgeous) setting, the danger that’s involved (though minimal, it still exists) and simply the thrill of discovery. But the element that was most core to the experience did not reveal itself until later that day…

On to Umlani

Before lunch we said goodbye to Andy and headed to a private park in the Timbavati region of Kruger. Private reserves are typically formed by a group of land owners who rely on ecotourism to support the upkeep of the reserve. Unlike Kruger, which required all drivers to stay on roads, private parks allow guided tours to off road to get a closer view of the animals. While offroading skirted the line between impacting the animals and affording the chance to closely observe them, the guides only did so in certain situations. Due to the animals’ familiarity with vehicles they often paid little heed to us.

Umlani proved to be a wonderful place. The staff was genuine and friendly, the food was incredible and our guide and tracker were second to none in the Bush, which we discovered soon into our afternoon drive. The evening before a pride of lions had killed a buffalo and we headed to the spot in hopes that they were still there. We were not disappointed :-)

How cool is this cat????

Food coma, Leo style

As the four of us sat just five meters away from these majestic cats it dawned on me what it was about the experience that was most gripping: seeing wildlife on equal terms. There are no artificial constraints or restraints, no man-made hindrances, no imposition of man-made power or dominance. You were observed as much as they were (though they lost interest far more quickly).

Abuzz with excitement, we headed off to enjoy our evening “sundowner” – cocktails made to order in the middle of the Bush (how spoiled were we??).

Shadrack mixing on the Rover

As we finished our drinks our tracker Peter calmly pointed behind us to three lionesses and one male loping down the road. We packed up and jumped into the vehicle to follow, as they were clearly on the hunt. The stopped a few minutes later and killed the engine, straining to hear what their hyper sensitive ears (or noses) must have picked up. Stealthily, two of the females maneuvered behind us and into the Bush to stalk their prey. As it turns out males only bother to do any of the work for really big kills (e.g. buffalo), the rest are (naturally!) left to the females. This is true even up until the day before and after a lioness gives birth. In any event watching the hunt from the sidelines one could not help but be deeply impressed by the grace of these predators.

On the prowl
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?