01.08.2011 - 28.08.2011
Okay I’m not actually sitting in Kruger Park right at the moment but I did type most of this up yesterday during our free afternoon. In fact, I’m sitting in a mall right now that is like any mall that you would find in North America. It was a strange feeling when we got off the mini van and a sign close to the entrance says: “Sushi is Sold Here.” Am I really in Africa????
Indeed I am. Today is our only day off over this 28-day field guide/park ranger course to come into town to buy things and to use the internet café. We arrived here Monday night from Johannesburg (~4.5 hour drive). After 6 days, it is still a bit surreal that I am actually living right inside Kruger National Park where there are elephants, lions, rhinos, hyenas and giraffes roaming around freely. There are seven of us including me taking the course this month. All really great easy going people: 2 from Germany, 1 from UK, 1 from Holland, 1 from Belgium, and 1 also from Canada (Halifax). We are staying in Nkambeni Tented Lodge, located close to the Numbi gate in the southwest corner of the park. It was a complete surprise to me when I heard that there are keys to our tent!! A “tent” that can be locked plus it has a bathroom?!?? WOW, is this luxury style camping or what! As it turns out, the so called “tent” is more like a canvas style cabin. There are two beds in each plus ensuite bathroom (I must add that there are two showers, yes TWO, one indoor and one outdoor!!)
bunch of hippos sunbathing by the water edge
The temperature varies greatly throughout the day. At night and early morning, it is below 10C and in the afternoon when the sun is beaming on you, it feels more like 25C. The weather has been gorgeous, sunny and cloudless every single day---great for star gazing at night (actually today is cloudy). If you don’t mind the cold evenings, it is a really good time of year to come to Kruger, plus there are no bugs!
Over the past four days, we have both hiked and driven through the park. When we hike, in case we run into problems with any animals, we are accompanied by two guides that carry rifles. So far we have seen three of the BIG FIVE---an elephant (saw it at breakfast in our first morning here!), several buffalos and a white rhino (a young one during our night drive), we have yet to see a lion and a leopard (the guides said we probably will since we’ll be here for a month). Other animals that we have encountered include hippos, warthogs, and many from the antelope family: zebra, steenboks, waterbucks, impalas, and kudus. I wish to see more elephants (have seen many sightings of their poo/droppings on the road---yes we are learning how to identify animals from their poos and tracks!) I would really like to see a giraffe as well---such an elegant animal!
Adding on, last night we had an amazing game drive in the evening. The highlight was following a cheetah on the road for about 20 minutes!! We think it was a male. We followed quite close to it in our Landrover, closest was probably ~15 m away. It certainly knew that we were there because we had a spot light shining on it, but it knows that we are not a threat, plus we guessed that it had just made a kill (its belly was quite full, wallowing side to side as it walked....if it was a female, it certainly looked pregnant!). It was just taking it easy patrolling his territory, giving us quite a rare experience to observe a cheetah so closely. Very impressive!!
I am really having a great time here and really looking forward to all the activities planned for the next three weeks including two full-day safaris through the park, plus camping out for two nights under the stars in the last week of August! The Kruger adventure has just begun, I wish you could all be here