At last the sun has decided to join us which makes Peter happy as he is forever moving the solar panels to catch the best rays from the sun. Over the space of the last two days we have see twenty-eight white rhinos and although we continue to search for the elusive black rhino, we have failed to find him. We also saw two elephants. They say they have a lot of elephants be we have only ever seen these two. The staff and guide like you to ask as many questions as you like except for the number of animals they have here. They say it is for security reasons, but if I had a can of paint and a piece of paper, I could quickly add up the number myself. One day we were out and about when spotting rhinos at just about every turn, when we came across four rhinos. Two were lying down, on the road, having a rest, while the other two were standing nearby. The two on the road woke up and started to join the other two. There was a bit of argy-bargy, but these peaceful creatures sorted it out without violence. Then the two that had been lying down walked right up to us. They say the rhinos have poor eyesight and I guess they do. Because these two came within two metres of us before looking into our eyes. It was an amazing experience to be so close to such a beautiful animal. As is now our ritual we position ourselves at the lodge waterhole each day and have never been disappointed. Over the last two days we have counted seventeen rhinos coming down for a drink. Our two elephants also wandered down for a drink but kept well away from the rhinos and hippos.
We are having so much fun here. I absolutely love this place, well except for the weather. A heavy fog cloaks us each morning and the sun is being difficult hiding behind light clouds which is causing us a problem with the solar panels. Doesn’t the sun realise we need him to keep the power up to our camper. Still with the filtered rays of sun, touching our panels, we are just getting enough power for the fridge, lights etc. We have been in the presence of rhinos every day and it is a privilege to share you day with these amazing animals. We watched as a Mama and baby slept peacefully beside the road, with there little legs tucked up under them. We also saw a pair of wandering happily until another male confronted them. The female backed off a bit to let the males sort it out. The two males eyed each other from a safe distance, before weirdly lying down some distance from each other. The female, slow to react, stood watching the males before deciding to lie down next to her partner. It is almost like watching a soap opera on TV. We also drove into the pretty town of Simunye some seven kilometres away to do some shopping at the Boxer supermarket. Simunye is a lush town with beautiful gardens and trees lining the streets. It had been another perfect day, well except for the lack of sun. The nyalas wandered through camp. I think they feel safe on this side of the electric fence, especially when they can hear lions close by.
Hlane Royal National Park is different to all the other parks we have been to. We were told that the last lion had been killed way back in 1952, which meant there were no more wild animals in this tiny kingdom. A forward thinking king then decided to set aside some of his land and begin introducing the animals back, hence Hlane Royal National Park. The park is divided into three main sections. Electric fences surround all the sections. There is the one huge area where the main camp is. Another adjoining it where supposedly there are some black rhinos (although we never did find them) and a third fenced off area for the lions. You are free to drive into the sections where the rhinos are but if you want to see the lions you have to pay to go on an organised game drive. The poor lions are kept under lock and key, but the area they are in is enormous. We naturally paid to go on the game drive to see the lions. The drive started at five-thirty, but the sun did not kiss the safari vehicle until six-fifteen. Our guide drove slowly through the ‘black rhino’ enclosure before turning towards the locked gates into the ‘lion’ enclosure. It did not take long for our guide to find the lions. The poor things were pressed up towards the fence lion, peering into the next enclosure. I guess they are like cats everywhere and want to go somewhere they can’t. There were two handsome males that we were told were brothers only four years old. With them was their mother who looked so careworn I could have hugged her and another younger female who was pregnant. They were gorgeous and we stayed with them for ages before having to leave the ‘lion’ enclosure. We then had morning tea overlooking a giant waterhole before returning to camp at eight o’clock.
Our first full day in Eswatini, and we were excited to see what was about. It was a chilly ten degrees when left to go on our game drive. Also, a cloud had decided to lightly touch the ground to have a rest, so it was a bit foggy as we started the drive. We had heard the lions continually during the night and were anxious to see if we could find them, but we had no luck. We were not really disappointed though as we saw so many white rhinos. I love these beautiful, gentle creatures. They tiptoe so gently on the landscape that I cannot even begin to imagine why stupid, ignorant people would want to harm them. It seemed that every time we turned a corner another rhino was in front of us, or beside us. We saw nine white rhinos on our early morning drive but the special one was when I inched Rhino (our vehicle is in heaven now with all her namesakes around her) up the rough gravel track. A white rhino appeared seemingly from nowhere, perhaps only five metres from our front bumper. Awesome, he stayed with us for a while before sauntering up the road. We also did another game drive in the afternoon, seeing heaps more rhinos, but the highlight is walking over to the waterhole, that abuts Ndlovu Camp. There you can sit and watch the rhinos come down for a drink, without even leaving the campground. The weather here is crazy, it was a chilly ten degrees this morning, during the day it reached forty-one and now at seven-thirty it is twenty-five degrees. How weird is that?
Another packing up day, another cold start, nine degrees. We were out by seven-thirty and after a thirty minute wait at Phabeni Gate we were on our way. We were going into the unknown today as we have never been to Eswatini (or Swaziland) before. We have found that we are spending more time in South Africa than we had anticipated, mainly because it is a lot cheaper in South Africa than in the other countries we have been to. You are only given a three month visa when you enter South Africa and as we want to spend more time here, we have to leave the country for a while. We only picked Eswatini because it is a smidge away from the bottom of Kruger and apparently easy to get into. So, after a half hour wait at the Phabeni Gate we were on our way. We had decided to drive through the park on our way to Eswatini, mainly so we could have one last game drive. The other reason is that we do not like driving on the scary South African roads because the drivers are a crazy lot and we are not used to it. We saw two wild dogs on the stretch of road between Phabeni and our half-way stop for morning tea. After morning tea, we continued driving south towards Crocodile Bridge. All of our favourite animals came out to wish us well. The buffalo snorted as we passed, and the elephants waved their ears and shook their heads at us as we drove slowly passed them. At Crocodile Bridge we had a hasty lunch before driving for the last time out of Kruger. It was then only a short drive to the busy town of Komatipoort, before we continued south for another sixty-eight kilometres to the Mananga Border Post into Eswatini. We could not believe how easy it was to enter into Eswatini, all we had to do was pay fifty Rand ($5.00AUD) for road tax and that was it. So, after a friendly chat to the guy on the gate we were in. We continued driving south on a good tar road through the pretty town of Simunye before turning off the tar road towards Ndlovu Camp in the Hlane Royal National Park. We arrived at four in the afternoon. The camping ground looked bare but nice, so we set up in a great position by the gate and also close to the amenities block. The only downside was the ground was like concrete which made the hammering in of twenty-two tent pegs very difficult. We had made a mistake with our dates (I don’t know how that happened) and arrived here one day early, but that was no problem as the campsite was practically deserted. Also, there is no electricity at this campsite so we are praying for sunshine for the eleven nights we will be here. As we sat around the fire having sundowners. I heard the sound I love the most, lions calling to each other. I think I am going to love it here.
It is our last full day in Kruger and a chill air draped over us as we stumbled from our tent. We actually looked forward to the fiasco of the Phabeni Gate and will miss the stupidity of it all when we leave. We had a great day with our game viewing. We saw the highly endangered wild dog (or painted dog) on the road from the Phabeni Gate to Skukuza. Then on the road south to Lower Sabie we saw two lionesses. They were close to the road so we could get a good look at them. A, completely unaware of his surroundings, impala stumbled by and the lioness took the opportunity. But luck was with the impala as he skittered away springing his legs high in the air and bouncing out of reach of the lionesses. We continued on to Lower Sabie for a hot chocolate before turning back towards Skukuza. On the road back we saw a leopard on a rocky outcrop, two more lions then a pride of ten lions lazing on the other side of the river. Apart from that, on our last day we saw all of our usuals, buffalos, elephants, zebra, giraffes etc. We have really enjoyed our time in Kruger and will miss it when we leave. I only hope that my lions, stay strong and keep their cubs safe and healthy. Perhaps when we come back in the following years, we will see the cubs all grown up. I hope so.
I am only joining theses days together as I think I am starting to sound like a broken record. Each morning we had the hassle of the Phabeni Gate to look forward to. On the first morning we came across two hyena dens, one of which had pups. How cute did they look? Then it was driving around see how many lions we could spot. On the first day we saw nineteen lions and on the second day five lions. I love being able to watch my favourite cats going about their day and following the antics of the cubs. We also saw heaps of the scary elephants (I am still terrified of them), buffalo and at least two more hyena dens with pups.
We had decided to have a day at home today. So, after sleeping-in until six-thirty we had a cooked breakfast. After that is was washing day. We washed our clothes, in the washing machine, then gave Rhino a quick wash, trying to get all the dust of the last couple of weeks off her. After all that hard work we decided to drive into Hazyview, and of the good advice from Peggy, did our shopping at Checkers. I needed to get some tablets but found it not as easy as in Bots. I went to the chemist, but she said I needed a scrip from a doctor. She showed me where the Doctor’s surgery was off, so off I went. All I had to do was go up to the receptionist and show her my empty packet of tablets. She walked down the hall, got the doctor to right the script and one hundred Rand ($10.00AUD) later I was back at the chemist having my script filled. How easy is that? After we had lunch, in town, we decided not to waste the rest of the day and drove back into the Park. We drove towards the bridge and saw our pride of eight lions lying on the other side of the river. In front of them, but on our side of the river a small herd of buffalo were congregating beside the river. Then a small herd of elephants wandered close to the waterhole. So, in the one photo I have three of the big 5, not too shabby. On the way home we had to stop, Kruger style for a large breeding herd of elephants to cross the road.
It was a chilly ten degrees this morning. You really do not know what the temperature is going to be from one day to the next. We passed slowly through the Phabeni Gate again but a leopard up a tree eating an impala put us in a good mood again. As we drove around the now familiar tracks, weaving our way over both the Sand and Sabie Rivers we found another four lions. Two were females then on the road to Lower Sabie we saw a mating pair. They were lolling on the sand beside to Sabie River. We are really getting spoilt with the number of lions we see each day, but I am not complaining. We decided to drive out through the Paul Kruger Gate to see if that was quicker than the over forty kilometre trip from Skukuza. It is only about twelve kilometres to the Paul Kruger Gate from Skukuza. Once out of the park we still had a thirty-three kilometre drive to Hazyview and Kiaat Camping Ground. Peter put his foot down on the straight tar road. That is until a policeman stood in the middle of the road to get us to stop. Peter was speeding. The speed limit on this straight stretch of road is only sixty kilometres an hour and we were going at a brisk seventy-seven kilometres an hour. The friendly policeman leant on the window to chat with us. He was very apologetic when he informed us how fast we were going. Peter was very contrite especially when he informed us that the fine is seven hundred and fifty Rand ($75.00AUD). After a little chat with the policeman we were told that he ‘forgave us’ then let us go without a ticket. Phew. So, from now on we will have to obey the road rules more closely.
It was cloudy and a light rain greeted us as we peeped out of our tent. The eighteenth of August is always a sad day for me. My brother Philip stopped having birthdays at thirty-three, but I know his spirit is still with me, so Happy Birthday Philip. We had decided to keep to the tar road, as a light mizzle is still falling, and drove passed Skukuza towards Lower Sabie. I had thought that the lions would be sheltering under bushes to keep their coats dry, but I was wrong. Two very wet lionesses were stalking three very wet buffalos. The buffalos and lionesses zigzagged across the road oblivious to the rain and the vehicles watching. The buffalo just wanted to escape the claws and teeth of the lionesses and the lionesses just wanted to have buffalo steak for breakfast. We watched them as the poor lionesses, wet, hungry and disgruntled disappeared into the bush like stars in the morning. We continued on to Lower Sabie and as a light mizzle was still falling, we decide to have a hot chocolate at Mugg & Bean before returning back up the tar road to Skukuza. On the road back to Skukuza we spotted another lioness, but she was taunting us on the other side of the river. She was resplendent on a rock, high above the river, to far away from us for photos. We stopped in briefly at Skukuza as the sun has finally stopped being tardy and has decided to join us. With the sun out the heat bounced off the ground, searing into us, so a cold drink was on the agenda. We decided to return home and, on the way, out of the park we saw yet another lioness. She was nibbling daintily on the remains of an impala and close to the road. We arrived home by four and could not get over the number of people that had decided to join us camping. But these folks surrounded us with their posh, huge motor-homes. Poor Baby is trying to fluff out her awnings to try and compete with the neighbours.
Not that we are competitive, but now we have to be first at the gate every morning and we nudge poor Rhino to try to go over the speed limit just so we can be the first. We had decided to go the Tshokwane for the cheap breakfast this morning. Tshokwane is about ninety kilometres from the Phabeni Gate so we knew it would take a few hours of slow driving and game viewing to get there. As Peter was driving slowly on one of the back roads I glanced to the left and could not believe it. A beautiful lioness was standing, close to the road and not a safari vehicle in sight. As we sat watching her you could tell she was on a missing. Her amber eyes gazed into the distance, searching out game or maybe dragonflies. She began striding purposely down the road and as we watched her seven other lions appeared, as if by magic, from the bush to follow the female. It was the same pride of eight that we had seen yesterday. But our luck at having the lions all to ourselves quickly faded as about twelve other vehicles (mostly safari ones) had joined us. We left them to scratch and manoeuvre around the lions and continued onto Tshokwane. After breakfast and as we were making our way back to Skukuza we saw a gorgeous leopard. She was high up in a tree with her legs straddling a branch. She gazed at us then continued to survey her territory for her high vantage point. We could not resist going back to where we had seen the lions earlier and sure enough, we found them. They had made a kill. A male impala had made a fatal mistake and that had been enough for the lionesses to pounce and begin feasting. We got back to Skukuza at lunch time so decided, instead of leaving the park to have lunch at our camp, we would eat out. Skukuza has an amazing restaurant called the Cattle Baron. Inside it is all dark and moody but outside the deck hangs out over the Sabie River where you are always guaranteed an elephant, buffalo or hippo sighting. So, we had lunch watching the antics of a few baby elephants playing in the water and some hippos that had decided to leave the river for a sunbake. We got back to camp at three-thirty after another special day in Kruger.
The cold mornings are back with us, as we shivered in our bed. We have a new strategy for entering the park today. We were up at four-fifteen and in the dark, still sleeping Hazyview we drove to Phabeni Gate. We were there by five and the first vehicle nosing up to the gate. Well first private vehicle. We crept passed several safari vehicles that were lined up beside us. As we sat munching on our breakfast biscuits, we watched the stars slowly fade as dawn stretched her fingers across the clear sky. At precisely five forty-five half the main gate opened, and twenty-five safari vehicles sped in and drove to the large parking space to the right of the entrance. Most of them were empty, but two coaches, full of people, also sped passed us the deliver the tourists to the waiting safari vehicles. At six, on the dot, we were allowed in and in no time at all we were free and in the park. Well no time at all except for the hour of waiting for the sun to come up and the gate to open. We had another amazing day of game sightings. It is like you are driving around in a giant zoo and someone has left all the gates open. We saw so many elephants, buffalos, zebras, giraffes, hyenas, impalas, kudus, water bucks and warthogs that we lost count. But that was not even the best part. We also saw twenty lions, not all together, but in their own separate prides. As we drove passed Skukuza on the tar road towards Lower Sabie eight lions on the other side of the river. Then two lying close to the road. After we had passed the entrance to Lower Sabie we saw another five lions. There were two lionesses and three cubs walking up the road towards us. They took no notice, whatsoever, of the vehicles surrounding them. We continued on south to Crocodile Bridge, then left the park to have lunch in the pretty town of Komatipoort. We went to the Stoep Café, a café we had been to before when we were camping at Crocodile Bridge. It is a little slice of chocolate cake in the middle of dusty, busy Komatipoort. After lunch we re-entered the park and saw another five lions. It is about seventy-five kilometres from Crocodile Bridge to Skukuza then a further forth-seven kilometres to Phabeni Gate. The top speed is fifty so with the driving slow and every so often having to stop to view the game or wait while elephants saunter across the road we only made it back home just in time for sundowners. It had been a really long day, but with the moon full and sprinkling light over our little campsite we marvelled at the special day we had just had.
We still have to get used to staying outside of the park. When you are camped inside it is easy, as you are already in the middle of the park. But staying outside you have to go through the hassle of lining up at the gate. Now, that it is August, the gates open at six in the morning. We did not think we would have much trouble getting in, so we arrived at six-fifteen. As we approached Phabeni Gate we were shocked by the long queues of vehicles still waiting to get through the gate. As we inched our way closer to the gate the minutes ticked by. Once through the main gate we were told to join another queue of vehicles that were lined up at the boom-gate and booth. Each vehicle crawled up to the booth to pay their park fees, and this was a very, very slow process. It would make sense to me to have more staff working in the peak season, but that was only my opinion not the opinion of the SAN Park Officials. It took us over one hour to get from outside the gate to inside of the park and put both of us in a foul mood. But that mood evaporated quickly when not long into the drive we saw two cheetahs on an impala kill. Not so good for the impala that had, only a few minutes ago, been dancing in the long grass with his friends. On the same tar road, threading a trail towards Skukuza we saw a hyena loping in the middle of the road. Perhaps he had heard of the impala kill and was going to check it out, to see if the cheetahs could be chased off. Two lions were unaware of the cheetahs as they lazed in the early morning sunshine, trying to shake the chill off their coats. So, with the memories of the disastrous fiasco, of time wasted at the gate, we were now happy again. We crossed both the Sand River and the Sabie River as we remembered the time we had spent here early in the year and thanked our lucky stars that we were once more in this special place. Elephants and buffalo greeted us, perhaps they too remembered us from several months ago.
Another day, another move. After all this time we are getting better at our packing up. We have fallen into a routine and it seems to be working. We were driving out of Phalaborwa Safari Park, with Baby securely attached by seven-thirty. A heavy fog greeted us as we drove towards Satara Rest Camp. Visibility was down to not far from the front of Rhino, so goodness knows how many lions or even elephants we passed. The fog slowly lifted, and the sun pierced through the gloom. After a brief stop at Satara for a quick break, we were in the vehicle again driving slowly south towards Skukuza (the biggest camp in Kruger). But first we stopped at Tshokwane Picnic Spot, for lunch. Tshokwane, was in a previous life a trading post, now it is possibly the busiest Picnic Spot in all of Kruger. After lunch we continued driving passed Skukuza then slowly drove out of the park. We managed to see six lions on the drive from Tshokwane to the Phabeni Gate, but they were teasing us by being some distance away, so that we could only see them up close, by using our binoculars. We arrived at out next campsite Kiaat Caravan Park at one-thirty in the afternoon. Kiaat Caravan Park is a little oasis on the outskirts of Hazyview. Peggy and her daughter own a macadamia farm and have turned some of their lush gardens into campsites. Peggy is ninety-four but she still rules the camping side of the business. She reminds me a lot of my grandmother, who was also feisty at ninety-four. Peggy showed us to our site, gave us strict instructions as to what to do then left us to set up. Our sight overlooked part of the macadamia farm and had views to the mountains. I must say that the amenities block is perhaps the best we have been in. I was spotlessly clean, the showers even had bathmats, there was always soap and hand moisturiser on the counter, proper towels were always neatly rolled for you to use. Lace curtains adorned the windows and there was even a chandelier twinkling for me each night. A washing machine and dryer were also available for us to use, free of charge. Peggy even made sure we had a supply of firewood each day and a clean braai for us to burn our wood for sundowners.
I have joined these days together because the eleventh was a quiet day in regards to animal sightings. It is fine again but still we were having trouble spotting cats, although we did see lots of elephants, buffalo, zebras etc. not to mention our favourite hyena with her pups. We had a chat to our neighbour, who told us about some lions he had seen so on the twelfth we were on a mission to find lions. We drove to where our neighbour had seen the lions, not at all expecting to find any but sure enough they were there. There were six in all and they were resting under some palm trees. We positioned ourselves in a prime position at seven in the morning. We were high up on a riverbank with sweeping views in both directions. We stayed there for three hours. And I know I always say this, but I am in awe at spending my day in the African bush, sharing part of my life with these incredible animals. A small herd of zebras came down for a drink, but the lions were too busy lazing around to pay them much attention. But when a herd of over two hundred buffalo wandered close the lions became interested. The buffalo, as stupid as ever, were completely unaware that six lions were close by watching them. After a time, the lions devised a plan, I think mainly because the buffalo were still unaware, they were there. Three lionesses moved, ever so carefully and stealthily into the thickets in an attempt to cut off a few of the stragglers. All of a sudden, the other three lionesses sprang up, like they had springs under their paws. They began chasing the buffalo almost catching one, but the cunning buffalo used their numbers, and bulk, to turn the table on the lions. The buffalo began chasing the lions who scampered away, quickly. They did not want to get gored by the buffalo’s strong horns. The lions got away and were soon joined by the three that had skirted to the herd. The buffalo kept watching the lions, but the lions had already decided that they would give the buffalo the win, for now. They ambled down to the river for a drink before moving off in the thick bush to day-dream about an almost successful kill and to plot another attempt when the strong light of day gives way to darkness.
It is still overcast and cold. A light mizzle is falling making it a bit miserable, especially as we are camping. We decided not to go into the park today for I do not know what reason. At Phalaborwa Safari Park they have a laundry and for the first time since we have been camping, we did our washing in an actual washing machine. Because of the light rain we also dried our clothes in the dryer. How spoilt are we? We had decided to go into the nearest town of Hoedspruit. We had heard that it is a touristy town so, as tourists, we wanted to explore it. Unfortunately, it was a Saturday and by the time we arrived nearly all the shops had closed for the afternoon and so had most of the restaurants. We went into a restaurant that was beginning to close up, but the lady told us about a pub, just up the road, that was open. So off we went. The pub was crowded and most of the patrons were watching the rugby on huge TV screens. We were having trouble finding a table until two old guys leapt up and offered us there seats. They moved to a larger more crowded table and we squeezed into their smaller table. We ordered our food and I must say it was possibly the best meal either of us have ever had, so all in all we had a great day out, even though I saw no cats.
It is taking us awhile to get used to a new area and now we are further south in Kruger it is a lot busier. We were not used to the line up at the gate. We thought we had arrived in plenty of time, but the queue was snaking out of the office. If you are camping outside of Kruger, you have to have a day pass to enter. We inched our way to the counter, got our day pass and were free to enter Kruger. It will never cease to amaze me about the security here. We are always asked the same two questions each time we enter the park. ‘Are you carrying alcohol or guns?’ We dutifully say ‘No.’ to each question, then they want to search your vehicle. We allow this but to me it is a joke. A guy will open the back of Rhino, peep inside then slam the door and give us our day pass. Rhino is so full of all of our stuff that we could be hiding anything inside her including AK-47s. It is all about rhino poaching, but if they were serious, they would do a full search not just glance inside of each vehicle. We drove along the unfamiliar roads and tracks trying to gauge where the best spots were for game viewing. We visited other rest camps that were close to the Phalaborwa Gate. They included Letaba and Olifants. To reach Olifants we drove along a ridge line overlooking Olifants River. We stopped at a lookout which boasted spectacular views in all directions of the river and cliffs clawing at the river before towering to dizzying heights. We saw buffalo high on the ridge line making their way down, perhaps for a drink in the swirling waters of the river. We were not having luck with cat sightings, but the hyena sightings almost made up for it. We saw lots of these beautiful creatures including a Mama with three large pups and two small pups. The larger pups were full of curiosity and wanted to know why all the vehicle were stopping to look at them. They came so close to us we could have patted them, then they hid under a safari vehicle. Mama was leading the two smaller ones back to her den when she realised the three larger ones were not with her. She called for them and when they answered she went up to the safari vehicle and gathered her missing pups. She then led them all safely back to the den.
As we had half packed up the night before we were well and truly out of Copacopa by seven in the morning. We had decided to drive the long way to our next campsite. Phalaborwa is a fairly large town that hugs the edge of Kruger, but we had decided not to use the highways and to drive through the park. For two reasons really, one we do not like driving on the highways in South Africa and two we could have a game drive on the way to our next campsite. We were driving slowly in a southerly direction towards Shingwedzi (another camping ground in Kruger), seeing lots of elephants and buffalo along the way. We noticed several vehicles parked next to a waterhole so slowed down to investigate and sure enough lions were about. We saw a beautiful lioness walking from the waterhole towards us, then a couple told us about a male lion at the waterhole. So, with Baby bouncing after us we went to the waterhole and sure enough a handsome male was lounging under a small bush next to the waterhole. As we were on a mission to get to our next campsite we did not linger with the lions as we would have normally done. We stopped briefly at Mophani (another rest-camp) to buy lunch, before continuing on our way. We arrived at Phalaborwa at one in the afternoon. Phalaborwa Safari Park is right on the border of Kruger. It is a great camping ground but very crowded. We nudged into a space between other caravans and began setting up. Now that we have neighbours close by, we will have to keep Baby neat and tidy and try not to hang our washing in view of everyone.
I am not quite sure where winter has gone. The nights are warm, and the temperature nudges the mid-thirties each day. I know I complained about the cold weather, but I wish I would come back again, even to finish off the normal cycle of winter. We drove into the park each day, meandering around the sandy tracks, that wove a complex pattern over the landscape. We saw herds of buffalo and elephants as well as the usual giraffes, zebras, kudus and impala. On one venture along the river we saw a sub-adult leopard. He was resting on the sand, beside the river, but was startled by intrusion into his young life. He scampered up the slight rise, from the river, briefly chasing a klipspringer before dashing behind a bush out of our sight. Then on the main, tar road leading up the hill into Punda Maria we saw another leopard. This one was on the main road and not at all put out by the number of vehicles tailing it. But I noticed that this leopard had a nasty gash on his leg, and immediately felt sorry for him. He left the road to lounge under a tree, so he could lick his wounds. I wished him well as we drove away. We had decided to leave Copacopa two days earlier than we were supposed to, mainly because we were still upset about Rhino, and shuddered every time we crossed the bridge to return home.
After our day of not game viewing, we were anxious to get back into the park. We had an amazing day and one that most people do not get to witness. We had done the usual loop tracks, without much luck but as we were driving on the tar road towards the campsites at Punda Maria we saw several vehicles parked on the road. This could only mean one thing, someone had found some cats. I was hoping for lions but was not disappointed when we spied a leopard. He was a huge male, resting by the road. Not so unusual, you might think, but as we sat watching him two other leopards appeared. Now leopards are usually loners. You only see them together when there is mating pair or a mother and cub. They are not like my lions, that have a strong family bond and live in a pride. These leopards were all together, not actually talking, or touching each other, but still together. Perhaps like my family, together but not on speaking terms. We watched them for ages until hunger and thirst drove us to leave them and go to the park shop for food and cold drinks. When we returned to the leopards, they were all still together, the male was feasting on the remains of a warthog, one of the females was close by and the other female was across the road, having a sleep. An impala carcass was also nearby, maybe that was why they were all together, because of the kills. When we returned later in the day one of the females was finishing off the warthog, the male was resting close by and the other female was resting beside the impala carcass. How weird was that. This is why I love this place no matter how many times you go on game drives they are all different and each one will amaze you.