A common theme of my monthly photo locale features is the concept of time. Namely, where has it gone? Of course, I haven’t traveled much these past few years, a reality that I hope to change as my salary grows.
With that in mind, it hardly seems possible that nine years have passed since my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, during which time I took a whirlwind “taster” trip to several countries in the region including Botswana, home of the unforgettable Okavango Delta, and South Africa, home of the granddaddy of game parks, Kruger National Park.
The national park, which is roughly the size of Israel, is famous for “big five” sightings: lions, rhinos, buffalo, leopards, and elephants. While I saw a few of each, save for the leopard, I thought the above photo of giraffes grazing beneath rocky peaks would make for a more majestic opening image.
I toured the park with my friend Miles, and we flew South African Airways via Johannesburg (JBB) to the regional city of Nelspruit (NLP). I highly recommend SAA, a Star Alliance member and surely one of the most well-run African airlines.
We arrived late in the afternoon and opted to stay in town for our first night. We hadn’t even made it to our hotel when we pulled over to take in this magnificent sunset – the first of many.
Our plan was to spend four days and three nights at a backwoods extension of Berg-en-Dal Rest Camp, where we would join a pair of armed rangers and other guests on a walking safari. We arrived a few hours before our check-in time, however, and spent those hours freely driving around the park’s network of (mostly) unpaved roads. We drove with the windows rolled down – a thrill considering that we never knew what lurked in the surrounding brush.
It wasn’t long before we saw our first animals, a herd of impala.
These pensive, docile creatures were everywhere; surely enough to keep the lion, leopard, and cheetah populations well-nourished.
The magnificent, endangered African elephant. Now we’re talking.
It seems we have outstayed our welcome!
We were met by our guide, John, at the staging area, and driven the remaining distance to our camp. Our cabin, raised above ground, was rustic but welcoming. Mosquito netting hung suspended over our beds.
We took two walks each day. It wasn’t long into our first walk when we spotted these mother-and-child rhinoceroses. The youngster was intrigued by our presence, while his mother made sure we kept our distance. Little did we know that we would see them again before journey’s end.
The “walks” were proper hikes…
…with plenty of natural land mines along the way.
One of the tourists in our group, a photographer from the Netherlands, almost stepped on this puff adder. If you can see the ribbed pits behind his eyes in such detail, you are TOO CLOSE.
During one of our hikes, we noticed a lioness and two cubs in the distance. They, like most other animals, scurried upon hearing our boots clomp on fallen twigs and leaves, but when we crested the rise upon which we first spotted them, we noticed the remains of an elephant, and, further away, the single bone (above) of a giraffe, still with a few traces of gristle on it.
We climbed onto this rocky limestone outcropping for a bit of rest and reflection on what we had seen earlier. I won’t post the elephant pics, which are quite graphic, but I will repeat what our guide, John, told us: in less then ten days’ time, every trace of that elephant, bones and all, would be gone.
The next two days repeated the same routine, with our morning hike usually ending atop some vista point or another. (In retrospect, the scenery here was better than what I saw in Kenya’s game parks, except of course for the lack of a Mount Kilimanjaro-esque backdrop.
The two pictures immediately above this paragraph are of prehistoric rock petroglyphs. It would seem that not so much has changed, after all.
Mama rhino again, with junior hiding in the trees. May in South Africa is the equivalent of November here, hence the fall colors.
A pair of zebras keep watch in opposite directions along this more desolate stretch of grassland.
I am not a birder and I don’t recall which type of bird this is, except to say that Kruger is a haven for bird life.
Photography lesson: invest in a proper DSLR camera. There is nothing inherently wrong with this picture, but it was taken with a POS camera, and doesn’t “pop” dimensionally as it would were it taken with a DLSR of the same megapixels.
We were given strict instructions to stick together when hiking in the open, so I got on my guide’s bad side when I walked off on my own to photograph this cloud-dappled sunrise…
…and again that same evening when I wandered too close to this watering hole.
Nope, nothing to fear here.
The handsome Cape buffalo, sighted during our drive back the staging area on day four.
Miles and I heard reports of a male lion sighting as we were alighting at the staging area, so we set off in our rental car to the presumed area, and saw Leo resting in the grass. Good kitty.
For more info on a walking safari in Kruger National Park – a beautiful place at sunrise, sunset, and all hours in between – click here.
All pictures were taken with a Canon Powershot camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.