Another day, another slice o’ pie

23rd June

Heading back to Moresby island today in preparation for our boat expedition the following day. We had to go back through Queen Charlotte to get there, meaning we HAD to stop at Queen B’s café, we really didn’t have a choice. First, however, we went for a little mooch around the town. We treated ourselves to another totem pole viewing and saw a truck load of bald eagles circling around above us and chilling on the beach.

Couple of baldies

As well as a row of ravens sitting next to the kid’s park. I think they wanted to have a go on the slide but thought we’d judge them if they hopped on (I would have FYI).

I had an enchilada at Queen B’s, which was scrummy and topped it off with a slice of pumpkin and pecan pie, which beat that enchilada hands down, even though it was a pretty good enchilada. But ain’t no enchilada as good as no pie. U get me?

We got to our hotel on Moresby Island, which was The Sandspit Inn. My door didn’t really shut, but that was easily overcome by using my total bodyweight to yank it shut after me. If you think about it, it’s pretty much an additional safety feature – no one is going to waltz in and steal my things if the door is too big for the frame and they can’t open it, are they? No, they aren’t. After battling with that for a while, I laid on the bed and vegetated for a while/the rest of the evening.

The evening was turning into night and I was looking forward to bedding down and getting in a good night’s sleep before we started exploring via boat the next day. No sooner than my head rested upon the pillow, did the hotel bar turn into some sort of club and start pumping out all of the bass. I don’t mind a bit of loud music, but it really is a surprise when your hotel turns out to be an absolute slave to the sesh and not the least bit interested in their guests getting a decent amount of shut eye. I can only imagine how loud the music would have been if my door wasn’t quite so snug in the door frame. Silver linings and all that.

Bonnie

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Did you hear the one about the bear?

18th June

On the agenda today: making it back to Dawson City. We drive pretty much the entire way, without seeing a single thing; clearly our luck is never going to change, and we are never going to see a single interesting animal at any point during this entire month-long holiday.  Are there even animals in Canada? Does a single mammal exist, larger than a squirrel? Well, it turns out, they do exist.

We’re not far away from Dawson City when we see a grizzly bear at the side of the road. I think we nearly all died in our seats – we genuinely couldn’t believe what we were seeing. All this time without seeing a bear, listening to everyone else we’d met telling us about all these amazing bear sighting, and we hadn’t even caught a glimpse of one. And here one was, literally a metre away from us, and with a 1-year-old cub!!

They were scared of passing traffic (particularly the little one) and each time a vehicle came past, the little one shot up onto the bank and into the trees, out of harm’s way.

We probably sat there for about half an hour, just watching them go about their business, munching on the grass and mooching about together. Bears are just glorious, are they not? If you think they’re not – then I am not interested to hear it, quite frankly.

High on bear spice, we carry on along down the road, only to see a MOOSE!! It wasn’t a daddy moose – so there were no giant antlers, but it was a moose all the same. The lady moose ran across the road, then made her way across a pretty deep stream (unsure at what point it becomes a river) and popped back out the other side. Our luck is truly changing!

We get to Dawson City and check into the Westmark Hotel. Now, this is by far the nicest hotel we stayed in on this holiday – but it is also the worst, and I’ll tell you for why. No WiFi, that’s why. There’s WiFi in the communal areas, but you can’t get WiFi in you room and I am SO not about that life. Why would you do that to people? WHY??? It’s like they are tantalising you with the possibility of good connectivity, and then just whipping it away at the last moment. I would rather stay in a much less nice hotel, with a normal WiFi policy.

That evening, we went to Diamond Tooth Gerties. Diamond Tooth Gerties is a gambling hall, where they do shows each evening; a ‘Vaudeville’ show (according to Wikipedia). Diamond Tooth Gerties is also Canada’s oldest casino – this knowledge is also courtesy of Wikipedia. For not that many Canadian dollars, you can spend an evening in Diamond Tooth Gerties – not only can you spend a night there, but your ticket is valid for the rest of the month, so you can spend the whole month there if you want to… or was it the rest of the year? I can’t remember now. Either way, it was a long time.

You can have your fill of dancing girls doing the can-can and flashing their bloomers. Many a quick change is done, and Diamond Tooth Gertie herself has a good old sing-song. Okay, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it’s a definite laugh.

The splits are done many times (as was much wincing on my part) and legs were more often above heads than not. They even get up a few guys from the audience to have a go – which is more than amusing.

Ooh, something I completely forgot to mention! In Dawson City, it can legit be 15 degrees Celsius, and EVERYONE is out in their flip-flops and shorts, and I mean EVERYONE. I’m sorry, but +15 is not warm enough to take your jacket off outside, let alone wear minimal clothing. These people are complete nutters, I swear.

Bonnie

Having your arm in the socket is overrated

15th June

Had another pretty chilled day today – the place we are staying at keeps huskies, and if you are short on things to do, you can take one out for a walk. So, this is exactly what I did. Let me tell you one thing right now: HUSKIES ARE MAD STRONG. I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me (seeing as they pull sleds for a living) but by the time this walk was over, my right shoulder was dramatically less in the socket than it was when it began.

I even took out one of the smaller ones who was only a year old, but she was still ridiculously strong. Like, it was more like being pulled along by a horse than it was a dog. As a result, I think they should measure things in husky power, rather than horse power.

Even though I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘don’t really like dogs’ club, even I have to admit, these pups were frickin’ cute. Even when they did stop to drink out of puddles which were more mud than water and pause to consume what I think was some sort of moss. Yick.

I even let one eat a piece of dog biscuit out of my flesh and bone hand. But between you and me, that was the 4th bit of biscuit I had provided, after wussing out and dropping the other ones each time the doggo’s face came at me. But don’t tell anyone, please.

After my arm had been stretched sufficiently (if only I could do that with my legs), resulting ruined ligaments and tendons for life, we popped out to find the local car wash. The trouble with the roads around here, is that your car gets properly dusty.

Then, the dust gets everywhere, and when you get out of the car, you end up with mud all over the back of your trousers. Not that that happened EVERY SINGLE time or anything… it’s almost like I never learn.

Bonnie

Watching Whales in Vancouver

5th June

I have literally no idea what I did on the 5th June. All I have in my camera roll is a photo of maple syrup biscuits… Which, by the way, are hella tasty, so you should definitely get some if you happen to be in a supermarket in Canada. All this photo tells me, is that I must have been in a Walmart. That can’t have been ALL I did for an entire day, can it? I’ll have to have a think about it, I’m sure I’ll remember.

All I do know is, that getting up at 4.30 am to go to the airport to catch a flight to Whitehorse is looming. Oh wait, we went whale watching! That explains why I don’t have any photos on my iPhone – they are all on the camera camera, because there isn’t much of a chance of you getting a good photo of a whale in the ocean on your iPhone, no matter how good a photographer you are.

It was about an hour and a half’s drive from Vancouver to Steveston. Which is where we managed to catch a whale watching tour with Vancouver Whale Watch. We didn’t book, and we were fortunate to get the last 3 spaces on the boat which was just about to go out – close call! There are a few companies you can book with if you are interested in whale watching in Vancouver – they are all pretty similar and follow the same whales. It was a little bit of a grey day, but I was hoping that the lack of sunshine wasn’t going to stop the whales from coming out to play.

On our way out to sea we saw a few California seals chilling on some rocks; as much as I would like to like California seals, they are really not a pretty sight. I’m all for any kind of animal, but they aren’t about to win any beauty contests – cute they are not.

However, they do look pretty regal and commanding up on those rocks, even if they do STINK of fish… you can certainly smell them before you see them.

We picked up the pace, heading out to sea at a fair clip, looking for some orca, or killer whales. Now, these are my absolute fave marine animals – they are so unbelievably clever, and they have some serious emotions going on – I’ve no idea how you couldn’t love these guys. They all hunt in different ways, for different prey, depending on what is abundant in the area in which they exist. It’s so cool how they live together in their pod as a tight knit family unit, communicating all the time with one another. It’s so cool to listen to as well and we know so little about what they are saying to one another; it’s pretty majestic.

There were a couple of pods in the area and these are whales which live in the area. We found the pod we were looking for, made up of about 5 orcas and they had some little ones in tow.

It’s wonderful watching them surface; they are SO beautiful and it’s especially wonderful seeing the little one with its mummy. We also got to see the little one breach, picking up some pace and flinging himself out of the water and re-entering with a big splash! Unfortunately, I missed the photo opportunity – better luck next time!

We spent a long time with that pod, sitting and watching them in all their glory. Rolling around in the water and having what seemed like some good fun. After a while, we needed to start heading back, so we turned around and started making our way, stopping to see some harbour seals sunning themselves on some logs.

These guys are so much cuter than California seals, they are so chubby and roly-poly with massive eyes and they are just how you want a seal to look.

As we were heading back, we caught up with another pod of orca and these ones were much more active! Tails were coming out of the water and slapping back down, and they were a lot closer to our boat as well.

The little ones in this pod seemed to be having a whale of a time (pun very much intended).

Seeing this makes it all very much worth it. You never know what you are going to get with whales. They could be really active, or they could be calm and relaxed, but either way, it’s always a good experience and something well worth doing.

I LOVE WHALES!!

Bonnie

South Africa Day 18: Elephants from the Shower and Cheetah Power

After yesterday’s game drive, some elephants visited my tent. Eek! As it happened, I was in the shower. The showers have glass doors which look out into the bush, so, if an animal happens to wander by, you can see them whilst you are having a shower. An elephant walked past, just as I was rinsing the conditioner out of my hair. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Do I run for the camera? Do I just carry on washing my hair?? Do I just stroll out there naked??? Who knows.

In the end, I grabbed a towel and wrapped it round me, and walked onto the veranda, dripping with water, to watch the elephant go about its business. It wandered on by, and went to find some food down the other end. I was just about to get in the shower when another elephant appeared. I wasn’t going to let this one go without a photo, so I grabbed the camera from inside.

The elephant walked down towards me, stopping to snack on some leaves and things as it went. I think it stopped to look at me for a bit, we made some pretty intense eye contact, and then the elephant wandered on by.

Another one came down, and the same thing happened, but there was less pausing this time. I guess because the other ones had proved it was safe to come through, so the elephant didn’t feel the need to eye me up in such great detail.

That afternoon on the game drive, we also saw rhinos. I’m not going to put any photos on here, because of the whole poaching sitch, and I don’t want to be the person that hashtags it on Instagram and points poachers in the right direction.

But we saw white rhino and we saw black rhino too. Funny story actually, we had seen the white rhino and we were driving off to our next port of call. I just happened to look over my shoulder, and I saw some rhino running along behind us. I had just assumed they were the same ones, so I didn’t say anything, and as it happens, the girl behind me in the truck saw them too and we both thought the same. It wasn’t until one of the guys told us what we were looking for, that we both piped up and said we had seen them.

The guys practically had their jaws on the floor, and I don’t think they believed us at first. But low and behold, there they were. Cool little fact about the rhinos, they are actually called wide lipped and hook lipped. It is thought that the Afrikaans word for wide was accidentally mistranslated to white, and from then on, they were called black and white. Another theory, is that because the black rhino is so aggressive, people thought it had demons in it, and it was possessed. And that the black and white thing was a bit of a ying/yang concept.

 

The next morning was out last game drive here in Thornybush game reserve, and I will be really, really sad to leave the Chapungu camp. As it was the last day, we decided to go searching for the final thing on our list; cheetah. The last cheetah sightings were way down in the south of the camp, literally as far as you could go. It was going to be a really long drive there to try and find these guys.

We drove for what seemed like forever. We stopped for a coffee and a leg stretch at a watering hole with some hippos in it. I was about half way through my coffee, when Jacques (the ranger) herded us into the truck and packed all of the coffee stuff up. We were driving at the speed of light, bouncing over the bumps in the road and narrowly avoiding thorny trees and branches. We slowed down and approached another truck which was stopped on the side of the track.

On our left-hand side was a female cheetah, making her way along through the bush. Shortly followed by 4 cubs [insert major heart explosion here]. These little ones weren’t even 2 months old yet, and they were still sooooooo teeny.



They are heart meltingly cute. They little tails stick up in the air when they run and they are so fluffy. They were all bounding around and playing with each other, just like little kittens. They were scrambling up trees, pushing each other out of them, and clambering back up again. They break my heart. It’s like they hold actual power over me.



We couldn’t get close because they were so small, and the guys don’t disturb them when they are that little. But just seeing them playing with each other, was enough to seal the deal for me, and ensure that I would definitely be coming back here again.

I didn’t want to leave the camp, I’ve had such a wonderful time there. I just wish I could stay on forever. It’s the best place.

Wildlife seen today:

  • African fish eagle
  • Elephant
  • Hippo
  • Cheetah – mummy and cubs
  • Banded mongoose
  • Nyala
  • Kudu
  • Impala

Bonnie

South Africa Day 17 (AM): Elephant Herd and Cats that Purred

We were up and away quickly this morning and out looking for a leopard. The guys were determined to find one this morning, and I think they were willing to go on all day to look for one of these elusive cats. We started off where we had lost the male leopard last night, and spotted a couple of warthogs on the way, having a munch.

It turns out, he is new to the area and hasn’t quite established a territory yet, so he is keeping himself to himself. We followed some tracks, but they disappeared across some hard ground, and we couldn’t see which way he had gone from there.

We drove down the riverbed looking for more tracks. It seemed that the leopards had been out in force this morning and there were loads of calls on the radio for leopard tracks leading in every direction. Out of nowhere, we were racing down the riverbed. Someone must have heard something on the radio! A leopard had been spotted, and the guys weren’t taking the chance of a leopard eluding us again.

You could tell how excited the guys were, and we raced towards where this leopard had been spotted. We rounded the bend and you could see her. Wow. She was so gorgeous. And accompanied by her 6-month-old male cub. OMG!! I nearly had a heart attack there in my seat. I love cats at the best of times, but these kitties are so beautiful. The markings on them are out of this world and the way they move and act just makes me want to explode, they are just like kitties at home, just bigger, and so beautiful.

 

Cub left, mummy right

The little one was feeling playful and affectionate this morning, and he kept walking in front of his mum and brushing up against her. He was stopping her to try and get her to play, but she wasn’t having any of it.

He was bounding around, just like a little kitten. Playing with things on the ground, running up trees, and generally making a nuisance of himself. They were chatting with one another and you could hear the little one calling and purring to his mummy.

He started jumping around in the trees and trying to jump on his mum. This made my heart MELT.


His mum stopped and he carried on walking, he had spotted a bird up ahead. He made a good job of stalking this bird, but to no avail, as it flew off as he was about to pounce. Mum looked on in amusement.

It was time to make ourselves scarce and leave these two to it, so we headed off in the direction of some elephants. We drove into the riverbed and waited. One elephant appeared and made its way up the bank.

 

Little and big

The another one appeared, and another one and another one. They were all sliding down the bank on the left-hand side, and walking back up the bank on the right-hand side to feed.



There were lots of mummies with their babies. They looked so funny when they were trying to slide down the bank after their mums; we even saw one sliding on its bum.



One even trumpeted at us and tried to charge at the vehicle. He was a boisterous little one and he ran off to wreak havoc and bother the other little elephants.



There was one female digging for water in the river bed, the dug down far enough and was drinking water from the hole she had made. Her baby then came to try and get some water, its trunk was too short and the little one ended up having to get in the hole to get something to drink. Sooooooo cute!!

In total, there were about 30 elephants in this group. We didn’t count them exactly, but there in front of us, we counted 20 and a few had already wandered past and were straggling behind.

On the way back we saw some more zebras who looked like they were cuddling. They were actually grooming each other’s backs and getting the spots they couldn’t reach by themselves. Apparently, they sleep this way sometimes, and it’s kind of like a combination of a pillow and “I’ll watch your back, you watch mine” situation.

We saw a few vervet monkeys in a tree and a huge male kudu, just as we pulled into the camp.



Wildlife seen today:

  • Warthog
  • Giraffe
  • Impala
  • Nyala
  • Kudu
  • Leopard – mummy and cub
  • Elephant
  • Zebra
  • Vervet monkey
  • Baboon
  • Steenbok
  • Dwarf mongoose

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 16 (PM): Elusive Cats and Flying Hats

We’d had some lunch and chilled for a bit, and whilst we were sitting at the lodge some ngala came up really close to us and were eating some of the vegetation nearby. These creatures are so sweet and they have such endearing faces and eyes.



The wind was still up and it was looking fairly overcast, plus it was quite chilly. We went out to see if we could see a leopard. Victor (the tracker), or Uncle Vic as he is affectionately known as, found tracks of a female leopard. We couldn’t quite tell where she was headed, but he made a guess and we scouted about for a bit, but didn’t see anything. He guessed that he had probably headed off in a particular direction, and we would come back later to see if we could find her.

We saw a few giraffes on the airstrip, which was cool. Apparently, they are a nightmare when light aircraft come in to land and the guys need to clear the runway. The giraffes come straight back onto the tarmac as soon as they are shooed off and they have to be kicked off again.

There wasn’t much to see this evening as it was still windy and it makes the wildlife go to ground as they can’t hear and smell as effectively. We drove around for a while following various tracks of various animals, and came up with nothing. We were trucking steadily along when I happened to look up at something which had caught my eye (I assume it was a bird) and my hat flew off. Rats! I wouldn’t have worried about it, but it was brand new and I was using it to try and protect my face a bit from the windburn that was removing my top layer of skin. We skidded to a halt and the hat was retrieved, in one piece, but somewhat dusty.

We headed to a small body of water, where we managed to see some hippos. Hippos are the most dangerous animals by far in Africa, particularly when it comes to humans. They are exceptionally territorial, and if you get to close or upset them too much, they will try to kill you. They don’t eat meat at all, but they don’t think twice about getting rid or something causing them bother.

Classic hippo yawn

 

The guide told us a story about an impala he had seen running away from some wild dogs. The impala had tried to swim across the water, but the wild dogs had met it at the other side. It tried to swim back, but the hippos had had enough, and killed the impala right there in the lake. They then wandered off to the other side of the water. This goes to show how angry they can be.

We also saw a tawny eagle standing at the edge of the water, taking a drink.

We trucked on for a bit and came across some wildebeest running around madly in a clearing in the bush. They were playing and chasing after one another, and kicking up quite some dust. They kept running around in circles and butting in to one another, it was really funny to see. We also spotted some hyenas running down the road and they crossed in front of us. We suspected they were heading towards the giraffe upon which we had seen the vultures feeding earlier.

We followed the hyenas, but as soon as we got back to the giraffe, we got a call on the radio about the leopard we had been tracking earlier. It turns out she had done exactly what the guys had thought she would do, but we had missed it. We raced in the truck to see if we could make it to the area before she disappeared (having to dodge a few bushes along the way), but we missed her, and she disappeared into the thick bush. Damn.

After that, we got another call from one of the guys saying that a male leopard had been sighted next to the airstrip, so we went that way as fast as we could. By now, you could feel the guide and the tracker getting frustrated, we had been after a leopard all day and we hadn’t managed to see one. As we got to the area where the leopard was sighted, we couldn’t see anything. He’d slipped into the bush and the guys were struggling to locate him in the dark, and the dense thicket. All of a sudden, we managed to catch a glimpse of the male leopard, winding his way through the undergrowth, but it was only for a second. Just enough for me to recognise that it was a leopard.

We’d lost him again and we really couldn’t see him this time. In multiple locations, we tried navigating through the bush using the truck. We came crashing over fallen trees and poor Victor on the front was having to fend off the branches and thorns like a madman, practically bending over backwards and laying on the bonnet to avoid being attacked by a tree. I came a-cropper on a number of branches, including one which decided to spear my hood and strangle me a bit.

It started raining, and it was decided it was time to head back to camp. You could feel the guys were raging about having not been able to see the leopard, and were upset that they hadn’t been able to show us. The elusive leopard strikes again! Funny, considering they are the most abundant cat in the area. But you don’t get to be the most abundant cat in the area for nothing. To be honest, I think we all thought it was a great laugh crashing through the bush and getting impaled with branches. Well, I did anyway.

 

Wildlife seen this afternoon:

  • Giraffe
  • Hippo
  • Tawny eagle
  • Wildebeest
  • Spotted eagle owl
  • Hyena
  • Leopard (briefly)

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 16 (AM): Excited Rangers and Cheetah Wagers

We had a 5 am wakeup call this morning. When I say wakeup call, I mean someone came and knocked on the door of my tent to make sure I was awake. At 5.30 am we had coffee and rusk (which is a little bit like biscotti in the sense that is hard and best dipped in your hot drink), up at the lodge, and we jumped in the truck and we were on our way.

The guys had been hearing some interesting stuff on the radio last night, and we were in for a long and fast drive, to try and see something special. They wouldn’t say what it was, because they don’t want to disappoint you when you can’t see what they were looking for, but they were clearly buzzing about it and were super excited. I had my suspicions it was a cheetah, whereas Les thought it was a rhino… we will see!

We saw some zebra on the way, which the guy called pyjama donkeys (such a good name). Zebra are so vibrant in comparison to the other animals in the bush, and once you have spotted them, they really stand out against the background… If you can spot them in the first place!


We then spotted some elephant in the bush, it looked like there was only one or two about. The guys wanted to keep on trucking to catch up with whatever we were chasing, so we left the elephant and carried on. At about 7.45 we got to what we were looking for – a pack of wild dogs, amazing! Apparently, these guys haven’t been seen for in ages, they have been up in the northern area for a long while and this is the first time they have come back south in a long time.

 

Mummies and daddies

They need an area of around 20 hectares in which to hunt, and they have the highest success rates of all predators. Some packs of wild dogs have a hunt success rate of 97 percent, how good is that?! They have incredible stamina, and they work together to run their prey down. The lead dog follows the animal they are chasing, and the others work to cut the prey off on the left or right-hand sides. They also use slipstreaming to help conserve some energy, and the lead dog switches over with one behind, to give itself a break.

 

Puppies!

There were a group of 6 adults and 7 pups. They had started off the season with 12 pups, so they have had a better than 50% survival rate, which is really good. They were so sweet, with their giant ears and all laying on top of one another in a big bundle. They were beyond cute.

 

Puppies! Puppies!

We started off on the chase after the thing we were originally chasing, but over the radio the guide had heard no trace of the animal we were after, and seeing as it was another hour away and the wind was getting up, he decided not to continue going after whatever it was. We had the fortune of coming across a mummy giraffe and her baby, alone in the bush. The baby giraffe was less than a week old and he was still unsteady on his legs and was sticking close to his mum.


This little one was so beautiful, and I could have spent all day watching him. His legs were all gangly, and he looked so ungainly when he was running to catch up with his mum who had crossed the road. They are such wonderful creatures, and the height of them just seems impossible.

Running to mummy


We drove down a bit further and saw another, slightly older female, who was expecting a little giraffe, or “carrying”. She was very tall and she had beautiful markings, which were so different from the giraffe before.

We saw an eagle in its nest in the top of a tree, and then we spotted an elephant. And then another elephant. And then a whole herd of them!

There was a little one too, who trotted across in front of us. They are so sweet and they always look like they are smiling and happy.

There was a young male who flapped his ears at us and trumpeted. The males stay with the herd until they are about 22 years old, after which, they get pushed out by the females to go it alone.

A young female legged it across on front of us, and I got some great photos of her in action, with her ears flapping and her tail swinging around.

We watched them roaming around in the bush for a while and doing their thing, then carried on up the road. We saw a female lioness with her two cubs, a boy and a girl, who were about 6 months old.

They were laying out in the open because it was windy, and this gives her better visibility and makes it easier for her to protect them when she can’t hear as well. These guys “belonged” to the male lion we saw yesterday. It turned out, he was just around the corner, and was fast asleep in the grass.

He has a big gash on his leg (which looks worse than it is), but it is taking a long time to heal because he is travelling so much.

They guys took us to a giraffe which had passed away from natural causes (a big male), and it was surrounded by vultures. They were stripping the meat from the carcass and fighting with each other. The giraffe had only been there for a day and a half, and it was already pretty much gone.

 

Gruesome eh?

The vultures make such a racket, and they bicker with one another constantly, and I can’t say they are the most attractive of birds. They don’t have any feathers on their necks like the long ones on the rest of their body; this is so that they don’t get covered in animal innards when they are scavenging inside a carcass.

We saw a few warthogs and I managed to get a really good photo of a hornbill, who had been proving difficult to get a good snap of.

Considering this was all between 6 and 10 o’clock in the morning – I think we did pretty damn good. Oh, and it turns out that the animal they were looking for this morning was a female cheetah and her cubs. Ousshhhhh – I win the wager!!

Wildlife seen today:

  • Kudu
  • Impala
  • Ngala
  • Zebra
  • Eagle
  • Vervet monkey
  • Wild dogs
  • Giraffe – mummy/baby/lone female
  • Elephant – herd/lone male
  • Lion – male/female/cubs
  • Vultures
  • Warthogs

 

Bonnie

South Africa Day 15: Propelled Planes and Frog Games

Today we fly from Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit, which is around the Kruger National Park area. I can’t say I am sorry to leave Port Elizabeth. There is nothing there and it is one of my least favourite places I have ever visited. We fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and from Johannesburg we fly to Hoedspruit. The plane we took from Joburg had propellers – it has been a very long time since I have flown in anything with props. I think the last time I flew in a plane with props was when we were in Canada when I was about 10 or 11.

We had a wait of a couple of hours in Joburg airport, and we sat and had a coffee and I caught up on a few bits of life admin. This coffee place is the second place I have been able to find almond milk on this trip, so I was a very happy bunny.

We boarded the plane and set off to Hoedspruit. The airport there is so cute, it’s arrivals and departures “lounge” and more of a garage, it’s tiny. It reminded me of when we flew to a place in Australia and we had to take our own luggage off the plane. This wasn’t quite so involved, and they brought our luggage round on the back of a tractor.

We jumped in our hire car and set out to find the place we were staying; Thornybush Lodge. This turned out to be more easily said, than done. The instructions we had were not helpful, to say the least. We ended up driving round in a big circle, only to realise we had driven past the lodge right at the beginning and hadn’t clocked it (thinking it couldn’t possibly be that close). We eventually got there, after driving down loads of bumpy, dusty dirt roads. Which was really fun, well, for me anyway; not so sure about those in the back.

 

We spotted a fair few animals on our way, seeing giraffe, impala, and warthog. Quite a find, considering it was the heat of the day and it was about 33 degrees when we got there. Giraffe are so majestic, and it was amazing to just see three of them nibbling leaves off the trees as we drove past.

We get to the lodge and we are greeted with homemade lemonade and lunch. The lemonade is delicious, as was the lunch, and there are different salads to choose from and light bites. Super scrummy. We then had 30 minutes to sort ourselves out, and we were out on an evening game drive at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.

We are in what is called a “tented camp”, but to be honest, these tents are so posh, they are more like houses! They have proper beds and showers, and I even have an outside bath. The rooms point directly into the bush, so there is a chance you might see some wildlife wandering around when you open the curtains in the morning.


Whilst we are out, we see different types of antelope in abundance, including the tiny Duiker, which is very shy. We see loads of birds, including the Hornbill, who you might know from the film, The Lion King. We tracked some Elephant for a bit, but they were much faster than we were, and they made it across the border before we could see them.

By far the best experience though, was when we paused in the truck and a huge male lion leaped out from the river bed to our right-hand side and strolled straight in front of our vehicle. He was massive! The size of his paws was incredible, and he had a big gash on his right hind leg where he had been protecting his Pride from neighbouring male lions.

 

Shame it’s blurry eh?

We followed him along, and he led us to where 4 members of his pride were laying out, snoozing in the sun. There were two young males, who were about 18 months old and two females. In a few months’ time, the young males will be kicked out of the pride to fend for themselves, as they will be well on their way to maturity.

I love this photo of them all in a line

The lions lolled about in the sun, laying on a nice flat bit of ground where we could get a really good look at them. We were so close, it was unbelievable; I had never thought I would be that close to a lion in my life.

After a long time watching the lions and learning about them (did you know that male lions could form a coalition? And they will look after multiple Prides of female lions in the area together? No, me either!).

 

A young male, about 18 months


We headed on for a bit, and found a good place to watch the sun go down. The sunset here is beautiful, and it is wonderful to watch the vibrant colours as the sun goes down, and the stark contrast of this in comparison to the dark trees in the foreground. We had a cheeky little alcoholic beverage as we watched the sun set, and I walked around the area and found some giraffe bones that were 5 years old to take a good look at.

 

Leg bone

 

Pelvic bone

We set off again and came across some baboons playing around in the trees, so we stopped to watch them for a bit. It always amazes me how agile monkeys are, they seem to defy gravity as they are leaping through the trees.

It was dark now, and we were looking for a leopard around the dry riverbed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck, but we did see a tree frog, a hare and a cute little bushbaby chilling in a tree!! We headed back to the camp, and the first thing you notice is the sound of the frogs. They are SO loud, and they don’t stop. The only time they stop croaking for a bit, is if someone disturbs them. They stop for a few moments, but soon enough they are at it again. I wonder if it is all a big game to them, and whether they think it is hilarious to croak, knowing we can do precisely nothing about it.

We had some dinner, and then we were off to bed. We’d been up since 5.30 this morning, so we were fairly knackered. I sit here writing this, to the sound of a symphony of frogs. I wonder if they will ever stop, or if I will be dreaming of frogs… Or dreaming of throttling frogs.

 

Wildlife seen today:

  • Giraffe
  • Wildebeest
  • Common warthog
  • Lesser bushbaby
  • Duiker
  • Impala
  • Nyala
  • Baboon
  • Vervet monkey
  • Lion – male/female/cubs
  • Scrub hare
  • Tree squirrel

 

Bonnie