Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Safari Part 1: Kruger's Big Five

In December, my family and I went to the Kruger National Park in North-Eastern South Africa. Unsurprisingly, I took over a thousand photos, and it's taken me a long time to sort through them. I've split the photos up into a few posts. Today, I'm offering up the Big Five--elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo, rhino, and lion--so named because they are the five most dangerous animals one can hunt in Africa. We had incredible luck in Kruger and saw all Big Five within the first two trips into the park (we had four days on safari drives and one day to see nearby sights).

This guy got close enough to petrify my sister, who spent some time studying desert elephants in Namibia (my dad and I, not really knowing any better, were too busy with mouths agape to take in the head shaking and ear flapping, among other warning signs).

Unfortunately, the leopard didn't do much--it was blazing hot--but I'm not complaining. I'm still shocked we saw one at all.

The Cape buffalo were hard to photograph--they liked the brushy, scrubby areas, and Kruger in winter is at its peak greenery. Cape buffalo are considered, along with hippos, to be among the most dangerous animals in Africa.

Shortly after I took this photo, the buffalo herd started running. Our guide guessed that a lion had intentionally scared them into running in one direction--towards the pride that awaited on the other side. Careening off past the frightened buffalo, we saw...

The lions sat and listened (and played) for a bit and then, one by one, headed down into a wash and off to hunt.

With this last two, we sat in a dry creekbed for a long while. The male was hidden back in the brush, and we could hear the lionesses eating something--there was the unmistakable sound of cracking bones.

The first incredible thing we saw on our game drives was this herd (?) of rhinos. We were driving along, minding our own business, when they just sort of appeared on the side of the road. As I felt shark diving, I kept wanting to reach out and pet the rhinos, especially the baby. This was the kind of commentary on the drives (in open 4x4 safari trucks) that made my family a little nervous.

Their hides were amazing--and covered in flies. Sometimes I secretly think that rhinos are actually dinosaurs.

Yeah, we were pretty close.

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