Lion

November 2, 2010
A Wild Time in Kruger

We turned a corner and rounded a tree, then slid to a sudden stop. There lying beside the road was a very large lion. VERY large. I could have literally opened the window, reached out, and touched him! Of course, if I had, I'd be typing this right now with one hand.

We sat and watched this magnificent creature for twenty minutes. At first he was sleeping on his side. "Ballis baking" they call it in Africaans. Then he rolled over and looked me in the eyes.

Colin leaned over from the driver's seat. "If you didn't feel that," he said, you can't feel anything at all..."

We had been told of lions in this area and came looking for them. We began to circle a large rock outcrop and Susie glanced up between two boulders. She spotted three cubs and their lioness mother. It was a perfect moment.

Kruger National Park is enormous. It is roughly the size of New Jersey, criss-crosed with paved and dirt roads, and completely wild. The bush, plains, and hills are spotted with a dozen camps that are secured with fences and electric wires. Instructions are clear -- don't leave your car and the gates close at six.

Game is everywhere. In five trips to South Africa, Susan and I have seen lions twice. This time, we saw our first lion as we were crossing the river to enter the park.

We had never seen the elusive leopard. But we saw four of them in Kruger. One was in a tree directly above us. In our first day driving the Park, we spotted all off the "Big Five".

I'm told the Big Five were so named for the danger they presented when hunted. They are the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino, and elephant. But we also saw plenty of what I call the "Fun Five" -- giraffe, zebra, hippo, crocodile, and hyena. (No one thinks a 20 foot crocodile is dangerous?? And hippo kill more people annually than all of the Big Five combined)

You can book guided drives through the bush. But most people come in their own vehicles. We were traveling in two cars with Colin and Melanie Mortimer along with their two "cubs" -- Tamryn and Ashley. The Mortimers knew Kruger intimately along with the myriad of mammals and birds there. We could not have dreamed of better guides or companions.

Giraffe

We started early each day, stopped for lunch or a picnic in one of the camps, and then drove on to reach our accommodations just before the fences were sealed. Lodging was comfortable and fun. One night we slept in a thatched bungalow. Two other nights we were in a comfortable cottage with plenty of hot water, internet, and a barbecue pit.

We took all the photos shown below.

Elephant Giraffe Lion Cub Buffalo Rhino Fish Eagle Monkeys Hayena Leopard Zebra Rhino Impala Wildebeast Elephant Lion Lioness

At the center of each camp was a map board where Big Five sightings from the previous day were posted.

Often as we patrolled the roads, we came across clusters of cars with people staring off into the bush or focused on a tree.

Once we pulled over to check the map and three other cars stopped before we were done. (They wanted to see what we were watching.) But generally, the roads were open and we had the satisfied sense that this wondrous place was our's alone.

The lion close encounter was our third day. We'd seen leopard the morning before. We'd seen a surprising number of leopard! And now we were satisfied with lions as well.

Kruger Map

This was a completely natural environment with evidence of life and death, contests for dominance, and recent kills.

Toward the end of the trip, we coasted down an incline, and stopped sharply. A herd of elephant were moving across the grass and determinedly in our direction. Animals absolutely have the right of way!

Elephants

We backed up and watched as 30 of them passed by without breaking stride. There were huge "tuskers", brash juveniles, and inexperienced new-borns. At the back was the ruling female -- the matriarch of the breeding herd -- controlling and directing all. The group dynamic was facinating.

Mortimers and Gombergs

As I said before, the Mortimers were wonderful hosts and we can't thank them enough. We'd first met at kite events in Europe ten years ago. Kiting brings people together to share amazing things in ways people outside the community can only imagine.

As we left the park and headed back toward Johannesburg, the sky darkened and lightening erupted across the sky. We watched the electric show for hours. It was a fitting close to our Kruger Safari.

Poo Kites

Trust me. This has nothing to do with teddy bears.

Paper is, of course, made from natural fibers that have been broken down. And what better way to break down vegetation than to digest it. See where this is going??

On our last trip to Cape Town, we learned of a factory producing paper from exotic animal dung. We were also aware that our friends at Cape Mental Health were hiring some of their clients to make miniature kites in a workshop which they then sold at the festival. We immediately suggested they use some of this fancy paper to produce unique kites which could be sold in all the tourist stores.

Upon our arrival this year, with much fan fare, we were presented with the very first of the "Poo Kites". The larger model is about 8 inches and the smaller ones about 4 inches. Both are certified to be made with authentic African Elephant dung.

We have been able to secure the first 50 kites in each size and will be bringing them home. Each will be sold with 100% of the proceeds going to help intellectually disabled kids in Africa.

What better gift for the kiter that has everything?? Poo Kites are a worthy addition to any collection. Of course, we don't promise that they fly worth a crap! Ok -- no more poor poo puns...

Poo Kites

Small kites are $5 and larger ones $10. Buy as many as you want! Shipping is a flat $5 per order. Email us in the next two weeks and we'll ship as soon as we get home. Quantities are limited for now.

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