November 1, 2011
Rain, Cat's and Dogs in Krueger.

When it rains in Africa, the skies erupt in flashes of light, in crashing waves of thunder, and torrents that wash the bush clean. And then in the morning, the sun comes out as in nothing had ever happened.

We laid in bed with the curtains open and watched the lightening streak across the dark horizon. Moments later, an explosion shook our small cottage. We shuddered as well.

So we had rain in Kruger Park. And this year, we also had dogs and cats.

Krueger Vista

Wild Dogs are rare. There are perhaps 300 in the reserve which is the size of New Jersey. And yeT, we came across a pack sleeping the first day. AnD then later, we encountered a youNG litter of pups playing along side the road. They romped, sniffed after small animals, and jumped in and out of fresh puddles. They looked like any fun-loving group of puppies. Except we knew their parents were hunting nearby and would tear us apart for food if they could.

Wild Dogs Wild Dogs Wild Dogs

Hyena are a menacing mass of muscle that can small a fresh kill half a mile away. They are not pretty. But they are definitely efficient. More interesting this year was our first sighting of Jackals, small fox-like creatures that seemed cuddly by comparison. So between the Wild, the Jakals, and the heyena, we had more dogs than ever before.

Jackal Hyena Jackal

Following a tip from another driver on the road, we turned up a dusty side way and found on a ridge, a group of six Cheetah sunning and resting. I remember reading that cheetah are the only large cats that can be domesticated. How did they discover that?? I mean, who took the Leopard home??

Cheetah

The Cheetah are sleek and very, very fast. The next evening, we came across a pair that had just brought down an Impala. They immediately devoured the prime portion of meat and then laid back in the bush. Given time, they might eat more. Or a stronger predator or scavenger might come along and drive them off. Better to take the best right away. Nature is efficient that way...

Cheetah Cheetah Cheetah

Cheetah are nearly as rare as the Dogs. So it was a privilege to see a group, and even more significant to see them in "action".

Wildlife Viewing

This was our second trip to Kruger, and we were fortunate again to be guided by Colin and Melanie Mortimer. I'm awed by their knowledge and respect for the bush and the creatures there.

Our comfortable camps are surrounded by strong fences and electric wire. One night we were walking from one cottage to another along the perimeter. There is a rustle, then a snort, and then a wild crashing noise. We had surprised a grazing Water Buffalo - one of the notorious "Big Five" - just a few feet away. I'm sure in his panic, he could have come right though the fence. Fortunately, he was as much surprised by us as we were by him. He went the other direction. We walked on more quickly.

A note board at the camp posted sightings each day with hints of what to find where.

The next day we saw more cats. Cars simply stopped and the congestion meant something was just off the road. We caught glimpses of Lions with fresh kills.

A highlight was a magnificent Leopard that stepped out onto a branch above the road. We watched him for perhaps two minutes. Than another car screeched to a stop and the silly driver let out a squeal. The cat disappeared. Otherwise, I might still be sitting the in awe.

Lion Leopard Lion

One more rare sighting was a Black Rhino. Can you tell the difference? The black actually looks lighter to me than the white. But he eats bushes instead of grass so feeds more erect. His horn is shorter and his lips more pronounced.

Our Black had a fresh wound. If only he could tell us his story.

Black Rhino White Rhino

We drove from dawn until dusk each day. We saw Elephant, Giraffe, Hippo, Zebra, and a plethora of Antelope. One day we came across a fifteen foot Python sunning himself in the road.

Zebra Giraffe Buffalo Elephant Hippo Impalla Croc Buffalo Zebra Elephant Giraffe Kudu

South Africa remains a remarkable adventure. Working with the kids and Cape Mental Health is rewarding; the kiting is fun; Cape Town remains one of our favorite cities; it is always special to spend time with friends; and Kruger is magnificent.

The End

We're flying home now. From Jo'berg to Dulles was two eight-hour legs (with a crew-change in Dakar). We had a seven hour layover in Washington, and now a two hour delay.

I'm hoping to be in my own bed before midnight.

The end(s).

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