We knew we'd be challenged to remember to stop and start the watch so we created little reminder signs which we hung in strategic spots in the jeep.
And it worked! Below is the map and our route is shown with the red line. Rest camp refers to places where we stopped for showers, gas and supplies along the way. The yellow line near our route is the border between South Africa and Mozambique.
On Wednesday, we left our house at 3:00 a.m. to drive to the park. We arrived a little after 8:30 a.m. and met our guide, Ranger Piet and our fellow campers at the Crocodile Bridge rest camp. Piet briefly went over how the trip was going to work. We would drive caravan style with Piet in his truck leading the way. If we saw an animal or something we wanted to look at, we could stop and take pictures and then Piet would wait up ahead for us. If we were taking too long and getting behind on our timeline, Piet would let us know to hurry it up. Also, Piet said that every night at camp we would have one fire so that we could all sit around it and get to know each other. He didn't want separate groups of people each sitting around their own fire.
The first day was the best animal viewing you can imagine. We saw four of the big five. The Africa big five are lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant and rhino and we saw all except for the elusive leopard. We are definitely spoiled from our trip to Madikwe when we had such a great leopard viewing. I doubt that will ever happen again.
We drove into a huge valley at one point that Mr. Deep described as Jurassic Park. There were animals EVERYWHERE. What also surprised me is that we were able to get out of the trucks and walk around quite a bit. At one point Mr. Deep asked the guide to identify a bird he was looking at. To give you an idea of the number of animals we were seeing at one time, the conversation went something like this.
Mr. Deep (looking through binoculars): OK you see the elephant over there?
Mr. Deep: Above the elephant see the zebra and the giraffe?
Mr. Deep: The bird is walking up the hill past the giraffe.
Piet: Near the zebra?
Mr. Deep: No, to the left of the giraffe.
Piet: Oh yes, that is a secretary bird.
|Finding a secretary bird (lower pic)|
in our wildlife book
|Piet's vehicle and trailer|
|The way it's pronounced by people here rhymes with Debra.|
|Thankfully no snakes were seen on the trip!|
|Hippos and a croc having a beach day|
|Cheetahs hanging out|
We all heard it and we were all shocked. I knew it was a lion before Piet even told us because it sounded just like the lion roar you hear when you are watching an MGM movie. It sounded just like this only maybe not quite as loud because it was (hopefully) a little bit far away. Piet said the lions were 50 meters away and we probably drove right past them on our way into the camp. Did I mention that there are no fences around the campsites?
It was at that point that Mr. Deep said to me privately that going on this trip might be the stupidest thing we've ever done in our lives. That's saying a lot because we've done some very stupid things. I asked him if it was even dumber than the time we went in the hot tub during a hurricane and he said yes.
Even Piet was a little surprised by the lion roar. He said in all his years he's never heard a lion that close to camp before and he's been leading these trips since the late 90's. He assured us that a lion would not tear into a tent to eat people. But then what was he going to tell us? If lions do claw their way into people's tents to eat them would there be any point in letting us know? He did say though that no one was allowed to leave anyone else alone throughout the night. Even if you had to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, someone had to go with you. I'm not really sure why seeing two people (one of whom was peeing) would be more intimidating to a lion then seeing just one person, but I didn't ask because I didn't really want to know the answer. I think he only suggested this buddy system in case someone went missing a witness could tell the others what happened. "No use waiting on Bob this morning, he was eaten by a lion last night."
We heard a few more roars as the night went on, as well as the sounds of hippos and hyenas close by. I was so tired that I really didn't care and went right to sleep the moment we got into our tent. Mr. Deep slept with a few weapons including his knife and a Russian special forces shovel by his side.
At about 2:30 a.m. we heard a huge crash that woke us both. It sounded like a stack of dishes being knocked to the ground. We then heard a lot of laughing. It turns out one of our fellow campers tried to climb into his tent which was on the roof of his trailer, but after more than a few drinks, he forgot to put the legs down properly when setting it up, so the whole thing tipped over. Mr. Deep and I were cracking up at this and for the rest of the trip there were lots of reminders to this gentleman to remember to put the legs down before climbing into bed.
I will soon be sharing additional posts about the trip, both highlights and not so highlights. I will also soon share the much anticipated results of our self imposed "preparedness challenge!"
|Sunset at the first night camp. There are lions out there!|