Legendary stories all have their roots somewhere. I have never really given their origins too much thought and being an undercover history buff, I love a legendary tale as much as anyone. What I didn’t anticipate was witnessing one in person. Now, before I recount the events of Sunday morning, I think you should know something about me – I don’t drink and I don’t smoke/ take drugs. I am also known (but not appreciated) for my honesty. That said, you might still find it hard to believe what I am about to share with you…
By now, you will know that I LOVE Kruger Park. That is a slight understatement, but suffice to say, it was the reason why I woke up at 4 am on Sunday to go on a Safari, with Kruger Pride Safaris. If you know me personally, you will also know that there is only ONE reason I’ll get up early: Kruger. Just in at the Crocodile Bridge Gate, dew drops were still clinging to sleepy blades of grass and even the shadows had barely begun to rise from their nighttime resting places. The sun was slowly starting to kindle the morning light on the horizon and light mist lay on the Lebombo mountains bordering Mozambique. It was a perfect morning, and as the birds chattered happily, there was nowhere I would rather have been.
Less than 1km in, we encountered Gnus and Impala. Some were still sleeping, while others were holding early morning social briefings (a bit like our early morning Facebook checks). A couple of Zebras lazily started their breakfast, as two members of their family had the zebra version of two children in an early morning tussle. It was delightful to watch.
Suddenly, a lone young Hyena appeared and we oohed and aahed as she shyly wove between the grasses and beautiful white “String of Stars”. To say that the next characters who took centre stage were expected, would be a blatant lie – LIONS!
An old male with a dislocated hind leg and many battle victories documented in the scars on his face walked proudly onto the road. He had several young males of varying ages in tow. They were playful and the branches they carried in their mouths resembled peace offerings. Their branches were deposited on the road and they treated us to a display of playful antics and affection. A short tree stump was the unlucky recipient of a group hug and two of the gangly cubs eventually had a play fight in the low branches of the tree. Two older, more distinguished brothers sprawled themselves suavely across the length of a fallen tree and watched their silly younger siblings with disdain. It was mesmerising and a top lion sighting in anyone’s book.
Now at this point, you might start doubting my sobriety, or even my honesty, because what happened next still blows my mind. Enter a pack of Wild Dogs. I could not have written it better. There they were, ON the road, a mere 100-200m further on. Relaxed and playful, they too checked their social media (by sniffing one another’s business) and tussled good-naturedly with their siblings, oblivious to the presence of the lions.
Too Late For Rehearsal
Perhaps the birds broadcast the whereabouts of these two mortal enemy armies, or maybe the light morning breeze carried their scents along with the sweet smell of the bush and fresh dung. Either way, the peace of the morning was broken as one of the lions stalked the wild dogs. At first, they barked and seemed to be contemplating a stand-off. Then, reason prevailed and soon dog ears and fluffy tails blurred through the bush, with young lions playfully chasing after them. An unfortunate Gnu happened to be caught in the crossfire, and it hardly looked like a good day for him to play the lotto.
By now, I was speechless, unless you count a looping “Oh WOW!!” I didn’t know where to point my camera and frankly, began to doubt that I was actually even awake. The Vurhami Dam was already in sight and a traffic jam on the bridge heralded yet another incredible sighting – a leopard! By the time the traffic allowed us through, the leopard had gone to ground and we took the S28. There we found our own leopard and the day that followed was exceptional.
It was the stuff that legendary days are made of, and if Kruger Park wasn’t already my favourite place in the whole world, then it would most assuredly be after that!
Arguably my best day in Kruger in more than two decades, I will remember it not for the exceptional sightings, or the fact that they unfolded on the road, near the gate… I’ll relish and remember all that of course, but most of all, the privilege of witnessing wild animals freely inhabiting their territory, just as they are meant to, will live on in my heart. That is one of the most amazing gifts anyone could wish for.
I hope my photos will do the experience justice and that you’ll enjoy that legendary morning too:-).