20 November 2017 Imfolozi Game Park, South Africa
The alarm went off at 04:30 and we groaned out of bed to meet our guide at 04:50 for a morning game drive. It was a good trip and the lady guide pointed out lots of small thing as well as finding us Buffalo and White Rhino. She was very excited to see a Secretarybird – a raptor that hunts on the ground - very odd, but very colourful. We found a Dung Beetle rolling its ball of dung along the road - interestingly the female was clinging onto the dung ball getting a ride while the male laboured to find a suitable site to bury the ball and its eggs.
We were back at the tent by 07:30 and Glenys arranged for us to upgrade to a Chalet because the tents are far too hot in the middle of the day. It only cost us £20 to upgrade from two tents to a seven person chalet, which was a real bargain.
We weren’t able to move to the chalet until 12:00, so after breakfast, we crashed out for an hour in the tents and, when it became too hot, we went off for a drive by ourselves. Being the middle of the day, we thought that we’d visit the Bhejane Hide, but nothing was happening there. We went to a viewpoint on the river and saw a flock of Vultures, but couldn’t get close enough to get any decent photos.
Back at the Mpila Camp, we moved into our chalet, which was very nice and chilled out for the afternoon, catching up on lost sleep.
In the late afternoon, we went out for a drive by ourselves, but we discovered a fault with the fuel gauge on our hire car - it was showing ¾ of a tank at midday and suddenly dropped to ¼ tank, so I have no idea how much fuel there’s left. We decided to abort our drive because none of us wanted to be running out of fuel and spending the night lost out in the park.
21 November 2017 Hluhluwe Game Park, South Africa
After checking out of our chalet, we drove out of the park and 10 kilometres along the road to find a petrol station with diesel - they sell petrol in the Imfolozi Park, but not diesel. We then re-entered the park and slowly drove into Hluhluwe Game Park taking some of the gravel loop roads, but there weren’t many animals about, so went to Hilltops to check in and for lunch.
We weren’t able to get into our room until 14:00, so we went for another drive, this time a bit further away from the main road, looking to go to Thiyeni Hide (the only hide in the Hluhluwe Park), but it was closed. Despite it being 35°-40°C we found a large herd of Zebra and Wildebeest next to a watering hole and further on came across nine Giraffe. It was a worthwhile couple of hours.
The evening guided game drive was a little disappointing, mostly because the guide went too fast and we kept missing things. I think that he was trying to find some Lions, but had no luck. We saw a very large group of Cape Buffalo, which was interesting, a hippo wandering about on land (a long way from the road) and after dark, we found a Spotted Eagle Owl.
For dinner, we treated ourselves to the buffet dinner at the resort restaurant, which was very good.
22 November 2017 St Lucia, South Africa
We had another early start - up at 04:30 for a morning game drive. It was the best drive that we’ve had. We (and the guide) were amazed to see a large pack of African Wild Dogs come bounding up the road towards us. The guide stopped and to our surprise, the dogs stopped next to us, lying down and walking around the truck. We were very lucky to see them as they are difficult to find.
Further on towards the Memorial Gate, we were delighted to see a Female Lion walking along the road towards us. She went past us and was followed by another female and then a male. The three Lions then stopped about 25 metres behind us and then the male mated with one of the females. The Lions were unconcerned about us and were wearing collars, so that they can be tracked. They stayed with us for 15 minutes before wandering off into the bush.
On our way back to Hilltop along gravels roads, we also saw a large heard of Elephants, a herd of Cape Buffalo and I finally managed to get a decent photo of a Greater Blue-eared Starling. They are fairly common here, but they tend to fly off as soon as we stop the car - I started to call them ABBs (Annoying Blue Birds).
After a large breakfast, we checked out of Hilltop and drove down gravel road loop towards the Memorial Gate. It’s very easy to become blasé about White Rhino - they are everywhere and appear to be very placid. While driving down a fairly steep section of the gravel road, we came across a solitary male White Rhino who was stood at the side of the road.
I backed up to about 20 metres away and we waited for him to amble across the road. Half way across the road, he stared at us, stamped one of his feet and snorted loudly, before carrying on to the other side of the narrow track.
We noticed that he had one or two puncture wounds in his back leg and some other injuries on his side. He stopped about 5 metres from the edge of the road and started to graze. I started slowly driving forward thinking that he would edge away from the road, instead he did a quick hop to turn to face us. I backed off again and he returned to grazing.
After waiting for another five minutes, he’d moved 20 metres from the road, so I cautiously rolled forwards. When we were level with the Rhino, he came aggressively forwards about five metres looking like he was going to charge. Gulp! There was a great temptation to put my foot down and roar off down the hill, but I figured that he would be able to catch us and then would be really pissed off.
Instead, I turned off the engine and then very slowly rolled down the hill, stopping every five metres. The rhino kept facing us, but didn’t move any further forwards. At the bottom of the hill, I started the engine and drove away. Phew! I stopped the next guide that we saw and he told us that they knew about the Rhino - he’d been gored by an angry Elephant.
We managed to escaped from the park without any further incidents and drove to St Lucia, where we checked into the Elephant Coast Guest House, which is lovely. After a quick cheese sandwich, we had a quiet afternoon, mostly sleeping - the frenetic pace is getting to all of us.
In the evening, we went on boat trip on St Lucia Lake. We saw a few groups of Hippopotamus in the water and one solitary Crocodile. It was interesting to see Hippos Yawning, which they do as a sign of aggression to show the magnificence of their huge teeth. However, the boat trip that we did at the Pongola Game Reserve was much, much better. Half way through the trip, a squall came through and we got soaked.
We went out for dinner on the high street, where there are lots of restaurants - it’s all very touristy, but I guess that’s what we are…
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