To join me on a virtual sketching trip, download a travel sketch-journal here.
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Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Final Cruise Through Kruger

me, bundled up
One final chance to see Kruger wildlife ~ not to be passed up!  So bundled in every warm item of clothing I had with me (plus a blanket for the windy back seat of the game drive vehicle) I joined another group to see the sights. 
Yet another posing kudu..


Even though we entered in through the same gate each time, our driver/guides always took different routes down branching dirt roads in pursuit of  desired sightings. 
 Our drivers often conferred with other drivers along the road, passing good sightings back and forth. On this last drive we saw some fine creatures.  
  
Kori bustard, 2' tall
Zebra family
Zebras, with their black and cinnamon stripes were a bit shy, usually moving off as we approached.  It was amusing to see every kudu buck we encountered posing majestically.  


Elephant savaging a small tree
The park has an overabundance of elephants, and you can see that they are probably overbrowsing the trees.  This wasn't the first time we encountered elephants knocking down thornbushes and trees.  It's a pretty awesome sight to see these huge animals at work.


Impala herd
Impalas are one of the more common antelopes in the park, so common, in fact, that we would have to occasionally beg the driver to stop so we could photograph them.  To the guides, these beautiful creatures are dirt-common (like stray chickens or dogs, I suppose)  ~ who'd want to take a picture of THAT? So we'd speed on past these amazing animals with their delicate features and crisp markings.   
Endangered ground hornbill pair

But the ground hornbills caught the attention of everyone, including the driver, whose job, of course, is to show his van full of people Kruger's rare and amazing animals (but chiefly the "Big Five" of course: elephant, rhino, buffalo, leopard and lion, which is what most visitors are clamoring to see). This hornbill pair was pacing along beside the road, with the male in the lead carrying a twig in his mouth with which he was courting the female.  If you look closely, you can see it here, right at the tip, a plant stem about six inches long and maybe 1/8" thick. 



A menacing Cape buffalo
 I really got a kick out of the Cape buffalo. This big bull came over to inspect our van, which made the driver understandably nervous. But most of the other buffalo were pretty blas√© about our presence.  Our driver didn't let this one get much closer than about twenty feet.


We managed to see all the Big Five on this drive, and our driver was exultant ~ we didn't spot the fifth entrant, a leopard, until the very last moment, after sunset, when we were supposed to be out of the park ~ and the driver was thinking he'd failed us.  Our first intimation that there was something big ahead was the clot of cars blocking the road. We couldn't have passed if we wanted to.  

Leopard In Grass At Dusk
It was a bit harder to discover what they were looking at, but finally a car departed and we edged in close enough to spot our beleaguered victim in the dim light ~ at a distance. 

My photo is pretty dismal, but I got a halfway decent sketch of it.  
We saw all the other Big Fives that day, but the rhino was a mere blob of gray and the lions were at a terrific distance. To be honest, a great deal too much of a blather is made about "The Big Five." I much more enjoy the Little Thousands. 

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My sketch of Treehouse #2
The next day, I moved into my final Treehouse.  This was the one I had originally arranged for, but due to various circumstances I managed to stay in two others, as well.  It reminded me of a Hobbit house, actually, with its polished wood door, and the trunk of the tree rising up through the floor and exiting through the ceiling.  

Treehouse #2 from below
It rose high about the Klaserie River, and while that isn't obvious in my sketch, it shows in this photo taken from below. 

Zebra tracks on the path
The next morning on the way to breakfast I came across some perfect zebra tracks in the path.  The zebras hooves are so and hard they make the tracks look like the zebras are wearing horseshoes.  Here's a set of mare and foal tracks. 
Banded mongooses

Then shortly after that, a small troop of banded mongooses (no, not mongeese) flowed across the road in front of me.  This is the closest I ever got to them.  It was a fruitful walk to breakfast (not that far, only a hundred yards or so up past the other treehouses, but full of nice surprises), so I came back later with my sketchbook to record all the interesting things I had encountered.  
Here's a page out of my sketchbook:

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