Saturday, December 26, 2015

Animals, Food, and Scenic Outlooks - A Fantastic Introduction to South Africa



12 to 19 December, 2015 - Dullstroom, Graskop, Letaba (Kruger), Orpen (Kruger), Skukuza (Kruger) - (South Africa)

We arrived at Johannesburg early morning, picked up our hire car, pushed aside any thoughts of jetlag, and headed straight out east. Our first destination was Graskop, in the alpine like region of Mpumalanga state. Chosen mainly because it was about the right amount we wanted to drive the first day en-route to Kruger, and because it was near something called the Panorama Route that some random had mentioned on an internet forum I had been scanning.

First Meal in South Africa
First Meal in South Africa
We have been expecting great things from the food in South Africa. And it all got off to a great start. Trout, garlic snails, crumbed fried fetta. This was in Dullstroom, in the heart trout country. A yummy start to our holiday.


The Panorama Route turned out to be wonderful, and being in the area anyway, I would have been upset if we had missed it and saw photos later.

Bourke's Luck Potholes
Bourke's Luck Potholes
This is one of the sights along the Blyde River Canyon. These holes have been worn out by the whirlpools in the water. Both bizarre and beautiful, and magnificent to view from the footbridges over the canyon.


A View Along the Panorama Route
A View Along the Panorama Route
One of the spectacular outlooks along the Panorama Route. This was at a spot near the Three Rondavels, overlooking Blydepoort Dam near the end of the Blyde River Canyon.


So, our time in Kruger begain in the central area of the park, with a couple of nights at the Letaba Rest Camp. Even on our day of arrival, driving in, we saw a lot of wildlife. Within that first two hours, we had seen lions, elephants, giraffe, and numerous antelopes. From our cabin, we could watch the hippos going to the river in the evening. A great start. Although, around Letaba, we were only to see three of the famous big five - lions, elephants, and buffalo.

A Hard-working Dung Beetle
A Hard-working Dung Beetle
We watched this beetle do her thing for quite a while. She wanted the ball of dung up the top of the slope, and everytime she got it near the top, the weight would overcome her and it would roll back down, collecting her on the way, like a cartoon character caught in a giant snowball. Then she would start again. Back legs against the ball, front legs on the ground, and then walking backwards, pushing it all up the slope again. Incredible example of the persistance that stems from innate behaviour.


Cooking a Braai
Cooking a Braai
The braai. The South African barbecue. Every cabin; every campsite; every picnic spot; each has a braai. This was our cabin in the Letaba Rest Camp in Kruger. Just beyond that fence we could watch the animals coming to the river to drink. Mainly hippos and antelopes. What a perfect place for a braai!


Baby Giraffe - Photo 1
Baby Giraffe - Photo 1
A baby giraffe nervously looks over at us. I love how the light has caught its face.


Baby Giraffe - Photo 2
Baby Giraffe - Photo 2
Baby giraffe, staying close to mum.


Midway in the southern part of Kruger is the Orpen Rest Camp. Two nights here gave us another perspective on the park, and we added rhinoceros and leopard to our sightings, rounding off the big five.


A "Little" Baby Elephant Suckling
Compared to the elephants around, of course it is little. You really lose track of how big they are. And when you start using words like "suckling", you can't help but imagine something cute and cuddly.


Impala for Dinner
Impala for Dinner
Jo spotted the leopard while it was sitting on the ground, near the base of the tree. We stopped and watched, and after a few minutes, it stood, stretched, and leapt in to the tree. There, in one of the lower forks, was an impala carcass. Something caught earlier, and dragged off the ground for safe keeping. It seems we had arrived at dinner time.


The Tiniest Rhinoceros in Kruger
The Tiniest Rhinoceros in Kruger
This morning, we found the tiniest Rhinoceros in Kruger National Park. A Rhinoceros Beetle was trapped in our sink when we woke. And a little plug for Alisha's Jamberry Nails, too.


Along the Road...
Along the Road...
Driving through Kruger, it is amazing who you meet just by the roadside.


Our final two nights in the park were in the far south, in Skukuza Rest Camp.

Looking Pleased with Himself
Looking Pleased with Himself
Minutes before taking this photo, we witnessed this leopard having an intimate moment with his lovely lady friend! Some modesty was shown, and they went into some tall grass, making the photography a bit difficult, however, we respect the fact that some animals might be shy about some things. Afterwards, he relaxed in the shade, looking very proud of his conquest.


Early Morning Lions
Early Morning Lions
Probably brothers, these two lions lounged so close for such a long time. They rolled in the sun, they moved a metre or two, they seemed to doze for a bit. Just before we left, they rubbed faces, and then both "plonked" on to their backs, eyes closed, contented, proud, and comfortable in their authority.


A Portrait
A Portrait
Lions are often described as majestic. This face says it all, really.


Getting a Ride
Getting a Ride
Baby gives up trying to keep up on foot, clambering aboard mum for a ride.


Symbiosis
Symbiosis
A bird cleans fleas, ticks, mites from an antelope, just about climbing into its ears to get the juiciest ones.


Steenbok
Steenbok
A female Steenbok. Steenboks are amongst the smallest species of antelopes. They are quite timid, and always look so gentle.


Full Size Rhino
Full Size Rhino
A White Rhinoceros, grazing.



Another "Mother and Baby"
And yet another baby that doesn't stray far from mum. Adorable.


Loving or Fighting?
Loving or Fighting?
These two elephants were head to head, trunks entwined, pushing and shoving. Were they courting? Was it all part of a long, drawn-out fore-play? Or was it a stand-off? Agression or passion? Our knowledge of elephant behaviour is not sufficient to know. Maybe, some day, somebody will enlighten us.


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