WharfedaleBex

By WharfedaleBex

Part I Finale

We wondered about the ethics of crashing through the bush in a safari jeep but it turns out the land gets regularly burned to regenerate the plants, a little like heather burning (but without the shootings!) 

We've become used to limboing under twigs of acacia thorns and exercising the lats and abs as we sway right and left past unavoidable branches. Occasionally, we plough right into bushes only for them to pop up again behind the vehicle. What is actually causing damage to the savannah right now is the elephants. With minimal rainfall in spring, there is no green grass left nor leaves on the trees. To get to more juicy food, the elephants are stripping bark off the trees and uprooting them left, right and centre for the wetter roots and odd leaves left in high places. In huge areas, it looks a catastrophic mess with splintered branches and trunks strewn over the ground and sometimes blocking the tracks. 

Yesterday's downpour is needed many times over but it will, at least, make some difference.

We've had a tremendous morning. More than we could have hoped for for the last game drive. Waking up to pure blue sky was wonderful. The crisp air had us still donning layers, including the jeep blankets, as we set off. 

We were barely down the road when we passed our new find of the morning, a pair of hawk eagles.

We spent plenty of time in the middle of a herd of buffalo, watching the oxpeckers cleaning the ticks off the backs (and bottoms!) of the animals. 

Smaller mammals and birds kept us busy as they enjoyed waking up in the sunshine and we enjoyed watching them moving through the bush. 

A real zebra crossing plodded across our track with the usual male bringing up the rear, ensuring his harem weren't poached by another male zebra. The clarity of their asymmetrical markings is beautiful with these having attractive tan shadow markings in between. 

We knew we were on for something else special when we heard the mixed English/African coded messages across the radio. We were in line. We don't hear what until we're close. 

Today, we need to drive off road again and into the bush. Suddenly, we appeared around the corner to see, first of all, another jeep glued to a sighting. And then...

A leopard. 
She's pregnant. She's beautiful. 

We followed her for a short while as her eyes seem glued to a potential prey and she stalks most elegantly in front of us. Eventually, the bush becomes too thick. We're ready to move on, having seen another wonderful moment of nature. 

The ethics of following wild animals doesn't sit quite right with us and it seems a fine line between people getting a close experience and leaving nature alone. It's very clear the jeeps don't typically bother the animals although we did have an antsy elephant nearby who gave a little false charge as we passed through.  A faster heartbeat for a moment and he was back to chewing dry wood.

Soon after, a black-headed golden oriole waited for his photo and we then headed on for the lodge, stopping for a delicious and much appreciated hot chocolate (with a splash of Marula should you want an extra warmer!) 

The final delights were spotting the huge water monitor swimming through a green pond as we approached the lodge, followed by a black stork with scarlet bill and legs peering into the water. 

And that was that. We've packed up; seen the terrapins back out on the rocks, enjoying the increasing warmth; and taken a ride to the airport on our way to Cape Town. 

What appears to be a crazily tinpot airport with a shack for air traffic control has a wonderful oasis of a garden inside where we passed the time (with our new bird and mammal guide books) before boarding our flight.

End of Part I - a most peculiar situation where time that normally passes so quickly when you're enjoying yourself seems to have gone on forever. We have absolutely had two magnificent days in one every day.

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